HC Deb 02 July 1928 vol 219 cc1126-9

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying His Majesty to make an Order-in-Council under the Military Manoeuvres Acts, 1897 and 1911, a draft of which was presented to this House on the 19th day of March last. I ought to offer an explanation of this Resolution, which, as the House is aware, is of a purely formal character and instituted by the Act of 1897, which requires an Order-in-Council to be submitted to His Majesty and to lie on the Table of the House for 30 days. Owing to some mistake, last year the Order-in-Council was not available in the Vote Office. It has been made available this year. It provides for no expenditure other than that dealt with in the Army Estimates, and is necessary in order to set up the Military Manoeuvres Commission, which has to make the arrangements for the manoeuvres to take place in August next.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I understood when the hon. Gentleman began his remarks that he was not going to proceed with this Motion to-night at such a late hour. This is an important matter, involving a huge area, and an indeterminate amount of compensation. It is outrageous that it should be brought before Parliament at this time of night, and, with great respect to the Financial Secretary to the War Office, on whom I cast no reflection whatever, I think the Secretary of State for War in whose name the Motion appears on the Paper should be here himself to present it. I think it is discourteous to the House that he is not here. While it is true that this year the Order in Council is available, there is no map. Maps have been deposited at the War Office and the Privy Council Office, and I would ask the hon. Gentleman in another year, if he wishes to get a Motion of this kind through without trouble, to have made available for Members a map of the area which it is intended to desecrate with tanks and cavalry, horse and foot, and artillery. I object to the Order on several grounds.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

State them next year.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I do not know that Devonshire is included in the area and perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will bear with me while I state my objections. I would first ask how much compensation has been paid in previous years. Farmers by no means object to these manoeuvres. They long for tanks and the "dragons" and the "whippets" to come along the rural roads, because then they can put in for compensation—and get it, on a very handsome scale. Two or three years ago when we had manoeuvres, a friend of mine prayed that the tanks would come down the drive of his estate, because the road was in extremely bad order. His prayer was answered and when I last saw him, he had a beautiful new road provided by the War Office at the expense of the taxpayers.


And he is still a friend of yours?

Lieut. Commander KENWORTHY

Oh, yes, I am not saying, therefore, that the farmers object, because the soldiers spend money and make themselves helpful. I had the pleasure of seeing manoeuvres, and from that point of view, there is no objection to them. But every year there is encroachment on the common land of the country for manoeuvring purposes. Practically the whole of Salisbury Plain is now in War Office occupation. They retain the area which they recently took over in the Surrey hills. We had almost a revolution started by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who headed a deputation of the lords and deputy-lieutenants and magistrates of the county to the War Office threatening passive resistance, and Heaven knows what, if the War Office did not keep off the beautiful Surrey commons. The War Office still hold on to various other places on the coast. In spite of promises given in this House, they keep their grip on Cuckmere Haven, a beautiful area, which is used for tank target practice or some such purpose. In spite of that, every year they come to us; one year it is Hampshire, the next year it is Wiltshire, and this year it is Essex, Sussex, Surrey and areas in that part of England. I think that the War Office have enough ground on Salisbury Plain and elsewhere without destroying grazing ground, hedgerows, fields, and carriage drives, and I want to know why they cannot carry out their exercises, field manoeuvres, picnics, and all the rest of it on Salisbury Plain, without inflicting the country with the cost of carrying them out on fertile agricultural ground and in the beautiful scenery in the Eastern Counties.

I look upon these manoeuvres as a ridiculous waste of time and money. Every war has found us with the tactics of the last war embedded in the minds of the generals and leaders of our Armies, and they have had to lose a few battles before they have been able to find out the new tactics. A great part of these manoeuvres are also occupied with the Officers' Training Corps and school boys, whose training is not up-to-date, is not serious, and it is really a waste of time and money. After we have agreed in principle to sign the Kellogg Treaty outlawing war, why spend money like this to compensate farmers who will be damaged by the tanks, the cavalry, and the foot soldiers?

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying His Majesty to make an Order in Council under the Military Manœuvres Acts, 1897 and 1911, a draft of which was presented to this House on the 19th day of March last."—[Mr. Duff Cooper.]

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.