§ Order for Committee read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
The House will notice that in the Memorandum which accompanies the Estimates this year, a great deal of matter which is normally dealt with in an Estimates speech has been included. I thought it would be more convenient for hon. Members to have the information before they were called upon to debate the Estimates. This course also enables me to shorten the speech which I have to make.
Although Vote A asks for a larger number of men than last year, the fact is that these Estimates provide for a reduction of about 4,000 in the Regular Army. The reduction includes 47 officers and 1,294 other ranks, due to reorganisation of the Cavalry, and 18 officers and 861 men in the Royal Artillery, chiefly due to reorganisations which I have set out in detail in the Memorandum. Then there are certain minor trimmings of the establishments of the Corps of Signals and other units. The disbandment of the West Indian Regiment accounts for 23 officers and 670 other ranks. Although the actual figures of Vote A show an increase of 7,100 men on the current year, or 8,700 if there is added a reduction of 1,600 of the Indian troops in Iraq, the actual fact is that there is a reduction of 4,000. The despatch of the Shanghai Defence Force, in which is included a mixed brigade from India, accounts for the bulk of the apparent increase, as these troops are transferred from the Indian Establishment to Vote A. As I shall explain later, the garrison at Men, which last year was not included in Vote A, as it was provided by India, has now been transferred to the Imperial Government, and consequently has to be provided for in the Vote. Instead, therefore, of there being an increase there is an actual decrease of about 4,000 in the Regular Army.
876 The total net cash for which I am asking is £41,565,000. This is £935,000 less than last year. Of course, these figures do not include any extra expenditure on the Shanghai Defence Force, because this is not capable of being made the subject of an Estimate at the present moment.
I have set out in the Memorandum the figures of the Estimates for the last six years, and hon. Members will notice that there has been a continuous and heavy fall in the expenditure in the Army Estimates, although the rate of fall is naturally decreasing. The saving this year on the current effective charges of the Army is just over £1,100,000. The non-effective charges, that is, pensions and retired pay, show an increase of £74,000, and the War terminal charges show an increase of rather over £100,000. The £1,100,000, however, does not represent a cash saving due to reductions in the personnel of the Army. It is a balance figure resulting from a great many smaller increases and decreases on the various Votes, to the most important of which I propose to call attention.
For example, in Vote 1, the provision for the pay of the Army is snown to be reduced by £646,000; to the extent of £250,000 this reduction is due to the decrease in the rates of pay for new entrants into the Army which was introduced in October, 1925, and which is now beginning to make itself felt. On the other hand, 1928 is Leap Year, and also entails an extra pay day which calls for an increase of £200,000. The cost of living reduction in officers' pay means a saving of £18,000, and reduction in numbers and increased receipts account for the balance of the saving. On Vote 2 relating to the Territorial Army and Reserve Forces, there is a reduction of £69,000 on balance. £64.000 is due to the abolition of bounties for future entrants into the Territorial Army, and for those re-engaging for service after the 1st March. I propose to give to the House further information on this subject in a few moments. £45,000 is due partly to a reduction in the Army Reserve owing to a heavy run-off of specially enlisted Section D Reservists during the current financial year, and partly to the decision reached last 877 August to suspend recruiting for the Supplementary Reserve. As regards the Army Reserve, I anticipate that the loss will be largely, if not entirely, made up by the end of the financial year, and that from 1928 onwards the strength of the Reserve will increase steadily to a figure more nearly approaching that required for mobilisation than has been the case in the last few years.
Vote 3, relating to Medical Services, shows an increase of £60,000. This is in part due to improvements in pay and conditions of service of Army doctors. For some years past, the Army Medical Service has not attracted sufficient young men to maintain the numbers required. Complaints have been made by the medical profession, vigorously supported by the British Medical Association, of the inadequacy of pay, of the frequency of moves, and of the length of foreign service tours. Many of these complaints seemed to have been well founded, and though I took steps immediately, it was some time before new conditions could be put into force. The Cabinet appointed a Committee to enquire into the pay and conditions of service in the medical branches of the three Fighting Services, as it was impossible to deal with one without the others. Following the report of the Committee, the Royal Warrant of July of last year was issued under which improved terms and conditions of service have been granted, and the British Medical Association is now recommending service in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a career for young qualified practitioners. But I still want more candidates. In January last there was ' a larger entry, but I have still got vacancies, and there are two features of the new conditions to which I would like to draw the attention of newly-qualified medical men. Those who take up a house appointment can, under certain conditions, get an ante-date to their commission; in other words, the service in an appointment at a hospital will count as service in the Army; and the other innovation is that after seven years' service an officer can retire with a gratuity of £1,000. This may be attractive to young medicals who want to see a bit of the world before settling down to civil practice and to whose capital an addition of £1,000 may prove extremely useful. The Army owes much to its medical 878 officers, and I hope the reforms now operating will ensure a service as contented as it is efficient.
The next considerable variation to which I think I should call the attention of the House is that on Vote 6, the Vote which includes Supplies, Road Transport, and Remounts. There is a saving on balance of £254,000. The cost of provisions and forage shows a decrease of over £150,000. There are considerable savings in the purchase of remounts, and there are other minor economies. On the other hand, the amount set aside for mechanical transport is increased by over £100,000. Vote 8 shows an increase of £286,000. This increase is mainly due to the reduction of the Appropriation-in-Aid which we estimated we should receive last year from the sale of old stores. The War surplus is rapidly disappearing, and the amount that we can expect this year and in subsequent years is consequently less and less. Moreover, both this year and in subsequent years it is becoming necessary to replace depleted stocks, and this Vote, therefore, is bound to increase. On Vote 10, we have a decrease on balance of £645,000. We are saving £782,000 this year owing to the loan under the Military Works Loan Acts having been repaid, but heavy expenditure has still to be met to provide the accommodation which the Army lost when the troops ceased to be stationed in the Irish Free State. £300,000 will be spent on Catterick; £150,000 at Smallshot, and smaller sums on other accommodation elsewhere. Total expenditures for works abroad are £205,400, which includes a first instalment of £40,000 towards the cost of the military defences of the Singapore Naval Base. This Vote for Works and Buildings has been most carefully combed through, and every effort has been made to cut off any expenditure which is not absolutely necessarv on bricks and mortar, but our housing problems are almost as acute in the Army as with the civilians. On Salisbury Plain, we have a cottage housing scheme which is estimated to cost £195,000, of which we are spending £10,000 this year. At Didcot we are spending £35,000 to complete housing accommodation for certain civilians connected with the Ordnance Depot. The total expenditure this year to provide or to improve married quarters for officers will be £110,000, and the expenditure to provide 879 or improve married quarters for noncommissioned officers and men will be £180,000.
Vote II shows an increase of £387,000. This is not a real increase; it is more than accounted for by the provision under Sub-head D. in respect of the garrison at Aden. Aden has been hitherto administered by the Government of India, and the cost of the whole garrison fell, in the first instance, on Indian funds. It has now been decided that the political and military administration of Aden should be transferred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the expenditure in connection with it will be borne on the Middle Eastern Services Vote of the Colonial Office. The change is being made because in recent years Aden has assumed a far wider importance in Imperial communications than that of a port of call on the voyage to India, and because it is hoped that the cost of its defence may be reduced if it be treated as a part of the whole of the Middle East. The whole cost will in future be defrayed in the first instance from Army funds and will be recoverable from the Middle Eastern Services Vote. Provision has accordingly been made in Vote 1 for an Appropriation-in-Aid from the Middle Eastern Vote for the same amount as is debited in this Vote.
I have dealt with the main increases and decreases, together making up the reduction to which I have called attention; and I will now ask hon. Members to consider for a few moments some of the larger aspects of the Estimates. I have to provide for an expanding programme of mechanisation, upon which more money is being spent this year and much more will have to be spent in subsequent years. Accumulations of stocks of ammunition and other stores are being exhausted, and additional money will be required for their replacement. Unless, therefore, the Estimates are to be increased—and the pressure is all the other way,, for each year a reduction is called for—I have got to find the new money by a reduction of present expenditure. Last year I saved a large sum by reducing the Corps of Military Accountants, and this year I am making some administrative economies, but there is no large saving possible now on the administrative side. I am seeking a 880 saving in two directions. I hope to obtain from the Cavalry this year £93,000 rising to £237,000 in a year when the full effect is realised, and I hope to secure by the abolition of the bounties for new entrants and for re-engagements, after the 28th February, in the Territorial Army the sum of £64,000 this year, rising to£332,000 when the full saving is reached in a few years' time. Although I make a small saving on the Cavalry, as I shall show, the money so saved will be used to modernise and improve their fighting value, and in the same way the money taken from the Territorial Army Vote will go back to the Territorial Army in ammunition, stores and equipment, the stocks of which are now becoming exhausted.
I will first explain my proposal regarding the cavalry. There is a responsible body of opinion holding that in principle the day of the horse is over and that the duties of the cavalry should be performed, and would be better performed, by aeroplanes and by troops mounted in rapidly moving cross-country vehicles, such as light fast tanks and armoured cars. On the other band, it is urged that there are many military situations possible in various parts of the world in which, compared with the adaptability of the horsed unit, a mechanically transport, d unit would be a great disadvantage. At present an unbridged river presents an unpassable obstacle to tanks, and presents but few difficulties to cavalry. There are many rivers in countries in which our Army must be prepared to operate. What then is the truth between those conflicting opinions? I believe the truth is that we have not yet got the data upon which to make an irrevocable decision as to the kind of military force which is to do the work hitherto done by the cavalry. For the present the best solution appears to be a combination of the two.
Last year I asked a. Committee of military experts to give me some advice as to the cavalry requirements of the Army. They directed my attention, in the first place, to two grave defects in the cavalry as it is organised and equipped to-day. To take its place effectively in a modern army the cavalry regiment has neither sufficient mobility nor adequate fire power. The lack of mobility is due partly to the excessive 881 weight that the troop horse now has to carry. This seriously reduces a regiment's speed and range of action, and the already narrow radius of action is still further limited by its dependence on its ponderous and slow-moving transport. The lack of fire power is partly due to an insufficiency of machine guns and partly to the unsuitability of the Hotchkiss gun. The Army Council has decided to take steps immediately to remedy the defects so far as possible by providing mechanical vehicles for the first line transport and eight machine guns instead of four as at present, to he carried in mechanical vehicles instead of on pack horses. The question of finding a more efficient gun than the Hotchkiss will be actively pursued. At present this reorganisation will be confined to six line regiments at home, but the intention is to extend the new organisation to all the cavalry as funds become available, subject to such modifications as experience may suggest.
More research and experiments are necessary before we come to a final decision. To mechanise the cavalry completely with an unsuitable vehicle, and there is no suitable vehicle at present, would be a most expensive mistake. The horse may not be all that it should be, but in the meantime it is better than a vehicle that is all that it should not he. But I can assure the House that the provision of a suitable cross-country vehicle is the subject of continuous research and experiment. Meanwhile the reorganisation which provides for the mechanisation of the first line transport and the carriage of the machine guns enables me to increase cavalry mobility and fire power and at the same time to reduce the number of men and horses. For the present the cavalry regiments, instead of consisting of a headquarter wing including the machine gun troops and three sabre squadrons, will consist of the headquarter wing, a machine gun squadron mechanised, two sabre squadrons and mechanised first line transport. I have also taken the opportunity to concentrate all recruit training in the regiments, and this enables me to effect an economy by abolishing the cavalry depot. The savings consequent upon these various alterations amount to a reduction of 47 officers, 1,294 other ranks, and 1,445 882 horses, making a saving in 1927 of £93,000, rising in a full year to £237,000.
Now I come to the Territorial Army. The strength on the let January last was 6,760 officers and 139,762 other ranks, showing an increase of 159 officers and 1,187 other ranks, compared with the year before. Progress has been made in each of the last five years; each year has shown some increase upon the numbers of the previous year. Of the 14 Territorial divisions, two are within 10 per cent, of establishment, seven are within 20 per cent. of establishment, and five are between 60 per cent. and 80 per cent. of establishment. I have not included in the divisions the anti-aircraft units which have been formed comparatively recently. Recruits have been coming in better, but the units are still a good deal below strength. Of the 14 yeomanry and two scout regiments, eight are practically up to establishment, while the remaining eight are well within 20 per cent. of establishment. Next year we are estimating to spend in cash on the Territorial Army, excluding stores, the sum of £3,452,600, but the total cost, on a cost accounting basis, will be something like £4,752,000. The difference between these two figures, some £1,300,000, represents the issue of ammunition and stores from Army stocks, whether surplus or requiring provision, and includes depreciation of non-consumable stores; but, just as in the regular Army, the war supplies of ammunition and warlike stores are being rapidly exhausted. Next year and each following year a larger sum in cash will have to be provided for the purchase of ammunition and new equipment. Last year an all-over cut of £160,000 was made in the Territorial Army Estimates. Forty-three thousand pounds arose from economies which I am repeating this year, but the balance was derived from the use of surplus capital in the hands of the Territorial associations, and other reductions which cannot be repeated.
I am confronted, therefore, with the double problem of finding substitutes for last year's economies and of providing for the increased needs of the future. I have therefore decided to disband eight casualty clearing stations, two veterinary evacuating stations, and two veterinary hospitals, which 'will save about £8,000, but I need not merely a further sum this year but a still larger sum in the follow- 883 ing years, and so with much regret I have been forced to abolish the bounty for new entrants and for re-engagements on and after the 1st of March. The reduction will not apply to men serving on present engagements. The saving, which as I have said amounts this year to £64,000 rising to £322,000, will grow much in the same proportion as the cash cost of ammunition and stores will grow, and the Territorial Army will get back in necessaries all that it loses in bounties. The real choice is between a Territorial Army properly equipped with ammunition and stores and a Territorial Army starved of ammunition and modern equipment. I do not disguise that much anxiety will be felt, and I confess to sharing it, as to the effect of the abolition of the bounty on recruiting. I have gathered a good many opinions from commanding officers and others, as well as from those closely connected with the Territorial Associations. The opinions differ. Some think it will make no difference and others fear that recruiting will be seriously affected. Let me remind hon. Members that there was no bounty at all before the War, that when the Territorial Force was reconstituted in 1920 the maximum bounty was fixed at £5 and that when in 1922 the Geddes Axe fell the bounty was reduced from £5 to £3. I have examined the recruiting returns to see whether the reduction of the bounty made any difference to recruiting, and I cannot say that I can find that any difference was made. Certainly the numbers were greater in 1922 than in 1921, and the following year showed an increase.
I need not say that the abolition of the bounty was not decided upon without most serious consideration. I notice in some articles and letters in the Press that I am accused of having come to this conclusion without having consulted the Territorial Associations. Let me tell the House exactly the course I followed. Last year there was a lump-sum cut of £160,000, without that sum having been allocated amongst the various items of expenditure, and that had to be examined after the Estimates had passed this House. I was determined that I would not be caught a second time and that I would examine the position of the Territorial Army and 884 the economies to be effected, if any, long before Budget day, and in July last I set up a Committee in the War Office to consider what economies could be made if they were enforced upon us, and in what order of merit they should be made. That Committee had the advantage of consultations with the Vice-Chairman of the Council of the Territorial Associations. That Council represents all the Territorial Associations except one, and that particular association has not joined them. They were consulted in July last. I do not hold the Vice-Chairman of the Council of the Territorial Associations responsible for what the Committee advised, still less do I hold, him responsible for what I have done. The point I wish to make is that he was consulted as long ago as last July.
Major-General Sir H HUTCHISON
May I ask how it was that commanding officers only knew on Friday what was carried out on Monday?
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
Was the Vice-Chairman of the Council there in a representative capacity? Was he engaged in confidential negotiations with the right hon. Gentleman, or was he able to consult the Council?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
In July last he was obviously appearing in his personal capacity and he was advising the Committee that I set up to see what reductions, if any, could be made. I will answer the question, if I may, in a moment. I want to take the House with me in order of date. In February last I had the Committee's Report in front of me. I then had proposals sketched out, including the abolition of the bounty and several other proposals, and on 9th February the Vice-Chairman of the Council, to whom I have referred, was informed of these proposals and asked to bring them before the Council of the Territorial Association. He did so on 9th February. The Council set up a Committee of its members to consider those proposals and to make counter-suggestions. That Committee reported, and a deputation from the Council came to see me at the War Office on 21st February, bringing that report with them. They took exception to the proposal to abolish the bounties and they made various counter-proposals. One of them was that £124,000 should be taken from the cloth- 885 ing reserve, but, as I pointed out, that was in the nature of a capital item and should not be applied for the annual expenditure. They also proposed an overall cut of 6 per cent. on the main Territorial Army Grants, which they thought would realise £90,000. But I was advised that such a cut would work out very unequally and would not in fact realise anything like its nominal amount.
The Committee also objected to a proposal which had been, put before them to reduce the establishments of the battalions, and I am glad to say that I was able to meet them in that really very important matter. But it is really not fair to say that either I or the Army Council have ignored or put any slight upon the Territorial Army or its administration. It is not possible to consult every association separately, hut we did consult the Council of the Association, and in this I followed the usual practice. The County of London Territorial Association is, I understand, not a member of that Council, but the Council I am told, invited the County of London Association to be present at that meeting on 9th February, and I believe they were also represented on the committee appointed by the Council. So that it is again not accurate to say that the County of London Association had not got warning of the proposals that would be considered. My hon. and gallant Friend opposite asked me just now whether the commanding officers knew before a quite recent date. No, they did not, and if lie will consider for a moment he will see that if the bounty is to he cut off, it is obvious that no warning ought to be given, because that would be unfair as between man and man. Some who happened to be near, or could make up their minds at once, would thereupon re-engage and get a bounty for four years, but others who are equally efficient and equally entitled to consideration, for some other reason, might not then re-engage, but might wish to be re-engaged at a date afterwards, and they would get no bounty at all.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The date of the Army Order was somewhere about 26th February, but I am not quite 886 sure at the moment. It operated as from 1st March. If there is the slightest lingering doubt in anyone's mind that the Territorial Army has been slighted or that its representatives have been ignored, let me repeat that neither the Army Council nor I had any such intention. Of course I recognise that the loss of the bounty will call for great exertion on the part of those who are responsible for recruiting, and for a greater sacrifice on the part of those who give, their time to the country by serving in the Territorial Army. I cannot expect that the abolition of the bounty is going to he popular, but I believe that if we do not allow its effect to be exaggerated, if we make the best of the position, Territorial Army will survive, and even if there is some falling off in some units, greater efforts in making known the attractions of the service will quickly enable us to recover from any temporary set-back.
Now I want to say a few words about further mechanisation of the Army. We are estimating to spend this year about £238,000 on new mechanical vehicles, and we have set aside £125,000 for research and experiment. The Memorandum that I have circulated gives detailed particulars. This expenditure is really very small when it is remembered bow big is the problem which we arc just beginning to tackle. The internal combustion engine has revolutionised civil society in the last 20 years, and I do not doubt that the changes it will cause in the Army will be not less noticeable in the next 20 years. Though for a petrol-driven army the tactical functions will remain in form identical with those of present-day forces, yet in degree these functions will he greatly extended. Where in the past cavalry moved perhaps 20 miles ahead of an army in order to search for the enemy, armoured cars will possibly be able to move more than 100miles. For holding the enemy, these machines and others, such as mechanised machine gun units, will be able to circle round an adversary, and tanks which are impervious to bullets, will have it in their power to hit and smash with far greater effect than the existing arms.
To protect such petrol-driven weapons, obviously artillery must be able to move and follow over all natures of country, 887 and consequently that arm must also be mechanised. It seems clear that, although the tactical functions remain the same in form, they are likely to change so extensively in degree that years of thought and experiment will have to be given to the numerous problems which the power of petrol has introduced into the realms of war. In order to gain practical experience of the effect of mechanisation on tactics, an experimental force is being formed at Tidworth,, composed of completely mechanised units. It comprises one tank battalion; an armoured car company; a field brigade, Royal Artillery; a pack battery, Royal Artillery; and a field company, Royal Engineers; a signal unit, and one infantry battalion re-equipped as a machine gun battalion with 36 machine guns. This force will be placed under the command of an officer who has made a special study of mechanical warfare, and I hope that the lessons to he derived from this force will be of very material value in guiding the further development of mechanisation and in determining the nature of vehicles required.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Vickers guns. The Army is progressing. Although financial necessities have compelled a constant reduction in the numbers of personnel and the amounts expended, we are constantly endeavouring to increase efficiency by improved mobility and greater fire power. We are making the utmost provision possible for research and experiment in mechanised vehicles. If we had more money and could afford to take risks, we could go faster, but within our limits I believe that the best is being obtained. Once again I have to thank the Army Council for whole-hearted support, and for their assistance in rendering possible a reduction in the Estimates.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
Whatever else Members of the House may think, I am quite sure they will all agree that they have listened to a very interesting speech from the right hon. Gentleman in the presentation of his annual Estimates—a speech, the interest of which was rendered not one jot or title the less because of that 888 wonderfully vivid description of the mechanised army at Tidworth. My mind went back to so many speeches in which it was stated that the Great War was to be the last war—"Never again!" Yet all the best brains that we possess are devoted to considering the most effective method of decimating human life in future. However, that is not the right hon. Gentleman's fault. He is at the head of a Department whose special duty it is to apply itself to the consideration of these problems. I would like to pay just a word of tribute to the right hon. Gentleman and the Department over which he presides. In these days, when it has become the recognised procedure of Departments to exceed their Estimates by millions of pounds, it is refreshing to be able to congratulate the War Department on having, during the last six years, set an example to every other Department in the State by having on each occasion kept well within the Estimates. I say that because I think it is necessary to give credit when credit is due. After what one has seen, apart altogether from experience at the War Office itself, during the last twenty years in this House, that we are almost always met in the case of other Departments with excess expenditure and apologetic Supplementary Estimates—it is necessary And desirable to give credit where credit is due.
It may be said that the estimated saving is only a little one. It is quite true that there is only an estimated saving of £935,000, but in these days we have to he thankful for small mercies, and this saving is vastly different from some of our later experiences in these matters. One's congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman are, however, somewhat mixed, because his vision of a saving of £935,000 has been rudely dispelled by the Shanghai expedition for which he will ask the House to vote a Supplementary Estimate to-morrow. Again, I think that is his misfortune and not his fault. He is the victim of a cruel fate His intentions, I think, were honourable. The House will welcome the change that has taken place in respect of the mechanisation of certain cavalry arms. If war were simply a series of beautiful and enthralling pictures, one would vote for the continuance of cavalry. Dashing charges, superb horsemanship—all that kind of thing makes a great appeal and 889 is part and parcel of the romance of war, but, as I said two years ago, and as I believe to-day, in so far as modern warfare is concerned the proper place for the horse is a zoological museum. Having regard to the conditions which obtain, the constant changes in mechanisation, the infinite possibilities of mechanical development, the enormous alterations that have already taken place, the tremendous degree of power which has been developed, and the awful possibilities which still lie ahead, the place of the horse, as I say, is in a museum.
I am sure the House will congratulate the Department, first, that they have abolished the Cavalry Depot, and, secondly, that they have saved the cost of 12 squadrons—a squadron in each home regiment. They have saved, altogether, I think the right hon. Gentleman said about £93,000 in respect of the ensuing year, and that economy will extend, roughly speaking, to a quarter of a million, when the full saving has been developed. If it were a saving of money alone it would indeed be desirable, though it would only be a minor consideration; but the highest efficiency is being accomplished as a result of these changes. If we are to visualise war at all, if armies must exist, there can be no getting away from this fact that they ought to exist on the highest possible standard of efficiency. That is the only justification for having an army at ail; and I am satisfied, as I believe the vast majority of thinking men in the country will be satisfied, that these changes make for the highest efficiency as well as for economy. I therefore congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Army Council on making those changes. I am glad to hear that research is going on with a view to carrying on this kind of change on even more highly developed lines, and I am sure that on those lines the army will become very much more efficient than it is at the present time.
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the controversy regarding the Territorial Army but, as he is aware, a good deal of attention was paid by my colleagues on the Army Council and myself, in slightly earlier days, to the matter of vocational training. The right hon. Gentleman in his Memorandum refers to the fact that every year 28,000 to 30,000 men, mainly 890 in the prime of life, leave the Army to find places in civil life. Out of that 28,000 to 30,000 men not more than about 8,000 may be said to possess the necessary degree of skill and craftsmanship to ensure that they will find places easily in civil life, and 20,000 to 22,000 are very seriously handicapped. In these circumstances it was that vocational training centres were set up. There were Army vocational centres at Catterick and Hounslow, and command vocational training classes at Aldershot and other places; and though the reasons may be quite good, I am sorry to see that the Council have decided to put an end to the command vocational training classes. According to the right hon. Gentleman's Memorandum 1,000 men were trained and passed from those classes during the last year. Roughly speaking, the same number passed from Hounslow and Catterick. As I say, it may be that the reasons are sufficiently good, but the necessity for this training, especially in the last six months of the soldier's Army life, is so great that I would be glad to see every method, whether command classes or Army vocational centres, utilised to the fullest possible extent.
I am speaking entirely from hearsay, but I think it has been said that the command vocational training classes did not turn out a body of men whose education and skill reached the standard of the Catterick or Hounslow training. The fact remains that the; men were trained, that 1,000 of them passed only last year and that they have a better chance of getting places in civil life after that training. These results seem in themselves to be so desirable that I look with great regret on the decision to abolish the command training classes. I am glad to see that the promise made by the right hon. Gentleman last year is being carried out, and that the training at Catterick is to be extended and the resources of the centre more widely developed. That is a good thing, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Army Council on that decision. I observe in the Estimates that the sale of agricultural produce at Catterick is expected to bring in well over £10,000 in this financial year. That is a very good thing. It shows how extremely valuable this experiment has proved, even in financial results, hut the financial results do not show how valuable has 891 been the training given at this centre. From that centre 48 married men passed last year to Australia and the Antipodes —admitted to be the finest types of emigrants that the old country can send. It is impossible to exaggerate the new sense of independence and self-reliance, the new sense of manhood, that a man gets when he has had training which enables him to feel that he is something more than the product of the drill sergeant. He is independent; he has the power largely of shaping his own future; he is a self-respecting citizen and can take his full place in society. That is the kind of training which is being given at Catterick.
"We have a real responsibility in this matter. The nation, speaking through one of its State Departments, namely, tile War Department, has a great responsibility towards these men. Even under the shortest term of service we hold these men for six years under the closest conditions of discipline. The man has to abandon his individuality, practically speaking. It may be said that he enters into a contract with the State; that he does so with his eyes open, and that there is no conscription and no compulsion upon him. That may well be, but it does not lessen our moral responsibility to the soldier. It is our duty to see that he is given an opportunity, at any rate in the later period of his Army service, to acquire that trade or calling which will give him a real chance of regaining his place in civil rife and earning a livelihood for himself and his family. The work at Catterick is excellent. My colleagues and I take a great interest in it. I am not going to deny for one moment that an equal interest is taken in it by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. I do not take one atom of credit to myself or my colleagues more than I concede to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, but it would be well if We could develop this kind of training and make it much more comprehensive than it is at present.
Those of us who have visited the centre know what is going on there. We have seen men engaged in agricultural pursuits, and in the rearing of that animal for which, I understand, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister feels a great affection—in the words of the Irish- 892 man, "the gentleman who pays the rent." We have seen pig-rearing, dairy-farming, agriculture in all its aspects, and horticulture, and I think the horticulturist there need not "pale his fires" before any other. In addition to agricultural and horticultural training, there is training in building, wood-work and carpentry. It gives to the soldier a new sense of dignity, a feeling of manhood and independence, to which he must have been a stranger for many years. That is the kind of work which the Army ought to take up, which the Army has a moral obligation to take up, and it is a work which ought to be developed in a far greater degree than has been the case up to the present.
I believe it is said that the command centres have been ended, first of all, because the students from them—using the term in its broad sense—the soldiers in the command centres have not attained the same standard of skill which has been reached in the other places, and also because there is a matter of finance. Finance in this particular matter seems to me to be one of the conditions to which the very least attention ought to be paid. The development of the manhood of the soldier before he leaves us altogether, the giving to him of an increased sense of independence, are worth all the thousands of pounds we can spend upon such an object: it is of infinitely greater value than the few thousand pounds that the command centres might cost. I am not speaking in this matter in any fault-finding spirit. I would like in passing, to say one word as to the manner in which the Estimates have been presented. I have nothing but praise for the very full notes and explanations which have been given upon every Vote and every subheading They have been presented to this House in such a way as to give in formation upon practically every topic, and this reflects great credit upon the Department. I think it is only right for me to say this, because last year the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War and I fell across each other, in a good-natured way, of course, because thought a departure was being made which would not have the effect of maintaining the control of this House over the finances of his Department. I am happy to say that, so far as I can see from an 893 examination which I have made, my fears were ill-founded, and I think it only right to say that because of the attitude which I previously took.
I do not propose to detain the House for more than a moment or two, because I quite realise that there are many hon. Members who would like to take part in this Debate. Before I deal with the speech which was delivered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, may I join with my right hon. Friend who has just spoken in congratulating the Department upon the manner in which they have produced the Estimates to the House of Commons? The volume, which I have no doubt many hon. Members have in their hands, and which is interleaved with the Army Estimates, gives the fullest information with regard to the Votes, and I think this shows quite clearly that the Department is sincerely anxious in every way to explain each individual Vote and to show that it is out in the interest of economy. Usually in the Army Estimates Debate, we hear a great deal about the efficiency of the Army. I think anybody who listened to the speech of the Secretary of State for War could come to only one conclusion, and that was that the Army as a whole at the present moment is in a highly efficient state. Not only is it in an efficient state, but I think its discipline and conduct are admirable. The splendid conduct, the fine behaviour and the cheery optimism of our troops who are at present policing in Shanghai, have met with the commendation of the whole world. I am as keen as anyone, I trust, in this House, in the interests of economy, but there is economy and economy. I am sure the House is delighted to see any Estimate reduced year after year, but it all depends, in my judgment, in what direction that economy goes. Some economies may be false, economies and very often these false economies are also pettifogging economies.
I, for one—and I believe there is a very large volume of opinion in this House in sympathy with me—am strongly opposed to even the semblance of economy in the direction of the Territorial Army at the present moment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is in a very difficult position. He knows perfectly well what popular 894 opinion is on this particular point, and, if I may say so with respect, he dealt with it frankly and openly and did his best to defend it; but in my judgment no defence is possible at the present moment of this cheese-paring policy. There is no doubt that there is a feeling of genuine alarm in the minds of all those who are interested in the Territorial Army, in relation to the defence of the country at this time. We were told quite openly, in the speech to which we have listened, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War quite suddenly proposed at the end of last month—it was all done over the week-end, and there is much to be said against the method in which this thing was proposed and done—to abolish in future all bounties for entrance into the Territorial Army and all bounties for re-engagement. He told us with a feeling of pride, as I understood him, that in this year we will save £64,000, and that in succeeding years he was going to save no less than £332,000. But the very magnitude of the last figure is what alarms me more than anything else. My right hon. Friend has said that he examined the recruiting figures—and this was his main justification—and found that during the last two or three years some progress had been made in recruiting. But the Territorial Army establishment at the moment, 30,000 less than the full establishment, and he must remember, and anyone who has been connected with the War Office knows perfectly well, that bounties were not really given for recruiting purposes. When the new bounties were given in 1920, by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Secretary of State for War, they were given, first of all, to popularise recruiting in the Territorial Army. The bounties are paid, not really for recruiting, but for efficiency.
It is, in my judgment, neither a sound nor a valid argument to say that, looking at the figures available during the last three or four years, progress has been made in recruiting. The real object of the bounty is to turn out an efficient soldier. I am not going to labour the point, which is made very frequently in the Press, namely, that the bounties are very useful out-of-pocket expenses, except to add this comment. It is perfectly true that every Territorial, either officer or man, who volunteers to give up almost 895 all his spare time for this work on behalf of the country, is entitled to have his out-of-pocket expenses paid. But that is not the point. My right hon. Friend says that this discontinuance to the Territorial Army soldier of his bounty will not militate against his efficiency. In my judgment it will; and I would be delighted to see every Territorial Army soldier receiving that bounty. If my argument is right, that it is in its essence given for efficiency, then, the larger the amount, the more efficient will larger the whole of the Territorial Army. I am not going to cavil at the way in which this was done, but I do think it is a wise thing to take the whole Council of the Territorial Army Association into one's confidence before one upsets public feeling in connection with the voluntary movement. It was the custom in the old days, when the War Office found themselves faced with a difficulty in the offing, that they consulted the entire Council of the Association. I, myself, had the honour of meeting the Territorial Army Association, and the question was openly discussed in the presence of the newspapers. I am perfectly certain, and I am sure I am speaking for everyone who is in an official position, that I received great advantage from, the full, frank, and free discussion with them of important questions such as this. But the Territorial Army officers have not been consulted. I am told on the very best authority that some of these officers only knew this to be official the Friday before it actually came into force.
There is no doubt that that Method always creates a suspicion in the minds of those who are interested in a problem this kind. It is no answer to say, as my right hon. Friend says, that all the money of which he is depriving the Territorials is going to go back to the Territorial Army in stores and ammunition. What is the good of sending back stores and ammunition to that Army if you are going to shut off its sense of responsibility, to destroy all recruiting for it, and to make the men feel that at any given moment the same sort of thing would happen again. That is undermining the value of that great volunteer force, and I do not know what the justification for it was. My right hon. Friend said it would have been a mistake to give a long notice. I do not know why it should have been a mistake. 896 In a matter of this kind, public opinion ought to be informed, and the officers and men ought to be informed, so that proper investigation could be made of the problem as a whole and representations could come to headquarters from the proper sources. Why should my right hon. Friend, when he is so anxious to obtain economy, go to the one Force which, in my judgment, commands the respect of all right thinking men in this country? It is the only second line of defence in this country at the present moment. The War Office, since the War—they may be right or they may be wrong, I am not discussing it—abolished the Special Reserve. They have no use for the Militia, and they have some form of Supplementary Reserve, but the Territorial Army is the only second line of defence, and the Territorial enlistment is quite different from the enlistment of the Volunteers in the old days. If a Territorial officer, upon enlistment, volunteers for service abroad, surely that is very important. Is that not one of the most important things you you should foster—the desire to get these men, and to get them to become highly efficient? But the moment you interfere with these small things, which a grateful country ought to give to an efficient soldier, in my judgment you are doing the defence of the country a serious injustice and very great harm.
Let me take one other point, which shows that there is a feeling of suspicion about this matter in the country. It may be wholly undeserved, but it is there. Is it true that the Duke of York's head quarters, for so long associated with the Territorial Army in the Metropolis, is going to be destroyed? It is quite true, I am told, that the 14 Territorial divisions cost only the same amount to keep efficient as one division of the Regular Army. If that be so, surely it is very bad policy to attempt to cut down what these men who enlist for voluntary service value so much, and what their commanding officers say is a most valuable asset in the training of troops. Why take that amount? As I said in a previous part of my speech, I am far more alarmed by the amount of £332,000, which my right hon. Friend says he can save in a few years, than he can possibly be pleased by the thought of being able to save it. I am greatly delighted that some reorganisa- 897 tion of six cavalry regiments is to take place. I understand that mechanizing— hate the word, but I suppose there is no better—of all the cavalry will take place in the near future. From the statements which were made authoritatively by my right hon. Friend—and I understood that he had appointed a committee to discuss the whole question and go into it—it is clear that the cavalry as it existed in the old days can no longer exist, and if efficiency can be adequately acquired by reorganising the cavalry regiments in that way, I, for one, would not oppose it. I believe a right hon. Friend of mine on this Bench last year pressed that very strongly.
I think a word of praise is due to the fact that my right hon. Friend has considered the position of the Royal Army Medical Corps, and I am delighted to hear that even the British Medical Council has instigated recruiting in that Service now. Those who followed the fate of that Service during the War know perfectly well what a magnificent work it did. Here is a case where you are giving a little bounty to men who come in, and they come in willingly. In the other case, you are taking a bounty from them, and they probably will not come in at all. I hope that the Army Council will continue vocational training, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend on the Front Opposition Bench. There is nothing finer or better for the soldier than vocational training. I know personally of numbers of cases where good has been done, and I am sure that in every quarter of the House this vocational training and anything that will foster it will receive the support of hon. Members.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
If I say a few words of criticism of the policy which has been outlined to-day, I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will realise that it is not because I do not realise his difficulties, and certainly not because I want in any way to impair the strength of His Majesty's Government, for I realise only too fully that, if anything happened to the Government, we might be confronted with war all through the world, and I particularly hate war. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned this afternoon, in reply to certain criticisms made in the papers, that he is really of 898 opinion that the treatment of the Territorial Associations was not too hasty. I would ask him to remember that the Territorial organisation, built up through the length and breadth of this country, is composed of perhaps the very best people that you have in the whole of this country with regard to the amount of time which they give up in serving their country in an honorary capacity, and I think he will probably agree that the Council of the Territorial Associations contains some of those who, in the work of public service, are the bulwark of our race. What was the time given? I believe the date of 9th February was mentioned, but what was the procedure after that? Our Associations all over the country had to be called together. We are scattered, and it is very difficult to find dates without clashing with all the other public duties on which our members serve, yet we find that the whole thing was finally decided on the 26th.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I submit, with all respect, that that was not treating the Territorial Associations of this country quite fairly.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
When my hon. and gallant Friend says the Associations had to be called together, I would remind him that the 9th February was the day when the Council was meeting, and the Council, having been called together, was informed on the 9th February, and then it appointed a sub-committee.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that after that we had to have the procedure of spreading this most vital information to all the associations in the country, and then to come back again through the usual channels. I do not want to labour the point, because the thing seems to have been done, but I want to ask the House to consider what kind of effect a policy like this will have on the Territorial Army. Perhaps, as I have spent some 27 years in the Force, and in the Volunteers before them, and am now on an association, I may be permitted to speak on the subject, and if I speak very moderately, I hope it will not be thought that my feelings are not very deep. The 899 Territorial Army, in my opinion, is quite the cheapest force in the whole world, in any country. It is the cheapest insurance that any nation has got, and I think that hon. Members in the official Opposition will admit that it is a defensive force, and not a, force which is in shining armour, threatening the world. It is only called into being as a mobilised force at a time of very grave national danger, when Parliament so decides.
The Territorial Army started to reorganise after the War under very great difficulties, and I sometimes think it is not quite realised what were the difficulties of commanding officers and regimental officers in having completely to reconstruct that army. I remember that I was rather nervous, as one of the very numerous commanding officers, when I was suddenly told: "Here you are, you and a sergeant-major, and you have to build up your battalion." It was not easy, and we had to spend a great deal of time, and in some cases it was like fighting a prolonged election campaign to explain all the advantages of a Territorial Army. Anyhow, we succeeded up to a certain point, and we started with very high hopes. We were full of optimism that, after the lessons of the War, the people of this country would realise that in the Territorial Army they had a remarkably cheap and a wonderfully efficient force, considering the amount of training. We thought that when it was remembered that certain units of the Territorial Army were actually in the field for the first defence of Ypres, it was something which was to be encouraged and which should not be subject to the kind of shocks to which it has recently been subjected.
Before the War, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the Territorial Force of that time had no bounty paid to the men, but it is hardly right to compare the Territorial Force of before the War with the Territorial Army of to-day. The whole situation has changed, and the value of the Territorial Army as such has increased out of all knowledge, owing to the fact that it is recruited, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) said just now, on the basis that it is prepared to go to any part of the world 900 directly Parliament decides that the emergency is sufficiently serious. This complete change as to liability to service received no recompense whatsoever from the nation, except this question of the bounty. I admit that it is no recompense for a man to offer his life and lose his business and everything else on mobilisation, but still it was something, and the mere fact that it was given to this force which had undertaken this greatly increased responsibility seems to me to be a very good reason why it should not be taken away. But economy was started, I think, in 1922, when, the right hon. Gentleman told us, the bounty was cut down from £5 to £3. Again last year the right hon. Gentleman came along and told the Territorial Associations that they had to make very considerable cuts in other directions, and we are now told that the bounty is to be swept away entirely and that nothing of this character is to be left for the private soldier.
I quite agree that if you take the total economy on the Army, the proportion of economy on the Territorial Army is not, on the face of it, an unfair one, but these economies year after year have really cut the Territorial Army down to the bone, and I can assure my right hon. Friend, knowing all his difficulties, that if this goes on, there is a limit to the service that men are prepared to give. It really is heartbreaking for men, who are giving a very great part of their lives in order to maintain the efficiency of the Territorial Army, to find these questions coming along year after year, and I sincerely hope the right hon. Gentleman, and, indeed, the whole House, will realise that this cannot go on year after year without disastrous results. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and I think the people of this country are so amazing that, even in spite of what has been done, it may be that the. Territorial recruiting will not suffer very severely. Really, after knowing the Territorials and the men who make up the force, the private soldiers, I should be surprised at nothing they might do, but that is not the point. As one who had to reconstruct a battalion in this country after the War, and although I know it is not intended that way, for I realise that probably at the last moment the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to come along and say: "In view of certain 901 things that have happened, we have to force a decision," and the right hon. Gentleman was probably placed in a very great difficulty—I realise all that—but there is danger that this kind of policy may be regarded as a breach of faith, and I think it is a great pity that for such a niggling economy the people who are giving their service and making this great self-sacrifice should feel that this decision had to be come to at all, and much more that it should have been come to in quite such a hasty manner should specially like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman, when he refers to the re-entrants in the Territorial Army, that it seems to me to be really tragic that men who have been serving for years, and who probably were about to join again in two or three days' time, or a week, or a month, should have had no chance of signing on again on the same terms as before.
I will only say this in conclusion, that, as this decision is come to, may I not ask my right hon. Friend if something cannot be done in another direction to recognise the efficiency of the force? In the old days, before the War, I know how difficult it was to get a man to do his musketry, much less 30 or 40 drills, and that is what the bounty was for. At the end of the year, the man feels: "I have done my duty, and there is some recognition from the country." Now, may I not ask whether my right hon. Friend cannot consider some form of efficiency or proficiency pay for the members of the Territorial Army, so that we do not lose that stimulus to complete the musketry and the necessary number of drills? If he could do that, I think it might soften the blow very considerably, and surely he can find £20,000 or £30,000, or less, it may be—something of that kind—in order to heal the wound, which I think may otherwise be a grave one.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I was very much interested in the Memorandum which the right hon. Gentleman has issued, partly because of the emphasis laid upon the human side of the Army. I think the two pages of the Army Report dealing particularly with that subject did not by any means do recruiting any good, by emphasising the fact that unemployment insurance seemed to have interfered with recruiting and a good many things of that kind. I was, therefore, very pleased 902 to see the right hon. Gentleman's Memorandum refer tothe normal experience that the better the state of employment the better is the intake of recruits.I do not think it is at all a, good thing for the Army that we should be continually emphasising the need of unemployment in order to get recruits. As a matter of fact,The low proportion of men finally accepted is still due mainly to the high physical standard required of a recruit.It is also a regrettable fact, of which this House must take notice, that no less than 58 per cent. of the men who applied to joint the Army wererejected on medical and physical grounds, chiefly owing to lack of development or to bad teeth.I draw attention to this point in the Memorandum, because this country, in the lifetime of everyone in this House, had one of the most searching experiences that any country ever had into the physical standard of its manhood, and it does not seem we are very much improving from that point of view even ten years after the War. It is a matter of very grave concern to any Government and to any country on its social side that we should have such a state of things as this.
The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech, naturally stressed what was the fundamental principle in the reductions of this year. We have had considerable reductions which, as he says, are due to that process which is described in the ugly word "mechanisation." We would be very pleased to see financial reductions following that mechanisation. I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to one particular part of the Estimates in which it seems to me—I may be wrong—that the reductions following from mechanisation have not exactly found their way into the remote corners of what I would call some of the local commands. We have this fact, that as the result of mechanical improvement in 1925 and 1926, the reduction of horses each year was, approximately, 300. This year the net reduction, I think, is 2,400. We have made a leap forward, and the difference between the reduction of horses in the previous two years and this year is very great indeed. I do not want to be, guilty of carping criticism, but I find that 903 we have at least £50,000 for new stabling. Of course, I am not saying new stables are not necessary; they may be in some parts. But what I do wish to point out is that on page 197 you have £9,000 for new stabling in 1927, and then on page 205, under Egypt, you have for Abbassia, New Remount Depot, £22,400. I think, as a matter of fact, that is the first stage of a general contract for an expenditure of £118,000. Then you have at Moascar £7,000 for new stabling. On page 194 you have £11,000 for new stabling for the Remount Depot at Arborfield Cross. Of course, it may be necessary to have these stables. While I would be second to none in my expression of appreciation of the efficiency of the War Office staff, I think the right hon. Gentleman will probably agree that it is always very difficult to follow these reductions to their logical conclusion in the local commands, because of some kind of local pressure, and the only point I want to make about this matter is that I think it very possible very great diligence will have to be shown in following up the logical reductions that ensue from mechanisation in respect to the various local commands.
Before I leave that part, may I call attention once more to the difference between 300 reductions in the previous two years and 2,400 reductions this year? If that be any indication as to the rate of mechanisation, it is very possible that when these new stables are built, we may not have horses to put in them, and I would be very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. and gallant Gentleman for any information dealing with the particular details I have raised. There is the item of remounts. There is a reduction of £12,000 for officers' chargers, and of £68,200 for the purchase of horses, but there is no reduction in respect of the remount clerks. There are 550 clerks there. As a matter of fact, the remount service is actually increased £2,000, though the purchase of horses this year is about half what it was last year, incidentally, may I draw attention to the fact that the Estimate for "Expenses prior to animals joining Depots" is only down one-seventh, whereas the purchase of horses is little more than one-half? The short time I had the honour and privilege of serving in the Department I was able to appre 904 ciate the fact that fair and healthy criticism of this nature enables even those in the office to get down to facts which they themselves might have overlooked for the time being. I, too, trust, with my hon. Friend, that with the increase of mechanisation we have the possibility, at any rate, of reduction in the Estimates.
I must, say that, with the increase in mechanisation, some landmarks are going. I find in the Annual Report of the Army this year, for instance, that there are no more drivers of artillery. As I, through pain and tribulation, managed to rise to the full rank of a driver in the artillery. I noticed the disappearance of this particular landmark with a tinge of regret. But there is the satisfaction, at any rate, that there is the human side of this mechanisation, and that the gunner, with his aristocratic bearing, can no more lord it over the humble driver, who used to be treated with contempt by that lordly person.
I would also like to allude to the point raised by my right hon. Friend as to the educational and vocational side of the Army. We were enthusiastic, and I am sure, from what one sees in the Memorandum, the present members of the Department are enthusiastic about the educational and vocational side of the Army, that is its human side, and I think this year of all years there has been good reason for some satisfaction. Indeed, I rather expected it would have been mentioned by e Government side to-night. We have read that the top man in the Sandhurst examination this year was a ranker. I understand, as a matter of fact, there were several rankers among the first dozen.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Seven out of the first 12. I think that is a return for the money spent on education. I think I have seen in Press notices that two of the men were trained in old Army schools as boys, because they were sons, I believe, of ex-soldiers, perhaps non-commissioned officers. When I read those returns in the Press, I conjured up visions of the possibilities of a wider system of education and larger opportunities. I am one 905 of those who have appreciated the general education and the culture which as a rule the average officer has had, but I think the right hon. Gentleman is right when he says in his Memorandum that it is the higher standard of education and intelligence demanded by the complexity of modern methods which accounts for a certain number of rejections. The higher standard now demanded may encourage the hope that some day the average soldier may become an officer—as we recall the well-known tag about every soldier carrying a marshal's baton in his knapsack. It is very well known to all soldiers that when, by some strange turn of events in the history of the country, it has been possible for the average man to obtain a high command, that state of affairs has been reflected in the Army itself in a raising of the general morale. However, while I do not wish to engage in criticism, I have been wondering whether there ought not to be an overhauling of the educational system in the Army. Are we getting full value for our money? We are paying good salaries for the men who are at the head of the educational institutions and are teaching. The expenditure on the education of the rank and file of the Army, and the children of soldiers, exclusive of official training, is something like £147,000. The pay is extremely good; I should say that for some of the salaries we are paying in the higher grades we could obtain the services of some of the most skilled educationists in the country. I know that those who officer this particular branch are men of some education, but that does not always imply the skill to teach or that they have been trained to teach. I went into this matter to some extent when I happened to be in the Department, but our period of office was so short that it was impossible to follow it right through, and I would like to know whether the staff is composed of men who have had educational experience and, if not, what steps are being taken to insure that they shall be skilled in organising education and teaching. I have just thrown out that suggestion, because, while I think we are getting good value, it is just possible we might be able to get better value for the money spent. I hope the experience of this year will encourage the Department to provide even more scholarships 906 and give more opportunities to rankers to gain the higher reaches of the Army.
The Army Council and those in the Department who are responsible must feel that on the whole the results of the vocational training scheme have been extraordinary. There is good ground for satisfaction in the work done at Hounslow and Catterick; similar work, we hope, will be done at Aldershot. The scheme has become so popular that I have discovered that Parliamentary candidates are beginning to advocate it as a solution of the unemployment problem. I read an eloquent speech by a Conservative candidate the other day saying that what was done at Hounslow and Catterick might be done on a bigger scale. I think there is something in what he says, but I do not expect it to be done by the Army. The Army could extend their particular experiment with very little, if any, additional cost, because the extra overhead charges for almost double the number of men training at Catterick and Hounslow would he almost nil. The. Minister of Labour is running vocational training centres, I believe, and the Minister of Agriculture is running vocational training centres—everybody seems to be running them on his own particular lines; but I think all agree that the Army vocational centres are by far the most successful.
I wish that some day this Government, or any other Government, would concern itself with this problem, because I am convinced that if our Hounslows and Cattericks could be multiplied theme would be the possibility of a solution of the unemployed problem, though that is taking a daring line. The Colonies have paid the highest tribute to our work at Catterick, it was my experience of the staff of the War Office that they were warmly enthusiastic over the scheme, and I am pleased to see there is a possibility of its extension this year. I could almost wish the Catterick school were taken out of the present area, because I think it has been observed that it is gradually being encircled by the developments in that new military centre, which is not good either for the centre or for the vocational training there. I hope that what we find in the Memorandum is an indication of the spirit in which the whole scheme is to be dealt with this year. The status of the men of the Army will be raised and a good deal of 907 the civilian antagonism to the Army averted if the feeling that the Army is a "blind alley" is removed, and men are so trained that on leaving they will not feel they have been handicapped by their separation from civil life for several years, but are, rather, in an improved position as an outcome of the generous educational and vocational training they have received in the Army.
§ Sir ASSHETON POWNALL
I wish for a few moments to bring the House back to the question of the Territorials and the cancellation of the Territorial bounty. Very few realise, I think, the immense difference in the position of the Territorial Army now and 13 years years ago. The Territorials are to be the soleb base on which expansion will be undertaken in time of war. The Special Reserve battalions no longer exist as such, and the great experiment which Lord Kitchener carried out so successfully in 1914–15 is, we understand, not to be repeated. Service battalions will not be formed, and it is to the Territorials that we shall have to look for any expansion in future. During the War, the Territorial battalions were in most cases triplicated, and in a few cases quadruplicated, but, for the reasons I have mentioned, it is very obvious that if ever we have a world conflagration again, which we all hope may never happen, there must be a far greater expansion of the Territorial Force than was the case in 1914. Therefore, it is most important that the very small nucleus should, as far as possible, not only be kept up to strength but in the right spirit.
I am afraid that in the last few weeks the spirit has received a damper. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) stated the position as regards the Council of Territorial Associations, which includes the great majority of the Territorial Associations. I have been for nearly 20 years a member of the County of London Territorial Association which, for reasons it is not necessary to enter into now, has never been affiliated to the Council of Territorial Associations. The first direct official information conveyed to the County of London. Association in regard to the cut in the bounty was received through the War Office telegram 908 of 24th February, four days before the cut came into force. It is true that the Chairman of the County of London Association heard of the meeting on 9th February, at which the majority of the Associations were represented, and it is also true that he was asked to be a member of the sub-committee which sat after that date; but, leaving that on one side, as the County of London Territorial Association represents some 10 per cent. of the whole Territorial Army in the country, and as it has to administer between 30 and 40 different units, this action almost savours of discourtesy that, I am afraid, is the way in which it is regarded by my Territorial friends in question. It is obvious that in 10 days it is impossible to find out from the unit commanders for 30 or 40 different units what their views arc, and whether it is possible to put forward any alternative suggestion if money has to be saved.
I may point out that the territorial grant, which is between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000, is to be reduced by £332,000, which is between 8 and 9 per cent. That is a very serious cut indeed, and it is much more serious than the Territorial Army has ever suffered since 1918. Surely that is an extra reason for consulting in advance those responsible for the territorial organisation. I do hope that this somewhat unfortunate incident as regards the London Territorial Association may be borne in mind by those responsible for the territorial administration at the War Office. I am quite sure that the Territorials generally are much too good sports to be much affected by the changes in regard to the bounty, but I hope they will be given an opportunity of expressing their views and of putting forward alternative schemes. I think it is quite impossible, if you throw a bombshell among them in this way, to get that real spirit of co-operation which you ought to have if you wish to continue the good work done by Territorial Associations.
I was connected with the Territorials for many years before the War, and I know how difficult it was at that time to keep them up to strength. I do not need to speak of their services during the War because that is common knowledge, but I would like to mention the fact that the London Cycling Battalion had on its 909 colours "Afghanistan, 1919." When that corps was formed if anyone had said that the London Cycling Battalion would have ever fought in Afghanistan it would have been thought impossible. In the future the influence of the Territorials will be even more extended than it was in the Great War, and in this particular instance I am afraid the War Office has not been at all happy, and there is a feeling of resentment in regard to this bombshell. I agree that from the monetary point of view it might not be possible to give longer notice than was given, but I do think we ought not to give the impression of throwing things at the Territorial Army without them being consulted, and that is the impression which has been conveyed at the present time. With regard to its effect on recruiting, obviously it will be impossible to say, 'but in a good many cases if the commanding officers pay up the effect will not be anything like so much as many people fear. Before the War there was no county association, and as for the bounty, the members of the Territorial Force are too good sports to refuse to take on territorial service because of the abolition of the bounty of £3.
I would like to say a word or two upon a different topic. I was glad to hear the success mentioned by the hon. Gentleman opposite in regard to the Y Cadets at Sandhurst, because to have seven successful out of the first 12 places is I think a noteworthy achievement. I welcome the decision of the War Office to extend this scheme to Woolwich and to the Royal Engineers, but I understand that there is no question of ante-dating those cadets who have joined the army in this way. It is obvious that they will he three or four years older than the ordinary public school boys who go through Sandhurst or Woolwich. It makes all the difference when they are in the late thirties. In the case of the infantry it matters less than in the cavalry, where they have regimental lists, and there is always a good deal of luck about three or four years later.
If this system applies to the Royal Artillery or the Royal Engineers, a man is bound to be hit in the late thirties unless there is a possibility of antedating. I hope the Secretary for War will consider whether it is not possible to specially strengthen the Y Cadets who get in at Woolwich in order to accelerate 910 promotion, otherwise you will merely have the same difficulty which applies to similar schemes in the Navy where petty officers found that even if they got on the quarter deck they got there too late for promotion. I know that only some 28 or 29 of these cases occur in a cavalry regiment, and the cases are so rare that the Y Cadets will be placed at some disadvantage unless a recommendation on the lines I have suggested is considered.
Lieut.-General Sir AYLMER HUNTERWESTON
There are two points which I wish to bring forward, and one of them is of general application. I wish to protest, in the first place, against the fact that the Army Estimates, the Air Estimates, and the Navy Estimates are being taken in their details separately before we have had an opportunity of discussing the whole problem of defence. I understood, when this question was brought forward by myself and other hon. Members in years past, that it was the intention of the Prime Minister that the Committee of Imperial defence Vote should be brought up before the detailed Estimates for the Services were presented, so that we might have a more logical method of dealing with 'defence services by considering first the whole and then the parts. As we have the good fortune to have on the Government Bench both the Secretary of State for War and the member of the Government particularly responsible for the administration of business, that is the Chief Whip, I hope they will bring to the notice of the Prime Minister the necessity of considering this matter in the future. It is obviously wrong that we should deal to illogically with so large a matter as that of defence. That is my general point.
My second point is with regard to the bounty. All who have the welfare of the Territorial Army at heart, and those who have had the good fortune of seeing the merit of the work of the Territorial Army from the Regular soldier's point of view as I have, must have the very highest opinion of the Territorials. We all fully realise that it is upon the Territorial Army this country must depend if ever we have again a trial of the country's strength, and the Regular Army must merely be the spear-point. Therefore, all those in the Regular Army have the good of the Territorial Army first in their thoughts, and they regret very much that 911 it has been found necessary to cut off the bounty. I hope that the Secretary of State for War will very favourably consider the suggestion that was put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who has had an immense experience of the Territorial Army both before the War, during the War, and after the War, and who suggested that there ought to be proficiency pay for the Territorial Army.
There is no doubt that you are removing from the Territorials a great incentive to efficiency by cutting off the bounty, and for this reason I ask the Secretary of State for War to make some gesture that will be of real value as affecting the efficiency of the Territorial Army by introducing some form of grant as proficiency pay. If you do not have something of this kind you will find it extremely difficult for commanding officers and other officers to get their men to do all that is necessary, and it is essentially efficiency that is required. It may be that we shall be able to get efficiency and that the bounty will not hurt it, because we shall get the right type of man who is all out for the good of his country. But surely it is all the more necessary that we should have efficiency pay for these men who are willing to give the necessary time and trouble to get themselves into the condition in which they can render the best service to their country, and to themselves, in time of emergency.
§ Colonel ENGLAND
I wish to support the appeal which has just been made by the last speaker, and I appeal most strongly to the Secretary of State for War to consider the question of proficiency pay. I do not anticipate that the abolition of the county will prevent recruiting for the Territorial Army. It may have a bad effect for a certain period, but the right type of man will come along again. I maintain that some kind of efficiency pay should be considered, not only in recognition of the good work of the Territorials, but in the endeavour to maintain and retain the men in the Territorial Army. Speaking as one who has had some experience in regard to the Clothing Stores and Supply Committee, I have no hesitation in saying that there is a tendency for the men 912 at the end of three or four years' experience to leave the Force, with the result that we have thrown upon our hands a large supply of clothing which could be utilised if we could only persuade the men to remain longer in the Force.
When a man joins the Force he has issued to him two suits of uniform clothing, and sufficient clothing to last him for eight or 10 years, and in some cases for a period of 12 years. Under these circumstances, why allow a man to go at the end of four years if by a bounty or efficiency pay you can retain his services for a longer period? On those lines, I think it is worth while the Secretary of State for War considering the question of efficiency pay or of a bounty on re-engagement. I think the case put by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon was rather weak when he stated that the Vice-Chairman of the County Associations knew what was going on in regard to the bounty for some period of time. I know that the Council of the County Associations very much resent the manner in which this bounty has been abolished. I feel sure the right hon. Gentleman will know their opinion on this point before long, but in case he should not, I would like to read to him a resolution which was passed by the Council, as follows:This Council desires emphatically to impress upon the War Department that in their opinion any such momentous decision taken affecting the terms of service in the Territorial Army should not have been promulgated without prior reference to this Council, which is composed of the accredited representatives of the County Associations, who are by statute the official administrators of the Territorial Army.I think that that resolution points out to the House that the Council of Territorial Associations certainly resents the manner in which this bounty has been abolished, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, for his non credit, for the credit of the Army Council, and for the benefit of the country, will seriously reconsider the question of a bounty on re-engagement or of granting efficiency pay.
Lieut.-Colonel LAMBERT WARD
We have listened this afternoon to a rather determined attack upon the policy of the Government in regard to effecting economies in connection with the Territorial Army. That attack was led by a right hon. Gentleman who has held high 913 Government office. It was supported by an hon. Member who is a member of the Council of Territorial Associations, and has been backed up by two hon. Gentlemen who are also members of County Territorial Associations, so perhaps a few words from a commanding officer on the active list of the Territorial Army may not be altogether out of place. It is extraordinary how enthusiastic this House is on the subject of economies until those economies touch or affect an interest in which someone is vitally concerned. Listening this afternoon to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), I was irresistibly reminded of the old permanent official attitude in regard to economy "Yes, economise by all means., but, for God's sake, not in my Department."
What are these economies which are being effected at the expense of the Territorial Army? The whole economies on the Army Estimates this year are very nearly £1,000,000, and the estimated economies on the Territorial Army amount to £90,000, or rather less than 10 per cent. It seems to me, as a member of the Territorial Army, that that is not an unfair proportion to expect the Territorial Army to bear. The economies effected in the other Services have been loyally received by the Services concerned. No one has been put up to protest on behalf of the cavalry against the economies there. I do not say that anyone has been put up to protest on behalf of the Territorial Army, but it seems to me that the Resolution just read by the hon. and gallant Member for Heywood and Radcliffe (Colonel England) was definitely inspired, because I remember the same thing being passed at the Territorial Association, of which I myself am a member. Of these economies, the vital one is, of course, the abolition of the bounty. The economies of £8,000 on the casualty clearing stations and the one or two veterinary departments that are being done away with will not affect the Force one iota in one direction or the other.
The abolition of the bounty may, and probably will, create a certain amount of discontent and disappointment, but economies have to be effected, and it seems to me that the Secretary of State for War had to choose between abolish- 914 ing the bounty and reducing the establishment of the infantry battalions; and, if I may say so, I honestly think the course which he has taken will do infinitely less harm than reducing the establishment. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) spoke of the difficulties which we have all encountered in endeavouring to bring out units up to strength. Speaking personally, after three years of fairly determined effort, during which the strength of my unit has doubled itself, we are now approaching our normal establishment, and to stop recruiting at this particular moment, as we should have to do if our establishment were cut down to 500, would have the effect of turning recruiting off, so to speak, at the meter. We should have to stop it, and, once it is stopped, no one knows better than the Territorial commanding officer how difficult it is to get it going again. Therefore, I say that the better course has been adopted in abolishing the bounty rather than reducing the establishment.
What effect is this abolition of the bounty likely to have upon the Territorial Army? Personally, I do not think it will affect the numbers very largely. I am perfectly convinced, as far as, my unit is concerned, that we shall not lose a single man by it, although there may be a certain amount of grousing and criticism. I am aware that the disappointment in other units may possibly he greater. This bounty was in a great number of cases used by the man to bring his wife and family down to the seaside when he himself went to camp, so that they might, more or less, have a holiday together. The abolition of the bounty will, no doubt, cause a considerable amount of disappointment in that regard, but I do not believe that many men will leave the Territorial Army on account of the abolition of the bounty. In fact, I would go so far as to say, in regard to the man who will not re-join the Territorial Army, or who will not join the Territorial Army, because there is no bounty, that the Territorial Army is better without him.
In my opinion, it largely depends on the attitude of commanding officers whether this reduction is accepted in a loyal spirit or not. If the commanding officer and the other officers choose to go round pretending or complaining that 915 they have a grouse against the Government, no doubt it will have a very serious effect; but if, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Lewisham (Sir A. Pownall) said,, they play the game and set an example amongst their men, pointing out to them individually that a man joins the Territorial Force to perform, with his pals, a patriotic national duty, and not for £2 10s, or £3, I think the effect of the abolition on that particular unit will be negligible. With regard to what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth as to proficiency pay for the Territorial Army, or, if not proficiency pay, something to encourage men to do their work as efficiently as possible, of course I thoroughly agree with that. If the money is to be had, if it is forthcoming, no one will be better pleased to have it than I shall for the benefit of my unit. On the other hand, I think that in the majority of cases the competition between companies, the loyalty, the feeling that the honour and credit of the battalion are at stake, is sufficient to do all that is necessary, although I admit that, if the money is to be had, something in the direction of efficiency pay would be very acceptable. In conclusion, I can only say that, in my opinion, those hon. Members who have drawn such a pessimistic forecast of the effect of these reductions upon the Territorial Army are exaggerating; I do not think their pessimism is justified, and, in my opinion, the Territorial Army will go on just as well, in spite of those reductions, as it did before.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
I, too, would like to say a few words with regard to the abolition of the bounty in the Territorial Army. The total sum spent on ills, Territorial Army is only about £3,500,000 a year. That is a very small sum indeed for a second-line defence in this country, and it is very important indeed that the strength of the battalions should be kept up. I should like to read to the House a view which has been given to me by a commanding officer who has commanded for 8½ years one of the best Territorial battalions in this country. I am afraid it does not quite agree with that of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down. It is this:I should like to say at once that I do not think that anything could have been 916 done to more effectively kill recruiting for the time being in the Territorial Army. This bounty has been one of the greatest attractions to the Territorial soldier. It has helped him to pay for a holiday for his wife"—as my hon. and gallant Friend said—which he generally arranges to take place at the time and place of his camp; or when, as in many cases, the whole of the bounty has been paid at the end of the year, it has been a most welcome sum to add to the comfort of the soldier and his family at Christmas time. Of the number of men eligible to re-engage in my battalion (approximately 140), I shall not get half, and I understand the same applies to the only other battalion I hive inquired about. I heard it said that the abolition of the bounty might later lead to a better class of man joining the Territorial Army. With this I entirely disagree. We never had a better type of men than we have now, and if the better class thought of being volunteer soldiers they could have done so years ago before there was any bounty.That is a very definite expression of opinion from an officer commanding a Territorial battalion at the present time. I have resolutions passed by different associations in which they state in terms that theyview with grave apprehension and extreme disfavour the summary arid high-handed action of the War Office in discontinuing, without consultation with the newly appointed administrative authorities, the bounty to Territorial Army soldiers, in view of the fact that the Territorial Army is the main defence of the Kingdom in the event of war.I think a great deal of this feeling is due to the haste with which this has been done, and the fact that Territorial commanding officers were not consulted. The commanding officer of a battalion told me he got a telegram from the War Office on Friday night, and the returns had to he in by the following Monday. Many of the men were away, and he could not get in touch with them, and the result was that there was no time for them to re-engage. I think the War Office have acted rather hastily in this matter. Lord Dartmouth the other day put it very well when he said:Cuts are always painful; sympathetic discussion as to where the knife is to fall goes some way to 'temper the wind to the shorn lamb,' but it should not be forgotten that continual cuts at the wool of the Territorial lamb will, in time, destroy its vitality.I think that that is rather what is happening to-day, and if the Secretary of State had only taken into consultation 917 the commanding officers, I am sure they could have arrived at some better or fairer solution than this. Could it not have been done, to use a cinema phrase, by slower motion? Could not the cut have been made 10s. from the bounty this year, and then 10s. in another year, without making it so extremely suddenly I Could not the blow have been softened and mitigated somewhat? It has come as a shock, as a surprise—a very unwelcome and unpleasant surprise—and I am afraid it is going very seriously to affect recruiting in the Territorial Army, which is, after all, a very cheap form of second-line defence for this country. It always seems to me that the Army, in one way or another, is selected for economies. What is the reason for that? The Army is forbidden to take part in politics; its voting power is negligible, and for that reason it always appears to the Government to be easy to cut down Army officers pay. I think that, if the Government had asked hon. Members of this House to have their salaries reduced by 6 per cent., as the officers' pay was, there would have been a, great protest, and they would not have dared to do it; but, because the Army is not allowed to take part in politics, the officers can say nothing, and their pay is reduced. We all welcome economy, but why should not the Secretary of State say at the same time, "If I have to make economies in the Army, let other Departments make economies too. Let there be economies everywhere, and not only in my Department." One remembers Kipling's lines:It's Tommy this, and Tommy that, and chuck him out, the brute;But it's the saviour of his country when the guns begin to shoot.We are in a time of peace now, and the Army is looked upon as a fit matter for reduction, but I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has said. I hope that he will consider the question of having a reduction by slower degrees, that he will reconsider the matter, which is one of real and vital importance in the opinion of Commanding Officers of Territorial battalions, that he will consult them before he carries out this recommendation, and that he will reconsider the question of the abolition of the bounty. I beg him to do so.
§ Colonel CLIFTON BROWN
I should like to express my surprise at the point with which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull (Lieut.-Colonel Lambert Ward) opened his speech. He said there had been a determined attack on the Secretary of State for War. I thought my right hon. Friend was receiving support from almost every quarter of the House. I thought the last speech was the only one at all events which had any sting in it at all. I object to these Estimates almost from start to finish. The right hon. Gentleman has been congratulated because he shows a reduction in the figures. I object to them for that reason. I think it is time we stopped always expecting a reduction of the Army. The present Secretary of State not only reduces the money but reduces the number of fighting men. These Estimates, although they show a nominal increase due to China, really; as he carefully explains in his Memorandum, would have shown a decrease of 4,000 men. Most of those were cavalry or gunners or infantry, and were therefore fighting men. If we are going to have an Army at all surely it had better be composed of fighting men and not of motor mechanics and others behind the line. I wish to draw attention to the cost. We are always getting the cost reduced and the Secretary of State says, "I must reduce the cavalry, I must reduce the Territorial Army. The wicked Chancellor of the Exchequer ordered me to." Why does he not do what apparently the other Ministers do? You have your Civil Service Estimates up by nearly £5,000,000. Some other Ministers apparently refused to cut their Estimates down. Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman do the same for his Department? It is becoming a serious matter. Before the War the cost of our Army was an eighth of our national income. To-day it is down to a twentieth—a very considerable difference, seeing that this is an Army not for offence but purely for the defence of the Empire. Continual change causes the maximum amount of uncertainty amongst all ranks. We are continually from year to year hearing of reductions. We see further little driblets going in every Estimate. The result is that every battalion and regimental commander begins to wonder what is going to happen to him next. He hears 919 expressions like "This will be put off for the time being." He waits for next year and wonders. Men, are not really going to he efficient if they are expecting next year to have their regiments taken away from them or to have some alteration in their status. A former Secretary of State, Lord Derby, very wisely indeed said the motto of the Army was stability. I am certain the Army with that motto worked much more efficiently than it is doing at present.
Now to come from the general to the particular. I am an old cavalry soldier and therefore I view with great suspicion these proposals to do away with one squadron in every regiment and mechanise the first line of transport and part of its armament. I think the Secretary of State seems to forget what cavalry is. It is not a collection of men marching with motor cars pushed here and there. A cavalry man is a man and his horse combined together with a very nasty bit of steel which he has in his hand, and if you get in the way he will stick you with it. There is not the slightest doubt that if there were no wire—which is the only defence against cavalry—they can gallop machine-guns, they can gallop almost every situation if they are well led and are able to use their steel weapons, but to muddle them up by putting some on motor cars and some on horses is making a very great mistake indeed. It would be far better to make up your mind to have none of them if they are not wanted and do away with the lot. To keep them half and half as they are at present is, to my mind, a very grave mistake indeed.
I come now to the bounty on the Territorial Army. I speak also as a commanding officer of a Territorial regiment. I do not think for a moment that the withdrawal of the bounty will affect the number of men in my regiment—I shall get them just the same—but it is going to affect their efficiency and their military value, and I am certain that from the officers' point of view it is very much to be deplored. This bounty is mainly given for efficiency. You must pass a certain standard in musketry, you must do your annual training and you must attend a certain number of drills in order to get the bounty, and it is always something you can hold over a man to compel him to go to camp. There is 920 also an element of very real hardship in it, because the men like at the end of camp to get their £3 to make up something of their actual expenses during the camp and many of them, particularly those under 26 who are married and do not draw marriage allowance, probably cannot afford to go to camp with their wives running their home unless they get the bounty. Every Territorial commanding officer will tell you that it will very much affect the efficiency of his men.
The next question is, why was this brought about in such a manner? It was done at four days' notice. I can only give the effect as far as one battalion is concerned of the short notice. This battalion sent out, as soon as they got the order, 75 notices for re-engagements and got nine acceptances. That leaves 64 men who probably wanted to rejoin but were not able to do it, and if they do later they will forfeit the bounty. You are probably going to get 64 people much disgruntled and they will not think they have had a fair do.
I want to deal with the question of the Secretary of State and the Council of Territorial Associations. I wonder why he was so overbearing with them. Generally I complain of the attitude of the War Office in regard to economy in the Territorial Army. Last April, knowing that we were to be cut £160,000 in one year, some of us put our heads together and thought we would try and examine Territorial finance. We searched over the return to see what actual items cost. As a matter of fact you cannot go through the whole of the Army now and say there will be so much for clothes, so much for boots, so much for horses. You have to get these details from each County Association account and add them up separately. The Secretary of a Territorial Force Association wrote a letter on the subject. I thought I would forward it on, because he was an official person and it would show that it was not really an irresponsible busybody. The sort of reply I got from the War Office was rather instructive, because I was told the War Office was already supplied with information so as to administer the Territorial Army and did not as a matter of fact ask Secretaries of Territorial Associations for their advice in securing economy. If advice was required the 921 War Office would consult the Central Council of Territorial Associations in the usual way. That is all very nice. When I want to make some inquiry they put me off by saying they have all the information and will consult the proper people, who are the Council of the Territorial Association, but in practice, they decide on some economies. They do not consult the Territorial Council Association, but they issue orders to them as to what is to be done and just expect them to be carried out. I am certain all the Territorial Associations are indignant, and I think rightly so. I hope wiser counsels will yet prevail and if the Secretary of State would only take the Territorials more into his confidence, if he talks things over with them a little more I am certain they would respond and he would get a good response. If he is going to issue orders like a great high War Lord he will not get any sort of value out of the Territorial Army, but will put their backs up and enormous damage will be done to this movement throughout the country.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the extraordinarily short speech in which he presented the Estimates. It was concise and he told us exactly what we wanted to know. I recommend to the attention of the Government what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bute and Ayrshire (Sir A. Hunter-Weston) said, that we really want to have some debate on the three Services together. That is the real essence of economy. It can only be carried out through some form of defence service, and therefore I hope at an early date we shall have a chance of debating this subject. As regards the Territorial Army bounty, which has excited so much attention in the Press, the only criticism. I have to make is the fact that the War Office have thought fit to spring it on the Territorials, especially the unit commanders, in such a sudden way. I can see perfectly well that it was done from the point of view of economy. They were afraid that fewer re-engagements would be carried out if the men had sufficient notice of this. All the same it has created an atmosphere of suspicion in the minds of various unit commanders, and I have had expressions of opinion from them. I can only hope the War Office 922 will do something to alleviate their distress. Perhaps something might be done as regards the Territorial Associations. How far is it necessary for Votes of money to go through the Territorial Associations to the units? Could not the money go direct to the units instead of going through the Associations? At any rate, the larger units might be allowed to spend their block grants under the same system as the training grants; they would get better value, and the War Office would get better service than in doing it through the Associations. I know that the Territorial Associations have great value in time of war, but surely we could have something in existence which could be brought into action when a war comes along, and thereby save expense.
The cavalry reorganisation is surprising. It may be difficult to join together the mechanical side with the horse side. Would it not be batter to have separate mechanical units acting with the cavalry rather than incorporate a large number of mechanical vehicles into a cavalry regiment? At the same time, I think a good deal might be done in re-organisation of the cavalry service. All that has been done now is to lop off a squadron from each of the home regiments. It would have been better if the cavalry service had been tackled as a whole and re-organised on the lines suggested as far back as 1919. In other countries they have gone on the basis of a squadron per regiment, drawing together the three squadrons under one commander, and that unit then forms a regiment for peace time and can be expanded into a brigade for war. If we would treat our cavalry somewhat on those lines, we might possibly get an organisation which would be more simple, and possibly we might get greater value from the mobilisation point of view.
I should like to refer to the unfair weight that is placed on the Army Estimates by the cost of garrison and fortress men. We are holding a long line of coasts. I notice that there is something in the Vote for Singapore, where soldiers are doing work which has nothing to do with the Army. They are keeping bases far the Navy and in many cases for the Air Force and it seems to me that some part of that cost ought to be borne by the Votes of other arms. In the old days we often complained of the excessive cost 923 of keeping these people tied in the various fortresses, which was not altogether fair to the Army Vote. Another point of interest is the question of training soldiers who are about to leave the Army. We all know how hard it is for soldiers who have come to the end of their service to get employment on leaving the Army. In recent years we have done something towards training these men for civil occupations. How far is it possible to get the trade unions to accept these men after a trade test, or possibly by the War Office paying an allocation of their money during their service to the trade unions, thereby keeping them on the books of the various trade unions so that when they have left the Service, and have had additional facilities for bringing themselves up-to-date, in civilian work in the last year of their Army service, they would be able to be accepted by the trade unions on leaving the Army. The point is that they must give their contributions during the years of Army service, and possibly the War Office might see fit to pay the contributions in order to give a livelihood to these men when they leave the Service.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
In many trade unions to-day, while soldiers are on Army service, their membership is maintained, and on leaving the Army they re-enter the union without any further contribution.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
In view of that statement, perhaps the Tory party will think that the Labour party is patriotic.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I heard the point raised by a Committee which sat in 1919, and it was suggested that if the contributions were paid these men might remain in the trade unions and so come back after their service in the Army. The next point is that of reorganisation inside the War Office. We have heard of certain reorganisations, and I looked forward anxiously to hearing something about it in my right hon. Friend's speech. Undoubtedly, inside the War Office a good deal of reorganisation could be carried out with advantage. I do not know how far a Committee is at work dealing with this matter. I do not know whether the duties of the M.G.O., and the Quartermaster-General are rightly and properly defined, and 924 whether the work of the Military Secretary and the Adjutant-General's work is properly defined, or how far the ordinary duties of co-ordinating the work of the Army in the Army Council is well-balanced and up-to-date. I should be very glad to hear if any activities are going on in that direction. I am delighted to hear that the Selection Committee is to be reorganised; it has been very long wanted. As regards the Supply Service, I think a great deal could be done by co-ordinating supply—I have called attention to this matter three or four times—for each of the Services, including the Civil Service and the Post Office. There seems to be a good deal of overlapping in buying and in keeping reserve stores for each of the Services. I think that in contracts and buying generally we could secure economy if we have a combined Supply Service.
I think there is a danger ahead in regard to the mechanisation of the Army. We are now getting on to a very expensive form of transport and haulage which has a very rapid deterioration and which is lying more or less useless during the years of peace. I wonder whether it would be possible to adapt in some way these vehicles for peace work and earmarking them for war; that is, during their work in the commercial world for the first year or two they should be by means of subsidy earmarked for use during war. We might do that in regard to many mechanical vehicles. I do not know whether tractor vehicles, cross-country vehicles, etc., could be used during peace and yet be subsidised to be called out for war, and whether by that we could get some return for the time during which they are depreciating. Undoubtedly, this will affect the Army Estimates very considerably in the future. There is one point to be remembered in regard to the mechanisation of the Army, and that is that armies abroad and our own Army will be engaged devising all kinds of anti-mechanical guns for destroying the mechanical vehicles of our Army Service. Undoubtedly, in the next war we shall have to meet very much more strenuous opposition to our mechanical vehicles than has been the case before. Therefore, very careful research and investigation should be undertaken before we develop at any very rapid rate the complete mechanisation of the Army. I am glad 925 that my right hon. Friend has thought fit to collect the brigade at Tidworth and experiment with them, in order to see the possibilities. That ought to be of great advantage to the Army and to our expenditure.
Another question is the grant of money to the larger units. In the days of that great financier Sir Charles Harris, we often heard about the hard and fast defining of Votes by Regulation, which meant that money could be spent only inside small compartments and could not be transferred from one Vote to another. I do not know how far money might be usefully allotted to the units" the larger units, if you like, and allowing them to spend it in the same way that they spend the training grant, so that they could use the Vote as they found necessary for the benefit of their unit. They could either improve their training or improve their buildings. Nowadays we often find in the engineering service that if buildings are required to be improved there is no money available, because the block of money has been spent. Under a different arrangement we might get better value, and at the same time we could accustom commanders to handle money and put them in a better position usefully to handle money in peace time, just as they have to do in war time. I hope that some movement in that direction will take place in the near future.
There is a sum of money in the War Office, a large part of which unfortunately, the Government took last year by the Economy Bill, which might be used for dealing with hard cases, not only eases which are insured, but many hard cases of non-commissioned officers and men who do not come inside the pension system. There is no fund that can relieve them. If some of the money to which have referred could be utilised in helping many of these cases—I have in mind several which I could bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman—it would be a great advantage, and it would also show that the taking of the money in the Economy Bill has not reduced the chances of these poor people getting some help from a source which is the only source from which there is any possibility of their getting help.
§ 7.0 p.m.
Sir BASIL PUNO
Those who have participated so far in the Debate have been almost exclusively ex-officers in the 926 Regular Army or officers commanding Territorial battalions. On the question of the abolition of the Territorial bounty, it is not inappropriate that someone should speak from the point of view of the ordinary civilian, who is a taxpayer and stands in a dual capacity. He has to find the money and he is represented in the Press as a person very eager for economy in public expenditure at almost all costs and almost in any direction. He is also a person who in the aggregate has an enormous interest in the question of our defence forces, because he is the person whom the defence forces are designed to defend. The Territorial Force is the embodied line of defence behind the Regular Army, and consists of a number of men who with very little additional training would be fit to go overseas, as they are now under obligation to do, within a very few weeks of the outbreak of any future war. That number of men is in excess of the number which I find in the Estimates as the establishment of the Regular Army. The number of men in Vote A is 154,500, not allowing for the 7,000 temporary additions due to the trouble in China, and the number on the establishment of the Territorial Army is 181,875, or, if you take the actual strength on the 1st January, it is 148,331, which is a number practically equal to the whole of the Regular Army. It costs, however, only just over £5,000,000, whereas the Army Estimates are £41,565,000. Therefore, for one-eighth of the expenditure, we pay for the whole of this second line force. I think that is about the very last place where the ordinary civilian in the street would expect to find further economies to be made, when we realise that this £3 or £2 10s. in the case of recruits is the only recognition which is paid, other than the actual pay during the training, and represents all the time that is given, in attending drills and rifle ranges and in becoming a proficient soldier, by all these numbers of very poor people, who are not only among the poorest people in the country but undoubtedly the most patriotic people in the country.
Therefore, I think this economy is rather a miserable policy. We have been told by various Members that it will affect recruiting, and by some, like the hon. and gallant Member for North- 927 West Hull (Lieut.-Colonel L. Ward), who is in contact, probably, with a much better-off class of recruits than the average Territorial unit, that it will not affect recruiting. I am told by more than one officer commanding Territorial battalions that it will seriously affect recruiting, and it has been expressed to me as strongly as being a knock-out blow. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that commanding officers ought to advertise the attractions of the service. The attractions of the service are conscientiousness of doing your duty and of doing something for your country, for which apparently your country is not going to make you any payment except during a fortnight in the year. Therefore, it is difficult to see what the attractions are which are to be especially advertised.
The right hon. Gentleman then said that this was not really a cut, and that he was going to give it all back to the Territorial Army in the form of equipment and ammunition. I want to consider that argument for a moment purely from the point of view of the taxpayer. Since the War there have been large reserves of stores and ammunition which it has been able to draw upon, so that the Territorial Army has been able to fire away the amount of ammunition which was necessary, or something near it, and to be clothed, for no immediate expenditure which has to be provided for by the country. Now the right hon. Gentleman says: "It is going to cost us something to do this in future. Therefore, we must have an economy, but we are going to give it back in the form of ammunition and clothing and so on, which costs the country nothing at the present time." Putting those two statements together, what does it really amount to? What it really seems to mean is that as soon as the ammunition and clothing costs anything we are going to ask the territorial soldiers to provide it out of the bounties which they have hitherto been paid, and which is the only recognition given to men who come to the Territorial Army. Looking at it from that point of view, it is a very miserable form of economy, because clearly the Territorial Army is to be made to pay for their own ammunition.
I think there are other ways, looking at it from the point of view of the tax- 928 payer, in which the right hon. Gentleman should rather have sought economies than at the expense of people who are already giving a great deal of their time—time which they can ill afford—to the service of their country and with no recognition worth speaking of. I think there are many Ministries which could be spared, and that in those directions we could have dispensed with a great many people who are in receipt of very large salaries indeed, without any loss of efficiency. It would not be in order to go into details as to the Ministries which could be spared, but I think all Members are conscious that there are many which we all hope are very much on their last legs.
I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman is in a tight position, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer is saying that a cut has got to be made, and the right, hon. Gentleman says, "Well, if we have to save a million, the Territorial Army must give up something. How much do we spend on the Territorial Army? It is about one-eighth of our Army expenditure, and therefore we ought to save about one-eighth on that or, if we treat it very lightly, perhaps one-tenth would do." I do not think that argument, or any argument on those lines, holds water for a moment, because, as I have pointed out, this is a force which is equal to or greater in numbers than, and is as vital to us as, the first line defence force of the country. Therefore, if you get them for one-eighth of the expenditure, they are a force on which you ought not to try and cheese-pare and cut down any further.
§ Major GLYN
The whole of the discussion to-day has turned on the point of the Territorials, not so much on what is going to be done or is not going to be done, as on the question of psychology. Has the Secretary of State studied their wishes and done what he can to help them to assist him in affecting these economies? I am not competent to say what the effect of the abolition of the bounties will be, but as a supporter of the Government I think we all recognise that Lord Haldane was the man who created the Territorial Army, and I trust it will never be detrimentally affected by any act of this Government.
I know the present Secretary of State recognises the value of the Territorial Army and would never want to do any- 929 thing which would check it, but I do believe, from what I have heard in my own constituency, that there is a feeling prevailing that the Territorials theme selves are not taken properly into account, as they might be, and their views considered, as to the economies which are absolutely essential. I believe also that everyone in this House who served in the War with Territorial units, as I had the honour of doing, recognises that the General Officers Commanding the Territorial Divisions throughout the War have done splendid work in building up the Territorial Army since the Armistice. All that admirable work should not be wrecked by politicians, and I feel very strongly that the Regular soldiers and adjutants of these units ought to be consulted before Parliament perpetrates some action which may sweep aside all the fine work which they have done. They ask for no praise, they get very little in the way of laurels, and they do not get very much in the way of pay. They work day in and day out and they do not leave their commands. They are only too glad to do it, and I think it is our business to back them up as fully as we can.
There is another thing. It is not for us in the House of Commons to be experts as to whether the Army should be mechanised or not, or whether a squadron should be removed or not. It is the business of the Army Council and the soldiers who advise the Government. Whether all the economies which are proposed have been effected or not, there is one little point which it might be useful to scrutinise again. I notice in the Estimates that the expenses of seven hospitals is not less than £1,112,000. That seems to me to be rather a large amount of money for the number of beds which are equipped, and we all know the need for economy and for close interworking between one service and another. The Estimates Committee went very fully into this matter, and one of the recommendations was that there should be a closer liaison between the services as regards possible treatment. That is being carried out, and I have no doubt that great economies have been effected, but if you work out the cost per bed it seems to me that £1,112,000, exclusive of salaries, is a very high figure, and it seems to me that the Territorials ought not to have had their bounty cut had 930 there been a greater reduction in that direction.
I want to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the question of Catterick and its relationship with Canada especially. I had the opportunity of being in Canada last year, and there I met some men who had been at Catterick. There were some 30 or 40 who had gone out under the Group Settlement Scheme and Family Scheme, and they had settled down arid done extremely well. I think we ought all to recognise that it was due to the party opposite, the Opposition, when they were in office, that the Catterick scheme and other schemes had their chance. They backed it up and especially the late Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Lawson), and the result of the training there has a most tremendous effect on migration officials in Canada. There is one little point that has not been touched on, and I hope the Secretary of State will give it his personal attention. There are units in Canada who are anxious to be put in touch with Catterick and other training centres here. These units of the militia forces in Canada are anxious to link up with men here and help them if they come out to Canada and settle either on the land or any other way. I am sure that if an attempt were made a very close association could he established between the different regiments and centres here and an organisation in Canada through which help would be most willingly given to place these men when they have received their training.
We ought not to be satisfied with such a small number of men going overseas out of the 28,000 who leave the Army every year. I do hope that we shall increase the number of these vocational training and testing stations and bring more men over from Canada and Australia to give instruction in these stations, and that a regular campaign will be started to test men's mentality and see whether they will be useful on the land or not. It is not the slightest use training a man for the land if he has not the mentality to settle on the land. He merely drifts into the towns and big centres in the Dominions and complicates their problem further. If you increase these training stations and have a greater interchange of people from Canada to come over here and give 931 assistance both in regard to the handling of machinery and teaching the types of harvesters, it will give the scheme a great impetus. What is more, it is essential to my mind to emphasise the fact that the Dominions are not necessarily seeking for trained agriculturists in this country. They need men who find it difficult to get a job and who, after having had sufficient training, are just as efficient on the land in Canada and Australia as agricultural workers would be in this country. Therefore, it is from the point of view of agriculture here that we should increase the number of these vocational training centres, not only in Catterick but in Hounslow and Aldershot. Why should we not have them in Malta and Gibraltar, where time hangs very heavily on the men's hands, and there seems to be a great opportunity of training men before they leave the Army?
The last point I wish to make is this—I see the Prime Minister is at the moment in his place—I want to add my word to what has been said in regard to the promise we had, or thought we had, that before the Estimates for the separate Services were introduced, there should be a general discussion on the question of the Committee of Imperinal Defence. In answer to a question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Fareham (Sir J. Davidson) the reply was that there was no time for such a discussion. Those of us who want to see real economies effected believe that the best way of doing it is to have the question of Imperial defence debated as a whole. When Sir Henry Wilson was a Member of this House, I remember him making a speech from the bench below the Gangway. Speaking as a soldier he said that the House of Commons wanted really to know what the policy of the Government was, because policy determines everything, and after the policy had been decided, then it was for the soldiers and sailors to carry it out. Until we get another voice like his, drawing the attention of the public to the real problem of defence, we shall not get real economy or real efficiency. I hope on another occasion that time will be found for a discussion on defence as a whole, before the Estimates for the Services are considered.
§ Viscount SANDON
I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State for War on the most interesting memorandum which accompanies the Estimate, because by its aid one is able without a careful study of the long category of figures to understand the Estimate. When I saw this note I felt that we had made a beginning towards definite progress, almost a revolution, in the policy of the Army. I am very glad to see that some progress is being made towards the mechanising of the Army, although I am not very well satisfied with that word. This is one of the experiences we learned during the late War, and it needs pursuing with all the initiative and push and drive that this House can encourage. In common with most other hon. Members, I am very much perturbed indeed as to what has happened over the Territorial Army. I am not so much alarmed by the actual figures as by the spirit which has been brought to light. There was a letter in the Press from Lord Dartmouth, whose name has been associated with the Territorial movement since Lord Haldane first started that Force; and I believe Lord Dartmouth deals with the crux of the whole matter. It is a question whether the atmosphere is right, whether the people in the Territorial Associations feel that they are in a sympathetic or a cold atmosphere when they are dealing with the military authorities at the War Office.
We shall never get this on a satisfactory basis until we have the head of the Territorial Army as a representative on the Army Council. I know this question has been raised times out of number, and perhaps I look at it from a rather different angle compared with other hon. Members. I do not think he should be there on sufferance. I believe he should be the most important man there. In the days before the War we had Lord Roberts's campaign, and I believe there is a great deal in that policy which has an application to-day. I think we should have that most democratic development of the fighting forces of this country—a citizen army, and I believe if Lord Roberts were alive to-day with the National Service League, we should have it far more generally recognised. I am not suggesting, and I should be the last person to suggest it, a colossal or an increased expenditure on 933 armaments, but I believe the justification of armaments is the spirit of self-defence, and the spirit of self-defence is brought into play by universal sacrifice. We shall not give any offence to any other country, and we shall be doing what is right to posterity if we take away some of the money which is now spent on the Regular Army and devote it to the needs of the Territorial Army. I recognise that a standing Army is necessary for garrisons overseas, and you must have a certain nucleus in this country; but I believe the Territorial Army should be the nucleus for the Expeditionary Force, and that a certain portion of the Territorial Army should be perpetually in training, so that they may form, the nucleus for any Expeditionary Force, should we unhappily have to send one abroad again. I know that to secure freedom from their civil duties in order to put in the necessary training at what might be very inconvenient times would entail extra expenditure, but I would take that extra expenditure from the money that is spent on the existing Regular Army, and devote it to the requirements of the Territorial Army.
I hope also that the question of research will not be lost sight of, and I believe the right hon. Gentleman is alive to it. In an Army, as in any other walk of life, research is all important. We must not stint money in this connection. The cap and gown staff should be the most important part of the Forces. The greatest asset in the next war will be the results of scientific research, and it is important that the best that scientific enterprise can produce should be at the command of the British Army at any time. This country will never fight another war which is not a question of life and death. The whole nation will be in it from beginning to end, and science will play a very important part in that conflict. I want to emphasise most strongly what was said many times last year, and I hope will be said many times this year, and has been said to-night, that we shall never do any good until we get the question of a Ministry of Defence thoroughly thrashed out, not only from the point of view of economy, but from the point of view of high policy. In the Estimates, defence must be treated as a whole, for it is one question and not three, and you can no more separate the 934 Army, Navy and Air Force for discussion than you can consider independently, say, the infantry, artillery and tanks in the Army. I am satisfied that a Ministry of Defence will never come from Whitehall. It will only come from this House, and I hope this House will put pressure on the Prime Minister and those that advise him so that we shall really get this question looked at not as by the official mind but from the point of view of high policy, and the defence of this country as a whole.
§ Lord APSLEY
Like other hon. Members, I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State for War on having effected these reductions without doing considerable harm to the Army—I am afraid I cannot say that he has not done any harm at all. The right hon. Gentleman knows too well that you cannot cut without hurting, however powerful the local anæsthetic you may apply to the wound. In trying to analyse the harm that has been done, I think, so far as the Territorial Army is concerned, that it is almost entirely moral, if any harm at all has been done. There is a feeling in the Territorial Army to-day that they are not being sufficiently looked after by the War Office, that they are not cared for by the Regular Army. That is apt to happen in a volunteer and citizen force. Such a feeling can arise and can be quietened again, but the Government must consider it. If the Territorial Associations were taken into consultation it is possible that a solution might be arrived at. A solution might be found in this way; if the Territorial Army was dealt with more directly by the War Office—even if that meant doing away with the Territorial Associations altogether—as part of the regular Forces. That would give the ordinary rank and file of the Territorial Army, the young officers, a feeling that they were the children of the War Office, that they were not regarded as amateurs playing at soldiering.
As regards the Regular Army, I think a certain amount of harm has been done, not only moral but actual. The moral harm is that young officers, and particularly the rank and file, are again experiencing that feeling of hopelessness that any day their unit may be disbanded or reduced to conditions of impotency. There is this suspicion arising in the 935 Regular Army, and it takes away all the initiative and enterprise from any young officer. That feeling, I am afraid, is rising with every reduction of units or establishment, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us a definite assurance that we have at last reached rock bottom in the cuts in the Regular Army. The feeling, in the country is very strong on this subject, because the situation abroad is not so secure that we can afford to make any more cuts in the Regular Army, and that the Services, especially the Army, are doing their level best to cut down their expenditure while other Ministries are not. I have in my hand a list of the other Ministries and their extra expenditure, and there is a feeling in the War Office and the Navy particularly that they are being made to find the money for other Ministries to spend. I should like to lay stress on this point; that to my mind it is a cut in establishment that does more damage to the unit and to the Army than a complete wiping out of units. If you cut a unit down to such an extent that on parade the young officer goes out with a platoon of 20 men it does him and his non-commissioned officers and the men an enormous amount of harm. They cannot get on with their work. It takes all the initiative and pride out of them.
Particularly is that the case with the cavalry, and in reducing the cavalry to two squadrons—I have no fault to find with that—I wish the right lion. Gentleman would consider the possibility of raising the establishment and give them a few more men. I believe a squadron should have 150 men, four troops, 30 other ranks, and a Hotchkiss gun troop as well. If you have a squadron of that number you could do something with it. On active service we found that squadrons of about 80 men were soon whittled down to 60, and finally we had practically nothing to use at all. I also want to raise the question of the extra machine guns which are to be given to cavalry regiments. During the War in Palestine the machine gun was not a very useful cavalry weapon and the automatic rifle practically took its place. The machine gun was difficult to get into action and difficult to get out of it. In mounted warfare things move very quickly, generally over very rough and difficult ground. You have to get fire 936 power into action and out of action very quickly. The machine gun can be easily spotted by the enemy. There is no time to dig in and the machine gun in open ground is easily located. It is much more difficult to locate an automatic rifle. Among the machine guns we had considerable casualties which had to be replaced. That, however, is a matter more for the War Office than for this House to consider.
The mechanisation of the first line transport has been mentioned by two hon. Members, who thought that it was a mistake. I am not an old cavalry officer, but I know that anything that takes weight off a horse's back is a blessing. One trouble in the late War was that the British cavalry horses were expected to carry about. 20 stone. The Australian cavalry were more fortunate in that respect and their horses benefited thereby. The Australians also had squadrons of considerably over 100 men. That is one of the reasons, why the Australian cavalry was so astonishingly successful in a very difficult situation. I hope that the Secretary of War, when he comes to reply, will give us the assurances asked for, particularly on the question whether we have reached rock bottom in the "cuts" on the Army. Such a reassurance would help the moral of the Army, which is inclined to sink at the moment.