§ MR. SHAW'S STATEMENT.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. T. Shaw)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
In presenting the Estimates for the year I have had to consider what method of explanation would best meet the convenience of the House. As the Estimates themselves with the explanatory memorandum give very elaborate details, I have come to the conclusion that it would best meet the desires of the House if I use the minimum of figures and only call attention to them in cases where either a matter of principle or the importance of the subject necessitate a reference. Of course, it will be understood that anything left in doubt or any subject untouched will be dealt with during the course of the discussion if hon. Members will state their wishes.
It will be seen from my memorandum that, as compared with the Estimates (including the Supplementary Estimate) for 1929, the Estimates for 1930 show a net reduction of £605,000. The decrease of expenditure is £1,343,000, but, unfortunately, it is largely counterbalanced by a diminution of receipts by £738,000, More than half the latter amount is accounted for by the loss of receipts to Army Funds from Germany through the evacuation of the Rhine. This loss in a full year is £950,000. The Supplementary Estimate for 1929 included £560,000 on this account for part of that year, and a further £390,000, therefore, remains to be made good in 1930. In addition to the loss of receipts, I was faced with certain inevitable increases of expenditure amounting to over £500,000, due mainly to the automatic growth of the Army Reserve and of non-effective charges and to the exhaustion of war stocks. The House will perhaps agree that these initial handicaps were sufficient to 78 render the task of securing an ultimate saving anything but easy.
I have definitely promised, in reply to questions, to allude to certain questions in the Estimates speech. The hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) asked whether it was possible to reduce the Army on the return of the troops from the Rhine. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Albery) and the hon. and gallant Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite) asked questions about the number of recruits and the policy so far as the Territorial Army was concerned. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) asked about mechanisation in the Army, and the hon. Member for Birkenhead East (Mr. Graham White) about the conditions regarding officers' training corps and the recruitment of officers therefrom.
I will try to deal with all these questions so far as they are not directly answered by the printed Estimates and the memorandum of explanation. I desire to draw the attention of the House first of all to pages 2 and 3 of the Estimates, which give an historical summary and a comparison of expenditure. From this it will be seen that, taking 1921 as a commencing year, the actual numbers of the Forces have decreased from 641,000 to 148,900 estimated for 1930. The net cash expenditure has fallen from over £86,000,000 to £40,500,000. There was a tremendous drop in 1922. but ever since then there has been a continual fall both in numbers and in cost. I will give one or two details to show the relative position between pre-War times and to-day, and at a later point I will speak of the number of men and the relative position as compared with other countries.
The number in Vote A this year 13 148,900 as against 186,400 in 1914, a decrease of 37,500. The Estimates are now £40,500,000 as against £28,845,000 in 1914. This is an increase of nearly £12,000,000, of which nearly £4,500,000 is in the non-effective Votes. The increase of cost is of course to be explained by the fall in the value of money, which is reflected in the rise in prices and the increased cost of living. The rates of pay throughout the Army have been increased generally, and the number of men drawing skilled rates of pay is now much higher than 79 it was in 1914. The institution of marriage allowance, which was not provided before the War accounts for over £750,000 this year, and the growth of social legislation, such as widows' pensions, and unemployment insurance, throws an extra charge on Army Funds. We have also new arms of the Service to provide for, such as Signals and the Royal Tank Corps, and army organisation is now much more complex than it used to be. Pages 4 and 5 show the increases and decreases on each Vote, resulting, as I have said, in a net decrease of £605,000. There is a saving of almost that amount on warlike stores, but it is impossible to analyse every separate item and difficult to know in advance which points are of greatest interest to the House. Any matters left uncertain by the printed Estimates or not explained by my speech will be answered during the discussion, or at the end by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary.
The method of dealing with the expenses of additional troops in China has been changed on Treasury suggestion, and the estimated cost for 1930 has been embodied in the main Estimates. Previously, this special cost has been met by a Supplementary Estimate. This naturally leads to a statement as to Government policy in China. The Government will watch with sympathy the efforts of China to organise her own form of Government, and will act in a friendly way with other Powers to make arrangements which will secure the safety of all peoples in a self-governing China.
The troops evacuated from the Rhine have gone to Catterick, They form part of the normal Home Army and, for this reason, it is not possible to effect any very considerable reduction in numbers. We have, however, been able to reduce establishments on this account by 688 all ranks. As I have explained above, the loss in receipts from Germany in a full year is £950,000. Against this the evacuation has enabled me to effect savings amounting to £343,000. I must here pause to pay tribute to the conduct of the troops in carrying out their very difficult task in Germany, which I am glad to know has left a most favourable impression among the local population, and has enhanced the reputation of the Army. Every credit is due also to those who 80 are responsible for their orderly and punctual evacuation. In passing, may I say that every plan worked absolutely to scale and there was not the slightest hitch from the beginning of the evacuation to the end.
Perhaps for a moment I may turn aside to a small detail. With regard to Vote 12, the cost of the War Office Staff, hon. Members may ask why there is a net increase of £10,000 in the cost. There are two principal causes for this:—a higher rate of Civil Service bonus is applicable in 1930 than in 1929, and provision has to be made for normal increments, as civil servants are paid on regulated scales and there are still many who have not reached the maximum of their grade.
Page 7 gives the numbers of actually serving soldiers and an analysis will show that some 130,000 men are serving in Britain, her Colonies and Mandated Territories—excluding India. An estimate of soldiers as a percentage of the populations is a matter of simple arithmetic. I would like to draw attention to the list of "stations abroad" given on page 29. The mere reading of the names will show what our responsibilities are. We have men in Bermuda, Jamaica, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, the Sudan. Palestine, Aden, Mauritius, Ceylon, Malaya and China. Some 60,000 men of the British Army are serving in India. The population of India is generally spoken of as being in the region of 300 millions. It is really considerably higher, so that actually there is one British soldier for over 5,000 of the Indian population. I draw special attention to these figures, as I am afraid somewhat exaggerated opinions are prevalent regarding the number of white troops in India.
Here I would like to refer to a matter of an entirely different kind, and I do it because India plays a part. On the Order Paper there is a Notice of Motion by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), who I do not see in his usual place at the moment. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is sitting on the benches behind you."] He has a Notice of Motion to reduce Sub-head G of Vote 11 by £5, and when I have answered his point I hope his conversion will be complete and that he will come over to this side altogether. I presume that the Motion by 81 the hon. and gallant Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte) and the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) deal with the same matter; that is the refusal of the grant of a medal to the 1/6th Devons. This is one of the very hard cases that have arisen, and, frankly, had it stood alone I should have been inclined to waive everything else that has been done and comply with the hon. Baronet's request. These men were sent to India in the early part of the War. When they went they had a guarantee by Lord Kitchener 4.0 p.m. that their going to India would not in any way debar them from receiving every honour and every decoration that were given to others. Lord Kitchener, of course, could not foresee at that time what would take place, and these men arrived at an actual theatre of war three days after the time when it was decided to give the Star. It was a very hard case. Those men were on the seas; they were not responsible in any way, and, as I said before, had the case stood alone, I think it would have been possible to meet the hon. Baronet's wishes, but, unfortunately, the case is not as simple as that. There were over 30,000 of the Forces on the sea at that time. There were many thousands who reached the actual theatre of war before these men. The whole matter has been considered by three Ministers; it has been investigated by a Committee presided over by the Earl of Cavan, and, everything considered, the decision with regard to the grant of the Star has always been maintained that those men are ruled out. I am sorry that the weight of evidence, and the difficulty there would be if once the gates were opened on this matter, prevent me, however reluctantly, from agreeing to the request of the hon. Baronet. May I assure him that it is with the greatest regret I say this, because, personally, I should have been only too delighted had I been able to meet his wishes in the matter. I hope he will take it for granted that if it could have been done without a great deal of trouble, I should have been only too glad to do it.
May I call attention to the Motion which appears on the Order Paper dealing with the reduction of the armed forces, and state the policy of the Government? The Prime Minister has specifically declared that we stand for 82 reduction of armaments, which, of course, is an inclusive term, by agreement. That is the method also of the League of Nations. It is not the present intention of the Government to make another cut without an international agreement. It is assumed by some theorists and speculative philosophers that if we reduced considerably and consistently without regard to other nations we should help along general disarmament. Unfortunately, the facts confound the theorists, and show that the philosophy is more speculative than philosophical. The Government, while willing not merely to take part in international arrangements for drastic reductions in armaments, but to take the lead in negotiations, is not prepared at the present moment to go further in unilateral action. I would ask the Movers of the Motion for the abolition of the Army—for that is what the Motion means—carefully to consider whether they are not suffering from a very bad attack of inverted nationalism? It seems to me that if one thing has become clearer than another since the War, it is that both economically and politically, whether we like it or not, we are bound to an international system.
§ Mr. SHAW
Attending to his business, as I hope the right hon. Gentleman will attend to his. The idea that we should do what we think best without reference to others is, in my opinion, the very worst way of dealing with our problems; while the best way is to agree with others to make the necessary improvements.
Dealing further with Vote A, I have no great changes in methods to announce. My predecessor last year made a full statement regarding mechanisation, and as this change of method is proceeding as quickly as practicability and finance will permit, I do not wish unnecessarily to repeat what he said in his last Estimates speech. Nor is there any intention of making any change of a drastic character so far as the Territorials are concerned, although we have asked the Territorial Associations to help us to cut down expenses by accepting smaller allowances for clothing. I desire to take this opportunity of calling attention to the tremendous amount of voluntary work done by the Territorials and of expressing the thanks of the Army 83 Council through this House to them, and specifically to ask Lord Derby, as the President of the Central Council of Territorial Associations, to convey our appreciation. May I here say a few words about training?
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of the Territorials, may I make a personal appeal to him to say a few words on the question of recruiting, which has given me, and others who have been members of Territorial Associations for many years, very considerable concern?
§ Mr. SHAW
There has been no change in the method of recruiting, and there is no change immediately proposed, but I should be very glad to consider any suggestion from the Noble Lord or any Member of the House which would lead to an improvement in any method which is not working as well as it might at the present moment. As stated in my Memorandum, we propose to make this year a "Territorial year," in order to emphasise the close connection between the Regular and Territorial Armies, and arrangements have been made to hold joint Regular and Territorial Army camps during the summer.
As regards the Regulars, the 1st and 2nd Divisions will train this year at Aldershot. For reasons of economy the 3rd Division will not be concentrated this year. The 4th Division, which did not train in 1929, we propose to concentrate in Norfolk and Suffolk. The printed Estimates give such a wealth of detail, that I feel I can leave all further specific reference to Vote A. The tables in Votes 1 and 2 are self-explanatory, and I will not attempt an analysis of the perfectly simple figures which hon. Members already have. May I say, with regard to these Votes, that however keen may be the desire of the Government to economise, they do not desire to do so at the expense of either the amenities or the pay of the soldier. I shall refer to this subject later.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly say a word in that connection on the policy of the Government in relation to the ordnance factories?
§ Mr. SHAW
If the right hon. Gentleman will not be impatient, I will deal with that subject.
A statement of Government policy has already been made regarding Singapore, and I hope that it will be sufficient to make any reference to the matter unnecessary on the item appearing on page 53. Page 203 also contains an item regarding Singapore. On Vote 3, I regret to say that we appear to be suffering from a shortage of medical men who are prepared to undertake a career in the Army. Even the most ardent non-militarist, I am sure, will share my regret that the medical arm of the Service is not easy to keep up to strength. I also desire to call attention to the fact that although physical tests have been scaled down, so to speak, we are under establishment so far as the Army as a whole is concerned. I should be very sorry to think that what I said shows that there is a temporary lowering of the physique of the people. Even the thought is disquieting. Of a total of 72,268 recruits presenting themselves for enlistment in 1929, 28,131, or 39 per cent., were accepted, which means that fit out of 100 were rejected, even on the standard that is now insisted upon. Of the rejections, 91 per cent. were on physical and medical grounds. The lowering of the dental standard, which had been previously tried in Scotland, was extended to England, and by this means an additional 2,384 recruits were enlisted for all arms. In December, 1928, the height standard for the infantry of the line was lowered to 5 feet 2 inches, and 907 young men of suitable physical development were enlisted. By these two measures—the lowering of the height and the dental standard—3,291 recruits were accepted who would otherwise have been lost to the Service. Without them, the intake for the year 1929 would have been only 24,840.
The physical condition of those who tender themselves for recruitment is a very serious matter. When one remembers that the boys and young men of to-day are the children of the War years, the remembrance may supply the answer to the problem presented by this apparent physical decline. [Interruption.] The War ended 12 years ago; it began 16 years ago. Boys and young men join anywhere from 17 to 20 years of age, so 85 that the children of the War years are now joining the Army. [Interruption.] It does not matter what the cause is, as long as we find the cause and provide a remedy for it. In that, I hope, the House will agree with me. I will ask my staff to investigate, so far as they can, whether this physical deterioration is localised, and how far it is due to industrial depression or other causes.
The right hon. Gentleman the ex-Minister of Transport asked me the other day, as a supplementary question, whether I was prepared to consider the use of more brilliant uniforms as a method of recruiting. Obviously it was impossible, in question and answer, to deal with a subject of that magnitude. May I call the attention of the House to the fact that these difficulties of recruiting were just as great in the brilliant uniform days as they are to-day. Let me read this extract from the "Manchester Guardian." It will speak for itself:In 1801 men were called for to join the Light Dragoons, and these were the inducements held out to them: 'You will be mounted,' says the official invitation, 'on the finest horses in the world, with superb clothing and the richest accoutrements. Your pay and privileges are equal to two guineas a week. Your society is courted. You are admired by the fair, which, combined with the chance of getting swished to a buxom widow, or brushing with a rich heiress, renders the situation truly enviable and desirable. Young men out of employment or otherwise uncomfortable,There is a tide in the affairs of men Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.Nick it.'I do not think that I could have approached that, but even that was not enough, apparently, in 1801.
Let me turn to Vote 4, which is to me one of the pleasantest sides of Army work—in education. The details given in the Estimates are very full, and I do not intend to attempt an analysis for which, indeed, the time would be all too, short. I am assured—and I believe the assurance to be well founded—that any young soldier willing and anxious to improve himself physically and mentally can find in the Army at least as many opportunities for physical, technical, scientific and literary development, as he could find in civil life. The probability is that he has a better chance of making himself efficient, mentally and physically, than has the ordinary working man who re- 86 mains at home. It will be seen from my memorandum that 2,193 men passed through Army Vocational Training Centres during 1929, and that 76 per cent. of them obtained employment immediately they had completed their training. It will also be seen that men serving in India and the Colonies can obtain the benefits of the scheme. There is an Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Windsor-Clive) dealing with this matter. May I assure him that I am in full agreement with his desires and am willing to accept suggestions from any source that will help in the direction that he indicates.
That brings me to a somewhat analagous subject, namely, Officers Training Corps and Cadet Corps, and grants to associations of boys belonging to certain religious and other bodies. Considerable public interest has been shown in this matter and there is unquestionably great objection to the spending of public money on semi-military bodies in our schools. There are also allegations that compulsion is exercised and that boys are dragooned into joining Officers Training Corps and Cadet Corps. I have carefully, even anxiously, considered the matter and have come to the conclusion, on definite expert advice, that Officers Training Corps are really valuable organisations for providing a future supply of officers for the Army. So long as armies exist on a voluntary basis there will have to be some form of recruiting, and the boy attending a public school is certainly not too young to join an Officers Training Corps at an age which has been considered high enough for a working class boy to join the ranks. There is no compulsion exercised by the Army Council: there is no intention, nor is there any desire, on the part of the Government to compel any boy to join these Corps. A boy who is forced against his will to join these organisations is likely to become not merely disinclined to join the Army but to become actively hostile.
But, while expressing the keenest objection to compulsion, I cannot agree to cease to support these Corps. So long as we have an Army we must fill its ranks, and there is an overwhelming opinion, military and scholastic, so far as the schools which have Officers Training Corps are concerned, in favour of main- 87 taining the Corps. I cannot, however, take the same attitude regarding Cadet Corps and bodies like the Church Lads Brigade. I have had the opportunity of discussing this question, as indeed that of the Officers Training Corps, with many Members of the House, and with a delegation from the National Union of Teachers, and I have come to the conclusion that representations made to me on educational and moral grounds are unanswerable. Teachers in elementary and secondary schools appear to be, in a large majority of cases, against this particular training on educational grounds. I agree with the case put to me, and I intend, with the consent of the House, to cease to give any War Office assistance to the bodies I have spoken of after existing contracts have expired.
When the right hon. Gentleman says "disappear," does he mean that the Government, in addition to giving them no grant, will refuse to recognise them in any way?
This is a very important question. At present a Territorial Force Association has put upon it the obligation of deputing one of its members to act as inspector of Cadet Corps. Will that liaison still exist, or will there be failure to recognise this most useful body?
§ Mr. SHAW
The Cadet Corps as recognised by the War Office, will disappear as such, and the liaison will disappear also. Here let me say—this will deal with another point which has been raised by the hon. Member for Dudley 88 (Mr. O. Baldwin) by question in the House—that I am not satisfied that only boys of the public school type can become efficient officers. Still less do I believe in an Army where there is not a free and easy passage for men of capacity from the lowest to the highest ranks. It seems to me that the more men from the lower ranks qualify for the higher, the better for the Army. Up to the present no way has been devised for the systematic promotion of fairly considerable numbers of really capable soldiers from the non-commissioned ranks to commissions, but I intend to have the question examined and am hoping to find more ways of making la carrière ouverte aux talents.
Vote 5 raises, among other things, the fundamentally important question of the quarters and amenities of the Forces. I took the opportunity of going to visit two of our overseas stations, Gibraltar and Malta, to see with my own eyes what the conditions were. I am glad to say that on the whole they were good, and I intend to visit, so soon as circumstances permit, a large number of our establishments at home. I have had somewhat disquieting reports from a number of places and desire to see for myself what the conditions are. I know that there is financial stringency, but I am sure that I shall carry all the House with me when I say that all ranks in the Army are entitled to decent accommodation, to reasonable comfort and to sufficient amenities, and that we are still rich enough to provide them. I am advised that many soldiers are sleeping in places that are not even weatherproof. If I am satisfied from my own observations that men are housed under bad conditions, I shall not hesitate to ask for the necessary money. In this connection let me say that I carefully observed, so far as I could during my short visit, the appearance of the men, and made many inquiries as to their health conditions. I am glad to say that the present-day soldier, even on overseas stations where perhaps temptations are more plentiful, is a sober, healthy, well-behaved young Briton, of whom we may be proud. He is not, of course, a plaster east saint, but he is letting the wet canteen go largely out of commission, he reads as well as plays games, and the medical records show remarkable progress so far as freedom from disease is concerned. 89 I wish to conclude with a few general observations. The first is that we are trying to secure avoidance of waste during the present transitional period from horse to machine. It seems to us that until the experimental stage is finished, huge bulk manufacture of new types of machines is not only costly but to be deprecated on other grounds as well. Far better during experiments is it to wait until there is reasonable certainty that success has been achieved, than to pile up machines and stores which the march of science may quickly make obsolete. Here let me touch on one of our difficulties. Wherever an economy is made and whenever production of armaments is reduced, Government workshops and Government workers at once begin to suffer. I can only say that whilst every move towards disarmament will find the Government in the van, we recognise that places like Woolwich and Enfield are justly anxious as to the results. Every effort will be made to keep Government workers at work, and only in cases of compulsion shall we resort to extreme measures. It would not be frank and open, however, if I hid the fact that great difficulties have had to be faced and, I am glad to say, to a certain extent surmounted. To turn to a different subject, I find that I am asked to abolish compulsory church parades. So far as I know, no man is ever forced to go to a church in which he does not believe—
On a point of Order. I wish to raise what seems to me a rather important question of procedure. The right hon. Gentleman has for the second time during his speech decided to refer to the contents of an Amendment which is on the Paper. I presume that that will not prevent those of us who wish to refer to that Amendment from doing so when the occasion arises? Is it not more usual for the reply of a Minister to an Amendment to be made after the Amendment has been actually moved?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
As to the reference which the right hon. Gentleman has made to the first Amendment on the Paper, I intended to call the Mover of that Amendment very early in the Debate and to get the Amendment out of the way. As soon as it is disposed of, I should not be able to put any further Amendments. 90 Therefore, those questions which arise on the two subsequent Amendments which are on the Paper must be referred to in the Debate on the main Question that I leave the Chair.
§ Mr. SHAW
I have referred to these Amendments in order that those who had put them on the Paper may know what Government policy is, and may be better able to discuss it than if I kept absolute silence on the question. As I was saying, so far as I know no man is ever forced to go to a church in which he does not believe, nor does any man join the Army in ignorance that these parades exist. If men were forced against their conscience, if there were any difficulty in getting a pass for absence on any reasonable ground, or even if proof could be supplied that a keen and widespread objection existed amongst present-day soldiers, I would consider the matter, but I am advised, and no proof to the contrary has been given to me, that objection to these services is not widespread or even vocal amongst soldiers. I do not see my way to alter long-established practices unless I am satisfied that there exist really serious, as apart from academic, objections to them. I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw his Amendment, and I am prepared to give him an assurance that if facts are put before me showing that these services are forced upon unwilling men, or are in any way objected to by them on conscientious grounds, I shall reconsider the matter.
I trust that I have dealt with the points which have been raised by the many questions asked by the hon. Members I have named, and by others to whom I did not give a promise to deal with their questions in my Estimates speech. I have tried not to weary the House with a mass of detail which has already been supplied to them in the Estimates and the explanatory memorandum. I personally sat with the Army Council during the whole of the consideration of Estimates, and I hope that the proposals will meet with the approval of the House. I cannot close without expressing my warmest thanks to the Members of the Army Council, both military and civil. The Civil Service is renowned for capability, and may I say that the military members of the Army Council, while stating their views with 91 exemplary frankness and brevity, were certainly both able and loyal, and ready with helpful suggestions when needed, and it is by the co-operation and help of the Army Council that the substantial savings which I have announced have been made possible.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I first desire to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his speech. It is not an easy matter, when one is first Secretary of State for War, to rise with a large book of Estimates, bristling with controversial questions, and to get through a speech without more trouble than the right hon. Gentleman had. The right hon. Gentleman has my sympathy in trying, as he has been trying, to produce a reduction of the Estimates without doing irreparable harm to the Army. I propose to call attention to some of the reductions which he has made, because in some cases I think he is taking an undue risk. If we look at Pages 4 and 5 of the Estimates, we shall find there the plus and the minus quantities—the decreases of expenditure and the increases of expenditure. I take, first, Vote 6—Supplies, Road Transport and Remounts—on which there is a decrease of £243,000. Except as regards one item, I have no objection to that decrease, and indeed, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon it. He has had the luck in this matter. This is not one of those decreases which is procured by much toil and thought, but is due entirely to the reduction in the cost of food and clothing and so forth. But there is under that Vote a reduction of £23,000 in reference to the Royal Army Service Corps, which is due to skimping the provision of mechanical transport and spares. I propose to deal with that point later on, because on another Vote I shall have something to say about mechanical transport.
Vote 8—General Stores—shows a reduction of £91,000 and this is a typical case. It relates to barracks and hospitals supplies. Last year I had to present an increase of £141,600 on this Vote, and I know that there is no such stock as would permit of a reduction in this Vote without running a risk. I do not know the extent of the risk, or whether the right hon. Gentleman is dipping in any way into mobilisation stores, but, whatever he 92 has done, he has certainly produced a reduction. In the comments on the Estimates which he has published, he says that general stores normally cost £660,000 a year and that this year he is taking £489,000 only, which show s that he is living on stocks to the extent of £171,000. That is a very serious amount. It is a great deal more than the saving. It means that £171,000 worth of general stores are being exhausted this year without replacement. This item is brought in as if it were an economy this year, but of course it is not an economy in the long run, because the stores will have to be replaced, if not by the right hon. Gentleman himself, then by his successor next year or the year after that. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to explain how he is justified in drawing to such an extent upon stocks.
The case of Vote 9 is even worse because in this case we are dealing with, warlike stores and the right hon. Gentleman is budgeting for a decrease of £630,000. That is not the full extent of the reduction, because only a few weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman introduced a Supplementary Estimate and there he showed a credit of £80,000 by reduction of expenditure on this same Vote. Therefore, as I understand it, he has reduced the provision which I made last year by £80,000 on his Supplementary Estimate, and he is now reducing it again by £630,000. Let me ask the House to consider upon what items the right hon. Gentleman has saved. One item is small arms and small arms ammunition. Small arms include machine-guns and small arms ammunition includes, of course, the cartridges for rifles and machine-guns. That item shows a saving of £240,000. There again, either the right hon. Gentleman is dipping dangerously into stores or else he is budgeting for less expenditure of small arms ammunition—that is to say, he is going to cut down musketry practice or training to an extent which will save this amount of money. Then there is motor transport and tractor vehicles on which he proposes to save £150,000—that is £150,000 in addition to the £23,000, the consideration of which I left over from Vote 6 to which I referred just now.
The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he intends to go on with mechanisation as fast as he can. That was the phrase used 93 by him, but, he says, it is unwise to make a large expenditure while we are in the experimental stage. We want the money, he says. Well, we have never had any large expenditure in the Army on mechanisation. At least all through those years when I was responsible we used the Votes for experimental work, and, practically, had nothing but samples of mechanised vehicles in the Army. In the case of a number of transport vehicles, the six-wheelers for instance, they are, of course, to some extent standardised both for Army and civil purposes, but as regards actual fighting vehicles—tanks, tractors for artillery and so forth—we were always in the experimental stage. The money which was voted was used for that purpose, and practically none of it at all was used for standardisation. If in that stage, the right hon. Gentleman cuts off £150,000, it seems a most dangerous attempt at saving.
We are in the stage of transition. With a reduced number of men—30,000 or 40,000 less than the pre-War strength—our chance of making the Army efficient for our purposes, for the defence which we have to put up, is to equip those men and make them individually as efficient as we can. To equip with mechanised transport and with mechanised arms, is the line upon which we have been experimenting and to cut off this experiment now is, to my mind, a retrograde action. One should remember too that the vehicles on which the right hon. Gentleman is cutting down are all the mechanised vehicles, except the transport vehicles, in use in the Army. Machine-gun carriers, artillery tractors—both tractors and vehicles for mounting guns on—cross-country vehicles for infantry, all the vehicles that go with first line transport—all of which are in a highly experimental stage and upon the provision of which depends the up-to-dateness of the Army—are to be reduced. It seems to me that, whatever progress we were making in that direction, there will be a serious set-back because the amount actually provided is not more than enough for partial maintenance and allows for little or no development.
The other item under warlike stores refers to guns, searchlights and signals and the right hon. Gentleman proposes to save £100,000 this year on that item. The development of searchlights is re 94 quired specially in connection with aircraft defence, and, signals, to-day, are more than usually important. We have fast-moving vehicles which want to communicate with their base, or with headquarters, and also with each other because unless you can maintain communications with them and between them you cannot use them to their full value. This little saving of £100,000 is really closing the eyes and the ears of the Army and seems to me a most dangerous saving to attempt. On Vote 10 works, building and lands the right hon. Gentleman is making a saving of £180,000. I must confess that last year I made a saving of £192,000 on this Vote, but, if I made it last year, it cannot be made again without serious trouble. The right hon. Gentleman said he was going into the question of amenities. I went round all the commands and he will find it useful to do the same. I understood him to say that he had found some cases of huts which were not weatherproof.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
also had reports, and I went round and looked, and there were huts which were not weatherproof. They were not in the possession of the Army, however. The huts which I have in mind had been vacated by troops, but they were occupied by civilians who were working with the Army. That raises another question altogether, namely, whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to provide accommodation for the civilians who work with the Army at the depots and in other places, but I will not go into that question now. The right hon. Gentleman, however, is going to cut down by £180,000 the provision for keeping the buildings of the Army up to date. This is a Vote at which everybody likes to have a cut. It is a big Vote and reducing it does not involve reducing a military unit, and means a nice saving, but I warn the right hon. Gentleman again that he is only postponing payment. He is not really saving and if he does not spend the money this year he is going to do it next year or at some future time. Marriage quarters are wanted, new barracks are wanted, replacements of huts will become necessary, and an extra £500,000 could be spent 95 usefully under this heading. But when it comes to postponing £180,000, after last year's postponement of £192,000 I think there is danger.
The right hon. Gentleman, speaking of Singapore, said that the Government's policy had been stated, but he is doing a rather curious thing in respect of Singapore. He is spending £33,000 this year on Singapore—I think that is the figure. It is a "marking time" expenditure—not increasing but simply keeping the work in hand. But I observe that the right hon. Gentleman is taking credit for an appropriation-in-aid not of the £33,000. which he is spending, but of £121,000. He is taking from the Federated Malay States £92,000 and from New Zealand £29,000 and 'he is only going to spend £33,000, and he is keeping a profit of £88,000 which he is bringing in as an appropriation-in-aid of the general Army expenditure. I thought he was a little sketchy when he was dealing with Singapore just now. He said, "You will see it on page 33 and also on page 200," and, looking at it, I find that is what it is, but it would have been difficult from what he said about it to have arrived at a proper appreciation of what he really was doing in regard to Singapore.
Talking of the Appropriations-in-Aid, he quite truly said that he was losing a considerable Appropriation-in-Aid on the troops having come back from the Rhine. He is also losing another, of which he said nothing. He is losing £150,000 a year from Egypt. It is quite true that for the last three or four years we have not received £150,000 a year from Egypt, but we have always had it in our Estimates as an Appropriation-in-Aid which we expected to receive from Egypt, and the right hon. Gentleman now seems to be finally giving it up. Really, there is no reason whatever why, when the further stages of a possible Treaty with Egypt are negotiated, it should not be put to the Egyptians that if we are going to make a Treaty together for a joint defence of Egypt by the British Army and the Egyptian Army, there ought to be a joint contribution towards the expense. If that is done, he will find that not £150,000, but probably a very much larger sum would be the appropriate contribution from Egypt to that joint defence.
96 I can imagine Egypt preferring to do it that way. After all, she wants to be recognised on a footing of equality. She does not want to be, as it were, protected as a minor Power out, of the beneficence of a stronger Power. If it really is to be a Treaty in which both are doing something, both ought to contribute, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he ought to press for a contribution from Egypt towards the extra expense, because that is what it is, of the British Army being in Egypt. If that British Army were at home, there would be one expense, but in Egypt there is an additional expense, and there ought to be a contribution made by Egypt towards that expense.
I want to say a word or two about recruiting, which seems to me to be in a very serious position—very serious indeed. I will not take it quite from the angle that the right hon. Gentleman did, of the general physique of the nation. That is, of course, intensely interesting, but I do not think it has made any particular difference this year as against last year or the year before. I do not think you can show from those figures that the physique of the nation bar gone back to such an extent that it has altered the probabilities of recruiting. That does not seem to me to be the reason. Let us see what the figures are. Last year we got in 26,000 recruits, as against 30,000 in the previous year. We got in the 26,000 recruits after having reduced the standard, and reduction of the standard meant bringing in about 3,000 more, so that really on the comparable standard with the year before, we got in 23,000 recruits, as against 30,000, or something like 7,000 less. I am speaking from memory, but I do not believe that in the last five years certainly there has ever been a decrease of that proportion. There have been fluctuations of 2,000 one way or another, but never so big a fluctuation as that; and the result is that the Army is 10,000 men below establishment, 6,000 at home and 4,000 in India.
In the Blue Book that was issued a short time ago on the British Army for the year 1929, there is, in Part 1, a chapter headed "Annual Report on Recruiting for the Regular Army for the Year ending 30th September, 1929." It gives the figures, and then it says: 97"Factors affecting recruiting.—The decline in recruiting may be attributed to the following causes:Expectations of a large increase in the unemployment benefit.Uncertainty as to the future of the Army, owing to the publicity given to disarmament.I believe that those two are the main causes. There are given in this Report four or five more causes, no doubt each one operating to some extent, but I believe those two are the causes which operate most. In regard to the expectations of a large increase of unemployment benefit, I do not think there is any doubt that there has been in the past always a certain amount of economic compulsion, if you like to call it so, which made men join the Army, and if you remove that by substituting some subsistence money from another source, you do to a certain extent relieve the pressure, and consequently you deprive the Army of a certain type of recruit, who, in the hands of the Army, becomes a first-class man very frequently. I do not think there is any doubt about that, and the higher you make the unemployment benefit, the more risk there is of that.
It may well be that at some time the State will have to consider whether a man is to be treated as unemployed when the State is willing to employ him in the Army. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] Hon. Members will realise what I said, that it may at some time have to be considered whether a man should be treated as unemployed when the State is willing to employ him as a soldier or a sailor. I myself think that that could not be done with the Army exactly as it is to-day. Of course, legislative compulsion is out of the question, and if you do not compel in any form, you have to attract. You have to get recruits somehow. It is suggested that uniforms might attract. Personally, I do not believe—I know I am a heretic—that the full-dress uniform is going to attract, to any large extent, the type of man we are now getting in the Army. The type of man we are now getting in the Army does not want so much "spit and polish," as the phrase is, as other and more useful occupations, and I am not by any means sure that he would be attracted by a uniform.
But attractions will have to be found. You cannot go on having the large drops in numbers in the way that you had last 98 year. I do not say that it is dangerous at this moment, but no one can say that, if this went on for another year or two, it would not be dangerous, and so, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has to prepare in advance a policy to deal with recruiting. As I say, if you do not compel, you have to attract. Pay alone, I do not think will attract. The reduction in pay has really not made any considerable difference in recruiting. There was a drop immediately after the last reduction in pay, but it was soon made up again, and the reduction in pay, in my recollection, was in operation during the whole of 1928, which was a bumper year so far as recruits were concerned.
The second cause in this Report is the uncertainty, and I believe myself that that is the real cause of the recruits not coming into the Army, exactly in the same way as I believe it is the real cause why men do not go for commissions in the same way as they did before. It is the uncertainty. A man does not know whether, as an officer, he is getting 'a job for life, a career, or whether he is going to be sent out at 40, perhaps, at a time when he cannot get into proper civil occupation; and, as far as the man is concerned, he does not know whether at the end of his service he will not be thrown upon the labour market, 'an unskilled man, whereas those who went into trade, either as apprentices or in other ways, at the same time as he joined the Army, have become skilled men and have got on in life, while he may have to take a lower place because he served his country in the Army.
If it is true that uncertainty is what is affecting it, we have to do something which will give him a certain career after he leaves the Army. Something has been done with vocational training, but at best vocational training is 'a drop in the bucket. It is 5 per cent., or under 6 per cent., of those who leave the Army who get vocational training, and it is not enough. We ought, in some way or another, to be in a position to guarantee to the man who joins the Forces a career afterwards. While he is with us we ought to teach him a trade, if he wants to learn a trade, or he ought to have such secondary and even university education as will fit him for higher positions when he leaves the Army. 99 Why should not the Army be the road of entry to the Civil Service in the clerical classes? [An HON. MEMBER: "Or the City!"] Yes, or the City. Why should they not learn in the Army what is wanted to give them a chance, when they come out of the Army, of doing something better than taking the un-skilled posts, to give them a chance of getting into a really first-class position? If you do that, you are going to attract, and if you were to do that there would be very little difficulty, I think, in saying that a man is not to be treated as out of work if the State were willing to employ him in the early stages in the Army and in the later stages in the Civil Service. I feel myself that you have got a different type of man going into the Army to-day. You have got better raw material to-day than you have ever had in your life before, and I feel that you are wasting it if you do not take advantage of the chance in front of you.
§ Mr. ALPASS
Is the right hon. Gentleman really suggesting that if a man is out of work, and he is offered entrance in the Army, and refuses to go, that will be used as a disqualification for unemployment benefit?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
No, I was not suggesting anything of the sort. I was suggesting something quite different. This is, I believe, the most serious phase of the Army administration with which the right hon. Gentleman has to deal. He has not made any statement in his opening speech with regard to it, and I shall not press him to make any statement to-day, but I would suggest to him that it would be worth—
§ 5.0 p.m
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Then I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider what I have said. It is a difficult matter; a soldier. stays a year at home, and then he may be drafted out to India or some other place abroad. and 100 it is difficult to provide continuous training at a trade. These difficulties can be overcome, however, if it is really considered that this training is as essential as the Army training, and, if you are going to attract men and remove the uncertainty before them, you can do it by giving them such training as I have suggested. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to have the matter examined. He will find lots of sympathy, I am sure, among the soldiers, and he will have considerable assistance if he sets up a small Committee inside his office to see what can be done in the matter. I notice that the training is cut down. I realise that the right hon. Gentleman has to find money somewhere if he is to reduce his Estimates, but it is not very wise to reduce the training. On the whole, I must say that these Estimates might have been cut down in a worse manner than has been done, and I only hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be careful how he squeezes out more money for mechanisation, for that is a fatal cut and one that cannot but be harmful.
The right hon. Gentleman is going to save a certain amount. I understand, by cutting down the 4s. grant to cadet corps. I do not suppose that the cadet corps could by the most anti-militarist be considered a military formation, or one that could make a boy wish to be belligerent. It is undoubtedly a useful source of recruiting. My recollection is that we used to draw something like 800 or 1,000 boys into the Service through the cadet corps.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
It is bigger than I thought. Surely, now is not the time to cut down the source of those whom we require in the Army. These corps have great social value, because they give the lads a chance of marching about to music—[Interruption]. And a very good thing too; they enjoy it. It does them physical good, and it cannot do them any mental harm—[An HON. MEMBER: "Wave the flag!"] Yes, wave the flag too. Surely, you are not going to grudge this money to help these boys. Do hon. Members know who these boys are" They cannot afford to carry on formations of their own without getting subscriptions from somewhere. I remember that I was once 101 guilty of looking into this Vote with a view to cutting it down, but I gave it back again, not because of the military value of this movement, but because of its social value, and because of the good it did to these boys, both physically and mentally, to be banded together in these small contingents. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not, because of what I believe to be a totally wrong aspect of the case that has been put before him, cut down this Vote.
§ Major - General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I want to make only a few remarks on a subject with which I have been long associated. I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his first Estimates. They were clearly put, and his speech, which had the great advantage of brevity, contained all the matter which we want in a speech on this Motion, I hope that the Financial Secretary will he able to reply to the various points which I propose to raise. With regard to the Estimates generally, I have stated before, and I am sure many Members agree with me, that we cannot really discuss expenditure on the Army without its relation to the expenditure on the other Services. Again and again, we are faced with the difficulty that we are not able to express our views and the various strong arguments in favour of a united defence Ministry. Therefore, I must enter a protest, and Say that I hope that the Government at a, later date may be able to give us an opportunity, as was done when the last Government were in power, to discuss this very urgent subject, and a subject which is becoming increasingly urgent, The only advance towards getting the best value for the money spent, and for getting the best allocation of the money between the three Services, can alone be attained through a combined Ministry.
I agree with the late Minister of War when he referred to the gravity of the recruiting situation. It is extremely grave, and it is grave from many points of view. It is particularly grave from the point of view that it unbalances the whole Army. Every year, so many men leave the Service, and, if there be a large increase in one year, and a small increase in another, there are corresponding outgoings at the end of the periods of service; thereby the Army is unbalanced, and it is a serious matter 102 from the point of view of organisation. It is difficult to say what can be done. Undoubtedly, the insurance benefits which now fall to those out of work have had a deleterious effect on recruiting, but I think that there are certain other causes. There are small petty grievances which are translated and passed on from those serving in the Army to those who are outside and might come in, and they have the effect of preventing others joining up. I will give an example. The ration allowance is being cut down for new entrants into the Army. It does not affect those who are under present engagements, but it will affect those who are coming along to join. The sum saved is so small that I think some attention should be given to this grievance.
Then there is the question of dress. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Sir L. Worthington-Evans). I have heard many serving soldiers express the view that they can never be smart when walking out in khaki. I am inclined to agree with them, and I suggest that some form of inexpensive blue uniform, which would be in the nature of a walking out dress, and not merely a dress for various ceremonial occasions, would be an attraction to the Army. I know that there has been a Committee on this subject, and no doubt they have reported upon that point, but I put it forward that there is an expression of opinion in the Army that some form of dress other than khaki would be an advantage, and have an attracting effect on those who might wish to join.
I am pleased to see in the White Paper the co-operation which is going on on the research side with India and elsewhere. I would suggest that that co-operation might be extended to financial arrangements. In India, during recent years, there has been a departure from past procedure in dealing with finance. In this country, we control all finance from the War Office. In India, they have tried, during the last two or three years, a system of allocation of money to units to be expended as the commander directs, and the savings are carried on into the new year, and not handed back to the Treasury. In that way, I understand considerable saving has been effected in the Army Vote in India. I would suggest 103 that such an experiment should be tried at home. The Government might try one command at a time, and allocate to units, either divisions, brigades or battalions. blocks of money to be administered by those units, and allow the necessary saving to be done by the officers administering the money. I am certain that a saving would result. It has been recommended before that more latitude should be given to the officers in charge of finance, that is, the major-generals in charge of administration of commands, but I would go further, and pass it down to the smaller units. I understand that savings have occurred in India and officers in charge of units like the system, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the procedure be examined.
I pass to the subject of pensions under Vote 13, where there are one or two troubles in the Army. There is the longstanding grievance of the ex-ranker officer. We had a Committee when the Labour Government was in power in 1924. I do not want to base my request for a reconsideration on the pure grounds of legality; I want to base it on the grounds of equity. Many of these ex-ranker officers, who had retired before the War, were called up for service in the War and given commissions; and, when they retired after the War, they were not treated as the ordinary non-commissioned officer in a unit, who, if he got a commission, retired on £150 a year, that is, an officer's pension. These ex-ranker officers went back on their old non-commissioned officer's pension; it was reassessed at between £70 and £80 a year, instead of the £150 which the other noncommissioned officers got. There was a similar type of non-commissioned officer who was called up for service in the Marines, and he got different treatment, but I have no doubt he got it for legal reasons, owing to the wording of the instructions issued. From the point of view of the small number of these officers remaining—about 2,100—it is worth while that their case should be examined from the point of view of equity. We do not want to have grievances continually hanging about among these men. I do not want to put it higher than to ask that some examination of their case should take place, and, if possible, some alleviation of their condition arrived at.
104 Then there is the reduction of 7 per cent. in pensions, half-pay and other allowances owing to the fall in the cost-of-living. There may be something to be said for such a reduction in the case of pensioned officers of high rank, but when we come to the case of officers who have probably no more than about £200 a year to live upon, any reduction, however small, cuts right to the bone. Although the cost-of-living figure is perfectly fair, yet there are many points on which the cost-of-living figure is calculated which do not affect their expenditure. For one thing, rents do not come down, and expenditure on food and clothing does not bulk so largely in their expenditure. Again and again I have heard it said that those with pensions of £200 or £300 a year have been very seriously affected by these continued reductions on account of the cost-of-living. No doubt the Financial Secretary will say when he comes to reply that all must be treated alike, but I am prepared to say that those with small pensions ought to be treated differently from those who enjoy larger pensions.
I am glad to hear very good accounts of the system of vocational training in the Army, and hope it will be extended and improved. The men like it because it gives them a chance of preparing for their civilian life after they leave the Army. During the many years of service I had in the Army we were always confronted with the difficulty of what men were to do when they left the Army, and anything that can be done to improve their chances of getting employment is all to the good. I am glad to see that the percentage of those who go through the training is so high. More might be done, perhaps through various agencies, to try to place men in the trades in which they have been trained, and, also, we should see that they are trained for the trades which are likely to be able to absorb them; but in speaking thus to the Financial Secretary I am really carrying coals to Newcastle, because I know that he has this subject very much at heart.
I also welcomed the indications we have had of closer relations in training between the Territorial Army and the Regular Army. Ever since 1919, when General Hamilton Gordon sat as chairman of a committee in the War Office, I have always advocated closer and closer 105 association between the Regular Army and the Territorial Army, especially in regard to training—training in joint camps, and exchanges of officers between the regular units and the territorial units. The more we can do in this direction the more we shall assist the Regular Army, by letting the territorial units get to know the regular units; and the territorial units, on their part, will be assisted in making themselves more efficient. The more we can bring the Regular Army into association with the civil population the better it is for both. I welcome the joint camps, and I hope everything will be done to extend that system to all units, and not only to one particular type of unit, so that all may be closer knit together.
I would also like to call attention to a matter, small in itself but which does cause a grievance in some directions, and that is the regulation with regard to the official allowance for officers using their own motor cars. I have specially in mind the case of retired officers who are working for the War Department. After 7,000 miles the allowance of 6d. a mile is, I understand, reduced to 4d., and the result is that officers do not use their cars but call on the Public Hire Department for cars. The charge for these is 1s. a mile, which is debited to the War Office and duly paid by the War Office. If the Financial Secretary would like me to give him details of the actual trouble, I think I can not show him where an improvement in the regulations might be made, but also how we may save War Office money. Lastly, I wish to say how very much indebted we all are to the right hon. Gentleman for his Army Estimates, which are clear and presented in a wonderfully good form. As a result of the work of his predecessor, the Estimates are now so clear that one can follow them much more easily than before and see where the various reductions have taken place. One improvement might be made. Could not we have a summary showing the total amounts of money which have been saved under the various heads of the service, so that we could see them at a glance without having to search right through the accounts under each head? However, I can only thank the right hon. Gentleman for these Estimates and say that we are glad the reductions are not more drastic:
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
On a point of Order. When we get back on to the Vote may we take it that in the usual course we shall have a general discussion on Vote 1 and Vote A?
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)
I do not know Mr. Speaker's intentions when the Amendment which is to be moved is out of the way, but a general discussion will be allowed on Vote 1 and Vote A provided hon. Members do not go too much into details of the other Votes.