Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 148,900, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at home and abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions (other than Aden), during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931.
§ Mr. OSWALD LEWIS
We have heard that there are 21 Members in the House who are of opinion that the provision made by the Government for the Army is much in excess of what is necessary. I suppose those 21 Members represent some body of opinion in the country. After all, there is no proposition so foolish that you cannot get some people to agree to it. The great majority of the House has 192 shown in the Lobby, as I think the majority in the country would show if they had the opportunity, that the provisions that the Secretary of State has made for the maintenance of the Army are not excessive. That being so, it is obvious that the question of maintaining the establishment he has laid down is of first rate importance. For that reason I wish to make a few observations on the general question of recruiting.
I should like to remind the Committee of the exact nature of the problem we have to face. In the Annual Report of the Army, which has been circulated, the figures are set out showing tae difference between the establishment which the Secretary of State for War says we require, and the actual strength of the Forces we, in fact, have. The figure given for the Regular Army, excluding the Indian Army, for establishment is 138,469, as against which we find a strength of 131,221, showing an actual deficiency at the moment these figures were prepared of 7,248. Moreover, we read in another part of the Report that of those recruits who have been taken, some 3,291 were only obtained by lowering the normal physical requirements. So that if we regard the position of recruits from the standard which we should like to have, we must add back that number to the deficiency. We must add back these 3,291 men on the lower physical standard to the actual shortage of 7,248 shown in the tables, and we arrive at a deficiency of 10,539 recruits of the standard we should like to have as compared with the establishment.
A shortage of something over 10,000 on an establishment of 138,000 is in itself a matter of some seriousness, but it is rendered more serious still by the fact that in the Annual Report of the Army it is expressly stated that:here has been a steady decline, and, unfortunately, there are at present no indications of an early return to normal which means, in the opinion of those best able to judge, that we cannot now, and we see no prospect in the immediate future of being able to, obtain sufficient recruits to provide the establishment which His Majesty's Government tell us is necessary. It is worth the while of this Committee to give very serious thought in those circumstances to the problem of how this deficiency in number is to be 193 made good. There is no legal compulsion to serve in the Army, and I take it that it is the general view in this Committee that we do not desire any form of legal compulsion.
The right hon. Gentleman the ex-Secretary of State for War referred earlier in the Debate to the question of economic compulsion, and I should like to enlarge a little upon what he then said. He reminded the House that the increased system of unemployment insurance affected and was bound to affect the question of recruiting. This is not the time to go into the merits of the system of unemployment insurance which we have to-day, but I think I shall be permitted to say that the problem as it affects the Army is rather aggravated by the fact that, although we call it unemployment insurance benefit, it is partly insurance benefit and partly poor law relief, administered nationally. The benefit that the man receives is not, and cannot be, entirely or even chiefly provided by the contributions paid by him in respect of his employment. The Fund is bankrupt and is only maintained by large State grants.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I will not carry that point further, but the suggestion has been raised as to whether a man who refuses an offer of employment by the State can claim to be maintained in idleness by the State. Obviously, his position is very different. He comes forward and claims something which actuarially he is not justified in claiming in respect of contributions that he has paid, or he claims an unlimited amount of relief. Take the case of a man who is able-bodied and young, without any wife or any other dependant, who is offered employment in the Army, and refuses it. Is the State to maintain that man in idleness for an unlimited period of time? That is a problem that will one day have to be faced. If the Secretary of State for War, later in the Debate, takes note of what I have been saying, I imagine that he will say that the issue is so obscured by the present system of insurance that he would not be justified in following 194 that line out as a means of improving the chances of recruiting. In that case, we are driven back to the purely voluntary basis of recruiting. Recruits we must have.
It has been stated this afternoon, with perfect truth, that a most serious bar to purely voluntary recruiting is the sight of a time-expired man out of a job. A man may have served his country in the Army, and served it well, and when the time comes that he wants civilian employment he finds himself not fitted for any particular skilled calling and often unable to obtain even unskilled work. If that difficulty is to be removed it can only be removed by some extension of vocational training. The Secretary of State for War said that he would welcome any suggestions that anyone could put forward. I am going, rashly, perhaps, to make a suggestion. Would it be possible as an experiment to try recruiting a limited number of a special class recruited, say, for three years with the Colours and seven years with the Reserve, the understanding being that during the three years the men are with the Colours half the time should be devoted to purely military training and half to learning some skilled trade. If something of that kind could be tried as an experiment it would demonstrate the fact that there is a large amount of excellent material available for the Army on some such terms. The total effect of that would make it worth a considerable sum of money. In the first place, you would get your recruits. In the second place, you would ease the burden on the Unemployment Fund, and, in the third place, you would give to the country a number of men physically fit, in good health and skilled in some useful occupation, instead of a number of de-moralised men, unemployed and incapable of earning a useful living at any skilled occupation.
§ Mr. DALLAS
I want to raise the question of the meat and bread supplied to the British Army, and to the Forces generally. In raising this question I want to make it quite clear that I do not lay the blame for the present situation on the present Government. The last Government have a serious responsibility in this matter. I do not want to be misunderstood in any way. I am not trying to curb the activities of the present Government. I have a tremendous admiration 195 for the work they have done under difficult circumstances, but I think that the Secretary of State and the Financial Secretary would render a great service to a great but unfortunate industry if they will see that this question is reopened and that a full and careful inquiry is made. The criticisms levelled against the present Government are rather unfair. They were not in office for more than three weeks when hon. Members opposite were asking whether they intended to carry out an Election pledge given by hon. Members of the Conservative party at the time of the General Election. The last Government was in office for four or five years, and the late Minister of Agriculture bas told us that he and his colleagues pressed upon the Government the policy of feeding the Army with British beef and British bread, but in spite of all their efforts they failed to convince their fellow-Members in the Cabinet.
It is interesting to observe that although hon. Members opposite gave a pledge at the General Election they made no attempt whatever to carry it out. Between the date when the pledge was given and the date of the Election there were ample opportunities for steps to be taken for carrying out that pledge, if they so desired. The Farmers' Union, which is critical of governments, recognises that fact because the Essex Farmers' Union Journal last year made this statement:Headquarters made unavailing efforts before the late Government vacated office to secure the issuing of contracts for meat and flour for the Army this year, and had this course been adopted the present difficulties would not have arisen.Ro that if the Conservative party were really sincere and in earnest in the Election pledges which they gave—and they twit this side with making pledges and not carrying them out—they had ample opportunity of putting them into force, and the Army would have had British meat and bread at this particular time. What is the reason generally given for not supplying the armed forces with British meat? It is one of cost. Cheapness is supposed to be the test. Is that test of cheapness to be applied only to agriculture? It needs more than meat and bread to maintain the Army. I would ask the Minister if in the ex- 196 penditure of his Department he requires cotton or other goods, would he suggest to the electors of Preston that, cheapness being the test, we should buy our cotton for the Army either in India or Japan or some other place rather than Manchester? Again, if cheapness is the test, should it not apply to coal? We can get coal from abroad more cheaply than it is produced here. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If cheapness is to be the test, it, should be applied to every commodity that the armed forces require. Take something which we produce in my own constituency. The British Army marches to battle on hoots made in the constituency I have the honour to represent—Wellingborough. You cannot get better boots anywhere, but you can get cheaper boots.
If we do not apply the test of cheapness to boots, my contention is that we have no right to make cheapness the test for the supply of meat for the Army. If it is not good enough for cotton or coal or boots or clothing or anything else, it is not good enough to apply it to agriculture. If cheapness is the test, it, should only be the test if you are comparing like with like. If you compare one article against another for price, you have to see that both articles are of the same quality and kind. Surely nobody will contend that frozen junk supplied to the British Army is comparable with fresh home-produced meat? I was very delighted to hear the Minister say that what was not good enough for him was not good enough for the British soldiers. Frozen junk is not good enough for me. We would not have it in our house although it is not a very wealthy house. I do not think there is a single Member of Parliament here who would have this frozen meat in his house. If it is not good enough for Members of Parliament, it is not good enough for British soldiers. I contend that the test of cheapness applied to meat is not a fair test. For instance, the difference between the price of British beef and imported beef, especially frozen beef, is purely illusory. The important point is the cost per pound of the cooked beef and the relative nutritive value. When these are taken into account, British beef will stand well in comparison with any beef, and especially with frozen beef.
I would ask, has the War Office made a test of the comparative cost of home- 197 killed fresh beef and frozen beef in the cooked state and have they compared the nutritive value of each, pound for pound? If that is done they will find that the British beef will not cost any more, and, as a matter of fact, it may cost very much less. I do not want to contend that we should start off by supplying meat all the year round to begin with. If it is going to cost any more, obviously it is very unfair to expect the present Government in the present circumstances to launch out on new expenditure which the late Government under much better financial conditions and opportunities and with much more money at its disposal, failed to incur. One of the great difficulties in agriculture in recent years has been the fact that the production of cereals has been uneconomic. That has made a large number of agriculturists change from corn growing to cattle grazing, and many of the people who graze cattle cannot find winter feed for their animals. They part with the animals before the frost and snow and hard weather set in, and they all come into the market at about the same time. When that takes place they are at the mercy of the buyers and dealers, and down comes the price. I find on examination that for every 8s. decrease in price between mid-September and mid-December, the British consumer gets only 1s.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am waiting for the hon. Member to relate this subject to the supply of meat for the Army.
§ Mr. DALLAS
I am attempting to do so, but perhaps in a roundabout way. It would be of great advantage to British agriculture if the Army would buy meat at this particular period. The cost would then be comparable even with that of frozen meat, and the buying of the meat at that time would 'Lot raise the price to the British consumer.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DALLAS
I am quite in favour of British potatoes too, and I will deal with that subject on another occasion. Let me take now the case of bread. The contention that it would be dearer cannot be urged as an argument against supplying the Army with British bread. If we supplied British bread we would save 198 money. It has been contended that British bread is not wholesome, and that the soldiers would not like it. Every piece of bread supplied to Members of Parliament is British, made from British flour, which in turn is made from British wheat, and seeing how well Members of the House look, I should say that the soldiers would come to no harm if they had a similar type of bread. It has been proved conclusively that we can get a British flour that produces even better bread than most of the bread that has been supplied in the past. It is some times said that we must have Canadian and North American wheat. For some reason best known to those in the industry, one of the great troubles is that the British millers and corn merchants have not bought enough American or Canadian wheat. They have been buying soft wheats from the Argentine and Australia—wheats which are comparable with our own wheat—and therefore the bread will be made from flour, similar to the flour which would be produced if only British wheat were used. The Financial Secretary, in this matter, might even effect an economy and he could certainly render a great service to the agricultural industry. We can produce a first-class bread—better than most of the other breads—and we must not forget that the people of these islands were fed for 1,000 years on bread made from British flour and British wheat. When we have one Department of the State sending 50,000 circulars all over the country asking people to buy British bread and meat, and trying to badger hotels and public institutions to supply their guests and their patients, with British bread and meat, it is rather inconsistent if the Government do not show a good example and put that principle into operation. If it is the case that British meat will cost a little more, that argument does not apply to the case of bread and I hope that the Department will be able to make some concession on this point.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Perhaps it will be convenient if I reply to the points which have been raised, as the hour is growing late. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I thought that hon. Members were anxious to retire, but perhaps we shall be better able to ascertain their desire after I have spoken. The hon. Member for Colchester 199 (Mr. O. Lewis) in a very interesting speech, raised the general question of recruiting and of the difficulties which have recently confronted us in regard to obtaining recruits. I am sorry, however, that the only positive suggestion which he put to us is most impracticable. He suggested that we might enlist men for three years with the Colours, and seven with the Reserve. Apart from the difficulties which would be encountered in the organisation of the Army, and the linking up of battalions at home with battalions in India, there are other difficulties. In any event, it would not permit of the vocational training during 18 months of the Colour period which the hon. Member desires. Very few men leave the Army without technical training of some kind. Attention is not particularly directed to training, but with the advance of mechanisation in all its forms, the Army is becoming much more technically equipped than ever it was, and, now, when men leave the service, they are capable of driving and repairing cars and vehicles of all kinds. They have engaged in ordnance duties, they have engineering and similar technical qualifications, and that, in conjunction with the special vocational training which some of the men receive—we hope to extend it in due course—renders the position very much better than it has been.
I noted with regret that the hon. Member followed a line which unfortunately the late Secretary of State for War pursued at the beginning of the Debate today. Apparently both hon. Members agree that some element of compulsion is now required in order to stimulate recruiting. Though they were very tactful and to some extent reserved in their observations, I gathered they were doubtful as to the propriety of paying unemployment benefit to unemployed men who refused to avail themselves of military service.
§ Mr. O. LEWIS
I must protest. The hon. Member knows very well that I did not say that. I clearly said I did not mean unemployment benefit as such.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I cannot enter into a discussion on the technicalities of the terminology employed in relation to unemployment insurance, but to many of us there is no distinction whatever. 200 [Interruption.] Why hon. Members opposite should display excitement in relation to this matter is beyond me, because it is generally accepted nowadays that what is called uncovenanted benefit has now become an accepted part of the Unemployment Insurance scheme.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
It does not lie with the right hon. and gallant Member to speak of State poor relief when some of his friends are the recipients of that sort of thing on a much higher scale than friends of my own. I want to make it quite clear that my right hon. Friend is not prepared to employ—and in that connection we speak for the Government and for our party—any economic compulsion of that sort. We shall keep the question of recruiting under review, and take whatever steps we regard as adequate and necessary in order to meet the exigencies of the situation.
Very shortly, I want to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Welling-borough (Mr. Dallas) in relation to the question of British meat and flour for the Forces. I noted with some astonishment that although hon. Members opposite did not raise the question directly, they applauded the observations of my hon. Friend. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War is not present, because he was himself somewhat effusive in his support. It so happens that. we know the history of this adventure. We know that in 1923, when a Conservative Government was in office, one of my predecessors, Colonel Jackson, received a deputation from the National Farmers' Union in relation to this matter, and informed them that the cost was prohibitive, so that the proposal must be rejected. Again in 1923, another deputation was received by another Minister, and the proposal was dropped because of the Treasury attitude. Then we come to 1928, during the last dispensation when a deputation from the National Union of Distributive Workers was received by my immediate predecessor. He informed the deputation that the proposal was impracticable in view of the extra cost. Then we come to March, 1929, and we find that the late Secretary of State had addressed to him a question on the subject by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Sir B. Chadwick). 201 He asked the usual question in regard to the purchase of British meat three days a week, and the Secretary of State replied:I regret that considerations of expense do not permit the adoption of this suggestion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1929; col. 222. Vol. 226.]That was as recent as March last year. Then a change came over the situation. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made a speech at Drury Lane Theatre only three weeks after his right hon. Friend had stated quite categorically in this House that he was not prepared to accept the proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) announced a Cabinet decision that home-killed beef would be issued to the Services during six months of the year. There was some misunderstanding about his pronouncement. There were some agriculturists who thought that this meant home-fed beef. Others thought it meant home-produced beef; and some thought it meant home-killed beef, and they were right. That is what it meant, and there was a most important distinction. In any event, that decision was reached only a few weeks after the Government had confirmed that the proposal was impracticable. What was the cause of the change? Can it be the imminence of a General Election? It is not for me to impute motives, but I leave the Committee to draw their own conclusions. Sometimes electoral questions and possibilities do concern members of Governments. Few of us are immune from these considerations. It certainly affected members of the late Government; therefore it is not surprising that they are a little reluctant to raise this issue. Let me come to the practical side of the proposal. I cannot embark on an agricultural discussion, but I submit that it is quite appropriate to the discussion to affirm that to use British meat—that is, home-killed beef, for that is what is means—would not confer any particular benefit on British. farmers. It might confer distinct advantages on the cattle trade of the Irish Free State. Moreover, the bulk of our meat supplies are obtained from the Dominions. Only an infinitesimal proportion of the supplies used by the Army are obtained from foreign sources. It is hardly worth talking about. Are we going to destroy the 202 Dominions' trade in frozen meat for the very dubious advantage that might be conferred on the British farming industry?
There was a further consideration. We have to take the risk of interruption of supplies. There was an occasion many years ago when the Army did use a considerable quantity of fresh meat, and then there was constant trouble—trouble in relation to the supply, to its regularity, to the quality of the meat, to its inspection. All those considerations were in- volved. There is a further consideration. The prospect of a recurrence of foot-and-mouth disease might seriously impede the supplies for the Army. All these factors have got to be taken into account; and finally we have to consider the question of expense. To provide the Army with British meat for six months in the year would cost us at least £200,000, and to supply the Army for a full year would cost double that amount. We are not prepared to accept that financial liability. If it were merely a question of cost it might be worth considering, but taken alongside the various other factors to which I have referred, we have come to the conclusion that it would be impracticable to adopt the suggestion. I must congratulate my hon. Friend behind me on the earnestness with which he has espoused the cause of British agriculture, but at the same time we are indisposed to accept his suggestion. I hope now that I have given these replies to both hon. Members that we may be allowed to have the Vote.
§ Commodore KING
May I say a word on the question of time, because the Financial Secretary spoke just now as though he were winding up the Debate. That is the sixth speech we have had from the Treasury Bench. [Interruption.] Oh, yes. That was the third speech the Financial Secretary had made, and we had three from the Secretary of State, and each one has been certainly over 20 minutes long, I should think 25 minutes. I do not think we have had more than four speeches from hon. Members on the back benches on this side, and we must protest, and shall certainly take the opportunity of presenting our views.
§ Major GLYN
We on the back benches are very grateful to my right hon. and 203 gallant Friend for making this protest against the obvious intention of His Majesty's Government to smother discussion on this subject. We all realise the difficult position in which the Secretary of State has been placed, but the Opposition cannot allow themselves to be slighted on account of the long speeches required from the Government to quell the disorder on their own back benches. We are now discussing Vote A, but I think all on this side of the Committee must have felt that we were listening to the original discussion. The leader of the party of the mountain behind the Government did not himself speak, but hon. Members who did speak dealt with the League of Nations and every other subject. Surely if they do believe in the League of Nations—
The hon. Member is not entitled in Committee to refer to speeches made in the House.
§ Major GLYN
I bow to your Ruling. May I return to the question of numbers? In order that the British Army may carry out its obligations, which are very largely influenced by forces not under our own control now that we are guided by the League of Nations, it is necessary that we should get recruits, and we can only get them if the country as a whole is in favour of the Forces and advantage is not taken of opportunities of debate in this House to belittle the Army and the men who serve in it. There may be difficulties in regard to offering alternative employment, but there is this fact which is perfectly clearly understood. Under the present scales of unemployment benefit a man gets 17s. a week, and the pay of a private soldier joining the Army is 14s. a week. Can you wonder if a man comes along and compares those figures which are not a true comparison? There is 14s. a week provided for a soldier and 17s. a week for unemployment benefit, and a man would naturally ask himself, "why should I join the Army if I can get 17s. a week for doing nothing?" There ought to be a good deal more propaganda by the War Office to show the advantages that a man gets by joining the Army where he is provided with clothing, good food, medical attendance, recreation, and a Magnificent life. There is nothing dis- 204 graceful about being in the Army. Many hon. Members opposite have served in the Army, and how they can sit patiently and hear things said which are a slur on the people who are serving their country in the Army I cannot understand. What disgrace is there about being a soldier in the Army?
§ Major GLYN
If that is so, why do hon. Members make such speeches as they have done in the House which by innuendo discourage men from joining the Army—
The hon. and gallant Member is not entitled in Committee to reply to speeches made in debate in the House, and he must confine himself to speeches made during the Committee stage.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it not an old standing practice not to reply to speeches that have not been made at all?
§ Sir BASIL PETO
I wish to raise a point of Order. The Secretary of State for War referred to the Amendments on the Order Paper in Committee in his opening speech, and he explained to the House, in answer to the point raised from the Front Bench opposite, that he would let hon. Members know what were the views of the Government on those Amendments. It will be very difficult to debate this question unless we can refer to what the right hon. Gentleman said.
I was not in the Chair at the time, hut there is a long-standing rule in this House that you cannot reply in Committee to speeches made in previous Debates in the House.
§ Major GLYN
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Dunnico, and I agree that one is not permitted to deal in Committee with matters that have been raised in the House. In the report on Recruiting in the Army, certain very serious things have been pointed out which I think are pertinent to a discussion on Vote A. It is, surely, in the interest, not only of one party but of the whole House, to try to find out why the Inspector-General of Recruiting should have made that report. There is one aspect of attracting men to the colours and encouraging men to join the Army which I think 205 could be developed, and that is that not only are there the advantages of vocational training, which are very great, but there is also the great advantage that a man who has joined the Army can, after his time is up, be assisted to settle overseas and have the advantage of aftercare by linked units in the Dominions. Not long ago, in Ontario, I was told by the units of British soldiers settled there that they had made it their business, if any ex-service men could obtain adequate training and get out there, to help them in every way to settle down and make a living.
The fact that there is a shortage of nearly 10,000 in recruiting is a serious matter this year, and, if it continues, it will be disastrous in two years' time. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says that that is one reason why we do not like it, but it is not a question of our liking it; it is a question of how the business of the country is to be carried on, and it is the business of this Committee to see that nothing is left undone to ensure that we get an adequate supply of men to serve in the different Services. I understand that there is no shortage of recruits for either the Royal Air Force or the Royal Navy, nor in the Royal Tank Corps, or the cavalry, or the gunners, but that the shortage is entirely confined to the infantry. If that be so, surely something might be done by the War Office to encourage mechanical training in the infantry, or something of the kind.
The Financial Secretary mentioned that, as units were being mechanised, every man who passes out is to some extent a trained man, but in another part of the Vote it appears that we have not sufficient money for the mechanisation of second-line transport units, and, if that be not done, I do not see how men joining an infantry battalion can obtain that extra training. I am certain that if the Secretary of State will make inquiries of the Employment Exchanges, and find out to what extent they are advertising the advantages of the Army to men who apply there for work—[Interruption.] An bon. Member says that the advertisements are on the walls, but, while they are in same cases, in other cases they are not.
If there could be a little collaboration between the War Office and the Ministry of Labour, I believe that, without any 206 compulsion, but by giving men who have a spirit of adventure and desire a healthy life the opportunity of joining the Army, utilising the Exchanges to some extent as recruiting offices, we should very largely get over our difficulties. On the other hand, if Employment Exchanges are manned by people who have feelings very hostile to the Army and to the idea of serving the country, I would suggest that it is high time that something was done to enable any young British labouring man who wishes to join the Army, when he goes to an Employment Exchange, to be provided with all the information that he wants, and then I think that his spirit of adventure and his desire to serve will make him willing and anxious to join the Army, and we shall get over the difficulty of shortage of recruits.
§ Sir B. PETO
I had desired not to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Order Paper—to reduce Subhead G. of Vote 11 (Medals) by £5—but merely, in view of what the Secretary of State said in his opening remarks, to make one or two comments. But I gather from your Ruling, Sir, that that would not be in order. What I desire to do, therefore, is to move the reduction that is on the Paper in order that I may have an opportunity of saying something which I should desire to say in deference to the very kind way in which the Secretary of State met me in advance, not on an Amendment to reduce the Vote, but merely on the general discussion. In order to put myself in order, I propose to move a reduction of Vote 11.
I ought to make it clear that the hon. Baronet would not be entitled to discuss a matter to Vote 11 on a Motion to reduce Vote A by 100 men. That has obviously nothing to do with medals.
§ Sir B. PETO
In that case, I must leave myself in your hands. I am quite prepared to sit here for any number of hours to raise this question in view of the speech we have had from the Financial Secretary, who seemed to think that we are much more anxious to get home 207 than to discuss questions of which we have given notice. I will therefore wait till you allow me to move a reduction of Vote 11. I should like to say, had it not been for your Ruling, that I had no desire to move the reduction at all, and I shall not detain the Committee more than a few moments in making a brief reference to what the hon. Gentleman said.
§ Lieut. - Colonel FREMANTLE
The duty of an Opposition is a double one. One is to oppose and the other is constructive. I want to make a constructive speech which may or may not be opposition as the Front Bench may like to take it. It is with regard to the health services of the Army. I want to raise the question of the personnel of the medical service in the Territorial Force. As is now recognised as the result of the experience of the late War, the Territorial Force is the force for the future expansion of the Army in time of active service, and from that point of view the medical service of the Territorial Force must be capable of expansion in time of active service. In days gone by, the proper establishment for a Territorial division was one field ambulance for every brigade. As the result of economies since the War, that has been reduced from three field ambulances in a division to two. It was recognised that that was capable of expanding to three in case of mobilisation. It was not a good arrangement, but it was entered into for the sake of economy. Now the establishment of a Territorial Field Ambulance has been cut down further and consists of only two sections, and is, therefore, only a framework capable of expanding into two field ambulances, which obviously would not be sufficient to cope with three brigades in a division. I have raised this question before, but no attention has been paid to it, in spite of verbal replies from the Secretary of State. You cannot expect a force to be efficient when it is called out on active service unless, at any rate, you have a skeleton organisation in time of peace. What will happen if these three brigades are mobilised in time of war? They will only have the skeleton of these two sections of one field ambulance.
These things leave the House and the public cold in time of peace. Again and 208 again in the last century the same thing happened. In each case the Medical Services have pointed out the inadequacy of the organisation. A deaf err has been turned and the services have been starved and cut down. A war breaks out—the Crimea, South Africa., to some extent even the last Great War. A force is suddenly mobilised and flung into the front line of battle. There is a breakdown and the blame is thrown upon the Director-General and his Department, whereas it has not been his fault, but that of the War Office or Parliament. That was the reason of the breakdown in the South African War, and of the breakdown in the Crimea. After the South African War an Army Medical Service Departmental Committee went into the matter thoroughly. I happen to know a good deal about it, because I was the Assistant Secretary to the Committee. This was in 1902. The Committee was presided over by the then Secretary of State for War. Practically every reform which was suggested was introduced, with the result that there was an extraordinary improvement in the Army Medical Service right up to the late War. But adequate attention has not been paid to the Territorial Medical Service. I am asking that this matter shall be taken into account, and I hope that every Territorial Field Ambulance will be extended to three sections. We have one Service after another complaining of the shortage of medical officers. In the course of the discussion on the Naval Estimates the First Lord of the Admiralty said:I regret that some concern is felt by my advisers over the difficulty of obtaining an adequate supply of medical officers."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1930; col. 1747, Vol. 236.]We have the Secretary of State for War saying that there is a still regret-able shortage of candidates for the Regular Army, and that the supplementary officers and the officers' reserve are much below establishment. We are getting into the same position as obtained before the South African War and before the Crimea. You are not worrying much about the Medical Service. You say, "It will be all right. When war breaks out medical men will come along." Of course they will come along, but they will be medical men who are untrained, and they will be below the proper strength 209 and without organisation. Only four years ago my late colleague, Major-General Sir Richard Luce, then a Member for Derby, speaking on this subject, remarked that the establishment of medical officers was 900 and that strength was only 794, a shortage of 106. I see that the present establishment is 589 and that the strength is only 533. The question of the reduced numbers is one on which we have been working for a long time.
Previous Secretaries of State for War have asked medical men in the House to help them in regard to the matter. It is a very serious difficulty. I have gone into the question at length with several former Directors-General when they have left the Service, and I have had a considerable number of letters from them regarding their views of the medical service. I know the difficulties. I know that the British Medical Association feel that the War Office have treated them fairly in accepting their suggestions, but still we have not had the men coming into the Service. What is the reason? It is difficult to explain the reason. There is a series of reasons which will have to be inquired into. We are dealing here with very much the same problem in regard to medical officers as we are dealing with in regard to the training of men. What we have to consider when trying to attract young students or medical men into the Service is that these men are looking to the future. A man wants to know what is going to happen to him when he leaves the Service. A man comes out of the Army, say at 45 years of age, with a pension of £1 a day. What is he going to do if he has a wife and children and very little chance of getting other work? Sufficient attention is not paid to the outlets from the Service. It is obvious that the same suggestion which was made by the late Secretary of State for War this afternoon ought also to be applied to officers, and especially to medical men.
The Government is a large employer of labour and a large employer of medical men. In its many services and Departments it requires senior men, and very often senior men have to be brought in from outside. Municipalities often require senior medical men for their work. Especially under the Local Government Act of last year there is a great need for senior medical officers. The Govern- 210 ment have great influence with the municipalities; they have the power of the purse, and if they could use their influence in helping in the selection of suitable candidates for the positions of medical officers in institutions under the local authorities, they would give a very considerable chance to a medical officer, after serving his time in the Army, to get a position on returning to civil life. So long as a medical officer in the Army serves on terms equally with the officer of the combatant arm, recruitment for the Service attracts, and rightly attracts, young men of enterprise who like to see the world. They will join for five, seven or 10 years, but you must give them an opening for employment on return to civil life. It is owing to Government Departments working in separate watertight compartments that one does not find the Government properly attracting medical men. You cannot go on as you are, with a service of officers who are getting older, and having to rely upon the older men to carry on work which ought to be done by younger men. Men who are constantly dissatisfied are liable to become anti-recruiting agents.
A most important matter is the direct representation of the medical side of the Army upon the Army Council. In the year when the Army Council was set up in 1904, there was a proposal of the Medical Departmental Committee of the War Office, which was not accepted, that the Director-General of the Army medical service should himself have a seat on the Army Council and be responsible, as lie is not at present, for the whole organisation and equipment of the medical services of the Army. That is a technical question which I cannot deal with now, but in its essence the idea still remains the fundamental belief, I think I am right in saying, of the successive Directors-General of our Army medical service, after their mature experience in the Army, that a necessary solution of this difficult problem is to have a man who can speak for the medical service, not merely when he is called in for consultation with the Army Council, when they, the laymen think he is required, but that he should be responsible himself, with a responsible seat on the Army Council, and should be held responsible for this service which he alone, as a scientific medical man, can explain to his colleagues on the Army Council. It is a 211 serious question with which I cannot deal at length now, but I hope that the Secretary of State will go into the matter again himself, because it has a considerable bearing on the efficiency of the medical service, and that efficiency is vital to the future of the Army. If things are left as they are we shall be drifting, drifting, drifting, and in the end there will be a countless waste of life when the next war takes place.
§ Mr. SHAW
May I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that at least one Member of the House does not look upon this matter with any coldness? The authorised establishment of officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps is 846. We have a deficiency of 117; where we need seven doctors we have, roughly, six. That is not a condition of affairs that anyone can look on with equanimity. I am willing to take the matter back and have it considered by the Army Council in every way.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State has been so brief. The Debate to-day seems to have consisted of about two speeches from the Opposition and then a reply from the Front Bench, as if the Front Bench could not remember for more than half an hour what were the answers to questions asked. I want to raise the question of military bands. The position, I understand, is that there are a certain number of bands which for many years have taken engagements at festivities, City dinners, trade exhibitions and so on. The custom has been that parts of the bands, 12 or 15 musicians, attended these functions. I understand that the War Office has now taken the line that it is not right for these bands to take such engagements unless 20 or more of the musicians go. That is to say, that the small band, as it is known in the Army, is automatically to come to an end. The reason alleged is that these small bands have been getting pay which undercuts civilian musicians. The allegation is completely unfounded. The average small band from the Army requires something like two or three times as much as a civilian band of corresponding size. That is partly because they are highly skilled, partly because the men have to travel from home, and also because of the cost of upkeep of 212 uniform and because last year the bands were put to considerable expense in changing all their instruments. There is no question of undercutting at all. It is a question of their being in a position to ask for a great deal higher fee than civilian bands. Therefore, it is all the more inexplicable that the War Office should stop what has always been the regular military practice. It has nothing to do with individual bandsmen accepting individual jobs such as playing in a civilian orchestra, in their off-time. That is to go on under the regulation as it used to do. I am talking about breaking up the ordinary string bands, which used to be six, eight, or 12 in strength, and making it no longer possible for them to take any engagements.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into this matter, because I understand the only reason advanced for the order by the authorities is the definite statement that there are a lot of civilian musicians out of work. If the Army Council and the Secretary of State are going to lay down regulations for the Army on the ground of what happens to civilian musicians—people outside for whom they have no responsibility to this House and of whom they have no official knowledge—it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman is failing in his duty to his own job, which is to look after the interests of the Army and the officers and men who belong to that force. Except in so far as he has Cabinet responsibility, neither he, nor the Army Council has anything to do with unemployed civilian musicians. I hope he will give the Committee some explanation on that point.
The second matter to which I want to call attention on this Vote is that of vocational training, about which the right hon. Gentleman was naturally very proud. Why is it that in his explanatory memorandum it is stated that during 1929, although 2,000 soldiers passed through training centres, that was only something like 10 per cent. of the discharges? A great deal more headway will have to be made before we can say that we have an adequate system of vocational training. The tragic part of it is that only 76 per cent. obtained employment on completion of training, compared with 81 per cent, in the previous year. A drop of 5 per cent. is a very considerable one, and I should like to 213 know how far, if at all, it is due reluctance on the part of the trade union organisations to accept the training given at vocational centres as of a sufficiently high standard to enable the men to get into ordinary work straightway as they would have done if they had been trades unionists. I see the Financial Secretary shakes his head. I take it he means that he is quite satisfied that is not the case. His acquaintance with the War Office, or the Army at all, has been so brief that he may not be fully cognisant of what has happened in the past. There have been very considerable difficulties. Surely, it is the right hon. Gentleman, who, above all, ought to be able to bring influence to bear on the trade unions to make it quite certain that nothing of the kind happens in Future. If that is not the reason, may we have some explanation for this drop of 5 per cent.?
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain, as he is so keen on vocational training, how it is that this year there is a drop in expenditure allotted for that purpose of about 25 per cent. and a similar drop in the Appropriation-in-Aid, which are fees received from the men. It does not sound, from the figures, at any rate, as if there was going to be any very great development in vocational training. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into the question of fees. At present they are fixed at the very high figure of 7s. 6d. a week, irrespective of rank. Judging from the fact that only one in 10 of the men about to be discharged take the opportunity of getting vocational training at all, it looks as though the War Office experts have fixed too high a figure. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, if he is really genuine in his desire to push on vocational training, will look into this question. It would have been better if the right hon. Gentleman had continued the efforts which are described in the Memorandum, that is, to improve the machinery for placing ex-soldiers in civil employment through various regimental and voluntary organisations. If the War Office and the Minister of Labour encouraged these voluntary organisations, they could do far more towards finding these men jobs when they leave the Army. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to explain the position in regard to Army 214 bands, which is creating considerable disturbance in some military circles.
§ 12 m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
I desire to support what the hon. Member for Welling-borough (Mr. Dallas) has said with regard to British meat and flour for the British Army. In spite of what the Financial Secretary has said, the position is quite unsatisfactory. I have constantly urged that the supply of British meat and bread to the British Army should be a policy of the Conservative party, and pressed the late Government to take the necessary steps. I shall continue to urge it on the present Government, and I hope I shall be successful and that they will include it in their policy both now and at the next election. I hope the question will be further considered. The excuse given by the Financial Secretary is quite different to that given by the Minister of Agriculture, who has said that the reason British meat cannot be supplied to the Forces is because it would put up prices to the consumer. The Financial Secretary to the War Office put forward the plea of expense. No possible reason has been given by the Minister of Agriculture why it should raise prices to the consumer. I want to put three questions to the Secretary of State, and as the hour is late I will put them without comment. The clothing grant to the Territorial has been reduced by 6s. 6d. per man. One shilling and eleven pence of this reduction is on account of the estimated fall in the price of clothing. As far as I can make out the vocabulary price of clothes has not been reduced. If the vocabulary price was reduced by an equivalent to 1s. 11d. it would be fair, and I want an assurance from the Government that the amount of this grant will vary in accordance with the vocabulary price of clothes which is the price the Territorial Army has to pay to the War Office for the clothes they require. The second point is that the further reduction in the grant of 4s. is a purely arbitrary reduction, and no explanation has been offered for it. It is not clear whether it is a temporary or permanent cut. The Territorial Army has accepted it for one year but if it is to be a permanent reduction it will make matters very difficult. I want to know whether it is a reduction for the present year only or whether it is to be permanent. 215 We heard a good deal about raids on various funds during the time the last Government was in power. A raid has now been made on the funds of the Territorial Army. In the case of my own county association it will cost £7,000. This raid is made by reducing the reserve of clothes held by associations. The Army Council will not take back clothes which are now held and county associations have to pay for them. I want to know the reason for this reduction being made, and how that £7,000 is go-[...] ing to be spent. Then I want the right hon. Gentleman to give further consideration to the case of the ex-ranker officers and their pensions. We know that they have very little legal right to an increase of pension, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration rather their moral right in the matter and to give them more sympathetic consideration than has yet been given them by his Government or by the late Government.
§ Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
I am fortunate in being able to make some observations without further intervention from the Treasury Bench, and I want to refer to the decline in recruiting. Some of the reasons for it given in the General Annual Report of the British Army are very extraordinary and interesting. They are as follow:Expectations of a large increase in the unemployment benefit.Uncertainty as to the future of the Army, owing to the publicity given to disarmament.An increase in employment in certain industrial districts since April.Transference of labour under Government auspices for over-populated areas to other parts of the country where employment was more easily obtainable.An increased demand for labour in agricultural districts due to the particularly fine summer.The tendency of employers to replace older by younger men, coupled with the commencement of the decline in the number of boys attaining the age of 18.Organised migration overseas and preliminary training in connection therewith.The influenza epidemic in February, and its after effects on health.Everyone knows that recruiting in the past has always improved when there has been a depression in trade. That was in the days when there was not so much generous payment of benefits, but to-day, 216 I am afraid, a large number of young men who are really unskilled labourers prefer to draw unemployment benefit rather than join the Army, and I think it is a very sad and ominous thing for this country when they prefer to draw benefit to being in any business, trade, or profession where they can work and earn their money. The Government have heard a good deal of the detrimental effect on trade owing to uncertainty as to what is going to happen, due to the performance or lack of performance by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, so it is rather humorous to find that same reason given here for the decline in recruiting. I hope that when the Minister replies, which I hope will not be for some time yet, he will tell the Committee what the prospects of the Army are and how much further it is going to be reduced. With regard to the reason given, of an increase in employment, where has it taken place? The unemployment returns show an enormous increase in unemployment. Then, as to the increased demand for agricultural labourers, every hon. Member on this side is demanding from the Government what their policy is in agriculture, because employment in agriculture is decreasing, not increasing. With regard to organised migration overseas, I have made inquiries as to where the organisation is, but I cannot trace any. Can the Minister really state seriously, again, that the influenza epidemic had affected recruiting?
As a matter of fact, there were two serious factors which had affected recruitment, and one was the uncertainty as to the prospects in the Army and whether a regiment would be cut down any more. The second factor is the question of unemployment benefit, and it is a most serious thing. I should like to ask the Minister to tell me whether any information is given in the Employment Bureaux as to the possibilities and prospects of men if they enlist. Do the officers of the Exchanges ever give information about the Army and the possibilities there? After all, it is not a bad job. Men are well paid, well fed, well treated, and looked after, and in addition they have what is a very important thing to-day, and that is tile benefit of discipline, which is of use to them in all their after life. Then they get vocational training and the opportunity of learning a trade which, when they leave the Army, they can take up. That de- 217 partment is being extended, and I think that a young man who cannot get a job to-day might do very much worse than join the Army and get training in a trade which he would not be able to get, unless very fortunate, outside the Army. I do not see any advertisements, or very few, inviting men to join the Army. It is a good career, and if the Ministry would only get rid of this question of uncertainty it would do well. For goodness' sake, lay down a plan and stick to it. Give men some encouragement to join the Army, and if you do that properly, there will be no want of recruits, and you will not need to cut down the stamina and physique of men whom you have to accept for the Army.
I must make a protest over the question of men in the arsenals and the way they are being treated. I was astonished at the reason given by the Minister in refusing to meet the deputation which wanted to see him. I presume the Financial Secretary is a Socialist, being a Member of a Socialist Government, and yet his reason or excuse for refusing to meet the deputation was—so puffed up with pride was he in his position—that there happened to he two sections representing this Arsenal, and so he declined to see them. Surely it is the duty of a Socialist Member of a Socialist Government to see all classes who work in the Arsenal under Government employment and not make such a miserable, pitiable excuse that because they happened to represent two sections of the men working, he could not see them. I hope the hon. Gentleman will reconsider that, because these poor fellows with this uncertainty hanging over them do not know what to do, and their own Minister refuses to see them. Is that fair? I happen to have works in Woolwich, and my manager there is inundated with applications by men looking for work, who have worked in the Arsenal, and they want to know if there is a chance of a job, because they do not trust their own Government. What is worse, they cannot even see their own Government representative to put their case before him. I hope that the Minister will carefully consider the whole matter.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
We should like some more definite proof of that, because our information is that there are num 218 bers of men under notice. Our information is that the men are not doing the amount of work they should, because the Government are endeavouring to spread the quantity of work over the arsenals and dockyards, and they keep the men apparently busy when they are not doing a genuine amount of work for the day's work. This is a serious thing, and wants to be looked into.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I am referring to arsenals. The Government are boasting that they are not reducing the staff there, and that they are keeping the men fully employed. Are the men turning out the same amount of work that they did when we were in power? Are they carrying on the same methods of piecework as when we were in power? We want to be assured of that.
§ Lieut.-Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
I wish to ask the Committee's attention to the subject of the grant of commission in the Territorial Army to members of the Officers Training Corps. The Committee are aware that commissions are not granted in the Territorial Army until the applicant reaches the age of 18. It so happens that in a large number of cases, boys leave public schools, and therefore the Officers Training Corps of which they may be members, at an earlier age than 18, very often at 17. There therefore exists a gap between the time when a boy ceases to be a member of the Officers Training Corps and becomes eligible to receive a commission in the Territorial Army. It is true that the Territorial Army Associations keep in touch with the Officers Training Corps, but it is found in practice, as a result of the gap which exists between the time of leaving school and being eligible to receive a commission in the Territorial Army, that much good material is lost. So I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should introduce a system of probationary commissions; that is to say, when a boy leaves school and the Officers Training Corps, although he may not be 18, he may be eligible to receive a probationary commission in the Territorial Army under one of two heads. If a vacancy occurs in a particular unit, the applicant might receive a probationary commission and fill up the gap in the establishment; if so, he could receive the 219 outfit allowance, and, if he goes to camp, his pay and ordinary allowances. If, however, there be no vacancy, he might be put on to the probationary roll, and if he went to camp, he might be granted his clothing allowance.
There is a serious statement in the Estimates, to which I wish to draw the attention of the Committee. There has been in the last five years a drop of no less than one-third in the numbers of members of Cadet Corps who have subsequently received commissions in the Territorial Army. That is a very serious problem. It is one which we cannot afford to allow to continue. Officers Training Corps exist to supply a flow of officers to all branches of the Forces, and if the flow is not kept up then, obviously, there is no purpose in keeping up the Officers Training Corps.
I very much regret the decision of the War Office with regard to the number of the personnel of Army bands, but I wish to raise another point in connection with the bands, and that refers to the charges made by the Performing Right Society for the use of copyright music. A unit has to pay a guinea a year for the use of copyright music and if it is not fortunate enough to possess a band of its own and hires an outside band for an entertainment or a dance then it has to pay a fee of three guineas to the Society. If a Territorial drill hall is let to the civilian population for a performance, the owners of the hall, usually the Territorial Army Association, have to pay a fee of three guineas to the Society. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should make a compounding arrangement with the Society for the whole of the Army. I am not suggesting that the Society have not every right to protect their members and to secure for them the dues that are properly payable, but it would be far better if the War Office could make an all round agreement to cover all the copyright charges.
Any attempt on the part of the War Office to reduce the number of Army bands, any attempt to hinder them or any lukewarmness towards them, is to be deprecated. As a commanding officer of a Territorial battalion before the War, I recall that we took great pride in the band, we managed to maintain a band even in the theatre of war and we have maintained a band ever since. The 220 possession of a band is of tremendous advantage to a unit and, generally, to the esprit de corps of the Territorial Army.
I must say one word about the reduction of the establishment of the Territorial Army. The reduction of some 52 men in the infantry battalions originated in the Estimates of my right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War and has resulted in a total reduction of 8,736 men in the infantry battalions of the Territorial Army. That its due to the conversion of one rifle company in each battalion into a machine gun company and it is probably true that the fire power of an infantry battalion is in no way diminished, and may very likely be increased, but I think the country ought to be made aware of the fact that there has been a big reduction in the personnel of the Territorial Army. I hope the Committee and the country will he very watchful of any further proposals for cutting down the Territorial Army.
Another subject which has been raised concerns the cutting down of administration grants to Territorial Associations. They have been reduced under all the main heads, and the sum total of the reductions in this year's Estimates amounts to £236,400. I was very interested this afternoon to hear the very generous tribute paid by the Secretary of State for War to the work done by the Territorial Associations, but I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has made such large reductions in the grants to those associations, because this policy has caused great disappointment throughout all those associations. This action is extremely discouraging, because, after all, the members of those associations have done an enormous amount of unpaid work. They have given their time generously, and it is not fair to them to make use of their services, and at the same time hamper that work by turning on the screw on every occasion. The country is getting excellent value out of the Territorial Army, and the cost per head of that Army is extremely small. I have calculated that the cost per head of the Territorial Army is not more than £30 7s., and that includes the cost of the permanent staff. Therefore, the country is getting very good value for this expenditure, and it is a, better policy to pay £30 a year for maintaining a member of the Territorial Army than to 221 spend £30 a year in paying a man unemployment benefit. The Territorial Army takes men from civil occupations, and they are able to bring to the Army that experience which they have gained in civil life and that is a real asset to the country.
The figures of the Territorial Army are extremely disquieting, and the gap between the establishment and strength amounts to over 33,000 men of all ranks. Those figures cannot be regarded without some concern. A further fact which gives cause for anxiety is that there are 68 officers and 3,373 fewer men in the Territorial Army to-day than on 1st January last year, and that is a very serious drop. Beside this, there has been a drop of 1,000 in recruiting during the last 12 months. We must try to keep the numbers up to the establishment, and, to accomplish this object, I think employers of labour will be found willing to help. If the employers say to the men, "You can only go for a week's training instead of a fortnight," and, if they put other difficulties in the way, then they will hamper the whole work of the Territorial Army. Therefore, I appeal to employers to do all that they can to give their employés every facility for attending the annual training of the Territorial Army. What are the reasons for the falling off in the strength of the Territorial Army? Is it due to a lack of patriotism, or is it because men are attracted more by sport, cinemas or the peace propaganda? I am inclined to think that it is due in part to all these causes. To those who, perhaps rightly, push the peace theory, I would say that there is no conflict between that theory and the functions of the Territorial Army. The function of the Territorial Army is defence, and not defiance—
§ Lieut. - Colonel RUGGLES - BRISE
Hon. Gentlemen opposite may be very thankful that in 1914 there was a Territorial Army to defend them. I appeal to all hon. Members to use their influence in their constituencies to encourage the Territorial Army in every way. It is really good value for the country, and it is the duty of every Member of the House to appreciate it at its full value.
When speaking earlier I endeavoured to raise the ques- 222 tion of the grant to the Cadet Corps, which I regard as a question of great importance, but I was told that I had better raise it on this Vote, and the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that he would reply on this Vote to the points that I desired to make. As a member of a Territorial Force Association responsible for the administration of this corps, and as an old Territorial, I cannot let the matter go by without putting some questions to the right hon. Gentleman and protesting against the manner in which the announcement has been made.
It is surprising that, in the ordinary statement of his intentions issued by the Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Gentleman made no reference at all to the fact that he was going to abolish the grants to the Cadet Corps. Any reference to what took place when Mr. Speaker was in the Chair has been ruled to be out of order, but I would mention in passing that the right hon. Gentleman suddenly announced at the end of his speech that the grant was going to be abolished, and he gave no sufficient reasons. I wish to ask whether the abolition of the grant involves also the abolition of the official recognition of this Corps by the War Office, and whether the privilege, which it has hitherto enjoyed, of using Government ground and property, is to be taken away. There was, I believe, a period in the past when the grant to the Cadet Corps was either abolished or very much cut down, but I think it would be very difficult to carry on the Corps without a Government grant. It might be possible in certain cases if the recognition always accorded to it by the War Office is continued—if, that is to say, is it open to the Territorial Associations to supply instructors and to carry out inspections, as has hitherto been the case. It is extremely important that we should know that. Further, if they are not to be recognised in any way, it would appear that those who form Cadet Corps or who are responsible for them where they exist would be in the position of being liable, if there were no recognition, to prosecution under the law for illegal wearing of uniform. I know that the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman wish the abolition of the Cadet Corps root and branch. They have told us so in the Debate, though I am not discussing that question for the moment. 223 I only observe it is in general accord with their whole attitude towards the defence of this country. We are not, however, concerned with them, but with the Government.
As to the value of these cadet corps, there can be no dispute. Of the four thousand odd who left the cadet corps last year, over 1,600, or more than a quarter, jointed His Majesty's Forces in one form or another. That shows what a valuable recruiting ground they are for the Forces. At a time when we are lamentably short of recruits, when the Government have had to admit in one of the most outspoken documents that I have ever seen issued from any public department how serious is the position of recruiting, at this moment the Government abolish an institution which has been moat valuable in providing recruits for the Army, and they do so in response to what I would call a mean and petty agitation which has been going on outside the House. Not only has the right hon. Gentleman done this, but he has done it in a manner that has shown a great lack of consideration of the Territorial Associations. Would it be believed that he has not taken the trouble to consult a single Territorial Force Association? He has not consulted the Council of the Territorial Force Associations or any of the officers commanding cadet corps. The only reason he has given us up to now is that the National Union of Teachers by a majority were in favour of that policy. The National Union of Teachers are very important in their own sphere, but not more important than the constituted bodies which have hitherto administered these cadet corps. If we were discussing educational matters—which we are not—I could understand it, but I do not know why they were ever referred to. Did this association also object to war books, war pictures? Did they object to that?
The hon. Member is one of that small minority, rightly despised by their fellow-countrymen, who believe that their country was in the wrong in the War. Thank goodness, he only belongs to a small minority. The right hon. Gentleman has done wrong in abolishing this grant. It is a wrong 224 thing in itself, and I regret that he has chosen the method which he has chosen to withdraw the grant. I hope he will be able to assure us on this side of the House that our fears are unfounded with regard to recognition, and that, even though the grant is to be withdrawn, he is still going to allow recognition and enable the Territorial Association to help them in every way it can.
I wish now to turn to the question of recruiting. In regard to the Employment Exchanges, all that I personally ask for is that the right hon. Gentleman should arrange with the Minister of Labour so that information is at the men's disposal—no pressure—in the way of pamphlets, pictures, and the like in regard to the opportunities that they have if they join His Majesty's Forces. That is a thing for which we can justifiably ask. Secondly, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will state to-night his emphatic refusal t[...] agree to the proposals which have been put forward in certain quarters that the preference which has been hitherto given to ex-soldiers, sailors and airmen for positions as messengers, postmen, and the like in the various Departments should be dropped. I hope he will declare that it will still be continued. Many of us were very much alarmed at the evidence given by a Member of this House before a Committee in favour of the abolition of that preference. We say that men who have served in the Armed Forces of the Crown should have a preference wherever possible. I know many hon. Members disagree with that view. They disagree with me, because they dislike every soldier and sailor in this country. [Interruption.] If they do not dislike them, why have we bad these speeches? I withdraw nothing and I repeat, why have we had the speeches we have had to-night attacking joining the Army? Every speech which we have heard from the benches below the Gangway to-night was directed against the men in the Forces.
The next point to which I wish to refer is the recruiting of officers. There is no doubt that the situation is serious in regard to officers just as it is in regard to men, and in certain branches of the Army there is an insufficient intake of officers at the 225 present moment. There is no question that the main reason for this is that officers and men feel that at the present time they are under the shadow of the axe of disarmament or of a reduction of armaments. That is inevitable, and I am not blaming the Government for it, but what is needed is a declaration that in all foreseeable circumstances the small Army which we have at present and which is no more than sufficient for the work of policing the land region of the Empire, which is its historic role, is unlikely to suffer any further reduction. If some statement such as that were made, you would get an intake of officers as before the War. Until that is done, you are bound to be in difficulties, because men will not enter a profession in which they think the opportunities will be reduced each year. Both as regards the ranks and commissions, in my opinion the psychological aspect of the case is very important. What is required is a declaration from whatever Government is in power—and there is a greater liability on this Government than most Governments in view of the nature of its support—that a man cannot be in a more honoured position than as a soldier or officer in His Majesty's Forces—[Interruption.] If that is so, why was the hon. Member so indignant with me a moment ago when I said that he and his friends had been making most consistent attacks—
If the hon. Member continues to call out "That is another lie" I shall have to appeal to the Chair. I am not going to be called a liar in this House by him or anyone else. He knows the only reason I have not raised the point of Order is because I regard him as a wholly insignificant person, whose views are of no moment to anybody except himself. Psychology is very important from the point of view of recruiting. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, who since he has been in office has done his best for the office he holds and who is genuinely anxious to see the Army in the most efficient state, in his reply to-night to tell the Committee that he believes there can be no more honoured position for a man to fill than to serve His Majesty in uniform.
§ Mr. SIMMONS
I am sure that the House does not expect us on this side to remain silent after the vituperative at- 226 tack made on us by the Front Bench on the opposite side. We are not going to sit here and inhale the putrid fumes of an obnoxious self-righteousness from the other side. They have no monopoly of patriotism. They may have a conception of patriotism that is entirely different from ours, but we deny to them the right to say that we on this side of the House do not love our country. We deny to them the right to say that we condemn the soldiers. A lot of us on this side of the House have been soldiers ourselves—not on the general headquarters staff, but "footsloggers" in the infantry.
If the hon. Member suggests that I was on the general headquarters staff, may I say that I was just as much in the trenches as he was?
§ Mr. SIMMONS
I do not refer to any individual, but to the officer class as a whole. [Interruption.] I can manage the Noble Lord all right. We have here to-night an example of the intolerance of that class. When an ex-private soldier dares to get up and speak on the Army Estimates we get the intolerance of the officer class on the other side of the House. We had a discussion on the church parade question, and we had no expression of opinion at all on that question from a private soldier on either side of the House. He had a lot of talk from the officers about soldiers loving church parade. I have been in a barrack room when we have been preparing for church parade, and I know how much the soldier loves church parade. The whole thing in the Army is a sheer mockery. When you join they say, "What is your religion?"
I think it is understood throughout that on Vote A we give wide latitude in debate.
§ Mr. SIMMONS
Hon. Members may not know that sometimes difficulty is found in classifying soldiers according to their religion. I happen to be a Primitive Methodist, and when I joined the Army they did not seem to have heard of Primitive Methodists. If there was anything unfamiliar, they said, "Put him down as Church of England." When I left the Army the same difficulty arose about a profession. I said I was a propagandist, and someone replied, "I 227 can't spell that; we will put you down as a lecturer." When we consider this question of church parades in the Army, the whole thing is to me repellent and abhorrent. It is quite out of keeping with the whole spirit of Christianity.
I want to congratulate the Secretary of State for War on the action which he has taken with regard to the Cadets and the Church Lads Brigade. I want to express the hope that sooner or later—the sooner the better—similar action will be taken with regard to the Officers Training Corps. I regard it as a pure class affair and as snobbery. I hope that as soon as we have a Labour Government really in power some attempt will be made to democratise the Army so that a far greater proportion of the officers will come from the ranks. The Army then will not be such a useful weapon in case of industrial disputes. The whole object of hon. Members opposite is that the Army should be used for their class against ours. You have mere children, who, when their minds are at the most impressionable period, are having those minds moulded along militarist lines in the Church Lads Brigade and the Cadet Corps. Our danger to-day is not the men who knew war, but the men who knew not war. The men who knew war know the horrors of it and are not taken in by bands and coloured uniforms and that sort of thing. To get the young men in is the idea of hon. Members opposite, and that is why they want some continued recognition of the Church Lads Brigade and Cadet Corps. But some of us feel that the rising generation of this country can serve their country better in the pathways of peace than in the way of war. I happen to be the father of three boys. Having experienced war myself and having fought in a war to end war, I do not intend that my boys shall follow in my footsteps. I want to see any boys live for their country and serve their country but not in armed forces. I am perfectly convinced that if we allow the extension of the Church Lads Brigade and the Cadet Corps we are going to bring up a generation impregnated with militarism.
§ Mr. SIMMONS
You may say that it is only natural that the youth of this country should desire to serve their country and should desire adventure and an outlet for young spirits. I quite agree, but there are plenty of other outlets for adventure, for service, and for the expression of youth than through the medium of an armed force in this country. Therefore, I want to express my deep gratitude to the Secretary of State for War for the step he has taken towards saving the youth of our country from the rottenness, the bestiality, and the horrors of militarism. Militarism and vice go hand in hand and are inseparable. I would recommend hon. Members to read a book, which is now out of print, called "The Queen's Daughters in India." It. will give them the story of how vice was linked up with militarism during the period of Lord Roberts in India.
§ Sir PATRICK FORD
Is the hon. Member entitled to make such aspersions on the character of a man who has been honoured by the whole of his country?
If the hon. Member had made such an aspersion, I should have called him to order. I did not understand him to do so.
§ Mr. SIMMONS
I am sorry if my remarks have been misinterpreted on the other side of the House. When we are dealing with these things we are not dealing with individuals but with systems. I say that the whole military system is linked up with vice. I challenge those hon. Gentlemen who have waxed eloquent to-night about long service medals and various other things during the War to tell the House bow soldiers were advised by their commanding officers to use the brothers in France during the War. Here were young lads of 18, some of them recruited as a result of sermons preached from the churches, and sent into the Army. Some hon. Members talk about going to church parades, and how pleased the mothers of soldiers were about it. We know what happened to young lads during the last War. Some of them, 18 years of age, who still needed their home influence and their mothers' care, were torn away from their family circles and thrown into the military machine. Some of them returned physical and 229 moral wrecks as the result of their association with militarism.
I do say that it is time that this House realised that the people of this country are rising in indignation against any idea of an extension of militarism, and that the more we can do on the Army Estimates and on the Estimates of the other Fighting Services to reduce the strength of the forces and to bring nearer the day when total disarmament will be brought about the better it will be for the whole community.
§ Captain TODD
I have waited for some considerable time to intervene in this Debate, and I am glad it has fallen to me to reply to the speech which we have just heard. On behalf of all sections of the House I would like, most emphatically, to condemn the statements of the last speaker. We heard earlier from the Minister for War the magnificent record of the British Army on the Rhine, and that should he a sufficient answer to the speech which we have just heard.
§ Captain TODD
I claim that the Army on the Rhine was merely one example of the behaviour of the whole British Army. I had as much experience of soldiers during the War as the hon. Gentleman. With certain exceptions—there are good and bad everywhere—we can rest assured that we can be proud not only of our record since the War but during the War. From the point of view of recruiting, this House should protest against this continuous campaign of maligning the British Army. We have had it in literature, on the stage, and published everywhere throughout the world, and it is time we called a halt.
I hope that on a future Vote the question of the treatment of the ranker officers will be dealt with, because I think the House realises that until soldiers know that they will be treated with equality there will be difficulty in recruiting men for the Forces. I would like to support what the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose Burghs (Sir R. Hutchison) and the hon. and gallant Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte) said about the ranker officers, and I hope that when the time comes the Minister will deal fairly and 230 even generously with them. I rose particularly to call the attention of the Committee to the unfair treatment that soldiers are receiving from the Employment Exchanges. I have a case in mind of the treatment a man received when he came out of the Army. This is a fact, and I would like to draw the Minister's attention to it. When a soldier comes out of the Army, he is entitled to draw the dole or unemployment benefit. At the same time, a man drawing unemployment benefit is entitled to earn up to about 15s. a week if he works out of his normal hours. I know of a definite case, and it is not an isolated case, of an ex-soldier drawing unemployment benefit and getting a job in a cinema. The Employment Exchange heard of it and stopped his unemployment benefit, and the reason they gave, and it was upheld by the referee, was that a soldier's hours were 24 out of the 24, and he could not work for a few shillings and draw his unemployment benefit as well. The result was that he had to throw up his job, and a civilian took it and the ex-soldier was penalised for having been in the Army.
§ Captain TODD
Yes. A man is allowed to draw the unemployment benefit and so many shillings a week if he has earned those shillings out of his normal hours. But the ruling is that an ex-soldier's hours are 24 and he is not allowed the privilege. I am certain that in all quarters of the House we want to see that the ex-service man gets fairness and even a preference if it can be given, and I appeal to the Minister to consider that point.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
My Noble Friend the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) mentioned that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite adopted an attitude hostile to recruiting. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Ministerial Bench do it in a mellower way, but they have expressed such sentiments in private conversation and on the platform. I attribute to them, in a very large degree, the falling off that has taken place in recruiting. In the year 1925, when the Estimates were introduced, there was a note thatrecruiting during the past 12 months has been disappointing.231 In the following year, after the Conservative party had been in office, I find this note:Recruiting during the past year has on the whole been satisfactory. The total numbers enlisted are not a true indication of the popularity of the Army as a profession, since only 36 per cent, of those offering themselves were taken.I should be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman could give us some further information for last year. What percentage of the men offering themselves for enlistment were taken during the year?
§ 1.0 a.m.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I will read it in his speech to-morrow. The statement issued with these Votes has a very significant paragraph. The right hon. Gentleman writes there that the general position gives some cause for disquietude. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to mention the lowering of the dental standard and the height standard. Why, if the dental standard is to be lowered and recruits are in greater need of dental assistance, is the dental personnel being cut down? We are to-day 10,000 men short in the Army, and we are 14,000 short in the Reserve. At the same time, the unemployed in the country is going up by from 10,000 to 15,000 per week. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will consider whether the Army is or is not a suitable occupation to be classed as a normal occupation from the point of view of unemployment insurance. In this matter, I go further than the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. O. Lewis). I do not draw any distinction between covenanted and uncovenanted benefit. If an engineer, or textile worker, after a certain number of weeks, can be sent to chip off frozen snow, to dig roads, or break stones, on what grounds is he not allowed, if of suitable age and unmarried, to take service with the State? I ask the right hon. Gentleman, as a trade union leader and a representative of the textile community, whether he considers that these young fellows are not good enough to join the Army, or whether, as Secretary of State for War, he considers that the Army is not good enough for these young fellows?
232 The Financial Secretary says that he is most averse to bringing any economic compulsion to bear. Surely, the hon. Gentleman must realise that from the moment we are born until the moment we die everyone of us in this country is subject to economic pressure. Is anyone going to work at his desk for eight, 10 or more hours a day, in the factory or in the coal mine, or at any job of that kind, if he is not subject to economic pressure? We cannot get away from it. If the right hon. Gentleman says that this Army Service is of a sort more degrading and less suitable to a young fellow than those I have mentioned, I hope he will get up and make a clean breast of it. The Army supplies educational training, discipline, and an outlook on life such as no trade can do. It takes young fellows across the sea to see India, Malta, the Sudan, and helps them to realise the greatness of this Empire in a way which hon. Members opposite cannot realise. I hope the Secretary of State for War will consider whether an Army career is not a suitable alternative job for unemployed men.
§ Mr. SHAW
I will not weary the Committee by a long speech. Exception has been taken to the length of the speeches delivered by myself and my hon. Friend, and I know from the points put that we have dealt with nearly everything raised. If I cursorily refer to those with which I have dealt in extenso, I hope the Committee will not take any offence and count it to me for righteousness that I have acceded to their desire not to make a long speech. The hon. and gallant Member who raised the question of the medical profession may be assured that consider it of sufficient importance to merit special and careful investigation. When the strength of the medical profession in the Army is reduced by one-seventh below the standard, surely any person with any sense who is responsible must try to find a reason, if it can be found, and try to find a remedy. I agree fully as to the importance of maintaining the medical services at their full strength.
The question of bands was raised. I have made a long statement about Army bands, and, unless it be specially required, I do not want to repeat that statement. It is not my fault if Members were not in the House when the statement was made. As to the question of the Performing Right Society, it is 233 scarcely a question with which I can interfere. It is not in my administration. I cannot deal with copyright and how copyright rights must be used. The hon. Member must go to the Ministry responsible. With regard, again, to meat, my hon. Friend made an elaborate statement. There was no question of the clarity of it, and there was no questioning the decided statement made. So there, again, I prefer to leave the statement as it was made.
I pass on to the question of the cut in the allowance for Territorial clothing. I was present myself at the meetings of the Territorial Associations with the members of the Army Council. I heard all the discussion that took place, and, while the representatives of the Territorial Associations could not be expected to welcome the cut, I think they understood the position of the War Office. I am not satisfied that any Territorial Association whatever by this cut suffered any diminution of anything it could reasonably want. It had merely certain balances which were floating about a little bit lessened, and no Territorial will go short of clothing. The allowances made, I assert, are quite sufficient for the purpose, and I have heard no expression of opinion even from the most pacifist Member of the House of a derogatory character towards the Territorial Forces.
§ Mr. SHAW
Nothing is ever permanent. Still the 4s. cut may apply so long as Territorial Associations make no claim that they cannot get along without the money. It must apply so long as they have plenty of money for the purpose. If they put a case up again, I think they will find that the Army Council will be prepared to discuss it in a reasonable way with any branch of the Force, if the Force will be reasonable with the Army Council and recognise that there is a certain financial stringency at the moment which everybody in the State ought to recognise and do something to cope with.
With regard to the case of ranker officers, I have already made a full statement on the matter. The facts of the matter are these, that Minister after Minister has dealt with it. A special Committee was set up to deal with the question, and in every case, after 234 thorough investigation, it was determined that nothing more could be done. I cannot reopen the question in view of these repeated decisions, and in view of the recommendations made by the Committee. Let me now take the case of Woolwich. The right hon. Gentleman who raised the question has now left the Chamber, so I shall venture to leave the subject and pass on to the next question. With regard to Officers Training Corps, these are generally composed of older boys who can judge for themselves what are the responsibilities and choose their career. In the case of cadets you have a different type, and the boys are generally younger, and this grant, in my opinion and not in my opinion alone, bears no real military significance. It was only recommended on social grounds and not on military grounds. So far as I am concerned, I must bear the full responsibility for the decision not to pay any more grant to these institutions and schools when existing contracts run out. I take full responsibility for my action in the matter. I will leave out the epithets that have been used.
Let me now refer to the question of unfair treatment by Employment Exchanges of soldiers. This question is not for me, but for the Minister of Labour. If any case is brought to my notice, I will certainly see that the case is given the investigation it deserves. Every man has a right to a square deal. Then we have the statement as to the attitude of the Government. The Government is a pacifist Government, determined to make arrangements with a view to promoting an extensive programme of disarmament, and we believe that this diminution in armaments must come through international agreement. There is no question about this in our party. We stand united on that one point. We do not believe in war, and we shall try to make arrangements with other nations to abolish war. These reductions were not made by us. They were made before we came into office. On the question of physique, there are a very large number of our people who are of a standard of physique that we cannot look upon as satisfactory. Recruiting always suffers when we are in office it is said. In 1923–4, the figures were 30,508; in 1924–5, 32,005; in 1925–6, 29,061; in 1926–7, 27,398; in 1927–8, 30,185, and in 1928–9, 28,131.
§ Mr. SHAW
The curious thing is that the highest figure was in 1924–25.. I have tried to put before the Committee—as I tried to put before the House—as plainly as I know how, the policy of the Government. To what I have said I hold. We must stand or fall by it—both myself and the Government. We have nothing to withdraw and nothing to add except this, that whenever a case can be brought to myself of men who are not getting the treatment they deserve that case will be attended to, and, where-ever a suggestion can be found that will help in the vocational training of men in the Army so that they will be able, when they leave the Army, to go into civil life highly qualified for a position, then it will be found that the Minister will be prepared to listen to that suggestion.
§ Major GLYN
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the one question which I put to him? Will he take steps to find out whether a soldier can obtain employment at an Employment Exchange and whether an unemployed man otherwise suitable can get all the information that he requires about the terms of service in the Army?
Will the right hon. Gentleman supply the Employment Exchanges with the necessary literature if, on investigation, he finds that the information is not available?
The right hon. Gentleman will do it if he finds it is necessary. I am very glad as it is a good answer to his hon. Friends below the Gangway.