§ As to the non-combatant personnel I am not so sure. I see one hon. Member has given notice of a Motion to abolish the Corps of Military Accountants. This corps and the system of cost accounting, for which it was formed, have been the 1894 subject of detailed inquiry by a Committee presided over by General Sir Herbert Lawrence, and two, further Committees were set up by my predecessor to consider some aspects of the question not covered by the Lawrence Committee. One of these additional committees has reported, and the other has not, so I cannot announce to-day any decision on the complicated questions raised, but I will give the House some idea of what is entailed. The Corps of Military Accountants was formed for the purpose of carrying out a system of cost accounting for every unit in the Army, and it was intended that the Estimates and accounts presented to Parliament should he based on that system, and that the old method of accounting for the Votes, under the different Vote heads, should be abolished.
§ Anyone who looks at the Army Estimates, which have just been presented, will, I am sure, find the utmost difficulty in understanding them. I do not mean that this is the fault of the officials who draw them up; it is rather that the system is extraordinarily complicated, and it should be possible to present them in a simpler form, and yet in sufficient detail to enable the cost of individual units and individual services to be estimated. The Lawrence Committee also recommended that the Royal Army Pay Corps and the Corps of Military Accountants should be amalgamated, and a considerable saving effected. This recommendation is, however, bound up with others in the Report upon which decisions have not yet been taken. I am naturally anxious to secure any administrative economies that may he possible, and the complicated questions raised by the apparently simple proposal of the hon. Member will be diligently pursued until a decision can be arrived at by the Army Council.
§ I have necessarily had to make a large draft upon the patience of the House in calling their attention to the more important features which arise on these Estimates. I feel, however, that I may have omitted to notice some aspects of the Vote, upon which hon. Members would desire further information, and, if that he so, my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will speak later and will endeavour to give any further information required. I cannot end without paying a tribute, a, tribute often, 1895 but never too often, repeated, to the magnificent spirit and loyalty and devotion to duty which animate all ranks of the British Army.
§ Mr. WALSH
I am quite sure the whole House has listened with real interest to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman who now has charge of the very high Department which I had the misfortune recently to vacate. With almost the whole of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, I find myself in agreement. Little, indeed, has been said or outlined by him to give offence of any kind. I would, however, like to ask the attention of the House for a few moments in regard to the point about the Supplementary Reserve. When, in submitting the Memorandum of last. year, on the 28th February, I outlined this proposal, it was not by any means a new proposal. The matter had been under consideration by my predecessors, and quite rightly. I think it is an integral part of the Service and that my predecessors had been doing extremely good work in considering the establishment of such a Reserve. Therefore, I disclaim any credit for originality in such an establishment, but I would ask attention to this fact, that when the Memorandum was issued on 28th February, not a single word of disapproval between that date and the 13th March, when I submitted the Estimates, came from any part of the House. I have here a copy of page 6 of my Memorandum of last year, and it goes most fully into the whole matter, shows the necessity for it, and shows its probable composition, and from that day until the beginning of this year not a single word is heard, from anybody living, of objection to the establishment of such a Reserve.
Now, in establishing that Reserve, I want to say at once that the officers in the War Office, on the civil as well as on the military side, were in agreement with myself and my colleagues, the Under Secretary of State, a member of the Army Council along with myself, and the Financial Secretary, upon this point, that. this Reserve must in no sense be used as a strike breaker, that it must be kept severely to the duty of forming a constituent part of the regular Army, that it must not be called in to assist the civil power in the case of civil disturbance and 1896 that it must be kept quite free from any such condition or from suspicion of being used under such circumstances and, indeed, every word that I said in the House and every word contained in the Memorandum points out that this Reserve is to be used really for expeditionary purposes. In the OFFICIAL REPORT Of the 13th March, 1924, almost twelve months ago, it is clearly the expeditionary force, and the whole of the context is built up on those lines. I am sorry—more sorry than I can easily express—that there should have been this woeful misunderstanding as to the object and purpose for which this Supplementary Reserve was established. I know perfectly well that my colleagues on the Army Council in the War Office were desirous, I think ever. more desirous than I, that it should be kept quite clear of any possibility or thought of possibility of it being a Reserve that could be used in the case of civil disturbance. I understand my right. hon. Friend to say that the process of recruiting commenced about October. Well, our trouble commenced about October. I think on about the 8th October we were in trouble ourselves, and the misfortunes inseparable from political life made one unable to keep himself closely in touch with what was going on in the War Office, but I am quite sure that no trouble arose in the interval, until, I think, about the beginning of January or the end of December. What happenedThe best laid schemes o' mice and men Gang aft agley"—and, I suppose, against stupidity even the gods contend in vain. The one thing that ought to have been fought against, the one thing above everything else, was allowed to happen, and I do not know how, but some blundering recruiting sergeants go right in amongst a body of men, on their working ground, and try to press, really—because it can have no other appearance—into the service of the Supplementary Reserve men whose entrance should be dependent upon perfect goodwill and freedom from suspicion on everybody's part. That is where it happened, and that it how it happened. If an Army is to exist—and at the present moment one cannot see how it can very well be dispensed with—it should exist upon efficient lines. You might as well abolish it altogether if you are not going to have 1897 it efficient, and the most pacific member of my party will agree that, if it is to exist at all, it must be an efficient Army. If you are, as your finances compel you, to have a small Army, the only justification for a small Army is that its efficiency shall be as high as possible. Finances compel you, taxation compels you, to keep down the expense and to keep down the numbers. Well then, in the name of common sense, at least see to it that, small as your Army is, it shall be as efficient as you can possibly make it. It cannot be efficient, in the face of the vastly changed conditions existing in the world to-day, unless you have this kind of Reserve, and there is not a man on these benches but must admit the logic of that contention.
At the same time, it does depend upon goodwill. We have done away with conscription for the time being, and it does depend upon the removal of suspicion, it does depend upon recruiting conditions which shall not engender suspicion in the minds of the men that this particular Reserve that they or their fellows are. being asked to enter is to be used against them at a time of difficulty. At the time when these recruiting sergeants went on the ground, as I suggest—I am not quite sure as to the exact date—what happened? A great trade union had given notice of its desire to raise its wages and improve its working conditions. My own trade union had been for a long time saying something on very similar lines. Of all the times when there ought. to have. been care taken, when everything ought to have been done, to avoid suspicion and to prevent suspicion arising, this was the time. Yet this was the very occasion, the most inopportune of all, upon which recruiting sergeants go, and immediately find themselves in contact, in almost bodily conflict, with a body of working railwaymen; and immediately the fiery cross is sent round the whole country. Trade unionism is a live wire, and everybody gets to know. The papers are all full of it, and I am being called out of my bed at all times in the night—a most unfortunate circumstance—as to what I have to say upon this and upon that, 20 or 30 of the papers in the country ringing one up. Well, what can one say, except that the circumstances ought not to have happened, and the recruiting for the Supplementary Reserve, or the lack of it, to 1898 which my right hon. Friend alluded in his Memorandum, has simply been due to the crass stupidity of people who ought to have known better, but who, like many others, did not?
One thing really, after all, ought to be placed quite above suspicion. I saw the attestation form, which, I think, is signed October of last year. Well, that attestation form is not quite as clear in its terms—I make no complaint—
§ Mr. WALSH
It does. It does not in any sense contravene the Army Order—my right hon. Friend is perfectly right—but I think it could have been a little clearer. I make no complaint, because one knows the wonderful elasticity of the English language, and how difficult it is to put in, in simple sentences, that which you really do desire, so that it shall be as plain to the recipient as it is to yourself. One thoroughly understands that, but it would have been well if it could have been made—and I think it can be made—a little more plain, and, above all, the people ought to be given to understand, without any possibility of doubt, that, if they do enter this Reserve, if during their civil life they are prepared to give the assistance that is desired on the lines laid down, they will not be called upon to aid the civil power in the event of disturbance. One knows that when the Army is organised for permanent service, it is a very different thing. When you are organised for permanent service, you cannot disband the Army, you cannot have one class having one particular set of duties, and if the Army is to be mobilised at all for permanent service, there must be a time between the date of mobilisation and the date of departure from the country in which you really are part and parcel of the regular forces of the country. During that time, that necessary time, of course, a man cannot say: "I was a soldier yesterday, but I am not one to-day." That would he ridiculous and driving the whole thing to a reductio ad absurdum.
I do not, however, think that the trade unions are taking up that line. I believe that if the leaders, every one of whom I know, and every one of whom is a sensible man, could have it quite clear in their minds that these men will not at any 1899 time be called upon to aid the civil power, and will only be called upon when the military power is in authority—when war is declared the War Office and the Admiralty reign supreme, and the civil power takes a back seat—but that, so long as a state of war is not absolutely proclaimed, and the civil power is in authority, these men will not be called upon to aid the civil power in the event. of industrial disputes—if that be agreed upon, and if that can be made clear, as it can be, and as I am quite sure both sides desire, and the members of the Army Council desire, this difficulty will be removed.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend speak as to the progress made at Chepstow. I think there is greater hope on those lines than there is even in the formation of a Supplementary Reserve. I believe last year we provided for about 550 at the Chepstow Technical Training School. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that he thought there were between 600 and 700, and that in a short time the number might be up to 800.
§ Mr. WALSH
I think that is quite good having regard to the very short time during which the school has been established. I think it reflects credit upon those who are administering the school. In that direction there is probably greater hope than there is from the Supplementary Reserve itself. I would sooner take them young, as the saying is, and as the Army is now doing, because you can then rely that when their Army service is completed, they will not be going into a blind alley. You will know that these young men, when their Army service is completed, will be able to fill a useful position in the world. I am very pleased, indeed, to hear how well that establishment is going on, and I hope it may do even better.
My right hon. Friend spoke of the administration charges. I know how difficult it is, but I wonder whether it would be possible for his Department to pay more attention to the non-effective service than seems to have been paid during recent years. I know it is very difficult indeed. Since the tremendous 1900 increase in pensions in 1919, there has been a very large increase in the non-effective Vote which, I think, is now almost £8,000,000, which, I believe, represents between 22 and 23 per cent. of the total Vote for the effective service, and the estimated Vote for the effective service, of course, includes quite a substantial increase in wages and in salaries to large numbers of men It is, really, a very serious matter, the amount that is now being charged year by year for the non-effective service. The non-effective service really means the pensions of those whose old pensions are gradually dying away, and the new pensions coming along, the scales of which were increased very substanially in 1919. Broadly speaking, those are the two classes of cases that make up between 22 and 23 per cent. of the effective Vote. In the four years before the War it represented about 16 per cent, of the effective Vote, that is. the non-effective service, the pensionable service, half-pay and retired pay, represented about 16 per cent. of the Vote for the effective service. To-day it is representing 23 per cent., or very nearly so, and it would have represented 24 per cent. had it not been for the fact that the effective service for the coming year, and for the year ending on the 31st March next, has been largely raised on account of very large increases of wages and salaries given by the Department.
I know how extremely difficult it is to keep the amount for this service within bounds, but I do think that it would be a very good thing indeed, and that it would amply repay the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues at Whitehall if they were to give it attention. I am not at all charging them with inattention: I know perfectly well, from my very close and extreme friendly confabs with the people inside the office, how keenly they desire to keep the expenditure within reasonable limits, and I know how very difficult is their task in dealing with the large amount of £8,000,000 necessary for the non-effective service. And, yet, if the Department is really to come before the nation as an economical Department, it will have to tackle sooner or later—and I hope sooner—this particular service, which is showing a constantly increasing percentage, as compared with the Vote for the effective service. How they will propose 1901 to do it, one cannot say, but I am sure it will have to be done. When the public see figures such as are being presented to-clay for the coming year, £44,500,000, they say, "What a huge figure! What a tremendous waste! How enormous must be the waste of this Department! "There are very few papers that care to show that this very large amount of 20 or 22 per cent. of the total expenditure is really paid to people at the end of a period of service in half-pay, retired pay, and so on. There are very few papers who care-to put, or who do put, the real facts before the public. It is not the fact that this Department is spending huge sums upon materials, and so on. I do not want to make any invidious comparisons between Departments, but anyone who looks at the record of the last four years car see that the Department has come down from. £02,000,000 or £63,000,000, or practically one-third, and would have come down even more but for this great increase in the Vote for the non-effective service. I am sure most people who go into it on those lines will admit that the Department has a good deal to say for itself.
I do most sincerely hope that the difference as to the Supplementary Reserve can be straightened out, that it will be made quite clear to those who are willing to join, or who do join, that they are free from all obligations to help the civil power in the event of industrial disturbance, and that it is only when the Reserve is called up on permanent service, that is to say, when a state of war is definitely proclaimed, that they can be called upon to perform the duties of a soldier. If that can be made quite clear, as it ought to he, then this unfortunate misapprehension will be in a fair way of being removed.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I should like, first of all, to congratulate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War on the clear, lucid and comprehensive review he gave of the year's work in the Department of which he is the head. One is struck by the fact that seven years after the Great War, we are spending no less than £100,000,000 on defence purposes. My right hon. Friend in his statement to-day, and in the White Paper which he issued, makes it very plain that his Department is producing an Estimate
1902 5.0 P.M.
this year less than the Estimate of last year, but I think he suggested—and I will make the suggestion clearer—that, in reality, the Estimate is in actual fact greater than that of last year. He depends for the £500,000 less than the Estimate of last year upon terminal charges and surplus war materials. The terminal charges, as I understand, are charges, like War compensation, which have been greatly decreasing in their volume as the period elapses since the Great War. I understand also—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that the other charges upon which he is still depending are the. amounts of war material, such as blankets, tents and various other things which were left over to the Disposal Board since the Great 'War and are now in use. These quantities, of course, are gradually decreasing, and it may be that next year: he Secretary of State for War will not be able to come forward with so satisfactory at. Estimate from that point of view. It is but fair to point out, on the other hand, that my right hon. Friend in his Estimate begins with an exceedingly heavy burden—a burden which may well be divided into three parts. First of all, he has been faced, as we shall be faced for many years to come, with the burden of increased pay. I think I am speaking for all my Friends on these benches, and for every Member of this House, when I say that there is nobody in the House who is anxious to decrease that part of the burden. I took a prominent part in the movement for increasing the pay of the soldier in the old days. I thought it was a monstrous thing that any soldier should be asked, for 1s. 1d. a day, to face danger and death. I, for one, think that the pay of the soldier is a thing which ought not to be decreased, and that when decreases have to take place—as they must—for we cannot have huge Estimates of this kind going on for ever—he should not be asked to share in that decrease. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) pointed out that the second part of that burden is the enormous amount of, I think, £8,000,000 which goes in pensions and other awards for past services, and is an amount which was never approached in the old days before the War. If there were, then, less than one million it would have been considered a large sum. Here 1903 you have the second share of the non-effective Vote which can only be decreased when death decreases it. There is, lastly, the third. My right hon. Friend pointed out that there is more than 50 per cent. increase on this particular item. I do not think that this third share can be decreased either, nor can any Secretary of State make any decrease in it. It is the amount of retiring pay, which must be paid. But after having allowed for these inevitable amounts, the astonishing fact remains that seven years after the War we are in this position. If you compare the gross expenditure per head in the Army in 1914 with the gross expenditure in the Army to-day, 1923–24, you will find that the cost in 1914 was 15s. 5d. per head and the cost to-day no less than £2 18s. 11d. per head. It is a startling figure. We on these benches are entitled to press the Government for every economy consistent with efficiency.
Though the cost per head of the Army at the present time is so colossal, the armed military strength is less than it was in 1914. We believe that the proper view of the Army is that it should be maintained on the general principle that it is a national insurance for our own needs, and our own needs only. within the Empire. We are determined to see that the defences of this country are maintained. We are anxious that every possible penny should be spent upon the Air Service. We all listened to the appeal that was made the other day by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air. He made it perfectly plain to the House that the Service was being starved. He made it plain to the House that he got an inadequate sum from this House to maintain a satisfactory comparative standard in his important service. We have been hearing since the House met a demand on the part of everybody, in every quarter, for the fulfilment of the promises, pledges, and commitments which were made during the course of the Election in relation to social improvement. We are as anxious as anyone that social improvement should take place. But we are convinced of this; that no adequate supplies for social improvement can be voted, and no adequate amount can be given to the Air Force or to the Navy, unless and until in the other defence arm some reductions 1904 are made in what we regard as altogether excessive expenditure in certain directions.
I am one of those who have always advocated a Ministry of Defence or co ordination of the Services. I believe that in that direction lies econmy. I believe in that direction lies fairness. On the Paper to-day there is a Motion to discuss the position of ex-ranker officers. I understand, though we are precluded from moving it, we can discuss that aspect of the case to-day. If, however, there had been a Ministry of Defence the ex-ranker officers of the Army would have been treated with the same fairness and sympathy as the ex-ranker officers of the Navy. But the astonishing fact remains that that fairness has not existed, and so far as I under stand my right hon. Friend opposite, he does not intend that it should exist make bold to say, however, that if Ministry of Defence had been in existence these men would have been treated fairly, squarely and sympathetically. That, however, by the way. One of the main reasons why I have advocated a Ministry of Defence in the past arose from the experience and knowledge I gained during the War at the War Office. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince has pointed out, the extravagance of which we complain is not on the upkeep of the actual fighting unit at all, but on the men and material which is supposed to be necessary to keep efficient that fighting unit.
Take, for example, the three Services in the Great War. They were all competing with each other in transport, in supply, in commissariat, in doctors, even in chaplains. That was the experience we had during the Great War. Why all these subsidiary services should not be controlled by one head I fail to understand; but the fact was that each Service competed with the other for men and for materials for their own particular Service. The result was that not only was there overlapping and "squander-mania," but keen competition as between one Service and the other to the detriment of the suffering taxpayer. That is only one instance. The case against a Ministry of Defence has always been that there would be no agreement between the three Services. I do not believe it. What is required is a Minister of Defence with 1905 three deputy Ministers under him. If such a Ministry existed there would be no jealousy and no competition between the three Services. Contracts and everything else would be for the lot, and would be one business and one industry. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should immediately tackle this subject from his own Department, particularly in relation to the subsidiary services, if he wishes to be able to give the House next year a, greatly decreased Estimate. He may take it from me that the economy which can be effected, and can be effected safely, will come from that direction.
Let me say a word or two about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince. He referred to the. Supplementary Reserve, which is Labour's own child.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Labour's foster-child, then. I was interested in the speech of the Secretary of State and the reply to it by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince. I cannot, however, understand how we can have any Reserve or anything in the nature of a distinct body of men, duly attested, divided into two categories—in the one category being placed the men who are to have a privilege and in the other category the men who are always to have a duty. I know sufficient of the civilian life and of the military life of the country to know that this is a subject which ought to be approached with good will and with good temper. I am hopeful that with the good offices of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Secretary for War (Mr. Walsh) that some agreement will be reached. But it does seem to me that the State cannot possibly sanction any agreement which means that you are going to enlist or attest at the same time men who are to be placed, some in a hotter position than the others, on the same attestation.
I do not for a single moment believe that this House, which, after all, is the ultimate authority in the matter, would ever allow a body of men who will be attested or enlisted for a certain duty to be used for another. I think there is far greater terror and fear on the part of the trade unions than there need be in 1906 thinking that a body of men who are artisans and mechanics, and not soldiers in the normal sense at all, would be used by the State, whatever Government is in power, ruthlessly and recklessly to break down a strike of their own fellow workers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Question?"] An hon. Gentleman above the Gangway says "Question?" I reply, that it is not the War Office which has the ultimate control of the destiny of these men but the House of Commons. I know the House of Commons sufficiently well to appreciate this fact that it would never tolerate from any party in the House that any body of men attested for one purpose should be used for another.
It was with a good deal of interest that I followed the fugitive reference which my right hon. Friend made to the "mechanicalisation" of the Army—a word that I like as much as I do "self-determination." But if the word is hideous, the principle is very good and very sound. Mechanicalisation ought to be encouraged, because it means, in plain language, that you are attempting to save man-power at the expense of firepower. At the same time, in the interests of economy and of efficiency, a word of warning ought to be given now. You have the same problem here as you have in the Air Force—the clamour for hundreds of aeroplanes to be built at once on a standardised design. There is nothing more fatal than that, for when science and mechanics are advancing you expect and ought to get new improvements rapidly. It is the same with the scheme of mechanicalisation of the Army. My right hon. Friend ought to be on his guard to see that there is no hasty and unnecessary expense in this matter, but that the improvements which are being made are the best improvements for the moment. He ought to expend as much money as he possibly can upon research. We have the experience of the War. We introduced research when we were half way through the battle; if we had worked at research before the War we should have saved thousands if not millions of lives. I feel sure this House will not grudge the expenditure upon research which my right hon. Friend proposes. I am equally glad that he had a good story to tell about what is being done in another direction for saving man power, I refer to 1907 vocational training. In the history of the old Army, nothing was more sad than to see the old pensioners, who in those days had to live on sixpence a day and were unfit for any occupation except that of an ordinary unskilled labourer. Vocational training has added a new chance to Army life, and I am very glad my right hon. Friend is not only continuing it, but is giving us some additional hope that it will be strengthened and developed.
I listened with great interest to two other points in my right hon. Friend's speech. I refer to what he had to say about the Territorial Force, and what he did not have to say about the Militia. I could not believe my eyes, nor could I believe my ears, when I read in the White Paper and heard to-day that the Territorial Force is now the accepted medium of the expansion of the military strength of the nation in the event of the emergency. In my view, that is exactly what it is not and what it cannot be. The Territorial Force is not a reserve of the Regular Army. It is a second line arm. Its units cannot be drafted into any other regiment. To talk about the Territorial Force occupying the same position as the Special Reserve or the Militia is not in accordance with actual experience or with fact. I was one of those who greatly regretted the abolition of the Special Reserve. It was a body of men which did incalculable service during the late War—services which were ill-requited. I believe it was responsible for no less than a quarter of all the millions of men we sent to the various fronts. It trained and sent out a steady flow of reinforcements, it relieved the Territorial Force of its appropriate duty of defending our coasts, and it provided a nucleus of trained soldiers for the new army. But where is it to-day? It was abolished two or three years ago, and the position now is that if once again we are forced to go to the dread arbitrament of war—which God forbid—and our divisions are sent to any foreign country, there is not a single Reserve division or Reserve battalion in the country to fill up the wastage which would inevitably take place. Surely that is radically wrong.
This country is prepared to pay, as we on these benches are prepared to pay, for 1908 a, sufficient and an efficient Army, but when you are asking the fighting line to go forward and bear the brunt and the burden of the day, without a single battalion, not. to speak of a division, of reserves behind to supply their wastage, it is asking too much to expect the country to stand it. I have been reading a good deal about this subject lately, and I find that if we are to have reserves, as we undoubtedly must, we can have a cheap and effective reserve, as they have in Canada, in the Militia, or an equally efficient reserve such as they have in the National Guard of America. After I had looked at the Estimates and at the White Paper, I looked at the official Report for last year, under the heading of "Administration of the Army," and I found that both in this House and in another place the Government of the day were pressed to say what had become of the Militia that was promised, and why it was not reconstituted, and the answer which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) gave on 7th August last year to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport was that it was still in abeyance. What is the good of spending millions on an Army unless and until you have got what every army ought to have, an efficient reserve behind? That reserve ought not to he trained as the Territorial Force was trained in the old days. If we are going to have it, we ought to have it trained, for the minimum number of days each year, with the regular Army. During the whole of last year, I notice, one man only was added to the Militia. Last year the numbers were, I think, 1,758; this year the Militia numbers 1,759, the Militia referred to being composed, of course, of troops at Malta, Bermuda, and Aden.
The Militia has always been regarded as the backbone of the Army. It is a historic body, it is a constitutional body. We are bound to consider the necessities of the fighting man, and it must be very trying for anyone like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to feel that his Army is without this necessary body. I would beg of him that, instead of spending money upon other things in his vast administration, he should at; once consider the dire necessity of reconstituting a body of this kind.
No mention was made, or if so it was only a passing mention, of the work of the 1909 various committees that have been appointed. Over a year ago some of us pressed very strongly for a committee such as the Esher Committee after the South African war. We pressed for a committee of that kind, presided over by a man like Viscount Haldane. During a war of this magnitude many things arose which had to be tackled suddenly, many faults were found out, many experiences were gained, and there could be nothing better in the interests of the Army and of the country than to collate, to compare and to look after these various matters for our benefit on any future occasion. Nothing of the sort has been done. We still have the staff as large as ever it was. We have large excrescences, which cost an enormous amount of money, and we have an Army Council as big as it ever was, except that one secretary is off it. I am sorry for personal reasons that that secretary is off it.
Then there is the Master General of the Ordnance. The present one is a most distinguished soldier, and nothing would please me more than to see him continuing to occupy a very high office in the Army, because he thoroughly deserves it, but the Mastership General of the Ordnance is really a defunct office. The work which was performed in the old days by the Master General of the. Ordnance was work which an ordinary private firm does to-day. fie looked after the provision of armaments and munitions; it was his duty to see that they were provided, it was his duty to see that they were made, it was his duty to see that they were designed; but he has none of these duties to-day, and I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he will not consider the advisability of abolishing that office now, and I have no doubt that the same consideration ought to be given to many other offices.
I hope I have not detained the House too long, but I am very much interested in this subject. I am not satisfied that the present Army is run upon efficient lines, I am not satisfied that it is run as economically as possible, and I am not satisfied that it is run as scientifically as possible; and particularly am I not satisfied because there is no reserve behind the fighting line; and as, in the course of the Debate, I have received no assurances on these points, I shall feel it my duty to move a reduction of 100 men.
§ Sir ROBERT SANDERS
I think that my right hon. Friend may, on the whole, congratulate himself that the statement he has so ably made has not led to any very heavy criticism. I do not think my right hon. Friend who spoke last, although he gave us a little thunder at the, close, had any very great fault to find with the statement; and yet I must say I think there are some respects in which the statement is disquieting. We have not heard any criticism on the number of men asked for in the Estimates. As far as I can gather, in no part of the House is there any inclination to say that my right hon. Friend is asking for too much. It is generally realised that the Army to-day has just sufficient men to do its work, which is to police the Empire, and that it certainly could not do that work with any fewer men. Where, I think, we have some ground for disquietude is in the fact that recruiting is not all that it should be. The right hon. Gentleman has given reasons why recruits have not been coming into the Regular Army in such numbers as he could wish, and they are good reasons. But it is the fact that he has not got all the men we could wish for, and we have not now the reserve which would enable us to fill up our Army in time of war, except for a very short time. The same thing has happened with regard to the Territorials. It is a matter for great regret that recruiting for the Territorial Army has fallen this year below what it was last year, and that it is foreshadowed by my right hon. Friend that it is likely to fall still further I think everything possible ought to be done, especially now that the territorials are given a position of importance in our modern Army system. Everything possible should be done to make them as strong as possible, and we should not adopt any policy of pin-pricks as seems often to have been done in the case of the Territorials.
I wish to bring up a matter complained of in my own part of the country, and it is something which I can only describe as one of those pin-pricks to the Territorials that do a great deal to take the heart out of that body. This is a case of four Yeomanry regiments, all of which were in France from very nearly the beginning of the War. The history of those regiments is very much the same, but I can only 1911 speak for certain of one of them of which I have particulars, and that is the North Somerset Yeomanry. That regiment went out very nearly at the beginning of the War, in October, 1914. It was attached, in November, 1914, to the 6th Cavalry Brigade in France, and it remained there until March, 1918, and then it was decided to turn it into a Machine Gun Battalion March, 1918, was the time when the Great German push was coming on, and, when that offensive took place, this regiment was remounted. They were given back their horses, and marched up to Amiens as a regiment.
On the 6th of April, owing to the shortage of cavalry reinforcements, a complete squadron of this regiment was attached to each regiment of the 6th Cavalry Brigade, and they remained with them until the end of the War, one squadron attached to each of the three regiments in the cavalry brigade. They went through the advance at the end of the War, and the units of that brigade all had as their battle honours Amiens, the Hindenburg Line, St. Quintin Canal, and the pursuit to Mons. Those honours have been denied to these four regiments, of which one squadron was sent to each regiment of a brigade, and, although they were divided in this way in the brigade, yet it is a fact that their existence as a unit was recognised, because the 3rd Echelon was retained at Rouen. The regiment was still recognised as being in existence. All promotions of the officers and non-commissioned officers were kept up, and their casualties were reported there, and honours and awards were made to them, not as members of those various regiments, but as members of the North Somerset Yeomanry. Really, they maintained their identity all the time, and yet when the awards of battle honours were made these four Yeomanry regiments were left out.
I believe the rule that is quoted for refusing them these honours is in the first place that a regiment must be in the order of battle. Undoubtedly, each squadron of these regiments was in the order of battle. Another requirement laid down is that the headquarters and 50 per cent. of the strength of the men must have been present at the battle. I do not know about the headquarters, but certainly over 50 per cent. of the men 1912 were present at each of these battles. Consequently, these regiments feel particularly sore, because they are informed that an exception was made to this rule in the case of the Household Cavalry in the Retreat from Mons, where each regiment sent one squadron to form a composite regiment, and yet all of them got battle honours for that period. Consequently, these regiments feel that it is a slight upon them. It is a matter that affects only four regiments, and it is not likely to occur again.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
I do not see how it can apply to hundreds of others, but my point is, if an exception was made in the case of Household Cavalry, it might also be made in the case of these four regiments. It is not a good thing to go on with these pin-pricks in. the case of Territorials when they bring forward a strong case like this, and I think the War Office might stretch a point in their favour, because we all recognise the patriotic services of the Territorials, and the manner in which a great many of them are giving up really important time, and their only holiday in the year, and they are doing it to help their country. When a case of this sort arises, I think a point might be stretched in their favour.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I had no intention of taking part in this Debate, and I should not have done so but for the very direct invitation of the Secretary of State for War that I should say a word on the particular question in dispute. I would like to say, first of all, that I am very sorry my right hon. Friend should have attributes. the falling off in recruiting to the readiness of young men to receive the dole. In a speech I only made yesterday, I pointed out the demoralising effects of the dole, and I do not hesitate to say that its effects are really bad, but the implication behind my right hon. Friend's statement is that hitherto the Army was recruited on the starvation of the people. I think that is the only logical deduction from his statement.
Let us examine this in connection with the second point, namely, that five out of every eight young men offering to enlist during the past 12 months, were rejected. I think those were the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave. The conclu- 1913 sion I draw is that here we have so serious a state of affairs in the case of these young men that five out of eight are rejected for physical reasons, and I think that is the best illustration of the economic position under which a very large number of these men are working. I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree that that is something that should call for his very serious consideration. It is an amazing statement, and must illustrate the terrible economic conditions of our people.
I want to say that I think this question of the reserve has received far too much prominence and out of all proportion to the facts. Mr. right hon. Friend (Mr. Walsh) made a very frank straightforward statement to the House, and he said quite clearly that when he dealt with this question it was never intended and it was not considered by those responsible as being a matter in any way connected with an industrial dispute. I think that accurately summarises the situation. I agree with my right hon. Friend that going into a goods yard in the way that these men went, under the peculiar circumstances of the moment, was not only disastrous, but was calculated in the nature of things to engender suspicion. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Labour Government were in office at the time!"] At any rate, I know my right hon. Friend (Mr. Walsh.) was not responsible for these people going into the goods yard. We were not in office when they went into the goods yard, because that occurred last December.
The better plan would have been to have communicated with the unions affected in order to discuss the whole matter, pro and con, and get the things straightened up before suspicion got abroad. I think the late Secretary of State for War was perfectly straight in all his dealings, and, although my executive found themselves unable to agree with his proposal, it is only fair for me to say that he has not concealed anything. He has acted perfectly straight, and put all the cards on the table, and no complaint can be made against him in that respect. I ask the Secretary of State for War and the House to remember the peculiar circumstances and the grounds of the men's suspicion. I have already indicated the mistake of going into the goods yard.
1914 My second point is that it is not true to say that these men were merely asked to do the same work as the ordinary regular soldier even in an emergency. There is a difference, and it is an important point, and you must in fairness keep it in mind. Supposing there was a transport strike or a railway strike? We have always got to look at these things as practical men. What these men resent being called upon to do is not to go abroad to fight, because they are really a transport battalion—their special qualification is not as fighting men, but as railway or transport men, and, therefore, the only object of organising them is to have an efficient Army, efficient for the practical purposes to which these men adapt themselves in their everyday life—but, in the event of a railway or transport strike, they object, and rightly object, that they should he called upon to be used as policemen, as it were, for law and order, and they rightly say, "We offered our services for national defence in any emergency to be used to do our own work, and not to blackleg our own people." That is exactly the difference between us, and I hope the House will appreciate that point. It should not be mixed up with the question of troops sent to keep order. What I have stated is absolutely the only purpose for which these men could be used, namely, to perform their regular daily occupation, and I am sure hon. Members will understand their feeling of resentment if they are to be called upon, when offering their services to the State, to be used to blackleg their own men in their own particular occupation. That is the ground of their objection. The Minister for War went a tremendous long way to meet that, and I think I am justified in saying it was a legal obligation that prevented him going all the way.
That shows that there was quite a frank discussion. Those who volunteer under the circumstances I have mentioned have now had it made perfectly clear to them that they are not volunteering for any other purpose than that of national defence in a national emergency, and they have nothing to do with an industrial or a trade dispute. I say, quite frankly, that I should deplore that these men should be put into the category of blacklegs. As far as I am concerned, I have no hesitation in saying that they certainly will not be put in that category, 1915 but, as I have said, mistakes were made in the circumstances I have mentioned, and I hope my right, hon. Friend will still see whether it is possible to get over this legal barrier. It is hardly necessary for me to say that the railwaymen of the country have never been unmindful of their national obligation. They proved it during the War. I am quite sure that, with, perhaps, a little tact and sweet reasonableness on all sides, we shall even now get over the difficulty that at the moment appears to divide us.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
One of the outstanding features of this Report on the Army is shown in the figures regarding recruiting, which are really very startling. We are told that five out of every eight men who offered themselves for enlistment were refused for physical and medical reasons. That may have something to do with the War, but not very much, because these lads were born before the War, though there may something, perhaps, in their not having been fully nourished at a certain period. The figures are startling, however, from the point of view of the general physique of the people of this country. After all, the standard of an ordinary line infantry regiment is not a very high one, as anyone who has served in one of these regiments will admit.
It has been proved over and over again that one of the best methods of improving the physique of the youth of this country is the cadet corps, and this shows the improvidence of the policy of trying to starve the cadet corps out of existence. I am sorry to say that my own party was responsible for that two years ago, and it was carried on by the following Government; and I am afraid there is nothing in the Report this year with regard to re-introducing the grant for the cadet corps of this country. There is very little money in it; it is only a matter of a few thousands. I do not know the exact amount, but I think it is something like £20,000. I believe, however, that the results to the youth of this country and the general physique of the country would far outweigh the small amount expended on it, and I would urge the Secretary of State earnestly to consider the question of re-introducing this 1916 grant for the cadet corps. I am sure it would pay the country over and over again.
Another point, which has been already mentioned, is the question of research in the Army. I am glad to see that £500,000 is set aside for this Service. Our Army now is absurdly small. Even before the War it was nothing but a police force for the Empire, and was just sufficiently large to supply drafts for garrisons abroad. Now it is smaller than ever, and this question of research comes all the more to the front. With the shortage of money for the Army, with the hope that the League of Nations puts the picture of war further off, and with conferences for the reduction of armaments and all the rest of it, this is not, perhaps, the time to ask that the Army should be increased. All that we want is to keep our security in the face of other nations. Research will keep us abreast of the times, and nothing would be worse for this country than that it should be niggardly in regard to the money that may he wanted for research.
History has generally shown that big wars can he foresee that The question is when to put research into operation and bring the Army up to modern requirements. I remember that military opinion at the beginning of this century put the War with Germany as coming on in 1913. That was not far out, but, of course, as history again shows, the Government did not foresee that War and take time by the forelock. It has always been seen, and it was notable in the ease of the past War, that a government says that peace is absolutely assured, that. there is not a cloud on the horizon, it is then, as a rule, that you have to sit up and take notice and look out for danger. It seems to me that any money spent on research for the purpose of keeping us up to date, when the time comes, is money very well spent. These are the only two points that wanted to make. I hope to get an answer about the cadet corps, because I think that, with the terrible indictment that has been made on the physique of this country, it is about time we started that again.
Major-General Sir R. HUTCHISON
I am particularly upset over the question of recruiting. The Secretary of State's Memorandum points out that, even 1917 during a time when over a million of our men in this country are unemployed, we have not been able to attract sufficient recruits for the Army, and the serious thing is that the shortage of recruits this year will undoubtedly have a very serious effect in years to come, because a shortage of recruits in any one year affects the outgoing of soldiers at the end of their Colour service, and, therefore, a shortage during a period of two or three years upsets the whole recruiting system of the Army. It seems to me that greater efforts will have to be made in the direction of making the Army more popular, or bringing its advantages before the people, if we are to attract to its ranks those whom we require. The Army in the past has gone through periods of lack of recruits, and it seems to me that we ought, especially in this House, to draw attention to the fact that, as long as we 'have a number of men serving His Majesty in the Army, we are here to protect their interests, to see that their life is a good one and that their conditions of service are of the very best; and that anything we can do in Parliament towards seeing that the conditions of service are first-rate will be done. We should voice these matters here, so that recruits in the country may know that when they come into the Service they will receive treatment which, I venture to say, is second to none in the world.
The next point to which I should to draw attention is the deplorable state of the reserves for the regular Army. My right hon. Friend has very rightly drawn attention to a very serious situation. A Territorial Army can never be a real reserve for the regular Army. It is a home army, and it is only in case of a war of dimensions something like the last war that we can look to the Territorial Army for reinforcements. The wars that we have to visualise in the immediate future are small wars in various parts of the world where we have commitments. I should like to know from the Secretary of State if he is satisfied that he can mobilise one or two divisions at the present moment, take them across the seas to wherever they are required, and be happy about their condition as to reinforcements. I venture to say that we in this House should be quite wrong to vote Looney for an Army unless we thought we were going to get an efficient 1918 Army, and, from what I know of the present state of the Service, we should have the greatest difficulty in moblising two divisions and keeping them in the field for any length of time. Unless the Secretary of State for War can make sufficient arrangements for keeping these divisions in the field, we on these benches are perfectly justified in moving a reduction of £100 in order to call attention to that fact. After all, we stand for the security of the country as much as any party, but we do think we ought to get value for money. If we are simply spending money on producing an Army on paper, that money is not well spent Therefore, I hope that during this Debate the Secretary of State will reassure us as to what is behind the regular Army in the way of reserves.
In relation to the Territorial Army, I think it has been forgotten in the War Office that in 1919 there was what might be called a very intelligent Committee which considered the knitting together of the Regular Army and the Territorial Army, and the question how far we could use the Territorial Army to work in co-operation and closer touch with the Regular Army. That Committee, I may remaind the Financial Secretary, who is now occupying the place of the Secretary of State on the Front Bench, was presided over by General Hamilton Gordon, and, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman refers to the proceedings of that Committee, he will find there many very interesting facts brought out, and many interesting suggestions pat forward, which I think might be very usefully applied to-day. They refer largely to conditions such as have arisen over this Supplementary Reserve, and I am satisfied that, if the recommendations put forward by that Committee had been carried out we should not have been faced to-day with the necessity for recruiting Supplementary Reserves. Anything that we can do to promote a closer unity and closer touch between the Regular Army and the Territorial Army will, I feel sure, he for the good of the Army as a whole and for the good of this country.
The next question to which I desire to refer is that of administration. Administration since the War has been a subject of inquiry by various committees. Everyone who has anything to do with 1919 6.0 P.M.
the handling of forces in the field knows well that, in modern war, administration is much more important as regards the actual effect of the application of troops in the field than the pure direction of the General Staff, and I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will agree with me when I say that many an army in the field has been tethered from behind simply because of inefficient administrative arrangements. In order that our administrative arrangements may be effective, we ought, undoubtedly, to give as many of our senior officers as possible a chance of dealing with administration, but the present policy of the War Office seems to be moving in an exactly opposite direction. Instead of giving the various officers in commands and in armies, such as the Rhine Army, and in Egypt a free hand to carry out their administration, they are held in by the War Office and everything is centralised in the Departments in the War Office. I am sure if you referred it to a Committee and got a recommendation for passing on the responsibility for the spending of money to the administrative staff in those commands you would generate a sense of responsibility for finance amongst the officers administering those posts, instead of expecting even small sums to be agreed to by the War Office. In my experience there has been far too much centralisation in the past over the question of finance. If blocks of money had been handed over to the various commands and Armies, you would have had a very much more economical administration and you would get a number of officers growing up who know the value of money and of sound administration. I hope a movement in that direction will be taken by the Secretary of State. The real trouble about getting an alteration in the system of administration is the hold that finance and the War Office has in the whole Army machine, and until devolution takes place, so that the responsibility for finance is passed down to the lower formations, you will not get any advance in this respect. I hope the real advance which was made during the War, whereby various officers of high spending really had the handling of money and really made an advance on what we had before—I hope the education of those officers by actual experience will go on.
1920 The next point I want to deal with is that of the Staff College. The Staff College is one of our chief instruments for the training of officers who come along for the higher staff appointments. I have heard the question asked recently why more money is not spent on it. It seems to me that the authorities at present in power are not really encouraging the Staff College and those who go there. We have tremendous competition on the part of young officers to get into the Staff College. Either they pass in on the competitive list or get a nomination. They spend two years there working to fit themselves for staff appointments, and yet when they come out they find the higher staff appointments are given to officers who have never had any staff experience at all, which is entirely wrong and bad I hope that when higher staff appointments become vacant, as some will at no distant date, the Secretary of State will see that they are filled by those who have taken the trouble to fit themselves for such appointments in the way of education and experience.
The next point I should like to refer to is the question of the knitting together of the three Services. I are not so wholeheartedly in favour of a Minister of Defence as some, though I admit in principle that it is a very desirable end to arrive at, but I think a very great advance can be made towards the unification of the Services in many directions. The Committee of Imperial Defence could he made a much more efficient body than it is at present by being made a more permanent body sitting regularly in session rind considering various problems, such as how far money allotted to defence purposes should be allotted to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The control of the military and naval and air force during the War was largely centred in the War Cabinet Committee, which had at its head the Prime Minister, and undoubtedly for war purposes such a Committee is about as good an instrument as we can get, but in peace time definite Ministers, or other than Ministers, should he nominated to such a Committee and should form part of the Imperial Defence Committee so that they can be brought into close and personal touch with the various problems which concern the Services and thereby be more fitted to deal with the problems which will come 1921 before them in time of war. The War Cabinet Committee was evolved from a much larger committee. In my view it should consist of something like three Ministers, who are relieved from all other responsibility, and they should be a purely directing force entirely responsible to the Prime Minister. They must have the necessary guidance of experts and we should aim at getting the co-ordination of the experts with the Chief of the Staffs of the Navy, Army and Air Force, and possibly we ought to move towards the creation of an executive body in the Committee of Imperial Defence—Lot so much an advisory board as an executive body—and thereby lead towards what my hon. and gallant Friends want so much, a Defence Ministry. I believe the real Defence 'Minister must be the Prime Minister. After all, he is responsible, and it is only by having a co-ordinated body through the Committee of Imperial Defence that all three Services can be controlled collectively.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I withdraw the remark. I recognise what my hon. and gallant Friend has always advocated before, that we want co-ordination in that matter beyond the higher co-ordination which is so necessary, especially as regards finance and what you are going to spend on Army, Navy and Air Force, because if the various duties which are now undertaken by the Army can be conducted by the Air Force, it ought to lead automatically to some reduction in the Army Vote. In the same way, if duties now performed by the Navy are taken over by the Air Force, there will be a corresponding reduction. They put forward their views that something is necessary for their particular service, and it is only through a co-ordinating committee with executive power that we could get the result the House desires, which is a reduction in the amount of money we are spending on the Army. We ought undoubtedly to unify and get together over the question of supplies. You have common needs in the various services. You have supplies, that is, food, clothing, transport, hospitals, medical officers—I could go through the whole list of these services which are required by the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, and are 1922 common to all. They are produced by each of them now with slight differences. They all have their own personnel, from the highest officers down to the lowest man, and it seems to me a great deal more could be done to co-ordinate and reduce expenditure in this direction. Everyone who has had any experience of administrative matters within the Service knows that there are differences in. colours, in uniforms, in the size of wagons and things like that. If a committee could be got together to look into the matter and cut down certain expenditure, I believe we could save a good deal of money.
I am sorry the question of the ex-ranker officers is not going to be raised. I should like to say a word on this point, which really concerns the honour of the War Office. I was Director of Organisation when this offer to the serving noncommissioned officers was made. Then we had to offer inducements to them to take temporary commissions. We offered them a definite term for their service, that when they went on retired pay they would get a definite pension. The reason that was not extended to the noncommissioned officers who had left the service prior to the War was that those non-commissioned ex-rankers had already been given commissions and there were no further ex-rankers to be given commissions. It seems to me that had there been ex-ranker officers at that time, the inducement we offered to the serving noncommissioned officers would have been offered to the ex-rankers. Therefore, I think the War Office is bound in honour to meet that just claim. If it was not for the fact that it concerns a large number of officers, I am sure it would have been met before now. It is purely because it is a substantial sum that it has been resisted. It was not resisted in the Admiralty. These non-commissioned officers came to our help at the beginning of the War and were invaluable in the training of men for service abroad. We had no experienced officers helping us, and they came in and filled the breach. Otherwise, we should have been put in a very great difficulty. I hope those ex-rankers who took commissions at the beginning of the War will be given similar terms as were 1923 offered in 1918 when we asked the serving non-commissioned officers to take commissions.
I should like to say a word in reference to the position of the Rhine Army, which I know so well. We in the Rhine Army have gone through various vicissitudes. We have had to fight for justice as regards pay, which was paid in the rapidly depreciating mark for some years. I know that question has been settled on more or less fair terms, but there still exists a certain amount of discontent. It is an unsettled Army. The cost and conditions of living have gone up enormously. They are told they may move at any moment, but where they may move to is not known. They do not know whether they will go home or move to Wiesbaden or Coblenz according to arrangements with our French friends. They are in a state of unrest, and I would ask the Secretary of State if he can do anything to re-assure them that in any movement that takes place they will be helped financially in carrying it out. A great many of the younger officers are in a difficult position, as are a great many of the non-commissioned officers and men on the married roll. There is also a section of officers and men who arc married off the strength, and they have been asked to pay for billets they have occupied, and, owing to their not being on the establishment, they are in a particularly hard position. I believe some amelioration of their situation has been arrived at, but the Rhine Army to-day is not the happy Army it was a year ago, and it is largely owing to the question of flux. They do not know whether they are going or what is going to happen. If my right hon. Friend can give his attention to that matter he will be doing a service to that Army.
We, on these benches, do not object to the payment, or advocating the payment of money towards Army Estimates, provided we get value for it and provided we get economy in the directions I have pointed out in regard to the other two Services. If the right hon. Gentleman can satisfy us that if the Air Force takes over a certain amount of work from the Army we get a corresponding reduction in the Army Estimates, then we, on these benches, will do all we can to further these Estimates. But, if we are not 1924 satisfied that increases in the Air Force for further use in the field are not correspondingly met by reductions in the other Services, then we want to know the reason why. I am certain that the country at large is not prepared to go on spending these huge sums of money for armaments without getting a really good and substantial reason for such expenditure.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I wish to refer to a few items in the Estimates and to put one or two questions to my right hon. Friend. First, I should like to deal with recruiting: On page 4 of the Memorandum we have some rather remarkable statements with regard to recruiting. I think it is the first time we have had it definitely set down—for that is what it really amounts to—that the British Army in the past has always depended for recruits on economic pressure. That is what the reference in Item (iii) on page 4 of the Memorandum really amounts to: that it was the pressure of unemployment which drove people into the Army. From that, one might. rashly deduce, as some of the newspapers have already done, that the best thing we could do in the interests of the Army would be to abolish the dole. If hon. Members will turn to page 3 they will find the other side of the story. They will find that from 55 per cent. to 60 per cent. of those presenting themselves as recruits have to be rejected for physical defects. That is due to conditions of unemployment where there was not even the dole. The real fact that emerges is that if we want to have a healthy lot of people for recruiting purposes we must have a higher standard of life in this country, and that the unemployment question affects every single sphere of life.
The Memorandum, further, gives as a reason which militates against recruiting:—War-weariness and consequent aversion to a military life, not only among the younger men, but also among their parents.I cannot; help thinking that that is one of the most hopeful statements I have ever seen in an Army Estimate. It is a great thing if young people are getting weary and sick of war, and if the parents are getting sick of sending their children into armies. It is not so much because of the bad conditions in the Army—the conditions of Army life have been largely 1925 improved—but it is due to the fact that people are becoming more intelligent, more educated. They had a pretty fair education from 1914 to 1918 in the value of armaments for bringing about the peace of the world. Further, every unemployed ex-service man you have in a village or a town or a street in a town acts, by his very existence, against recruiting, because the down-and-out ex-service man is a very strong argument against anyone going into the Army.
While I agree with what was said by the Secretary of State with regard to training at Hounslow and Catterick, and I would like to see that extended, we have to face the fact of this vast mass of 30,000 men coming out into the world from the Army, and the difficulty of their finding employment. When we were in office, we tried to deal with this difficulty to some extent. The difficulty is the enormous amount of civilian unemployment. That question ought to have been taken up and dealt with long before the War. We mast: deal more strenuously with the conditions of unemployment among the civilian population if we want better conditions for men who are coining out of the Army.
With respect to administrative expenditure, I have been looking at the figures in connection with staff at the War Office. There has been a certain amount of cutting down, but I doubt whether it goes far enough in all cases. In dealing with the War Office, hon. Members have their own favourite figures. One hon. Member wants to scrap the M.G.O., another hon. Member wants to scrap something else. The Department which I think has overgrown, and which might be reduced or might even be abolished, is that of the Military Secretary. The staff has come down from 77 to. 51. It might very well be abolished and its functions transferred to the Adjutant-General's Department.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
No. You will have to have some staff, but it might be very much reduced. This staff, if my memory serves me aright, has grown from 28 to 77, and it has now come down from 77 to 51. No doubt, there is a certain amount of arrears of war work to be dealt with, but I do think that this Department ought to be cut down and transferred. Cer- 1926 tainly I think that the Department as a separate Department is an extra wheel in the coach.
We have had talk about the horrible word "mechanicalisation." One hon. Member raised the question of the danger of going too fast with mechanicalisation. I believe that that danger is very well understood at the War Office. There is a difficulty in regard to tanks, armoured cars, etc., that you are getting very much into the old position of the competition of gun v. fort, which has existed in the Admiralty. First you have a great gun made and then you have a stronger battleship or fort built, and then you get a stronger gun. You may spend a great deal of money uselessly in that way. If my right hon. Friend will consult his colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will find that full information will be given to him as to the danger that may arise from too sudden plunges in mechanicalisation.
I am glad that research is continuing, because that is one of the most successful Departments in the Army. It is not generally known how much service the Research Department does for civilians, and I am not sure that it would not be a good thing if sonic of the industrialists who profit by these researches paid something extra towards it for the benefit they get. I should like to raise a point with regard to Catterick camp, which is the Northern Aldershot. The Southern Aldershot is cramped and confined to a small acre of ground. The War Office should look very carefully into the question of Catterick as to whether they have enough land there for adequate training ground, and as to the use to which the surrounding land is going to be put. The danger is that if they do not extend now, they may be held up by high prices later on. I should also like to know something about that hardy annual, Lulworth Cove. We heard a great deal of that last Session, but it seems to have become quiet since hon. Members representing the district are now on the other side.
Another item in the Estimate refers to barracks. Considerable expenditure is down for barracks in Egypt. That expenditure is for new construction. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with regard to our position in Egypt, and as to whether it is wise to sink so much money in Egypt? I am well 1927 aware of the need of better barracks in Egypt and of the extremely difficult position we are in at the present time in regard to the unsettled political situation, on the one side, and the unsettled military position, on the other. In regard to barracks, there is a further question on which I should like information, and that is, the difficult question of evictions from barracks. We had a good many cases last year of people who had finished their term of Army service who could not find alternative accommodation, and they stayed on. We were shot at on that point, but I am sure my right hon. Friend is in a happier position than we were, because he has now in his Ministry as Parliamentary Secretary for Health a gentleman who is very interested in this question and who, I am sure, will do anything he possibly can to prevent any eviction of people who cannot find alternative accommodation. The hon. Member the Parliamentary Secretary is pledged up to the hilt on that point, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will be able to press him as far as he likes in regard to providing accommodation.
I should like to know something more regarding the expenditure on gas warfare, what is the present position at Porton, and w hat we are doing in the matter generally. There is also the question of officers. I should like to know whether the supply is better, and whether we are drawing our supply of officers from as wide an area as possible. I do not want to anticipate what may be said later in the Debate, but I would like to know whether anything has been done towards reconsidering an improvement of the charges at Woolwich and Sandhurst. My right hon. Friend seems to have become rather cold this year compared with last year as regards the Lawrence Report. I remember that last year he got up from these benches with tremendous enthusiasm as to the Lawrence Report, but now that seems to be in a state of suspended animation. I should like to hear from my right hon. Friend that he means to push on with that Report. I am aware of the difficulties of its application, but I would ask that an attempt should be made to put the principles of the Lawrence Report into force, say, in some detached area such as Pembroke Dock, and put to the test the theories that 1928 were put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose Burghs (Sir R. Hutchison) with regard to the great saving that could be effected where the local administration was given greater powers and given a chance to show its genius for economy.
There is also the question of the Territorial Army. I am not one of those who think that we need to revive either the Militia or the Yeomanry, but we have to recognise that the position of the Territorial Army to-day is not very satisfactory from the point of view of strength. I should like to ask whether anything can be done towards obtaining from employers better facilities for members of the Territorial Force. It is rather too much to ask any man, in addition to doing drill, etc., to convert his whole holiday into military training, and I think that a stronger position should be taken up with regard to the employers in these cases.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
The hon. Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) raised the question of reserves, and I wish to say a few words in regard to that. He asked what is the present position, and the answer is given in the reply to a question of mine which was asked last week. Reserves of Class B amount at present to half what they did before the War. The figure is approximately 52,000 as against 106,000 before the War. Reserve Class A is being newly constituted, as we have been told, so that, from the point of view of Reserves, the country has less than half, as regards Class A and B, of what. we had 11 years ago. Judging from what I happened to see last year at the Royal Review at Aldershot the line battalions are deplorably weak, and it would take a very large number of these 50,000 men in reserve to get the home battalions up to the strength of 791, the peace establishment, or 881, which is the foreign establishment. Last summer, Indian drafts had not then gone off, and in October the battalions were even weaker than in June or July.
Before the War we had, as the House knows, Special Reserve battalions whose job it was, as soon as the Regular battalions went abroad, to act as draft-finding units. I do not think that the work done by the Special Reserve battalions during the War has ever been adequately recognised by the public. I 1929 know battalions in which they had a great many thousand men, in some cases 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000, going through the battalion during the War, and being made fit and trained and sent away, according as fresh recruits came on. At the present time we have no cadre for doing that work. I agree that immediately after the War, when we had in the country so many trained men and were short of money, and we had to decide as to the best way to spend what we had, it was thought probably better not to perpetuate the Special Reserve or the Militia. But it is about six and a half years since the end of the War, when I think that it was postulated that for 10 years we might reasonably expect that there would be no large-scale warfare. We are through two-thirds of that time. If we were ever, unfortunately, to find ourselves again engaged in hostilities on a wide scale we should have no organisation to train the men to come forward, and rejoin the Reserve, and to train the fresh recruits who would come in.
One hon. Member said something about the Territorial Army. In that connection we should know clearly that the Territorial Army should not be used for draft finding. One of the great points made now is that men joining the Territorial Army would always go out together if the question of going abroad arose. There is very strong feeling of esprit de corps. If they thought for one moment that they would be split up for draft finding, you would have no fresh recruits coming forward, and men at the end of the four years' service would leave the Territorial Army. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the provision of some form of Special Reserve or Militia battalion. I imagine that it is very largely a question of money. I quite agree that, with things as they are, it would not be necessary to have one Special Reserve battalion for every two line battalions, as we had before the War, but we do want a certain number of reserve battalions constituted. As regards the cadre, the obvious districts are agricultural districts which used to feed adequately the Special Reserve battalions before the War, but are not so suitable for recruiting for the Territorial Army, as it is not possible for the men to do their drill in the local Territorial headquarters owing to the distances. I 1930 think that in the near future steps should be taken to revive, especially in the agricultural districts, a reserve force to fulfil the same functions which were fulfilled so admirably during the War by the Special Reserve.
Another matter to which I wish to draw attention is the position of the officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps. I ventured to address the House on this question last year. I do not think that the House generally appreciates how very serious is the question of the Royal Army Medical Corps, owing to the shortage of officers. Many officers, whom the Corps would have been glad to keep on, have resigned in recent years, as they were not satisfied with regard to their professional prospects in the Corps, and very few, indeed, have been coming forward. Until recently no examination was held for candidates for the Royal Army Medical Corps. Of 80 vacancies advertised during the last two years, only 25 have been filled, and during the year which has elapsed since the 31st January, 1924, only one candidate has been gazetted into the 'loyal Army Medical Corps. The total establishment in England and abroad is 884. The wastage is about 60 or 70 a year. Only one candidate has been gazetted in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the last 12 months. That shows the existence of a very serious state of affairs.
One naturally asks the reason for it. I find on inquiry that it is partly, as far as one can tell, that because while the pay of the Royal Army Medical Corps officers before the War was considerably more than the pay of combatant officers, the pay of combatant officers has been greatly increased while that of the Royal Army Medical Corps officers is very slightly more than it was in 1914. At present while the pay of captains and majors in the Royal Army Medical Corps is somewhat more than that of combatant officers, lieutenant-colonels actually draw less if you include command pay. One has to remember that officers in the Royal Army Medical Corps do not get their commissions until they are 24, while officers in the combatant forces are gazetted at 19. During those years between 19 and 24 up to £2,000 has to be spent before the officer can be gazetted, and many parents are not prepared to put up this money in view of the somewhat uncertain prospects 1931 of the Royal Army Medical Corps officers. Apart from that, those who are in the Royal Army Medical Corps are encouraged to specialise—this is one of the minor grievances which I understand they have. They receive from 2s. 6d. to 5s. a day extra pay, but a number of them who have done this work are taxed as regards Income Tax on the whole of their allowance, and in some cases far more than the 2s. 6d. a day is taken in increased Income Tax from those who have taken the trouble to qualify, in their case at considerable expense, for these special duties. This is only a minor point, but it discourages the men from work.
The long and short of it is that civilian practitioners have been doing so much better in recent years, owing, it may be, to the assured position of panel practitioners, that men will not run the risk of going into the Army. That again is very largely question of pay. I do suggest that it is encouraging in the interests of the health of the Army that the pay of the Royal Army Medical Corps should be increased. It may be worth while considering whether it would not be worth while making the Director-General of the Medical Service a member of the Army Council. I understand that Lord Esher's Committee some years ago recommended this, and it would give an extra status to the Royal Army Medical Corps and allow their point of view to he ventilated in the Army Council in a way in which it cannot be done at present. I hope for these reasons that before the next Estimates are brought forward my right hon. Friend will be able to do something for the Royal Army Medical Corps to improve the very unsatisfactory state of affairs which at present exists.