§ SIR L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS' STATEMENT.
§ 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."
Despite the military text books, I have deprived myself of the advantages of surprise by circulating a very full memorandum with the Estimates which, while discounting the interest which may be felt in any speech I might make, has also armed my opponents with the opportunity for criticism. In Vote A, I am asking this year for 150,500 men against 153,500 last year, a decrease of 3,000. Half this decrease is due to the withdrawal of Indian troops from Aden, and is therefore more apparent than real. The remaining half is mainly due to the withdrawal of the garrison from Sierra Leone, reductions in China, some adjustments in the establishments of the Royal Artillery and Royal Army Service Corps due to the substitution of mechanical vehicles for horses, and the disbandment of the West African Regiment. The disbandment of the West African Regiment removes from the Army one of its youngest units after a life of only 30 years. It was raised in 1898 and was twice on active service, first in the Ashanti Campaign of 1900, and again in the Cameroons Campaign of 1914–16. Much as I regret the necessity for this disbandment, the fact that it has been possible to withdraw the garrison from Sierra Leone and dispense with the services of that regiment, is a testimony to the settled conditions in that Colony and our good relations with other Powers.
Apart from progress with the conversion of two cavalry regiments into armoured-car regiments, to which I alluded last year, there has been no alteration in the establishment of the cavalry or the infantry. The net money total for which I am asking is £40,545,000, that is, £505,000, or, say, half a million less than last year. In the abstract, on 2210 pages 4 and 5, the difference in each Vote between the current year and the coming year is set out in detail, and at a later stage I will answer any questions which may be addressed to me upon these Votes. Meanwhile, if it is to the convenience of the House, I will indicate the chief savings and the chief increases compared with last year. A saving of £345,000 arises from the larger numbers receiving the reduced rates of pay. The fall in the cost of provisions, forage, fuel and light, accounts for a saving of over £200,000.
Notwithstanding the ruthless reduction in the Vote for new works and lands which has already taken place, it is now possible to effect a further reduction of £192,000 this year. The total amount of the Vote for works is still very large, nearly £3,000,000 net, but only absolutely necessary services are included. For example, I can no longer delay the replacement of obsolete barracks, and I am making a start this year on new barracks at Aberdeen. It is true I expect to spend £1,000 only this year, but the ultimate cost will be. £140,000, to be spread over 16 years. It is also necessary to continue at various stations the provision of new quarters for married officers at a cost of £117,000, and of similar quarters for other ranks at a cost of £91,000. Some of this expenditure ought not properly to be debited to Army Votes, because in many, places the building of the quarters or purchase of houses is forced upon us by the shortage of housing generally, and the impossibility of hiring suitable accommodation The disbandment of the West African Regiment, to which I have already alluded, and the cessation of any payment from Army funds for the Channel islands Militia, account for a further saving of nearly £100,000.
Now let me state the chief increases in expenditure. There is an inevitable rise of £124,000 in the charges for retired pay of officers and pensions of noncommissioned officers and men, and gratuities on retirement. The normal growth of the Army Reserve accounts for an increase of £215,000. I make provision this year for an increase of 15,000 men bringing the total in the Reserve up to 124,000. On the other hand, the supplementary Reserve shows a saving of £35,000. I have, estimated for a rise in the numbers to 790 officers and 17,000 other ranks by the end of the year, at a total cost of £357,800. 2211 The saving is really due to an over-estimate last year, as we did not get the numbers for which we had hoped. After allowing for India's share of the cost, there is an increase of £45,000 in the payment we make towards unemployment insurance, to give the soldier a free insurance against unemployment for a year and a half after he leaves the colours: that is, to put him in the same position as a civilian. The net expenditure on health, widows' pensions and unemployment insurance charged to Army Votes amounts to £424,000. Of course, that counts as a military expenditure.
War stocks are being rapidly reduced, and the exhaustion of stocks entails an increase of £130,000. We are spending £99,000 more for mechanical vehicles for the fighting arms, and their garages. These are the principal decreases and increases. Hon. Members who follow them in the book of the Estimates may find that the net figures that I have given do not quite correspond in the abstract, on pages 4 and 5 of the Estimates, but that is because I have given cover elements of the Votes, and also because there are variations in the Appropriations-in-Aid, which account for the difference. Nevertheless, I have given the House the principal increases and decreases.
I see that there is on the Order Paper a Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. March) and a similar Motion in the name of the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico), which, I understand, is to be moved later in the evening. The Motion urges His Majesty's Government to put forward and support proposals at the preparatory commission for the Disarmament Conference at. Geneva for the drastic reduction of personnel, and for the limitation both of military expenditure and of material. I propose, therefore, to take this opportunity of comparing our expenditure with that of other countries, and for that purpose I must trouble the House with another set of figures, which, I hope, will be useful to hon. Members when they come to discuss the Motion later in the evening. As seen in the White Paper which I have circulated, the Army Accounts are divided into two portions. The first provides for the expenditure on effective services, that is to say, on the pay, maintenance and equipment of the Army, the Territorial Army and the 2212 Reserve Forces, and the second relates to the non-effective services, that is to say, the retired pay, pensions and super-annuation allowances of retired military and civil officers and men. The non-effective charges, broadly the pension charges, are due to the terms of service of the individuals, and no economy can be made in them. They are not really current expenditure, and in many countries these payments are not even included in the Army Votes. Any reduction in expenditure, therefore, has got to be made in the amounts attributable to the effective services, and if a proper comparison is desired with the Army expenditure of other countries, the expenditure on the effective services alone ought to be taken into account.
I have set out in the White Paper the expenditure since 1922 on effective services, and hon. Members will see that there has been a continuous reduction throughout the period but if we take the Estimates of this Government for the last five years, in 1925, the effective Vote was £36¼ million; in 1926, £34½ million; in 1927, £331/3 million; in 1928, £32¾ million; and in 1929, £321/3 million—a reduction in the effective Vote in the lifetime of this Government of 11 per cent. The reduction is the more remarkable if we compare it with the expenditure of other countries.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I will do so later if I may. I would rather not interrupt the sequence of comparisons I am now trying to make. I want now to compare our expenditure, reduced as I say it has been, with the expenditure of other countries during the same period. For example, the United States has increased its comparable expenditure from £51,000,000 in 1925–26 to £59,000,000 in 1928–29. In all the figures I am now giving the local currencies have been converted into pounds sterling. Italy has increased from about £18,000,000 in 1925–26 to about £28,000,000 in 1928–29. Germany has increased from about £20,000,000 in 1925–26 to about £25,000,000 in 1928–29. France has increased from about £34,000,000 in 1925 to about £58,000,000 in 1929. The Soviet Socialist Government of Russia has more than doubled its ex- 2213 penditure on its military Budget which, however, includes its Navy as well as its Air Force, and I am not able to separate the items, so that I cannot make a close comparison. Nevertheless, it has more than doubled its expenditure, and it is now spending £40,000,000 more than in 1924–25.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
It is £84,000,000 now, which shows an increase of £40,000,000 over the amount spent in 1924–25. Belgium, Switzerland and Japan all show some increases in the same period. We are the only nation which has continuously reduced the expenditure on its Army. I hope, therefore, that when Army expenditure comes to be made the subject, of platform oratory, the public will be given the true facts, and will be told that we alone amongst the nations of the world, large or small, have curtailed our military expenditure. I should not be able to produce these reduced Estimates unless I had the whole-hearted support from the Army Council and the officers under them in the War Office, in the Commands and in the Army itself. They have combined to cut out waste and to preserve what is essential by sacrificing everything in the nature of a luxury, and by postponing all expenditure not immediately necessary and urgent. I have had the greatest assistance from Field-Marshal Sir George Milne, who is the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. He himself checks and weighs every class of military expenditure, recommending which shall take priority owing to its degree of urgency on military grounds.
I would like to say a few words about the progress of mechanisation in the Army. I think the best way to bring that progress home to hon. Members will be to make a comparison between the present position and the position as I found it when I first became Secretary of State for War in 1921. In 1921 the equipment of the Army and its effectiveness for modern war differed little from that of 1918, except in numbers. The only branches in which mechanical vehicles existed for transport purposes were the Anti-Aircraft Artillery, the Royal Tank Corps and the Royal Army Service Corps. The Royal Artillery had 2214 only some 15 anti-aircaft lorries, of an old type. The Royal Tank Corps was equipped with old-time war tanks and four-wheeled armoured cars. The Royal Army Service Corps possessed four-wheeled lorries only, mostly of the three-ton type. Since then very definite advances have been made. Now each cavalry regiment has a mechanised machine-gun squadron, and the mobility of the horsed squadrons has been greatly increased by transferring some of the weight from the horse to mechanized transport. We are experimenting this year in the cavalry with an armoured 303 machine gun carrier. In addition, two cavalry regiments have been converted into armoured car regiments, and some 22 six-wheeled armoured cars of the latest pattern have been purchased as part of the equipment of one regiment.
In the infantry we have increased the number of machine guns, so that each battalion has one company of 16 guns, of which 12 are manned in peace. In three battalions these companies have mechanised transport, and I hope to be able to equip three more this year. The small armoured 303 machine gun carriers also form part of the equipment of these six infantry machine gun companies. In the artillery I have reorganised the medium artillery, so that we have now five medium brigades in existence in peace time. Those brigades are all mechanised on various scales. Two of the five will in 1929 be on a thoroughly satisfactory scale, and equipped with a standardised machine. In addition, two field artillery brigades have been mechanised, and a third will be completely mechanised in 1929. This has been done with various selected machines, but we hope as the result of this year's experiments that we shall be able to select and standardise one type for field artillery draught. This year we are commencing mechanisation of the light artillery and are producing four mechanised light batteries for trial with troops. Two brigades of field artillery have been equipped with radio-telephony and four more will be so equipped this year.
In the Royal Tank Corps a modern type of tank has replaced the old wartime tanks, and we have carried out experiments and research on a large scale, and with such success that we can confidently claim to lead the world not only in our equipment of tanks but 2215 also in our ideas as to their use in War. The Royal Engineers have been equipped with a new type of pontoon, and suitable transport has been evolved for it. The bridging portion of the field squadrons of the cavalry division is being given this equipment this year. Portions of the Royal Corps of Signals have also been equipped with mechanical transport. The Royal Army Service Corps during this period scored a great success. They have evolved the War Department design of six-wheeled lorries, and the success has been so great that it has been adopted by civil manufacturing firms as the most efficient type. By the end of this year 40 per cent. of the Royal Army Service Corps transport will be of the modern six-wheeled type. I think it will be agreed that enormous strides have been made in the modernisation of the Army during the lifetime of the present, Government. In the next few years even greater progress should be possible, owing to the sure foundation which has already been laid.
In the last few minutes I have tried to give a brief description of the Army of to-day in the midst of its evolution in comparison with the Army when I first became responsible for it, and I have tried to show that the money voted is being used on a definite and progressive plan. Now I should like, if I am allowed, to refer to the experimental side of our mechanisation policy. As the House will know, for many hon. Members were present to see it with their own eyes, we assembled on Salisbury Plain two years ago a mixed armoured force from which we have obtained most valuable experience, which could not have been secured otherwise. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff reports to me that the efficiency of the units in the force has steadily increased. The officers and other tanks have been constantly on the strain, and have shown the greatest interest in their work, which has entailed much more exertion and fatigue than the ordinary course of training. It is interesting to find, as we expected would be the case, that the development of armoured forces is following much the same lines as that of other formations.
We have, in the first place, a demand for something of great mobility which can undertake distant missions, and 2216 which, in that respect, is the mechanical equivalent of the independent cavalry of former days. These formations will consist principally of armoured cars or light tanks, or both combined, and though incapable of undertaking a serious offensive will have quite enough fire power to give a good account of themselves. In the second place, we require another type of formation which is intended to combine great hitting power and armoured protection with sufficient mobility to allow of manoeuvre rather than of frontal attack. It will consist of medium tanks with light tanks and armoured support weapons as auxiliaries. We anticipate that this organisation of light and medium armoured brigades, when combined suitably with cavalry and infantry formations, should provide us with a force suited for every type of country and for every form of manoeuvre which may be necessary, from the passive defence to the attack the wide turning movement or the headlong pursuit. The arrangement by which last year's armoured force has been dispersed is only temporary, in order that we may use the personnel and units concerned for other experiments.
This year, profiting by the lessons learned from the experiments on Salisbury Plain, and by the result of research and experiments with new designs of vehicles, we are forming two experimental infantry brigades, one at Aldershot and the other at Tidworth with which units of the armoured fighting vehicles will he incorporated. Our object is to decide on the best composition for an infantry brigade, and with this intention we are trying out various forms of battalion and brigade organisation. We intend to try armoured carriers for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, mortars and light howitzers, the inclusion of light tank units in the infantry brigade, and the use of mechanised transport for administrative purpose in the battalion. As a result of the experiments of the last two years, the General Staff have been able to prepare draft war establishments for modernised and armoured formations. These, together with instructions for their administration and tactical handling, will be issued during the spring, and will form the base of theoretical discussion and practical handling during 2217 the current year. This is noteworthy as the first attempt to crystallise our ideas upon these questions.
I will not give the House in detail the various specific questions which we hope to answer by the work to be done by these new experimental formations, for they are technical military questions, but just as the coming of the internal combustion engine has created first-class problems, still unsolved, in civil life, relating to our railways, our roads and even our week-end habits, so its coming has created problems of user in military operations not less difficult to solve expeditiously and completely.
I feel that the country and the Army are fortunate at this juncture to have as Chief of the Imperial Chief Staff so able a soldier and so good an economist as Field Marshal Sir George Milne. Under his steady and farseeing guidance good progress is being made in the adaptation of the Army to these new conditions. He will complete four years in his appointment as Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1930, but I am glad to say that he has agreed to continue in that post until 1932, so that we may hope to secure continuity in military policy.
I would like to say a word or two about the Territorial Army. I need not detain the House long, as my report is entirely satisfactory. Six thousand two hundred more recruits joined the Territorial Army last year than in the previous year, so I hope the economy effected by the substitution of a proficiency grant for the training bounty has now ceased to affect recruiting. The total strength, after allowing for a heavy run-off of time-expired men, shows an increase of 108 officers and 121 other ranks. Nearly 88 per cent. of the officers and men attended camp last year. That is better than the previous year, and is extremely good if we take into account the necessary absences through illness and business engagements. As I have stated in the White Paper, the infantry battalions in the Territorial Army will be organised similarly to the infantry battalions in the Regular Army, that is to say, there will he a headquarters wing, a machine gun company and three rifle companies. I am giving as great elasticity as possible. Battalions may 2218 adopt this organisation at once if they choose, or they need not do so until 1st April, 1930. It means a reduction in establishment of about 52 men in each battalion, hut this reduction need not entail discharges, for it may be postponed until the numbers are reduced by wastage in the ordinary way.
The number of artillery brigades of the Territorial Army that train on a mechanical basis increases each year, hired lorries being used as tractors. I am advised that the Territorial Army contains the best possible personnel, and that though some battalions are woefully under strength, taken as a whole, it is well trained and efficient. At the moment, quality is more important than quantity in the Territorial Army, as it is the future leaders that we desire to train. The taxpayer certainly owes much to the Territorial Army, for if it was not the reliable second line that it is our Estimates could not have been reduced in the way they have been.
I should also like to pay a tribute to the loyal manner in which the County Territorial Associations have discharged their often difficult tasks. I have received the greatest assistance from them in carrying out those changes in the direction of mechanisation which the progress of military science demands. These changes often mean a break with long-standing traditions, and the advice and help I get from the County Associations in this connection are invaluable. The House may not perhaps appreciate the extent to which men of eminence in their respective professions are willing and anxious to place their experienced advice and expert knowledge at the disposal of the Army Council. It is impossible to mention them all by name, and it is invidious to particularise. Perhaps I may be allowed to express the country's indebtedness to the scientists, engineers and others who serve on the technical committees. It is indispensable to our ordered progress in military organisation that we should keep abreast of civilian research, and we fully appreciate the interest and the work which Fellows of the Royal Society and other distinguished gentlemen devote to helping us in the solution of the many problems which confront an army in the process of evolution.
2219 Perhaps I may be permitted to draw special attention to the assistance which is given to us by members of the medical profession. The Army can derive nothing but benefit from a good understanding between the civilian and the military branches of the medical profession which I am happy to believe is the aim of both, and which displays itself in their fruitful co-operation on many of the committees. I hope that as the scope and attractiveness of the Army Medical Service become better known through their advocacy, the present welcome increase in the number of candidates may continue. I must confess, however, that we are still suffering from a serious shortage of candidates for commissions in the regular army. The shortage is, I believe, mainly due to economic reasons. Uncertainty as to the future is the greatest deterrent. Discussions on disarmament have undoubtedly had an unsettling effect. Great reductions in number have already been made, and I can only say that, so far as I can see, in no conceivable circumstances can any further reductions be made in the number of officers in our attenuated military forces.
I believe that the Army offers just as good a career as ever it did. There is a further possibility that some exaggerated references to promotion by merit may have created a sense of insecurity, but on this point I wish to emphasise that there is no question of extending this policy any further than at present, and that practically every officer who makes himself reasonably efficient can depend on rising, in the normal course, to the rank of Major. A measure of selection is introduced from Major to Lieut.-Colonel and a large proportion of Majors do, in practice, receive promotion.
There will be no Army manoeuvres in 1929. Collective training will be on much the same basis as for 1928 except that the Fourth Division will not he concentrated. Divisional training will be carried out in the Aldershot and Southern Commands, and will culminate in some exercises specially designed to test out the experimental infantry brigades, and the other experiments to which I have referred. We propose to have a number of exercises without troops which will be conducted by the War Office.
2220 I want to draw attention to something which I have already referred to in some detail in the White Paper, and that is the substantial and highly satisfactory progress that is being made in the educational training of the Army. The extent of this effort at adult education in the Army is perhaps not generally appreciated. We endeavour now to educate every soldier up to a standard of education equivalent to the highest attainment of an elementary school. We insist on certain ranks reaching the standard equivalent to the school leaving certificate. The Army is providing education for some 200,000 men, and the success which has been attained is remarkable, as is shown by the figures which I have set out in the White Paper.
Let me remind the Committee that on the 28th January, 1929, the number of educational certificates held by the Army was as follows: 3rd class, 67,703; 2nd class, 85,561; 1st class, 13,164. The 1st class certificate is equivalent to the school leaving certificate, which is not a bad standard at all. There is also a special higher certificate equal to matriculation, and 628 hold that certificate in the Army. This advance in education is having a great influence on the training of the Army. Intelligent, disciplined, individual initiative, so necessary in modern war, requires a soldier to be educated. The education he is receiving will increase his value in the Army. We send to civil life every year some 30,000 men who are better educated through their Army service, and they go out of the Army with a better education than many people in civil life.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Many of them have not had the school leaving certificate or the matriculation certificate, and I think this is an enormous advance on the teaching they have had at the elementary school. I wish I could say that all were also skilled at a trade, but, as I have shown in the White Paper, some 1,600 men passed 2221 through the courses at Chisledon, Hounslow and Aldershot last year. There are many well-educated and well-conducted men leaving the Army each year.
I think I have now dealt with the many features of Army expenditure, and I fear that I have tried the patience of the House. In conclusion, I will restate the problem that I have been grappling with during the last few years. It is how to use our limited resources of men and money so that we may not destroy our immediate strength while developing our plans for securing, by means of appropriate machines, that ultimate accession of mobility and power which the Army of the future must undoubtedly possess. This development is proceeding without dislocation and without friction, notwithstanding the cramping effects of constant economy. The internal combustion engine is being made a useful servant and auxiliary of the incomparable officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the British Army, and, in spite of all the difficulties, psychological as well as material, the Army of to-day maintains unimpaired its high standard of efficiency.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The Secretary of State for War has made an explicit statement, but, in spite of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is able to use figures and terms concerning mechanisation as no one else in this House can do, it is evident that there is a quickened spirit in the House, and the Amendments placed on the Paper by my hon. Friends behind me have given a touch of colour to the Army Estimates. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that, while it is necessary for us to discuss the various services in detail from the business side, there has been a growing feeling that on one day at least during the year the three fighting services should be discussed together. I find an echo of that on the benches behind the Government in the shape of a Motion which deals with the co-ordination of contracts, and perhaps that is the only way in which that subject can be dealt with here to-day. Last year, the Prime Minister gave quite a multitude of details concerning co-ordination, demonstrating what the Committee 01 Imperial Defence is doing in that direction, but, both from the business point of view and the point of view of efficiency, as well as the welfare of the nation, it is absolutely neces- 2222 sary that we should discuss these questions as a Ministry of Defence or in some other form. The time must soon come when we can discuss the whole of the nation's obligations in this respect on one day. If that had been so, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would have been quite so sure of his ground. He is on quite good ground as far as the Army is concerned, but when it comes to the other services, taking them as a whole, the expenditure of the country is growing, and, what is more, the destructive forces that are being evolved are growing in an even greater proportion than the expenditure.
I was curious to know, when I got the Army Estimates, exactly in what respect the expenditure was increasing as compared with the pre-War period. I have often heard it said in this House, when the expenditure was being compared with that of pre-War times, that the increase was due to the increased pay of the men and officers. The House will be surprised to know that this year the total pay that we are asked to vote amounts to exactly the same sum, within a few pounds, as in the last year before the War; It is true that there were more men before the War; I think that something like 186,000 were then borne on the strength, as compared' with 150,000 now; but, as I have said, within a few pounds the amount voted for pay, etc., was the same in 1914 as it is to-day, and yet the expenditure as a whole has increased by some 40 per cent. We naturally ask where that extra amount—£12,000,000, I think it is—is going. The House must understand, too, that the Estimate for the last year before the War, whatever may be our views upon it, was growing because of what the Government of the day thought was potential strife.
I find on investigation that the non-effective services have exactly doubled since the War. The amount for pensions and so on was something like £4,000,000 before the War, and to-day it is round about £8,000,000. I asked a question last year as to the possibility of a limitation of this obligation, and I understood that it was stated that we had about reached the limit in that respect. The non-effective services were up by a small amount last year. I am not going to say say that we should not honour our obligations. We must. But that is indeed 2223 a growing burden upon this country which, when compared with social needs, is a rather serious matter.
I also notice that, as compared with pre-War times, the maintenance charges or the War Office have doubled—that is to say, while the Estimates have increased by 40 per cent., the cost of the maintenance of the War Office has increased by something like 100 per cent. It would be interesting to know the real reasons for that. I have often heard it said that, owing to the increased improvement of mechanical processes in the Army, it has been necessary to increase the staff at the War Office to a certain extent. On the mechanical side there is an increase this year, but the number is not really great—I think it, is about 46. Therefore, it would be interesting to know how it comes about that the cost of the War Office has at least doubled as compared with 1914.
That, however, after all, only accounts for something like £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 of the total increase since the War, and I find that in the main it is going towards the maintenance of the active forces, and, particularly the development of the mechanical side of the Army's affairs. The right hon. Gentleman has claimed, of course, that he has done more in that respect than almost any other Minister, and that is quite true. He has familiarised us with that 'awkward word, "mechanisation." He did not coin that word, but he underlined it, and he certainly has given a good deal of time to that subject. He gave us an opportunity last year of seeing a demonstration of those forces, and I want to say—I think it is the least that we can say—that the right hon. Gentleman and the War Office made very great and perfect arrangements for the convenience and comfort of all those Who went from this House to see that demonstration, and for that he is entitled to our thanks. Members of this House, taking all views in regard to the armed forces, availed themselves of that opportunity to go down to Salisbury Plain.
There was one impression that was left upon my mind, at any rate. There used to be, during the manoeuvres and similar demonstrations by the armed forces, a little colour and some dash and fire which in a way compensated for the grimmer 2224 side that one saw, but, when these gloomy metal monsters came along, one felt that even the poetic side of the armed forces was disappearing, and, it their grimness in actual fact is at all in proportion to their appearance, it is time the League of Nations had a few au-night sittings to deal with the matter. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the point that they do not seem to be getting the number of officers to take on in the active forces that they desire. He gave some reasons for that, and he also gave us one of the remedies that he proposes. I understood him to say that it is partly due to a sense of insecurity caused by the growing number of rankers. I understood him to say that they were going to limit the number of rankers—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
No; I did not mention rankers. If I let that pass, it might be misunderstood. I never said a word about ranker officers, and I never said a word about limiting the number of commissions from the ranks—not one word.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am extremely sorry if I made such a mistake as that, but was not the only one on these benches—
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am prepared to give credit to the right hon. Gentleman for the fact that, while he has developed the armed forces and has emphasised their mechanisation, he has also given some consideration to the question of the vocational training of the soldiers themselves, and naturally we on this side are interested in the human side of the soldier. I appreciate very much the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has enlarged Chisledon and intends to use it on a bigger scale next year, but there is one thing that I think he ought to reconsider in that respect. I think the requirement that 7s. 6d. per week should be paid by the average soldier is a hindrance to soldiers coming in for training. It may seem a small amount, but, out of a soldier's actual pay, it is really too much. I trust that even greater emphasis is going to be laid on this side of the Army's activities than has been the case in the past. One of the gravest problems that the Army has to meet is 2225 that of recruiting. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman referred to that—
§ Mr. LAWSON
It is true that it is in the White Paper, but the Army Report contains one of the gravest statements, made in official form, that has ever been made to this House. It is to the effect that only 36 per cent. of the young men who offered themselves for service were accepted. The young men who come to offer themselves for service in that direction are not, as a rule, of third-rate types, but are men who think themselves physically fit and feel that they can do the job, and yet only 36 per cent. are accepted. The Financial Secretary to the War Office, answering me last year, told me that the smallness of the number accepted was due to the fact that the standard was very often raised as the rush of recruits increased. That cannot he so this year. The dental standards are lower, while the actual height standard has been lowered from 5 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 2 inches, and, taking the age at which these men come in for the infantry, 5 feet 3 inches is not really an excessive standard of height. The Report points out, also, that the average gain in weight when they are in the depot for about six months is from seven to eight pounds. That is quite a natural thing; one can understand that. Exercise, fresh air, and varying conditions certainly do tend to increase the weight of the youth. The Report says:As a result of good food, exercise, and fresh air, recruits develop both physically and mentally during their training at depots. The average increase in weight during this period of five or six months is eight pounds. In one squad from a northern district the average increase was no less than one stone.5.0 p.m.
That, indeed, is a very cryptic comment upon conditions beyond the boundaries of the Army. We can increase and improve our defences as we like. We can improve our tanks, our battleships, and our airships, but in the long run our real defences are at home in the condition of the people, and no more damning document was ever given to any Parliament, no stronger condemnation was ever made of any Government policy, apart from ser- 2226 vice policy, than that record in the Army Report.
The total that is asked for this year is some £40,000,000, and the right hon. Gentleman tells us, of course, that it is a reduction. That is true, but he is also asking for a Supplementary Estimate which neutralises the reduction. The significant thing about the last few years is that, while the right hon. Gentleman is improving on the mechanical side of the Army, and has also reduced the Estimates at the same time he has had to ask for Supplementary Estimates which have almost offset the actual reductions on the other side. We shall vote against that Supplementary Estimate, because it does not matter what the circumstances are. As long as the social conditions of the people are as they are, this country cannot afford any increased Estimates for expeditions in different parts of the world.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is wrong. What we mean is that we have to pay first attention to our own people and, after that, we can afford to consider people in other parts of the world.
§ Viscount SANDON
The hon. Member forgets the number of people who are dependent on trade with China, and earn their livelihood from it.
§ Mr. LAWSON
We cannot tell the value of the right hon. Gentleman's emphasis on the mechanical side. I do not suppose even he himself can tell. I do not suppose there is a layman in the house who can speak as to the real value of what is known as mechanisation. Critics are abroad already, and there are those who are not quite as sanguine as the right hon. Gentleman himself. On the other hand, it is true that, in view of world conditions, he cannot afford to take any risks. When the whole of the Estimates are lumped together, amounting last year in' actual expenditure to £117,000,000 for the three services, and when we consider that the service that costs least of all is the most destructive, we say, whether it be Supplementary Estimates or Motions dealing with reductions or with general disarmament, there is nothing else we can do but to go into the Lobby in support of those 2227 Motions. I trust the day is not very far distant when the House is going to get an opportunity of facing the real cost of defence. We talk about £40,000,000 and a reduction of £500,000, and the House of Commons, like the country, forgets the real cost. When we do get an opportunity of discussing the cost of the three forces altogether, this country will give more emphasis to its obligations to the League of Nations and to a general policy making for peace than it does to Estimates of this character.
§ Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his very lucid, though brief statement on the Army and this year's Estimates. Last year was particularly interesting on account of the change in organisation which has taken place in the War Office with regard to the development of the mechanised force. We were all extremely interested to hear of the development that is taking place in that particular part of the Army. We who had the privilege of going to Tidworth were extremely interested in all we saw there, and in the various types of vehicles. At that time a certain amount of criticism was raised on the score of vehicles that were obviously out-of-date. I understand that more efficient vehicles are now being brought into service, and the more ancient and dilapidated ones are being thrown out. That is all to the advantage of the service as a whole. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how far the workshop part of the mechanised force is being developed. Obviously, if and when we have to employ force in the field, all questions of workshop development must be of very great importance, because I can visualise a force being very heavily weighted by the growth of the enormous number of workshops which will be necessary for the repair and possible replacement of vehicles that are knocked out. We should like to hear some account of what has been done in the way of that development.
The development of six-wheeled vehicles is extraordinarily interesting. Anyone who has seen them and knows about them realises that for going over rough country with heavy weights they are extraordinarily useful. I should like to 2228 ask how far that vehicle has been adopted by commerce, because we might get better value by subsidising the use of these six-wheeled vehicles in the commercial world, thereby, perhaps, reducing the capital cost of vehicles to be kept ready for Army requirements. I notice that the amount in the Estimates for subsidies remains fixed at £40,000 a year. It shows that there is no great advance along that line at present, but perhaps the War Office have under consideration plans for approaching big commercial firms, seeing that, as heavy commercial vehicles are now moving on the roads to a greater extent than before, we might cheapen our expenditure by means of subsidies.
I was extremely interested to hear about the movement going on as regards infantry battalions formed with mechanical units at Aldershot and Tidworth. How far are those mechanical units to be used for the actual conveyance of troops, in other words, for the quick movement of troops across country? These mechanical vehicles can pierce a line, but they are sometimes put to hold a line, and I should like to know whether the battalions are being organised with the idea, not only of pushing up behind an attacking force, but actually carrying men quickly to a point of vantage. Any information on that would be extremely interesting. Generally speaking, undoubtedly the progress of mechanical vehicles is going on very fast. We can see it all round us in the civil world and the movement in the affairs of the Army is extraordinarily interesting. It is undoubtedly a factor that must be used in the future, and with our small Army, we are well advised to spend all we can in research and investigation of the best methods of making ourselves really efficient with this type of vehicle for war purposes. Therefore, the country is receiving good value in expenditure in this direction, because it needs a small, quick moving Army which would make itself felt if and when required.
I was very interested to hear of the expenditure on housing accommodation for married officers and other ranks, because undoubtedly that is a grievance that has been very much felt by our officers at outlandish stations. Housing for our officers is as necessary as it is 2229 in our large cities. The suffering, discomfort and general disadvantage for some years has been great, and I am very glad to see this progress being made. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the system of insuring men against unemployment for a year and a half after leaving the Service. How far is the money used to help men who have gone through vocational training to get into trades? Some of these men have to be apprenticed before they can he accepted into the unions as skilled tradesmen. I heard the other day of certain men who found it extremely difficult to get into the trade in which they had had training, because of the difficulty of maintaining themselves during the earlier period. I should like to ask a question with regard to the compassionate grant administered by the committee at Chelsea. They handle certain sums of money in dealing with hard cases outside the Regulations, eases of men possibly who, though they have had 21 years' Army service, have done broken service—left it and come back to it—and they are not entitled under the Regulations to a pension. Then there are cases of hardship where men have been hurt abroad. I know of a man who was hurt at football and it was proved that he was not actually hurt in performing military duties. How far does the committee deal with cases of hardship of that kind and is the compassionate grant being utilised as it might be?
I regret to see the reduction in the amount of money spent on the Territorial Army. I look upon the Territorial Army as the real second line of our forces. I have felt for many years, and I have expressed the opinion both in this House and before I came into it, that the Territorial Army is not yet sufficiently knit into our proper Army system. It could, I think, by the reorganisation of our Army, be much more closely connected with the Regular Army. What I mean by that is, that brigades might be formed partly of Territorial units and partly of Regular units rather than having complete brigades of Regular units. If this were done, we should have the great advantage of a definite home inside the Regular unit to which Territorial officers and others could go and obtain training, and we should get an interchange which 2230 would enable the Regular officers to work with the Territorial Army. In the same way we should get a great advantage in in regard to the instructional staff, the non-commissioned officers. Also, if we could get a particular Territorial unit and a Regular unit associated with the civil population in a particular area, it might prove to be a great asset in time of war in connection with recruiting.
At the present time the Territorial Army suffers from a lack of touch with the Regular Army. Certain officers do get into touch with the Regular Army, but on the whole this could be very much improved. I know that the absence of touch is very largely due to the location of our barracks in the country. We have barracks at places like Aldershot away from the civil population, and also at Cannock Chase and Tidworth. If the War Office proposed to embark upon a reconditioning of barracks it might be considered advisable to construct barracks near large centres of population, so that those barracks could get into touch with the civil population, and thereby assist in the creation of complete brigades comprising Regular and Territorial troops. This would not in any way interfere with what may be called the taking away of Regular troops for small wars. We could always take them from the brigades of the Regular armies and use them when a small expeditionary force was necessary. If we came to a big war—which I hope we shall not—we should have the great advantage that we should not lave to break up organised brigades, as we did in the Great War, by bringing a less experienced type of battalions into the regular formation. If we had brigades formed in times of peace, partly Territorial and partly Regular, we could get an efficient organisation in wartime. I have felt for a long time that a movement for the closer knitting together of the Regular Army and the Territorial Army would be an advantage in bringing the Army into the minds of the people much more than is the case at present. The Navy is in the minds of the people largely because of the relationship which the mercantile marine bears to it. I do not see why we cannot do something on those lines for the Army.
2231 I would like to know how far the Officers' Training Corps is fulfilling its function of providing officers for the Territorial forces. Are officers really coming to the Territorial forces from that corps? This is a thing which ought to be closely watched and encouraged in every way possible. I notice in the White Paper with some misgivings, I will not say alarm, that our recruiting has been somewhat uneven. How far does this affect the balance of the Army as regards discharges and incomings? Has the incoming flow during the last two years at this distance from the Great War become balanced so that we have a regular inflow and a regular outflow from the Regular Army? Is the Special Reserve, which I notice is larger than it was last year, considered sufficient in case of mobilisation? Supposing our Regular forces had to mobilise to-morrow, are we in a satisfactory position, especially with regard to the technical side or the technical units? Is there any reserve now behind the Territorial Force? Have we any reserves coming along behind the Territorial Force? If not, possibly it might be advisable to move in that direction. I have no doubt that many people, even without remuneration, would like to keep touch with the Forces in this way.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I want to know exactly to what extent that reserve exists and how it is progressing. I now come to the question of our troops abroad. I am concerned regarding some of the accounts which I have heard of the great fatigue that the troops have experienced during their period of residence in China. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to China. Is he satisfied now as regards the percentage of the troops there who may be in hospital? To what extent are troops being changed over from their garrison in China and given a tour in other places? I am glad to see that there is a reduction in the force and that generally it is contracting. I have heard of one or two cases of hardship to officers, who, after serving out there for two years and longer, have been ordered to India for additional service. Is it the policy of the War Office to send certain officers to India for additional service for three years before 2232 allowing them to come home? I should be very grateful for information on that subject, because it is rather hard that these officers and men who have suffered from being quartered out there, in some cases in rather poor cantonments—huts were put up in smelly quarters in Shanghai—should now be sent to India, and not be allowed leave at home.
Lastly, I want to refer to the question of the War Office. I notice here that although there have been decreases in the amount of money to the Territorial Force and in other directions, the administration at the War Office shows an increase. I know it will be said that they have to handle mechanised forces and other things. I have heard a criticism made by those who are well fitted to express criticism, that the staff of the War Office has not really been reduced as it might have been. This refers not so much to the military side as to the civil side. Undoubtedly reductions have been made in the lower grades of clerks and others, but the higher grades remain excessive. I pass on this criticism for what it is worth. I would suggest that the cases of those who receive basic salaries of over £800 might be looked into. We might get economies there, and equally efficient work done.
I agree with the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) that it is a pity we cannot discuss the three Services together. We had a very useful discussion last year on this subject, and it certainly was extremely useful crystallising ideas on the subject. I am satisfied that we shall get no real progress towards cutting down the expenditure on the Services unless we examine them as a whole. We have the Imperial War College, which, I know, is doing good work in educating officers for the three Services for the higher appointments. I am satisfied that those facers ultimately will be extraordinarily useful in forming a collective staff to administer the three Services combined. I do not for one moment say that it will be desirable to have what has been called a Ministry of Defence. We might run the Services by means of a Board. Why not have a Services Board and run the Services in that way?
At any rate, I think the House feels that it is a pity that under our procedure we have to discuss the individual Estimates each year without any relation 2233 to the other Services. We feel sure that in that way economies could be carried out. We know that on the supply branch alone economies could be carried out. Efforts are being made at the present moment towards co-ordinating supplies, and undoubtedly by co-ordinating supplies economies could be obtained by standardisation and by bringing in various economies we could undoubtedly get a saving. I hope that in the next Parliament this very important subject will be thoroughly tackled and thrashed out, and that thereby we shall make an advance towards additional economies. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the state of the Army. He ought to be proud of it and of his administration of it. I think we on these benches feel that he and his staff have taken a very great deal of trouble to do everything they can to make it efficient and at the least possible expense.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
Like other Members of the House, I have listened with great interest to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State. He put, perhaps, rather more stress on the mechanised side of the Army than he did upon personnel, and it is about the personnel that I want to ask a few Questions. We read in -the White Paper, and the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) drew attention to the fact, that in order to get the requisite number of troops, it was found necessary last October to reduce the dental standard, and, again, in the middle of December to reduce the height of recruits from 5 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 2 inches. Those seem to me rather deplorable facts. I should like to know the official explanation as to why in a year when there is so much unemployment in the country, and when there is such universal distress, there is not a greater rush of desirable young men to join His Majesty's Army. The War Office is going on the right lines in increasing, as far as possible, vocational training. A reason which keeps young men from going into the Army, is the want of any certainty of a career after the short term of years which they serve. They see old soldiers, who have been very good as old soldiers, out of jobs all over the country, and that naturally discourages young men from enlisting. I hope that the right hon. 2234 Gentleman—I trust he will long continue at the War Office—will look into this question, and increase vocational training in the services as much as possible.
Perhaps it would help the soldier to get into touch with civil occupations if it were possible to localise the Army more than it is. I know that is a very thorny question. In every other Army that I have known abroad, the regiments are localised definitely in peace stations. We have gone on the other line. It is, of course, impossible for us absolutely to localise our regiments, because we have to feed the battalions abroad, but to a certain extent they might be more localised. That would save expense both to the officers and the men, and it would enable the men to get more into touch with jobs which they might occupy when they leave the Army.
What is the actual position as regards Sandhurst? I know that there has been a lack of candidates at the entrance examinations. When I went to Sandhurst, which was a good many years ago, the proportion of candidates to vacancies was five to one. At the present time I believe there is great difficulty in getting sufficient candidates to fill the places. That is deplorable, because the Army for its officers and staff will have to depend upon Sandhurst. What is the reason for this lack of candidates? In recent years, there has been introduced higher pay for the married officer over 30 years of age. A boy who is choosing his career at the age of 18, does not take into consideration, or he ought not, whether he will be able to marry.
I have heard from the Liberal Benches strong pleas that marriage allowances should be given to Naval officers. I agree that if marriage allowances are given to Army officers, there is far stronger claim for such allowances being given to Naval officers. Personally, although many of my friends would be against it, I should be in favour of taking away the marriage allowance from Army officers, and spreading it over all the officers, including the younger officers. Why should we give a special allowance to an officer because he is married? When an officer becomes married he is Trot nearly as good a regimental officer. He is much more efficient as a regimental officer when he is not married. Why should His Majesty's Government pay a 2235 man for becoming less efficient for his job than he was before? It would be much better to take the money from the married officers and to spread it out. That would attract more young men to the Army.
Then there is the question of promotion. There has been terrible stagnation in regard to promotion. I would suggest the possibility of moving some of the higher ranks. We have very capable officers in various top jobs in the Army, and I would suggest that some of them, every three or four years, might go by a sort of rotation. At the present time they go round from one very high job to another. I suggest that some of these officers might retire. That would give some hope to some of the younger officers. Although some of these higher officers are very good in their jobs, it is a mistake to think that there are not probably younger officers sufficiently capable to fill their places.
As regards the mechanisation of the Army, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the fact that any form of mechanical transport which we introduce always goes very rapidly out-of-date. If we are going to spend a very large sum of money in getting these machines, it may well be that some new invention will arise and our machines will have to be scrapped. Another question which arises is whether we can get the necessary mobility with a mechanical force if we are to have sufficient offensive power. I am afraid that if we are to have sufficient offensive power, we shall lack sufficient mobility. Perhaps the Financial Secretary will reply to the points which I have raised.
§ Mr. TINKER
I listened to the very interesting statement of the right hon. Gentleman. As long as we get successive reductions of the Army Estimate we are on the right lines. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned other countries and the increases in their armaments. That, of course, is very alarming. It may be possible that those other countries may be reviewing our armaments in regard to our armed services. It may be that in bringing their estimates before their Governments they are pointing to our Air Estimates and our Navy Estimates as evidences of increase on our part. It 2236 would be far better if we could discuss the whole of our Fighting Service Estimates together, and then we should be able to make a proper comparison.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Could the hon. Member give a better example to other countries of reduction in armaments than the reduction of the British fleet since the end of the War?
§ Mr. TINKER
I do not want to get into controversy. I wish to keep to the real facts of the situation. If we could discuss the whole of our armaments together, we should have a better idea of things. I am not prepared to see our Army scrapped, while other countries have their armies. I should like some explanation with regard to the proportion of officers to men. We might ask ourselves whether we have not too many officers in comparison with the number of men. We could make economies in that direction. I have worked out some figures, and I find that in the Territorial Army we have 6,932 officers to 132,244 men, or one officer to 19 men. Could we not decrease that proportion of officers? One officer to 19 men appears to me to he excessive. In the Regular Army we have 7,117 officers of regimental establishments to 132,252 other ranks, or one officer to 18 men. In miscellaneous establishments we have 786 officers to 4,543 men, or one officer to six men. I can understand the greater number of officers in the latter case because these are more in the nature of teaching establishments. Taking the whole of the figures, for the Regular Army we have one officer to 15 men. Could not the War Office reduce that proportion, and have more men to one officer?
Along with other Members of Parliament, I witnessed the manoeuvres on 12th July, and I was much impressed with the mechanisation of the Army. It is a dreadful thing to see the engines of war that we have at the present time. That example might well be enough to convince anybody that the time has come to do away with every kind of engine of war, if possible. One dreads the idea that nations might have to fight each other by these means. The sentiment and the spectacular side of war is being wiped out, and probably that is all for 2237 the best. Although we have to maintain fighting services, one hopes that the time is not far distant when we shall be able to do away with the Army altogether.
Countess of IVEAGH
It might seem unusual for a woman to intervene in an Army Debate were it not for the fact that this is a general discussion on the activities of the War Office, which gives me my only opportunity of raising a matter which may seem small in regard to the whole activities of the Army and which may seem small to this House, but which is of very great moment to those whom I have the honour to represent. The right hon. Gentleman, in his Memorandum, mentions the great increase in the size and range of our heavy artillery. Of course, during the manufacture of those heavy pieces it becomes necessary for the guns to undergo tests, and those tests are carried out quite close to London. Shells are fired from a spot in Kent, right across the Thames estuary, to the other side of Essex, and they pass over the large and populous county borough of which I am the representative in this House. It is not necessary for me to expatiate on the effect of shells passing immediately overhead. Hon. and gallant Members will certainly understand what it is like when shells from 16-inch guns are passing overhead, and they will realise the cumulative effect, of that when it continues, as it does during these tests, for 10 or 12 hours.
The borough which I represent lies along the coast. It happens to be, I think, the largest provincial borough in the matter of population returning a single Member to this House. It lies along the coast to the extent of six miles and right along the whole of that radius these shells pass. The result is, and must necessarily be, considerable damage to the inhabitants of that very populous area not far from the Metropolis. The damage is of two kinds—damage to health and damage to property. I should like to mention, first, the damage to health as being certainly the more important. In that connection I would point out that some 20,000 of my constituents come up to London every day to work. Their chief reason for living at what is rather a considerable distance from their work is in the majority of cases that they have a member of their family who is not strong, who is delicate 2238 in some way, and has been recommended to live by the sea, on medical advice. It is a very great boon to people of small means, who earn their living in London, to be able to live at the seaside, in a health resort, and yet be able to follow their employment in the Metropolis.
This matter affects the whole population of London. It is largely the custom for doctors in London to recommend less wealthy patients who are in need of rest and a period of convalescence to go to Southend-on-Sea, where they can get, at a moderate cost and at no great distance from their homes in London, rest and air which, as I can vouch from my own experience, is second to none. A very large number of people depend on this borough as a health resort, and this heavy gunfire has a very deleterious effect. I hold in my hand a letter signed by 34 medical men practising in the borough. I will not trouble the House by reading the whole of it, but I should like to quote the concluding paragraph, which puts the case much stronger than anything I can say:Instances in which definite injury has resulted in such patients are within our experience, while ill-effects on children have been frequently brought to our notice. A continuance of the heavy gunfire from the Isle of Grain will, in our opinion, injuriously affect the reputation of the borough as a health resort and will cause serious hardship to numerous residents engaged in business in London who, for reasons of health, have been compelled to take up residence within the borough, but who in the interests of the health of themselves or of their families will he forced to leave should the heavy gunfire continue.Then there is the damage to property. That is of less moment, but it might easily, some day, result in loss of life and limb. It is not only a question of broken windows, but also of falling ceilings. These are cases which I have verified for myself; they are not exaggerated. In one case the ceiling of a house fell down lust as the people were leaving, and in another case the ceiling fell on a child's bed, fortunately unoccupied at the moment. This means a great deal in a borough where the inhabitants depend for a livelihood on letting their rooms to those who come for a holiday or for health. It is not very likely that visitors who have had this experience will wish to repeat it.
2239 I know, of course, that the testing of these guns is a national necessity. My right hon. Friend has assured me that it is difficult to find any other suitable locality for carrying it out, and I quite appreciate how convenient it must be to have a place for testing these guns so close to Woolwich, and how convenient it must be for the experts who have to go down to superintend to be able to go there with the smallest inconvenience and loss of time. I should like to ask him, however, whether it is not possible to deflect the firing so that it should not pass immediately over the town—I find, on inquiry, that the ill effects are not felt at a comparatively short distance from the town itself—or carry out experiments in sound deflection? I hope I shall not have to tell my unfortunate constituents that my right hon. Friend cannot hold out a crumb of comfort, or grain of hope, and that they must expect, as science and research will possibly produce even larger weapons of war, the damage from which they suffer to increase rather than diminish.
The Noble Lady is the first woman Member to join in a Debate on Army Estimates since I have been a Member of the House. I was hoping to hear from her the views of the wives and mothers of this country, protesting against a conclave, consisting mainly of ex-army officers, cheerfully proposing to spend £40,000,000 on preparing for the next war, when they cannot find as many pence for dealing with the social problems of the country. Instead of that she complained about the noise of gunfiring in Southend. I have great sympathy with the people of Southend in that matter, but in my opinion it would be a good thing if the Secretary of State for War would give instructions that other towns in England besides Southend should have the benefit of hearing our preparations for war. Shells are extremely unpleasant when going overhead, but they are even worse if they stop before they have gone overhead. It would be just as well if Woolwich and Oldham, and other industrial towns and health resorts, could appreciate the advantages for which they are paying something like 5s. 9d. in the pound in taxation. If the Financial Secretary could prevent Southend having this constant noise and enable other districts to share it, it might 2240 make the country a little more determined to spur on the Government to a more strenuous and active disarmament policy.
It is perfectly ridiculous and Gilbertian, all these years after the War, for us in this House to discuss enormous Estimates of this kind. I am not a pacifist at any price. I am not prepared to say that in no circumstances must men rise to defend themselves, their homes or their country. I can quite conceive circumstances which would justify the use of force. I am not expressing the point of view of those who say "Peace at any price"; that if a man hits you on one cheek you must turn to him the other cheek. I do not preach that doctrine. The Minister takes credit because the numbers of men actually serving have been reduced. He might do that, but we have to take into account the new conditions of modern warfare, and also the two other fighting services for which the House is responsible. Modern warfare does not need so much personnel. A comparative handful of men, invested with the most scientific modern weapons, can do much more damage than many hundreds and thousands of men a few years ago. It is possible, under modern conditions of warfare, to lay down a far greater aggressive frame for military operations within a comparatively limited expenditure, and it can be expanded into a great aggressive instrument at short notice. It is much easier to do that now than it was before.
I am not blaming the Secretary of State for War. I blame this House which forces him by the policy it pursues to provide a greater military aggressive weapon than we have ever had before in our history. If there was the slightest sign of our having to fight for anything worth fighting for, I should not oppose it, but there is not a Member of this House, looking with a spy-glass all over the world and examining most minutely every diplomatic negotiation, who can point out any enemies whom we are likely to be called upon to fight in this generation. The Chief Whip of the Liberal party, even in the fire-eating mood with which he preached the principles of retrenchment, goodwill and reform, could only talk about little wars. As I listened to him I quite understood his indignation at the suggestion that he was engaged in a pact with the party opposite. I can 2241 see no reason why the party opposite should oppose him. His speech was certainly more militaristic than anything from the Government Benches, and he has just cause at being angry with us for suggesting that there has been a pact.
We are not only voting away this enormous sum of money for an instrument which we are not going to use on anybody—everyone is agreed upon that—but we do not even use the Army, the great and efficient internal organisation of the Army, for the purposes of the country. I notice that one eighth of this £40,000,000 is for miscellaneous items, supplies, road transport, and remount services, and as I went through the items I was struck with the enormous amount of service which could be rendered to the community by these military resources. An hon. Member who spoke has warned the Government to be careful how they spend large sums of money in new forms of mechanical transport and appliances in view of the fact that these are constantly changing. It would be much better if we could use all these trained engineers and drivers, and all this mechanical transport, for the service of the country. In the summer apples rot and fall to the ground. Some are eaten by wasps and bees, but in every town there are little children who need food and who cannot get apples because they are too dear. Farmers cannot get them to the towns because the cost of transport is so high. If we must spend £40,000,000 on the Army why not use the transport services of the Army to bring that food into the towns and give it to the women and children who want it? I commend that suggestion to hon. Members opposite who are anxious to popularise the Army.
I want to raise one or two small administrative points. The first is the question of taking boys into the Army. This is sometimes done in a wholly unsatisfactory way. I doubt whether a single Member of the House could say that he has not had at least one case brought to his notice of a boy under age who has been taken into the Army without his parents' consent under what appear to be extraordinarily peculiar circumstances. I and my colleagues on these benches have come across a large number of these cases. I am afraid that the War Office is not above suspicion in the matter, because it will not adopt the only safe- 2242 guard that is possible. That safeguard is that, in cases in which there is the slightest doubt about a boy's age, he must bring the written consent of his parents to his joining the Army. It is all very well to say that we must get recruits to maintain the personnel of the Army. I would like any hon. Member to visualise a boy of his own who has run away to join the Army, and has been accepted although under age. That hon. Member would be faced with every kind of red tape and considerable expense in trying to get the boy out of the Army. The Financial Secretary knows as well as I do that sometimes, even when we can convince the War Office that a boy ought to come out, there is delay and difficulty before we succeed in getting him out. We should have more confidence in the bona fides of the War Office if the War Office would say definitely that it would not accept boys unless they had the sanction of their parents. Compliance with that request could be granted without imperilling the Empire. We do not depend on the kidnapping of boys in order to save the country.
Then there is the question of the circumstances in which serving men are invalided out of the Army. I have had the cases of men with a number of years' experience who were making the Army a career. They were beginning to make their way upwards, when they were discharged on medical grounds without adequate reason. The two cases I have in mind are of men who served overseas. When they came back to England the civilian doctors declared that the illness for which they were discharged did not exist. The Financial Secretary may remember that I saw him about one of these cases, and he was very considerate. It was the case of a man who had given many years to the Army, was told he was suffering from tuberculosis, and was discharged. He was examined at home by all sorts of specialists, who said that ha had not a vestige of tuberculosis. The man then tried to get back into the Army, but the Army would not have him. I wrote to the Financial Secretary and he sympathised with the position of the man but he could not do anything because there was no proper court of appeal. A lot of kind things are said about Army doctors. I daresay they are true. My own experience was at an 2243 abnormal time of rush, and I may have been prejudiced. But at the same time, however adequate the average Army doctor may be as a general practitioner, he is not the ultimate authority when it comes to dealing with the question of a serious and deep-rooted disease.
Even worse things happen quite frequently when men are discharged. I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) who asked in this House what was the number of men, discharged for tuberculosis, who got a pension. I am sorry that I do not remember the exact figures, but I know that I was impressed at the time with the very small number of those who, having been discharged because they had tuberculosis, got no pension. The Minister, in his reply, said that the trouble was that most of these men had the roots of tuberculosis within them before they joined the Army, and that the disease was not due to their Army service. What is the position? A man goes into the Army. He spends seven or eight years serving, a medical board having declared him "fit." He serves overseas, and conies home with tuberculosis, and the disease is said not to be due to his Army service. That man has no appeal. We are always being led to believe that the senior service is the strict and the rigid service, and that the Army is much more lenient. The Admiralty have given way on this point, and have agreed that these men shall have the right of independent appeal and adjudication. When the citadel of the Board of Admiralty has fallen, surely it is not beneath the dignity of the Secretary of State for War to do justice in these cases. It is not fair that men whose careers are ruined by illness should be dismissed from the Army without pensions and without any independent appeal.
Another matter that I want to raise relates to the using of soldiers for work outside their military duties. Members on both sides of the House must have been considerably concerned the other day at the extraordinary answers that were given by the Secretary of State in reply to questions about serving soldiers being used in London theatres. In one West End theatre—unfortunately, the production had not the run that its promoters anticipated—a considerable num- 2244 ber of serving soldiers were apparently to be employed every night, and at that time a long run was anticipated. We were told by the Secretary of State that, provided the work did not interfere with military duties, these men were free to take on any engagement they liked, and that the question of remuneration or anything of that sort had nothing to do with the War Office or with the men's commanding officer. That was an extraordinary statement to make, and the Secretary for War hastened to limit it. He was asked whether serving soldiers could take on any occupation that they liked, and he replied: 'Oh, no, certain occupations would not be allowed," although less than a minute before he had told the Rouse that he did not even know these men were being employed and that their commanding officers did not know, and so on. I should think that hon. Members opposite would view with great alarm some occupations, which I need not specify here, but which they can imagine if they have in their minds what is said by papers that deal with what is called the Red Peril. On our side those particular things do not cause alarm, but I am alarmed at the prospect of men who are supposed to be serving being released from all kind of guard duties and night duties, and being free to go off in the morning for rehearsals, and in the evening to play their parts, and at the same time being part of the Army, and drawing Army pay. It seems to me to be an improper interference with civilian labour and that if soldiers can be spared to do this kind of work, they can be transferred to the Reserve and spared altogether from being a burden on the taxpayers of the country.
I am sorry to have detained the House so long. I ask the House to make it clear to the Government that these inflated and ridiculous Estimates have to be stopped, and that the spending of £40,000,000 of money in order to arm against somebody that we do not know, is bad business. It is not tranquillity, it is not business government, and it is not common sense. It is wastefulness, it is extravagance, it is squandermania and it is ridiculous, and, what is mere serious, it is a very grave danger to the peace of this country and of the world.
§ Major GLYN
The House must have listened with a certain amount of sur- 2245 prise to the speech of the last speaker. I was reminded of the fact that very often the speeches that he delivers in the country do not congratulate the Government on their foreign policy in the way that indirectly he has congratulated the Government to-day. If his speech meant anything it meant that the Army is not necessary, because the foreign policy of the Government has been so successful and there are no war clouds at all.
§ Major GLYN
I trust that no Member of this House says on public platforms what he would not say in this House, because if we speak at all we ought all to speak the truth whether inside or outside the House. I do not follow the hon. Member's explanation. The hon. Member also seemed to think that the expenditure of the War Office is excessive, and he used a great many adjectives to show that it is ridiculous and bad for the taxpayer. Surely it is time that we understood one thing—that we ought to consider defence as a whole, the three Services together, somehow or other; and also that we must consider that it is not for us to blame those who have to frame the Estimates when they put forward what they consider necessary. Estimates are framed in accordance with the policy of the Government. If this country, through the League of Nations or any other organisation, accepts foreign liabilities which in certain circumstances would involve our participating in hostilities, in our doing something to check a wrong-doer among the nations, what is the use of our promise to come to the assistance of any country if we have not the wherewithal to carry out that promise? It seems to me that either we ought to recognise that we have no business at all to pledge ourselves by Locarno Pacts or anything else to do certain things, or else we ought to say that we believe so tremendously in peace that we will have no defence at all. I do not believe in that, and I do not think there is a single hon. Member who believes in it.
We all remember what happened in this House in 1914. It was then that those gentlemen who had been so sure that we were wrong to have any armaments 2246 at all made themselves very scarce, and the country recognised that the policy which, while not wanting war at all, yet saw to it that we had adequate means of defence, was indeed the only policy which any great nation could pursue. The statement of the Secretary of State for War is satisfactory. I do not think we can expect, during this period of evolution, to have a satisfactory armed land force at a cheaper price. There is, if I may say so with great respect, an unfortunate habit growing up for the responsible Minister in the Cabinet to be absent from the House when the Estimates are being discussed. It is only on one day of the year that these Estimates come up. It is the only chance we have and yet, for instance, the speech made just now by the Noble Lady the Member for Southend (Countess of Iveagh) was missed by the right hon. Gentleman—although I am sure it will be conveyed to him by the Financial Secretary to the War Office. But some of us feel that, while this question of defence may not be popular to-day, we have a right to ask that the responsible Cabinet Minister should make it convenient to be in the House. That was always the custom, as far as I know, in previous Parliaments.
There is one matter which I wish to emphasise in regard to vocational training. We all regret the absence of the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the War Office during the period of office of the Socialist Government. We are sorry for the reason of his absence, and hope he will soon be restored to health. He was one of the most able and popular Secretaries of State the War Office has ever known—I think that fact ought to be known up and down the country—and he was most ably supported by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). It is right to point out that it was through the policy of that party when in office that the Catterick scheme was started. The Catterick scheme was successfully initiated then and recently it has been moved to Chisledon. May I say how delighted I am to see the Secretary of State for War again in his place, because I am going to say something which I should hate to say behind his back, but which I am sure he will not mind my saying before his face. I believe that the vocational training which 2247 has been pushed forward by successive Governments has in it the germs of something great and good for the Army. The right hon. Gentleman has said that our Army is small and that we must have the very best type of men that we can get. If we are to get good mechanics, good engineers and men who will make the Army what it ought to be, namely, the most scientific force that any country could possess, we must give them not only good conditions and good pay while they are in the Army, but we must do everything we can to see that they have prospects when they leave the Army. That is the very least for which one can ask.
The training centre at Chisledon happens to lie close to where I live, in my constituency. I have had the opportunity of seeting it on several occasions, and I hope that before it is too late the Secretary of State himself will find time to visit it. It is, in my opinion, the best organisation which exists in the Army to-day, and it has achieved increased notoriety by reason of the fact that the British Legion have sent there 40 families who are receiving training of the most admirable kind. I have visited various training centres in this country under the Ministry of Labour and other organisations, and I say, without hesitation, that the Chisledon scheme of training is infinitely superior to anything else I have seen. That is largely due to the energies of the very wonderful individual who is in charge of it. If he could be repeated one hundred fold up and down this country and bring his powers of organisation to bear, we should soon find it possible to attract into these training centres families who are suffering terribly by reason of trade depression and give them such preparation as would make them almost certain to succeed overseas.
I was lucky enough to be at Chisledon on the day after these 40 families arrived there. I have never seen men and their wives and families in such a terrible state. They came from every part of the country. The children had not had enough food, and the men themselves had not enjoyed a decent square meal of meat for a very long time. Nobody who saw them could fail to be impressed. I cannot help agreeing with an hon. Member who has spoken on the Opposition side that the recruiting returns this year 2248 constitute a terrible condemnation of the social conditions in this country. If that be so, is it not all the more reason to utilise this wonderful experiment at Chisledon, organised by the Army, and make it an example and a pattern that might be followed elsewhere? This, I have no doubt, would be the wish of hon. Gentlemen opposite and hon. Members of every party, and if on some other occasion, instead of a visit to the tanks on Salisbury Plain—interesting as they were—the right hon. Gentleman would organise a party from this House to visit Chisledon, we should have an opportunity of seeing a very important side of Army administration and appreciating the wonderful work that has been done in connection with this branch of the War Office's activities.
There is one point on which I am afraid one must speak in a rather critical manner. If we are going to take men into the Army and if we are, towards the end of their service, going to encourage them to go overseas and settle down; if we are going to have men and their families trained under the auspices of this organisation at Chisledon, and the British Legion, then they must have a fair deal. I am satisfied that the War Office intend them to have a square deal, but I draw attention to a matter of serious concern about which I have heard something from one of these men. In the White Paper circulated by the Secretary of State, it is said that the policy of Chisledon is to settle men and their families on farms. When this scheme was originated at Catterick. Australia was open for colonisation and settlement. We have here an example of watertight methods of government to-day. The War Office have this splendid scheme, but what is being done by the Oversea Settlement Committee and the Dominions Office? It seems to me that the whole object of such a training centre is to have continuity. By the grace of Providence the British Empire is such that the most suitable time to send men to Canada is April, and the most suitable time to send men to Australia is the autumn. Therefore it is no use having a centre only able to work for six months—which is the period of time in which these men and their families receive training. We should, after the Canadian contingent have gone, be able to open up Australia so that the next batch could 2249 go to Australia, and we should be able to give them equal chances in each Dominion.
Since 1926 not a single family has gone to Australia. The Western Australian group settlement scheme has been closed down. The reasons have never been fully explained to the House by the Secretary of State for the Dominions, but those of us who try to keep in touch with these matters know that there has been some difference of opinion between the Western Australian State Government, and the Government of the Prime Minister of Australia. In Canada the position is still more complicated. There, the Canadian Government in Ottawa say that they have sovereign powers over some of the provincial governments and they have taken over complete charge of the settlement of persons in the prairie provinces. In the paper entitled "Memorandum on the 'Service Families Scheme' for Migration to Canada in the Spring of 1929," which is issued by the War Office, dated May, 1928, is the following sentence:The underlying object of the Dominion Authorities is to place each family on a farm selected for its suitability as offering the best prospects of the early success of the family.It goes on to say:The main consideration of the Dominion Authorities in allotting farms is the prospect of success of each family.These are admirable sentiments and they are in accordance with the War Office's wish. But what happened? A representative of the Government of Canada went to Chisledon and made known to the men who were going out facts in regard to the classification of farms for British settlement in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Having described the acreage, situation, buildings, etc., he went on to say:Owing to poor methods of cultivation, many of these farms have become greatly infested with the more serious noxious weeds such as sow thistle, wild oats, couch grass, etc. Under such conditions the growing of profitable grain crops is not possible until the land has been restored to a reasonably proper state of tillage. In other cases the soil has been overcropped, and the same condition applies. Restoration of the land must take place through manuring or raising crops such as sweet clover, alfalfa, etc.When we have a scheme such as we have at Chisledon, we should see to it that these men are settled on farms where 2250 they can make farming a success. They must not be farms such as other people in Canada will not touch. We have a direct responsibility in this matter and the War Office, when its attention has been called to these points, ought to make itself responsible with the Canadian Government and see that the farms, to which these families go in Canada, are suitable in every way. We should also, through the Dominion Office, take such steps as will enable land in Western Australia or other parts of Australia to be opened up for these people. I was in the Army for some years and I do not believe that the House of Commons is the place in which to, discuss technicalities which are far better known to the General Staff then to us. It is for us to say that we vote the money and that we can criticise anything that is wrong, but the matter to which I have just referred is in a different category. The War Office is the War Office and we are all aware that it cannot be like a "jack of all trades." Therefore, a scheme of this kind is our responsibility. We in the House of Commons ought to see that the proper Government Department makes such a scheme a success.
I feel acutely about this matter, having seen what the British Legion can do in Canada and are doing here. I believe we have here something of which, if we nurse it, if we cultivate the proper spirit and co-operate in every way, we can make a huge success. The members of the British Legion in Canada and Australia, tell one how much they will do for ex-service men and for service men's families. Here is a means of making these people useful and happy citizens when they go abroad. I ask hon. Members not to allow any blunder to wreck the scheme. Do not let us have men going out there and becoming depressed and disappointed and creating the impression that the whole thing is a failure. I know, and hon. Members opposite who follow the question of vocational training know, that the Oversea. Settlement Committee is not a success as it works to-day. Government interference has been bad in many respects in all the Dominions, but we can do a lot to develop the schemes by linking up the ex-service men through the British Legion and by giving the War Office all 2251 the support we can in this House. We can encourage these schemes, feeling, not only that it is good for the Army to do so, but that it is doing something to repay the obligation which we owe to a great many families, who are in distress through no fault of their own, and only want to be settled down properly in order to make good overseas.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I do not propose to detain the House with any detailed criticism of these Estimates, but I feel it my duty, especially as these are the last Army Estimates in this Parliament, emphatically to put the Communist party's viewpoint on the subject of the Army. I readily accept that, as the world is situated, however much we may deplore and regret the fact, force and violence seem to play an inevitable part in human life on many occasions. I am not submitting the viewpoint, which hon. Members opposite sometimes seem to take, that we want to leave this country defenceless. The point which I wish to submit, quite seriously, is this, that here you are spending £40,000,000 in order to create an instrument of evil, not of defence. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. J. Beckett) and other hon. Members on this side—and this is amply proved by the history of the last 100 years and more—there has not been a nation in this world during the last 120 years which has landed a battalion or even a band of 12 armed men on these islands to attack the people of this country, but during the same period there is scarcely a country in the world which the Army of Great Britain has not attacked and invaded and in which the Army of Great Britain has not murdered innocent men, women, and children in the case of African tribes, Indians, Chinamen, Burmans, Malaccans, Persians, Afghans who have not the remotest chance of coming here to attack the people of this country, a British Army has been sent out into those countries to murder their innocent people in their own countries. This is the Army that we are creating and keeping up.
I go further, and I emphatically declare that there is no need of national defence. I will give the example of small countries like Switzerland, or even like Albania. Those countries, without keeping armies 2252 to invade other people's countries, the world has left quite alone and independent, and there is no reason why the people of Great Britain should be attacked if they did not keep on attacking other people. At the same time, I am practically certain that, while there is no need of national defence, there is a great and growing need of class defence. Here are the people in this country, by the millions, extorted once a week by a fellow knocking at the door calling himself a landlord's agent and asking them for what he calls rent.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I submit that, if I had to organise an army for the defence of the people of this country, I would organise an army to see that every landlord's agent was taken care of and kept away from the doors of the people.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I admit that, in the present mentality of this House, it looks so, but I consider that the Army is needed to defend the blackmailed population from the extortions of the landlords. Here are a million and a half persons, with their families, making many millions, who are simply, by force of law or by force of arms, put out of their right to work, and the Army of Great Britain is unable to defend those millions of human beings from the starvation which is created by the capitalist employers. We do need an army, but that army should be a workers' army while the world's cruel needs remain, in order to defend the workers against the rapacious demands and the oppression of the landlords, the employers, and the other tyrannical blackmailers. Here we see continually, every Saturday afternoon, on market day, the women, the white women. If they were attacked by Afghans or Persians, you would send a battalion to punish them, yet here we have millions of white women robbed by profiteers and shopkeepers and merchants week after week.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I am making my point that the world is perhaps not so 2253 advanced as not to need an army for defence, but that in Great Britain the Army is never used for the defence of the people who suffer by the million, but it is always used as an instrument for murdering the people of other countries, to go and murder abroad, and I submit that, from this point of view, we have reached the stage when national armies are not required for national and international wars, but that, in the transitional period before complete peace, an army, if required at all, is required internally, as a workers' army, in defence of the suffering workers against the rapacious class that imposes upon them.
§ Lord APSLEY
When the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) organises his army, I hope he will lend me some of them to defend myself against the tax collector, whose extortions are infinitely worse than those of the landlord. There are two items on these Estimates upon which I would like to comment. The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) commented on one, and that was the Estimate for the expenses and salaries of the War Office, which shows an increase of £8,000 this year. The sum, it is true, is a small one, but at a period when practically all the Departments are showing increases in administration costs, I think the public would be glad if the Financial Secretary would tell us in what respect this small increase has been caused. The other sum is one of £141,000 for general stores. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) mentioned this question of stores, and I think the House would be very glad of an opportunity to debate it some day, from the point of view of the possibility of getting greater co-ordination in buying stores between the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. Perhaps next year, when the same right hon. Gentleman may be speaking on these Estimates, he will be able to show that on this item there is no longer an increase, but a very considerable decrease, due to the co-operation with the Army of the Navy and the Air Force in buying those materials which, after all, they often use in common, thus getting a very much cheaper contract and saving considerably in the expenses of administration.
2254 The House feels great sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in his difficulties in showing economies every year, as he is requested to do, and at the same time, during this very difficult transition period—periods which, by the way, occur after every War—in showing no decrease in the efficiency of the Army; and I think they may rightly congratulate him in that no great decrease in efficiency has occurred. All the same, I think I must mention that there are opinions at variance with some of those which we generally hear. I have heard the opinion indeed expressed that, owing to our anxiety to think for the future and to experiment for that future, the actual present condition of the Army is such that, were we now to be engaged in operations with our Expeditionary Force against a mobile enemy, well equipped with aircraft, with large numbers of mounted troops able to operate without being tied by their communications, and equipped with mechanical artillery, out own forces as now constituted, would find themselves pinned to their objectives and possibly immobilised—as indeed General Chetwode's Force was on manoeuvres the year before last—and then possibly put on the defensive and even surrounded and gradually mopped up. That is an opinion, and the reason is that, in spite of the increased mobility given by our mechanical forces and the mechanisation of all forces, the Army, as at present constituted, is losing very greatly its offensive power.
I would ask permission to mention one or two reasons for that opinion. At this time last year the Secretary of State for War mentioned the question of automatic rifles, and he told us that experiments were being made with one. I understand that the American Army is almost entirely, or very largely, equipped at the present time with a highly efficient automatic, rifle which they have found satisfactory for both infantry and cavalry. I believe that weapons of a similar nature were tried over here, but that when they went down to Hythe—this is according to my reports, and I shall be glad if my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—it was found that the bore was different, and Hythe immediately attempted to put our own 303 bore barrel on to the automatic rifle, with the result that the rifle proved useless owing 2255 to getting too heated. I quite understand the reasons that made them do that, but it is a curious repetition of history. The rifle came into use during the Peninsula War, and yet in the Crimean War, 50 years later, the infantry of the line was still using the old Brown Bess, and almost entirely owing to the fact that the rifle used a different bore and different ammunition. I think it is a possibility that we have got to face the fact that the 303 rifle, which was, in the opinion of many, obsolescent during the late War, is now altogether obsolete.
During the late War the cavalry were using the Hotchkiss gun and the sword almost entirely, instead of the rifle, and hardly fired a shot with the rifle in Palestine towards the end of the campaign. In France the machine guns and bombs were equally taking the place of the rifle. With an efficient automatic rifle in view, even though it may be with a smaller bore supplied first to the Rifle Brigade, then the cavalry, and then the light infantry, it is possible that we shall be able gradually to replace the present 303 rifle altogether. In regard to machine guns, as the right hon. Gentle man mentioned last year, the Tank Corps has evolved a species of light tank called by some "the Tankette," which was to do the reconnaissance duties for the armoured force and possibly replace altogether the use of the horse. When this was tried in the manoeuvres last year, they found that they could not replace the horse at the present moment for reconnaissance duties and intercommunication in tactical operations; but, at the same time, they found that this small, light, armoured tank was most useful in supporting troops on reconnaissance duties, for which it was converted into an armoured machine gun carrier, and proved most useful. Now I gather that all arms are beginning to want this armoured machine gun carrier, both infantry and cavalry. They find in it an excellent means of carrying their machine guns into action, being able actually to fire, having protection so that they can use direct fire, even in open country.
It is going to raise a difficult question whether this carrier is to become an Army weapon for all arms or for the Tank Corps only. At the same time, it 2256 raises this further difficulty. At the beginning of the War, the machine gun was a regimental weapon; there were, it is true, only two per regiment. During the War they were brigaded, and later the Machine Gun Corps was formed in order to supply the machine gun units with officers, men and material. This was not done without reason. It is difficult enough in peace to train and maintain machine gun companies and squadrons in each unit, but in war it is almost impossible. Apart from the tactical reasons that caused machine guns to be better handled by the Brigadier, it was found impossible to replace officer and men casualties with trained officers and men in the rush of battle conditions from the regimental organisation. That is the reason why the machine guns were put in the hands of the Brigadier, and personnel and material found by the Machine Gun Corps. Would it not be better to employ a similar organisation, or, better still, to put all formations using Vickers guns under the Tank Corps. These armoured machine gun carriers would thus be a brigade unit with one regiment per brigade administered by the Tank Corps and manned and officered by the Tank Corps.
Then arises the question of the offensive power of the cavalry. The establishment of the cavalry brigade at the present moment, I gather, is two cavalry regiments and one armoured car regiment, and the establishment of each cavalry regiment is two sabre squadrons and one machine gun squadron, making only four mounted sabre squadrons to the brigade. Does that give very much offensive power in the cavalry brigade? It must be remembered that in countries consisting of forests, mountains, bogs, stones or, for any length of time, mud plains or heavy sands, no wheeled vehicles could accompany the cavalry. General Buffin's corps in its attack on Jerusalem was not able to avail itself of any wheeled transport and only one pack battery. The advance of the Fifth Cavalry Division on Aleppo was made without any wheeled transport whatever. Mounted troops are always faced with this possibility and these conditions. Only mounted troops can operate in countries like that—that is what they are for—yet if they are to have only foul squadrons per brigade, they will find all 2257 their machine gun squadrons being left behind, and they will be left with only four possibly weak squadrons to do operations for which you would expect them to have at least 12. In my opinion, the cavalry regiment should consist of four strong squadrons, and they should be backed up by mounted reserves at home, perhaps utilising the Yeomanry and Territorial organisations. There should be one machine gun regiment per brigade and one armoured car squadron. One squadron should be sufficient seeing that armoured cars are largely used for strategic reconnaissance purposes. In addition, there should be one self-propelled battery, of which we have not heard much lately.
In that way the offensive power that cavalry ought to have would be maintained, and they would be able to act at once when required. At the present moment, I believe we should have to wait until the Australians could come; they have kept their mobility as they did during the War. They had troops of 40 men, and were not so much tied by convention as our regular cavalry are, I am afraid, apt to become. Their methods were simple, their objectives were also simple, and their language was plainer, too! It they could not get their objective, they cleared off and did something else instead! After all, what is the use of a mobile army unless it has mobility? It has not only to get there, but it has to get there first. If the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) and the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Beckett) went to Mexico carrying each a large gun on his hip which they were apt to brandish at any moment, and yet which it was plain for anybody to see that they were not loaded, what would be the result? They would certainly get shot! It would be better for them to go entirely unarmed. Then they would not get shot; they would merely get robbed. If you have any form of protection, you must make it clear that you know how to use it. The important factor of a mobile army of any sort is that it must be ready to move.
I will give an example, which may have had a great influence in the later war. By the end of August, 1914, the first and second mounted divisions of yeomanry were fit to go abroad. The men and horses were of a fine type, and 2258 the recruits consisted mostly of old soldiers or young men who had been through an officers' training corps. They had had over four weeks' training. It is true that they were messed about to some extent on the East Coast instead of doing intensive training, such as was given later on with men of very much less capacity, but they were ready to take to the field, and if these two divisions had had equipment with which they could have taken the field, undoubtedly they would have been sent to France. At that moment, if two mounted divisions could have been placed on the flank of von Kluck just at the time when the Germans had shot their bolt, it would have exercised considerable influence on the whole conduct of the War, and have prevented the stagnation of trench warfare which took place immediately afterwards. The reason the mounted divisions were not sent out was that they were not properly equipped. They had been neglected before the War; they were only Territorials and had to take what they could be given. The saddles were of an ancient pattern which would have given every horse a sore back; the rifles were of an obsolete pattern; and they had practically no transport, and it was considered that they would be immobile and that it was not safe to send them out. It is a dangerous thing for a mobile force to be immobile, and yet the same applies to the yeomanry to-day. Take those units which are armoured car units. If they are to be armoured car units, they should be able to move now, and not have to wait until cars are manufactured. It is surely not an economy to keep the ancient cars, which in-petrol and repairs cost a considerable amount. It would be better to buy second-hand Rolls chassis and fit them with armoured bodies so that these units could take the field at once when required.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the armoured force and the experiments which were carried out last year, some of which Members of the House had pleasure in witnessing with great interest. This year, I gather, they are to be confined to operations with other troops, about which I am glad; I do not believe, however, that these experiments with armoured forces are much use in country 2259 such as Salisbury Plain, which we are not likely to meet in many parts of the world. Further, it is country they all know by heart now. It was very well in the early days when we wanted to create enthusiasm- for the new mechanised arm to have these set pieces that could be played off in front of King Amanullah or the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer or other people interested, but if you are to get real training value out of operations, the War Office should go to places like Devonshire or Yorkshire where the country is rough and broken and not known to the troops, so that each unit would have to have its own reconnaissance. Then there would be real value in the reconnaissance and communication experiments of the armoured force. I hope that there will be some possibility of doing that, though I know financial considerations make it difficult.
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
I cannot follow the Noble Lord in the detailed examination which he has made, but I would like to say a word about the astonishing example which he gave when dealing with the use of the cavalry and wheeled transport. He thought first of the town of Jerusalem as a place from which he could draw conclusions on the question which we are discussing. He must have had the Old Testament dispensation in mind, and how he could bring in Jerusalem in the matters which we are discussing almost passes comprehension. I am sure that the other parts of his speech were better founded; I do not understand them as he does, and I must leave them to him and the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to refer to the question raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) and the question of education in the Army. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has understood what I had in mind when he was speaking. From what the right hon. Gentleman says, it appears that the Army are aiming to secure two things. They are trying to get from the mass in the Army a standard of education which is equal at the end to an elementary school training, and then for a few, but only for a few, they aim to secure further training that would take them to the matriculation level. When 64 per cent. of the applicants for recruit- 2260 went are excluded and when a specially selected body of youths is going into the Army, whom it can be assumed will retain a considerable amount of the education that they have already received in elementary schools, I cannot understand why the Army should be satisfied with the standard of education for the mass of the soldiers of just elementary school level.
The training facilities and the higher cultural work that is being done with some of the soldiers should be extended so as to affect other men in the Army. All soldiers, from the point of view of full training, should be enabled to have at least the education standard which is aimed at in the secondary schools, unless of course, you want to keep the soldiers as mere takers of orders, as men with in initiative who are always to be looked upon as in some inferior position. I also agree with the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon, especially with regard to the relationships of the Army and its soldiers with Canada, that greater care should be taken to get men on to decent farms where there would be a decent opportunuity for them. In the long run, probably, this question can only be dealt with as part of the wider question of migration as a whole. I had the privilege, as I stated when we discussed the general question of migration, of seeing what happened in Canada. I heard of extremely satisfactory results having been obtained in cases where soldiers since the War and in connection with the settlement scheme had gone on to Canadian farms. But it is true that there are many cases where soldiers have gone on to land of an extremely unsatisfactory character and where there has not been anything like effective arrangements made beforehand; and I submit that the Army should turn some of its energy and expenditure in the future to getting better arrangements with the Canadian Government, so that those who go on to the land should have a better chance.
I want to say that in spite of the fact that a case has been made out by the right hon. Gentleman that we are spending continuously less during these last five years on the Army as a whole, his speech went to prove that the Army is a more efficient instrument for war than 2261 ever it was. The Army is part of a general military scheme in which also the Air Force and the Navy play their part, and it is of no use trying to make us believe that a step is being taken towards disarmament because there have been certain reductions in the Estimates; it is no use trying to make us believe that that is any practical contribution towards disarmament. If you sign a Kellogg Pact and publish to the world in Article I that the high contracting parties, including yourself, solemnly declare in the names of their respective countries that they will renounce war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations one with another, if you do that it is impossible to go on as you are doing to-day keeping up an Army, not merely for the purpose of defence, but for the purpose ultimately of war abroad. It is not possible to make speeches of that sort logically and pretend that you attach any value to the Kellogg Pact to which you have now put your signature. If we are to be regarded as acting with sincerity in regard to peace and disarmament, and if we are to expect nations to attach that importance to our word which we would like them to attach to it, then we must do mare with the Army in the matter of reduction.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr Duff Cooper)
I will now reply to some of the questions raised in the course of the Debate, but I do not propose to deal with the question which has just been raised by the last speaker, namely, that of disarmament. That will be dealt with later on in the Debate. I propose now to reply to some of the more technical questions arising out of the discussion on the Estimates. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who contributed an interesting speech to the Debate, criticised the increase in our Estimates in comparison with those offered to the House in 1914, but, when putting forward that criticism, he did not allow for the diminished purchasing power of the pound. If that is taken into consideration, then, so far from there being an increase, a decrease will he found to have occurred. There is a difficulty in obtaining an authoritative opinion as to the exact amount of that 2262 decrease, but it would be a fair estimate to say that it is two-thirds of what it was in 1914, and on that basis we find we are now spending 11 per cent. less in spite of the rise in wages and rise in pay, and in spite of the necessarily increased expenditure owing to mechanisation. He referred also to the continual increase in expenditure on the non-effective services, and correctly stated that last year I held out a hope that we were approaching the peak line. We are still approaching it, but we have not yet reached it. It is a matter over which we have really no control. We have obligations which we cannot get out of, and they will perhaps still increase for a short period" but ultimately they will inevitably decrease.
He also referred to the question of the deduction which is demanded from those men who go in for training at Chisledon. I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) for the tribute he paid to the admirable work performed there by Colonel Stibart. There is, of course, a great difficulty after you have trained people for work on the land in finding proper land on which to put them in our Dominions. That, however, does not primarily affect the War Office, our business being to train the men, although it is incumbent on us to do what we cart to find a suitable opportunity for them overseas. In this respect, we are doing what we can, and already we have been fairly successful. We will take note of the suggestion put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon and others who have spoken and will endeavour to improve the machinery whereby this Department and the Overseas Department and the Dominion Office work together in order to find those outlets for the men which are necessary after they leave Chisledon.
With regard to what the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street said about the 7s. 6d. per week being a large sum to ask these men who are undergoing training to pay, I would point out that the object of the charge is to make sure that those who take advantage of this training centre have a real intention of being trained and are not merely using it in the last few months of their time in the Army as a pleasant place in which to live away from the ordinary duties and discipline 2263 to which they would otherwise be subject. We do not want them to waste their time, and we look upon this payment as a kind of guarantee that they are serious in the matter of going through with the training and that they intend to make the best of it. It does not discourage them as the hon. Member seems to suggest, for we have no difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of recruits for the training centre. By the method adopted, we think that we are getting the best men who are likely to take full advantage of the facilities offered to them.
The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) and the Noble Lord the Member for Southampton (Lord Apsley) also referred to the increase in expenditure in the War Office. The actual staff at the War Office has been reduced by a small number, and the increased expenditure has been largely due to the institution of a new section which has been set up with the intention of studying new methods of production on mobilisation and possibility of simplification and acceleration. This new service is partly responsible for the extra £8,000 which is demanded this year, and I believe that it will result in economy and will therefore justify itself. The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose also asked a question with regard to the mobile workshops. This question has been under consideration in detail for the last six months, and a complete scheme has been evolved.
§ Mr. COOPER
Yes, it will be considered by the War Office this summer, and it will be tested at divisional training. The proposed organisation covers all the cost of repair in the field and the provision of spare parts. He asked also about the compassionate grant. That grant is generously distributed. The particular case to which he referred was, I understand, that of a man who had been injured while playing football abroad and who had come hack in the normal course of events, and he asked if he would receive a grant and be treated as a man who had received injuries in the carrying out of his ordinary duties.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
As a matter of fact, the man died as the result of injuries to his leg while playing football.
§ Mr. COOPER
I do not know what treatment he or his widow received, and I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend knows that; but in the ordinary course of events he would be treated as a man who had been injured while carrying out his duties. The hon. and gallant Member put forward an interesting suggestion with regard to the necessity for bringing the Territorial Army and the Regular Army closer together. We are always conscious of that necessity and fully alive to it, and we do all we can to promote that end. The hon. and gallant Member suggested that we should build more barracks in large centres of population. The difficulty about that is the old difficulty of who is going to pay. If you build barracks in a densely-populated area, not only do you have to pay very much more for the land than if it were in the country, but the position is far less satisfactory from the point of view of the training of the troops, because obviously it is more difficult to obtain the necessary space for that purpose. Therefore, while I entirely sympathise with the hon. and gallant Member's desire, I do not think that particular proposal is really practical.
§ Mr. COOPER
The same argument would apply in that case, because the nearer the barracks were the more ex, pensive they would prove. Then the hon. and gallant Member asked about the Officers' Training Corps, and whether they were fulfilling their functions. He will see on Page 63 of the Estimates a full account of the number of officers both of the Regular Army and the Territorial Army drawn from the Officers Training Corps, and I think he will regard the figures there given as extremely satisfactory. Regarding another matter which he raised, as to recruiting, he asked how the inflow and outflow balance. I can say they are now practically normal. They were not normal a year ago, but now we can say they are practically normal and the position is satisfactory. He asked, again, what reserve there was behind the Territorials. There is a reserve of ex-Territorial officers, but behind that, of course, there is no further reserve, and, so far as I am aware, there never has been.
2265 The hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) asked a great many questions which are extremely difficult to answer. He asked why there were not more young officers. That question has been largely dealt with by the Secretary of State in his opening speech. He asked why older officers would not retire earlier in order to make room for younger ones? He had better put that question to the officers themselves. He also suggested, or seemed to suggest, that young men when joining the Army never had the idea of marriage present to their minds, arid that, therefore, we were wasting time and money in encouraging them to marry by giving them an allowance if they did so when over the age of 30. He seemed rather to suggest that they ought to be penalised because they would make less efficient officers. I do not think the adoption of his suggestion would advance the cause which I know he has so much at heart, or that it would stimulate the recruiting of more officers if we were to inform them on joining the Army they would have to put marriage out of their thoughts, and that if they did marry it would be treated as an offence. He also asked a question, which was not at all a new one, with regard to mechanisation, saying how could we ever be sure that when we adopted a new invention for use in the Army it would prove to be the last word, and that something better would not be invented next year. I can assure him that that consideration has been present to the minds of the Army Council ever since the first mechanical invention was put upon the market, ever since inventions existed. It is, if I may say so, the whole difficulty of the position at the present time, a difficulty which was ably summarised in the last paragraph of two of the speech which the Secretary of State made this afternoon. We never know quite where we are with regard to mechanisation. We are somewhat in the position of a man who is gradually changing his clothes, but at any moment has to be fully dressed. That is the real difficulty of the problem at the present time.
The lion. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) suggested that we were suffering from an excess of officers, and his suggestion was that we should economise by cutting down officers. He referred par- 2266 ticularly to the number of officers in the Territorial Army as compared with the men. I would suggest to him that in the kind of Army we are forming today, a small Army and a highly-trained Army, we do not want vast numbers of men, but we want as many trained men as possible who are capable of leadership in an emergency, of men who, if it ever again became necessary to call upon the whole country to support the Army, as was the case in the late War, would be able to step into the places of senior officers and fill their roles. I, for one, think it would be a great mistake to try to reduce the number of officers in order to increase the number of men, or to reduce the officers in proportion to the number of men. I think exactly the opposite is the correct policy from the War Office point of view.
§ Mr. COOPER
The hon. Member's knowledge of military affairs is not very accurate if he thinks officers are paid for doing nothing, any more than the men are. With regard to the complaint of the Noble Lady the Member for Southend (Countess of Iveagh), I hope she is aware that the War Office are fully alive to the genuineness of her complaint, and the hardships of her constituents in Southend. We have done our best to find elsewhere a suitable place where this firing could take place, but at present we have not been able to discover it. All the consolation I can offer her is that we are still doing our best, still looking elsewhere to see whether we cannot find another suitable locality for this firing. It has to be carried out in a place near to the seashore. We do our best to warn the inhabitants before firing takes place, and the only reason why it has to go on for very long spells at a time—sometimes, as she said, for 12 hours at a stretch—is because the climatic conditions of this country—and even at Southend it some times rains—render the days when the visibility allows firing to be carried out very rare, and we have to take full advantage of any opportunity which presents itself. The Secretary of State is fully alive to the hardships which the people are suffering in this matter, and, if it be possible to find another place for 2267 this firing, I can promise the hon. Lady that we shall do so.
The hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Beckett) made various suggestions, including one for popularising the Army, though, in view of the other sentiments he expressed, I should have thought it was the last thing he wanted to do. He suggested that soldiers should be set to picking apples in the autumn. The hon. Member himself was at one time in the Army, and I wonder whether he can recall sufficient of his military experience to formulate in his own mind the kind of reception such instructions would receive from the men of any ordinary battalion —if they were told that for the next six weeks they were going to be put on to the work of picking apples. He also asked about the recruiting of boys, and said they were recruited under age and without their parents' consent. But we do not do that. If a boy joins the Army, appearing to be more than 18 years of age, though really he is under 18, if he be under 17 he is immediately discharged on the fact being proved. If he is between 17 and 18, and at 18 would be eligible to join the Army, we only allow him to leave if he can show real reasons why, upon compassionate grounds, we should grant his release. I really do not think there is any hardship in this matter. I do not think that either the boys or the Army suffer, but rather that both are better off.
The hon. Member also criticised the reply which was recently made by the Secretary of State with regard to the employment of soldiers yin theatres. I really cannot follow what ground of complaint he had. How can he expect that the Secretary of State, or the commanding officer of a battalion, should say to the men, "You are not in your hours of leisure to do work of which I do not approve, perhaps in that way keeping some unemployed man out of work." Soldiers have considerable leisure, have a considerable part of the day to spend as they like, and it is only fair to allow them to earn money if they are able to earn it. A great many have recently been employed in a theatrical production in London, and the suggestion is that if they had not been engaged some of the unfortunate men who are without work might have been taken on.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
Are the police allowed to do what they like in their leisure time? Can they take employment?
§ Mr. COOPER
The police are not under the control of the War Office, but I should not imagine that they would be prevented from filling in their spare time. These men were engaged to play in a production in the West End of London. The hon. Member knows a great deal about the theatre, and knows probably that these men were particularly suitable for the part of soldiers which they had to play. Nothing on the stage appears more absurd than a man pretending to be a soldier who has never had any military training, and possibly it would have been quite impossible for the manager to find unemployed men for the purpose required. I do not think what has happened constitutes any genuine grievance at all.
My Noble Friend the Member for Southampton (Lord Apsley) made various interesting suggestions and gave us, as usual, a great deal of information. On one point I think he was slightly inaccurate, and that is with regard to the present force of a cavalry brigade, which consists of three cavalry regiments each of two sabre squadrons, and one mechanised squadron, a total of six sabre squadrons and not four, as he stated. As to automatic rifles, we are, as he is probably aware, experimenting in the endeavour to obtain the best type, and the same difficulties apply in this case as apply to the adoption of all other new inventions. We do not want to be hasty in adopting a new one until we are confident that it is the best, and that something better may not be invented shortly afterwards. We have at present a considerable number of 303 rifles in our service. It would be a very serious step to scrap them all at a moment's notice, but the Noble Lord can rest assured that we are keeping the question in our minds, and we hope finally to obtain a suitable automatic rifle. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson) criticised the educational advantages offered by the Army. I do not think he was quite fair in his statement. He said, "Why should not every- 2269 body who goes into the Army leave ft with the highest possible form of education."
§ Mr. COOPER
He says we select the best type of young men in the country; but we select men rather for their physical than for their mental qualifications. They have not had the opportunity of reaching the final stage. The figures which have already been given show that 13,000 of them reached a standard equivalent to the school leaving certificate; 85,000 reached the highest standard of secondary schools and 67,000 reached the lower standard. These figures are very much better from the education point of view than they have ever been before.
§ Mr. LAWSON
What does the Financial Secretary mean by the school leaving certificates? Is it merely the elementary school standard?
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
The term "elementary school leaving certificate" has been used and that is misleading.
§ Mr. COOPER
I think I have now cleared up that point and I do not think there remains any need for me to say anything further at this stage.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
What is the difference between the old military pitch and philharmonic pitch? Is it necessary for the development of jazz music? The cost is distributed over a considerable number. Could the hon. Member tell us the difference in the pitch?
§ Mr. COOPER
The hon. Member has succeeded in getting me out of my depth. If I knew the difference I could only tell the hon. Member by humming it, and I am afraid that would be out of order. All the expenditure will be borne by the bands themselves.
§ Mr. COOPER
I would rather deal with that question later on, but I may say that there is an improvement in the health of our troops in China.