§ Order for Committee read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. T. Shaw)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
In presenting the Estimates, may I, as my first word, venture to express, I am sure on behalf of all the Members of the House, our deep sense of condolence with the widows and the relatives of the late Minister of War, Sir Laming Worthington - Evans, and the late Quartermaster - General, Sir Hastings Anderson. We all knew Sir Laming Worthington-Evans in the House, and we knew that he was what the Scots would call "a doughty fechter." Still, he left no sting behind. As to Sir Hastings Anderson, I think there was no question that his eminent gifts would have fitted him, had he lived, for the highest military rank this country can offer. If I may use an expression often used by the Viennese, "May the earth lie lightly on them!"
I venture to adopt the same method that I adopted last year in presenting the Estimates. I think that it met with general approval, because whatever was the opinion of the contents of the Estimates, all Members of the House, I think, agreed that it was inadvisable to parade long columns of figures, that it was much better to state plainly the broad, general principles, and only to use those figures which were necessary as illustrations of the arguments which were used, with the definite understanding, of course, that all details would be supplied wherever required, and whenever asked for in the course of the discussion. Therefore, I shall venture to give the smallest possible number of figures, because the Estimates themselves have been drawn up, I think I may say, with exemplary thoroughness by the permanent staff, and in themselves give an answer to nearly every question that can be asked on the method of spending money, and the causes for which the money has been spent.
1008 The broad fact emerges that the Estimates result in a definite saving, that this saving is due to many causes, and that many causes have militated against it, because we shall spend nearly £900,000 less than we have this year, but we shall receive in Appropriations-in-Aid some £330,000 less than this year. The net saving, therefore, is £570,000. By far the greatest item in the saving is the fall in prices and the cost of living, which amounts to £700,000 and the greatest increase in cost is due to the fact that we have to spend some £200,000 because of the exhaustion of the surplus stocks of ammunition. That, with the added fact that the economy in clothing of last year could not be repeated this year, mainly accounts for the difference in the Estimates.
I will now leave the figures relating to finance, and deal with the questions that seem to have aroused interest in the House during the year, and which deal with broad, general policy for the future. The questions that have been mentioned during the year in the House are economy, vocational training, recruiting, the question of the quarters of the men, the question of mechanisation, the question of disarmament, ration allowance, the question of the medical services, the War Office staff, commissions from the ranks, and the establishment at Porton. I hope to deal shortly with these matters as I go along in the Estimates speech. With regard to the necessity for economy, there is no need for me to labour that necessity. Everyone knows it and I want to tell the House—I think it already knows it, but the repetition will not do any harm—that last June all the Commands were asked very carefully to consider every item of expenditure, and to economise wherever economy could be achieved without definite disservice to the Service for which the War Office exists. Recommendations were received from the Commands, and those recommendations have been acted upon as far as possible. I think I may say without any fear of contradiction that the closest possible attention has been paid to securing economies wherever they could be secured, and that there is, as far as one can see, no waste in the administration. On the greater general question of economy, may I tender from 1009 this Box my thanks to the members of the Army Council, both military and civil, for having helped in arranging the Estimates in such a way as to achieve the maximum of economy with the minimum of inconvenience and waste. I have found, particularly, the military members of the Army Council, extraordinarily helpful, and I want to tender my thanks to them.
I turn to a question which has aroused great interest in the House, and which is the subject of a Motion on the Order Paper—vocational training and education in the Army. Here may I say that, as far as the Motion on the Order Paper is concerned, I have no objection to it. It asks for the development of this vocational training, and, as far as I am concerned, I am prepared to accept it, because I believe that vocational training ought to be developed. While I know the difficulties that are in the way of a great extension of vocational training, still I am quite willing to accept the Motion, and to try, as far as I can, to carry it out. A little résumé of the position may be of service. Provision has been made since the War for this systematic training of a vocational type, and up to the middle of 1927 there were two centres at which the training was given—Catterick and Hounslow. In addition, in the Commands also there was a number of classes at which vocational instruction was given. At present, there are three principal centres—Chisledon, Hounslow and Aldershot. Formerly, the capacity of the institutions was 1,000 students. That rose to 2,390 per annum, and we hope there will be a maximum of 2,950 in training during the coming financial year.
There is a hindrance to work of this description in the fact that a number of the men who were being trained for agricultural pursuits were not only of the type eminently suitable for migration to our Dominions, but were very anxious to go to the Dominions. The check on this migration has almost put a stop to work of that kind in the Army, but it is hoped that the time will come when this training will be developed to a greater degree, and that we shall be able to see that when men leave the Army—and may I say officers as well as men—they will not be the fifth wheel on the coach of civil life, but will go back to 1010 civil life to places that are there, so that they may take up work for which they are fitted, and which will make them happier than they now are when they leave the Service and find that they come back into a world which for the moment seems to have no use for their services.
If I went into details on these matters my speech would be unduly prolonged. I must therefore hurry on to another question which has during the year created great interest in the House, the question of recruiting. During the last few months the number of recruits who have come into the Army has shown a very considerable increase. From October, 1929, to the end of September, 1930, 66,717 men offered themselves for the Army. I am sorry to say—and again it is a most regrettable fact—that 52 per cent. of these men could not be accepted owing to their physical condition. It is a regrettable thing, and I do not know if the condition is due to the War years or if there is some factor or factors even greater than the War experience, but it is a matter for profound regret that of the men who offer themselves for the Army and who evidently consider that they are physically fit—otherwise they would not offer themselves—52 per cent. are unable to be accepted because of their physical condition. With regard to the Territorials, there has been the same difficulty in getting the full supply of men to fill the frame that the Service provides. There is for the moment a shortage, but it would be wrong on my part if I said that there is anything in the nature of a crisis or anything that is serious.
The Adjutant-General's department is taking what steps are necessary to bring the Services to their full complement, but in order to make perfectly clear the position of the Government, I must say this. Many suggestions were made last year as to pressure that might be brought on unemployed men to go into the Army. The Government will not attempt at any time to exercise pressure on any person, either economic or other pressure, to get men into the Army. Men must join the Army of their own free will, and, while the Department will always bring before the people of this country the advantages that are offered to a young man, there will be nothing in 1011 the nature of compulsion. I thought that I would make that statement at the outset in order that there may be no misunderstanding as to the position.
May I turn to another subject of a very interesting character? I turn to it because during the year I have seen many statements in newspapers, and one or two made by Members of this House, that show such a lack of knowledge of the actual situation that it would be well if I addressed a few words to the subject. I refer to the conditions of the men, the character of the men, the habits of the men, and the progress that has been made both in habits, character and education. The serious diseases that used to be prevalent in the Army have diminished in a very marked degree. While in 1913 the incidence of drunkenness was 426, in 1930 it was 107. In other words, three-quarters of the drunkenness has gone out of the Army, and I want, as one who happens to have seen something of them, to protest against the idea that seems to exist even yet that these canteens are drinking booths into which it might be inadvisable for a respectable person to go. That is not the case. The ordinary regimental establishment now is pretty well of the type of the ordinary middle-class tea room in London—just as clean, with men just as well behaved or better behaved, and in every way much better than apparently some sections of public opinion believe that it is.
The same marked improvement has taken place with regard to crime in the Army. For instance, the trials by courts-martial are going down year by year. Detention is not of the same type, but it has improved with the character of the men. The type of punishment is changing. In place of the old pack drill, better and newer methods have been and are still being devised, and in place of an exercise which was certainly violent, but questionably useful, instruction of a useful character is given. That improvement is one to be welcomed. In courts-martial, clemency is being exercised in a different way from the way in which it used to be exercised, and the general tone can be fairly said to be much better all round, and to be improving considerably year by year.
1012 I come to a matter about which personally I am sorry that I cannot report a better state of things. I refer to barrack accommodation. Unfortunately, there is a great accumulation over many years of necessary work to be done, and I am afraid that the country will have to be in a much more prosperous condition than it is now before we can take all this work in hand at once. There are married quarters and single men's accommodation which cannot be said to be up to 1931 standard. These remnants of a past age are being removed, but the programme will have to be a gradual one. It cannot be carried out all at once, but by degrees. I hope that the programme will result, in the course of a very few years, in taking away some of the abuses—I cannot use a kinder word—that now exist. This year, for instance, huts which are existing at Borden, Black-down, Bulford and Deepcut, which were built during the South African War will be replaced by structures that will be much more up to date, and, I hope, much more comfortable and healthy for the men.
I turn now to mechanisation. Here the principle that has been laid down is still holding good. It is not to pile up material of a character which is affected day by day as inventions or science move forward, but rather to experiment until a satisfactory type has been found, and then build up the stocks that are required. That principle has been carried out in all arms of the Service. The modern Army may easily change a state of things which to many peace lovers in the past has been regrettable. Many of us have said in the past that science seems to have been devoted more to the destruction of life than to the building up of life. Those of us who have had the opportunity—and I hope that any Member who wishes to have the opportunity during the coming summer may have it by arrangement—of seeing the development in the Army, realise that there is a possibility for the future in our Dominions to turn military science round to the helping of humanity, to reverse the picture, so to speak. When one sees a tractor literally bringing a small train over rough country, over ditch and dike, one can see the possibilities in countries like Canada and Australia if the inventions that now exist are used in those Dominions. I 1013 hope that, if Members of the House are interested, a method can be found whereby they can witness these displays of mechanisation in order to see for themselves what developments have taken place in the immediate past and are taking place as the days go on.
There is another matter, which has been frequently referred to during the year, in which I take a personal interest, and as to which I had hoped to be able to announce a concession. It concerns the ration allowance of men who are going on leave. It appears that before my term of office began—I am not laying the blame on my predecessors, I am merely stating the fact—there had been a discussion with the Treasury about certain allowances and an agreement had been arrived at whereby the ration allowance of a man who went on leave was to be at the rate of the cost to the Army of keeping him when he was in barracks. That sum was obviously less than it cost him to buy food retail. But with this diminution in ration allowance there had come certain improvements on the other side; the War Office had struck a very good bargain with the Treasury. I had hoped to replace this ration allowance at the maximum figure at which it had previously been, but I found myself, as I tell the House quite frankly, in this position: that as I was asking everybody else in the Service to exercise the strictest economy over what they want, I felt that I ought to make a sacrifice in what I considered necessary; and I regret to say that I am unable to ask the House to increase the ration allowance. The arrangement made with the Treasury, which certainly gave more than it took, will be maintained.
I come now to the question of staffing and certain misundertandings, which would be misrepresentations if they were not misunderstandings, concerning it. No less a body than the Association of British Chambers of Commerce recently issued a statement in which they said there were 3,880 persons on the staff of the War Office now, as compared with 1,636 in 1914. If that were the case, obviously it would be a very serious state of affairs indeed. I propose to devote a minute or two to showing that that is not the case, and to explaining what the position is. The figure of 3,880 1014 given by the British Chambers of Commerce includes 1,579 persons employed in Government factories and in establishments outside the War Office who are not included in the figures quoted for 1914. Their comparison goes at the first breath when it is found that the figures they give are not comparable figures. The true figures for comparison, comparing like with like, are 1,878 in 1914 and 2,301 in 1930. These figures have already been given in Parliament. The question of staffing is always under close consideration, and not only by the Department itself, for there have been many committees of inquiry; the Public Accounts Committee has considered it and the Select Committee on Estimates has also taken an active interest in it. The reasons for the increase between 1913 and 1931 are, first, that there is an increase of 50 per cent. in the correspondence with which the War Office has to deal; secondly, the legislation that the House of Commons has passed on pensions and insurance has had a very marked effect on the amount of work done by the staff; and the increasing complexity of the War Office machine, with the changes to mechanisation, has also had its influence. To sum up in the words of the report of a committee of inquiry presided over by Sir Alan Anderson, the idea that there has been a tremendous growth of staff for the same amount of work is quite wrong.
§ Mr. SHAW
I cannot say the exact date when that Report was made, but I will get the information before we have finished. I am informed that the date was 1924. The report stated:The increase in staff since 1914 is fully accounted for by the extra work which has been thrown on to the Civil Service since 1914, and the average individual output is certainly not less than in 1914.When one considers what has happened with regard to heavy artillery, tanks, signals, mechanical transport, anti-aircraft and wireless telegraphy, and a host of other things, one can easily see that it would be quite impossible for the same staff, numerically, to deal with the work now as sufficed in 1914.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why the correspondence has increased by 50 per cent. since 1913, with a smaller Army?
§ Mr. SHAW
Yes, but even now its effects are very marked; and if the right hon. Gentleman had my experience of the cases that come to sue so frequently he would find that there is a tremendous amount of correspondence. Further, I have already given a list of seven or eight matters with regard to which it is quite obvious that there must be a tremendous increase in correspondence as compared with 1914, because in 1914 some of those services did not exist at all. Now may I turn to another matter which is of very considerable interest and importance, the filling of the ranks of the officers.
§ Mr. SHAW
No, I am dealing with the fighting officers, if I may use that term. The filling of the ranks of the officers has become just as difficult as the filling of the ranks of the men, and we are inquiring into the whole matter. A Departmental Committee, presided over by the Under-Secretary of State, is carefully examining the matter and trying to find some way of getting the necessary number of officers. One pleasing feature as that of 616 commissions granted since the 31st March, 1930, 105 have been granted to men from the ranks. It seems quite evident to me that just as the type of man has changed so the type of officer has changed, and must change. Mathematics, physics and chemistry are becoming of more and more importance every day, and the old type of education will no longer suffice. It is to be hoped that a method will be found—quite frankly, I have not found it, although I do not yet despair of doing so—for the systematic promotion of men from the ranks into the commissioned ranks in such a way that the trained soldier, with the modern scientific knowledge required, will find his way easily from the bottom to the top, so to speak. In the past there 1016 has been a wide gulf represented by differences rather in education and in social training than in any other things. Savoir faire and savoir vivre have been supposed to be all on one side, and not to exist on the other side. The present state of affairs is changing, and changing fairly rapidly.
I will give some figures to show that the education of the men in the ranks is improving in such a way as to give every justification for the hope that before long it will be quite an ordinary thing for men to move from the ranks into the commissioned ranks, their qualifications being based on an education quite as sound as that of the ordinary commissioned officer, and with a knowledge of the service quite equal to his. The number of men now holding certificates of education in the Army is over 90 per cent. I am speaking from memory now, and I have not the figure with me, but I think amongst the men in the ranks there are now some 14,000 who have certificates of education quite equivalent to the matriculation or school certificate standard. That shows a tremendous move forward in the education of the men.
With regard to Porton, a subject which has created a certain amount of interest in the House, again I want to be quite frank with hon. Members. Porton is an establishment which exists for the purpose of studying the best methods of defence against gas. There are experiments on animals there—there is no question about it. Wild statements have appeared in the Press as to what goes on there. May I assure the House that the stories of torture, in the sense of violent pain inflicted on animals wantonly, are quite unfounded, and that, so far as know, there is nobody concerned who would dream for a moment of inflicting unnecessary pain on any living thing. The question I had to solve for myself, and I speak for myself as being responsible for Ministerial policy, was, "If it is demonstrated to you that by an experiment on an animal you might be able to devise the means of saving an enormous amount of human suffering, are you prepared to face the experiment?" I put that question to myself, and I answer "Yes." I am satisfied that everything that can be done is done to avoid suffering, and that when any animals shows signs of great pain it is at once painlessly destroyed. 1017 I thought I would make this broad general statement to the Committee, because hon. Members are entitled to know exactly where we stand in this matter. This is a service which is common to the Navy and the Air Force as well as to the Army, but I take my full responsibility, as Minister of War, for the continuance of this service, and will do my level best to see that it is carried on on the same lines, without inflicting avoidable pain, but with the one object of saving human suffering which might occur but for these experiments.
I come to a matter which, I think, is one that will interest the House, and that is the question of the Officers Training Corps. I have received three delegations on this question, one representing a group of the Peace Societies, a second representing the Headmasters of Public Schools, and a third representing the Peace Group in the House of Commons. I will try to sum up the arguments used respectively by these three bodies. The first deputation object altogether to boys of tender age belonging to a semi-military organisation. They say that that is contrary to the spirit of the time, contrary to our international obligations and of doubtful utility, and certainly not a method of physical training equal to the Swedish and the Danish methods; and, generally, they ask for the abolition of the junior Officers Training Corps.
The headmasters are just as firm in the position which they take up in the contrary direction. They say that they were asked by Lord Haldane to undertake this work in the public schools to meet national needs, and it was from the point of view of undertaking a national duty that they approached the work. They were of opinion that it was entirely wrong to assume that this work imbued the boys with a desire to fight in the sense of warlike fighting, and that, on the contrary, the spirit that the boys got was one of sacrifice and devotion to their country, and they were taught to stand up, to speak up, and to have more self-reliance. [Interruption.] I am trying to state accurately and fairly the arguments which were put before me. The headmasters did not look upon the work as being physical training at all, because they said that there must be physical training in addition to the Officers Train- 1018 ing Corps, and, that it was work of a patriotic character taken on at the request of the Government itself, and they claimed that it helped the boys in every possible way, and made better men of them after they had had the training.
As to the suggestion that there is a certain amount of compulsion on the boys in the school to join the Officers Training Corps, it is admitted that there is a kind of moral compulsion. The Peace Group in the House wanted exactly what the Peace Societies wanted, that is the abolition of the Officers Training Corps. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who are they?"] They are highly respected Members of the House for whom I personally have the highest respect, although I am afraid that I shall not be able to go all the way with them. I find myself in this position. As long as the policy of the Government remains what it is I have to find the men for the Army for both the officers' ranks and the men, and I have to find them in the best possible way I can. I have gone very closely into this matter because, frankly, I confess that I hate compulsion, and the Government cannot be a party to compulsion or hold a brief for compulsion so far as the boys are concerned. But I am the Minister for War, and I am not the Minister for Education, and it is not my business to interfere in the affairs of the schools. It is also not my business to turn both blind eyes to the telescope if I see compulsion. In fact, I have to face the position, and try to find some way out of the difficulty.
The way out which I am going to propose is that the system shall be changed. I cannot recommend to the House a system of taking boys of 13 and 14 into the military training corps. The present position is that the age of recognition is 13, and the proposal I am going to make is that the age of recognition on and after the 1st of April next for any boy shall be 15. The conditions of enrolment are left to the headmasters of the schools. That will still be the case if my proposals are accepted, but no boy will be recognised in any shape or form under 15. An hon. Member has asked what would happen to boys under 15 already enrolled. Of course, I cannot interrupt existing arrangements, and obviously they will remain, but my proposal is that from 1st April this year no recognition shall be given to any boy under 15, 1019 and that no grant shall be made to any boy under 16. If you make it older than that, there will not be time before the boys leave school to prepare themselves for the certificate of proficiency which we want in order to guarantee the payment of the grant—that is Certificate A.
The Committee will clearly understand that what I am proposing is no recognition of any kind whatever under 15, and no grant of any kind to any boy under 16. The boys of 15 will be allowed to go to camp as at the present time, but they will not be supplied with equipment until they are 16 years of age. That is what I am going to ask the House to accept with regard to the Officers Training Corps. I am aware that I am not going all the way that the Peace Group have asked for, but I believe that what I have suggested is the only and the best way of getting the officers, and of avoiding compulsion, which is repulsive to all of us. The parents of the boys of 13, 14 and under 15 who want to send them to these schools must take their own share of the burden and be responsible, and I cannot be responsible for them as Minister for War. I shall have nothing to do with the boys in those years, and the parents must look after them themselves.
I now come to the really important point of the Government's policy. I intend for a few minutes to speak about our general policy, and to explain why the Government still propose to maintain the forces at their present level. If anyone will examine closely what has been done in this country during the last 10 or 11 years in the shape of reductions in the Army, and compare it with the position in other countries, there can be no doubt that they must conclude that the policy of unilateral disarmament has not achieved its object. It is impossible to examine the figures and, looking facts in the face, to conclude that any foreign country has followed the example set by this country. I do not want to make invidious distinctions, but I ask anybody who takes an interest in the question of Disarmament to note carefully the conditions of affairs as shown in the League of Nations books on the subject, and then I think there can be no question at all that the enormous reductions which have obtained in this country have not been 1020 reproduced in other countries. Disarmament in this country, instead of being a lead to foreign nations, has not led to that desirable result. Therefore, it is impossible in the circumstances for me to recommend to the Government any further unilateral disarmament because the figures are against it, experience is against it, and, in my opinion, the prospects of the future are against it. I do not want to go into a long argument to demonstrate that position, but the House will see what I mean when I say that the chances of disarmament are against unilateral disarmament as a policy.
The Government will take a leading part and make actual proposals for a diminution of land forces. We have done everything that we can to bring about the day when, by international agreement, armaments will be reduced all over the world. All that we shall continue to do, but at the present moment it is absolutely impossible for us to propose any further diminution in the numbers. That is why the numbers which are proposed in these Estimates remain as they were last year. I repeat that there are certain things the Government will not do. They will not attempt compulsion; they will not attempt in any way any form of compulsion that will lead to a militarised army. At the same time, they will not propose any further unilateral disarmament, but will pursue the method of inducing other nations to come to an agreement which will allow this country and other countries to remove from their shoulders the military burdens which they now bear.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Major TRYON
I hope, as an old friend of the late Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, I may be allowed to thank the Secretary of State for War most sincerely for his references to him; and may I, in the presence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), under whom I had the honour to serve at the Ministry of Pensions, say that not the least of that Minister's achievements was the work which he did for the Army in making efficient that great and difficult task which the Ministry of Pensions is carrying on to-day? At that Ministry we have, I believe, got 1021 pensions out of party politics, and the advent of the Labour Government has meant no change in policy. I hope the day may come when the attitude of parties in this House towards the Army will be the same, and that all parties will realise what we owe to those fellow citizens who undertake for us the defence of our country.
With regard to the question of barracks and married quarters, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, I am told that some of the married quarters, particularly in regard to sanitary arrangements, are extraordinarily bad, and the Secretary of State for War has admitted that there are abuses, but sympathy is not so much good as some practical effort, and as far as I read the Estimates, the right hon. Gentleman will be spending this year less and not more on that particular Vote. I do not want to put it unkindly, but a little more expenditure would have been more use than kindly references to abuses. In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is short of recruits, if there is so much unemployment in the country, I should have thought that it would have been a very good way, by giving a chance to some of the unemployed by building work, to remedy the abuses which admittedly exist in connection with our married quarters and the housing of our troops.
I should like also to say how strongly I support the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the work which is going on at Porton. People are sometimes extraordinarily inhuman, and I can conceive of no more cruel thing than to subject the Army and the civil population of this country to untold suffering from gas in time of war because of some sympathetic reference to one or two animals which, with every possible effort to preserve mercy and avoid suffering, undergo experiments at that place. It seems to me that the immense human sufferings that may be avoided utterly outweigh any efforts that have to be made at that place.
I do not think he meant anything, but I think the right hon. Gentleman was not altogether just in suggesting that the officers of the Army who led our battalions and brigades in the late War were not educated as they ought to be.
§ Mr. SHAW
If I said anything so clumsily as to convey that impression, let me at once take away that impress- 1022 sion. What I intended to say was that the methods were changing so much, that mechanics, chemistry and physics were taking so much larger a place than formerly, that the type of education was changing.
§ Major TRYON
None the less, I have heard it constantly asserted that one of the difficulties of our Army in the late War was that our officers were insufficiently well educated, and I say that at the date when the majority of the officers who led our troops in the late War entered the Army, the education included fairly high mathematics and in some cases very high algebra, and that competition was so great that 600, 700, or 800 people competed and only 100 got through. Therefore, I say that, measured by intellectual tests, the standard then was very much higher than the standard now, because there was so much more competition. It is not the case that mathematical subjects were ignored in those days; they were given a great many marks and were treated as of considerable importance.
On the main issue, I wish to make it clear that I am supporting the Secretary of State for War in his request that the Army should be maintained at its present strength and that the Vote for which he is asking should be granted. We all know that the opposition to this Vote comes, not from these benches, but from the benches behind him, and we have noted that the only really enthusiastic cheers which have come from hon. Members opposite throughout the whole of the Army Debate were the cheers at the suggestion that our young men should not be liable to get any military ideas at school. If hon. Members opposite say that, what right have the Government to come here and ask for a Vote for the Army, if they think it is wrong to have an Army? If we think it wrong that this country should be defended, what right have we to ask for people to go and defend us unless we respect the Army which defends us? I can conceive of nothing more discreditable than that the nation should obtain its safety through the protection which the Army and the Navy give it, and yet that people should not respect those who serve in the Army, perfectly honourably.
I believe that this Vote is absolutely necessary, and I am going to support it 1023 by a rather unusual argument, which I put particularly to those hon. Members opposite who differ from me and from the Secretary of State for War. Those who know the record of the three right hon. Gentlemen who have been mainly concerned, I believe, in the responsibility for these Estimates must remember the attitude of the present Prime Minister with reference to war and to armaments—I am not going to be in any way critical in my observations—they must remember the attitude towards armaments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they must remember the feeling in the past of the present Secretary of State for War. I say that if those three men think we need an Army of this size, if those three men think that the present expenditure is justified, that ought to justify it also to their supporters, who know what views they have held in the past with reference to armaments.
§ Mr. TINKER
I hope the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not including all Members on this side as being against the Vote.
§ Major TRYON
No, and may I say, in response to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), that I am not by any means saying he is against the Vote. Indeed, if I may digress for a minute, I should like to thank him for the assistance which he gave me at the Ministry of Pensions when he helped us there in the past. I think the attitude with regard to the Army may well be copied from the attitude of the First Lord of the Admiralty with reference to the Navy. Speaking in Newcastle the other day, that right hon. Gentleman said:You find a steady decline in our naval expenditure and a steady rise in that of almost every other country, and you begin to ask whether it is a sane policy.I think that argument applies to the Army as well, and I think the Secretary of State for War himself applied it to some extent. In ascertaining whether this is the right Vote and whether we have an Army of the right size, we must look at the other nations and their armies, and I noticed in the latter part of his speech a recognition by the Secretary of State of the international 1024 dangers. Those of us on this side who took part in the last General Election will remember that if any Conservative dared to suggest from a platform that we might still want a Navy and an Army after the War, people attacked him and said, "You must want a war if you want to have an Army." What we said to our own detriment on the platform is practically the same as has been said by the Secretary of State for War from the Treasury Bench to-day. But it was not said at the General Election, and there were lots of people who got votes then by the suggestion that all these armaments would be swept away by the Labour party and who now know that the Labour party will not do it, and the Labour party is quite right.
§ Major TRYON
I am not dreaming. I remember the votes which were got by talk about the Optional Clause, and I know that many Conservatives lost votes because they held up the defence of the country as one of the duties of a Government. We know now that what we said at that election is what the Secretary of State for War is beginning to say to-day.
If we are to judge the size of our Navy by that of other navies, the same principle should apply to the Army, and I wish to call attention to the fact, without mentioning any particular names, that there are in Western Europe great nations with large populations which still enrol an enormous number of men in their ranks by conscription. But that is not the end of it. Owing to our oversea duties and our garrisons in India and elsewhere, and owing to our voluntary service, we have a very small reserve compared with the reserves in other countries. I have looked at the figures in the Estimates, and I see that, counting India, we have a smaller reserve than our standing Army; that is to say, for every man now serving in the Army there is not as much as one other man to reinforce him if war should come, but in those already large armies on the Continent, where there is a service of perhaps only one year or a year and a half, there is, beyond that, a liability to military service extending up to the point 1025 in a man's age when he ceases to be really useful for military purposes. Therefore, on the Continent, for every man in a standing army now, there may be 15 or 20 other men who would reinforce him should a war come; and if there is going to be any question of disarmament, we ought to accept the Secretary of States point of view, which is, if I am not misrepresenting him, that disarmament must be based on equal sacrifice and that we cannot reduce our Army while these immense armies exist on the Continent.
There is a subject with which I am not so familiar as some, but I have not heard any reference from the benches opposite about the enormous armies of Russia. We have heard a good deal about armies being capitalistic adventures, but I do not gather that the army in Russia is a capitalistic affair. It is a Socialist affair, and I should very much like to have some information from the Government, at the end of the Debate, as to what the size of that army is believed to be and whether they do not use gas and all the other most terrible engines of modern warfare.
There is another test by which we may compare the size of our Army. When we were discussing the Navy, some of us thought the number of cruisers that we ought to have should, to some extent, be regulated by the extent of the oceans and the enormous trade routes which they have to cover. Applying that argument, as an alternative measure, to the size of our Army, I would suggest that our Army is extraordinarily small, considering its enormous liabilities in territory and in duties. Apart from India, we have troops in China; we have troops in Palestine, at the request of the League of Nations; we have troops in Egypt; and, taking its duties and regarding the Army rather as an armed police force than as an Army simply for the defence of this country, I say that there is no Army that has ever undertaken so large a task with so few men.
We hear that there are difficulties in recruiting. Can you wonder that there are? What has been the attitude of hon. Members opposite towards recruiting? Here you have a Labour Government, which has now learned a great deal that some other Governments have known for a long time, which is beginning to feel that we must have an Army and recruits 1026 —a Labour Government which has only in January been making enormous efforts to raise recruits somehow for the Army, because the Labour Government honestly think we want those troops. But what is their attitude? "We must not let a boy go into a Cadet Corps till he is 15, because he might pick up some idea possibly of entering the Army after he has left school." Apparently, there is not so much harm in a military instinct developing at 15, but it must not develop at 14. If they think it is wrong to have military instincts and to join the Army, let them say so; and nobody who thinks that soldiering is wrong has a right to be Secretary of State for War.
I say that recruiting for the Army is directly discouraged throughout the country by large numbers of speeches made by the Labour party, and those political efforts are reinforced, and have been sadly reinforced in the last few months, by a number of films and cinemas misrepresenting our troops. I saw a cinema the other day in which, for the sake of gain, the whole of fighting was ridiculed. Books have been written, which bring in profit, to which as a rule the Labour party object; people make large sums of money by books discouraging everybody from attempting to defend their country. Not only so, but plays are being put on in which British officers and men are not represented in a light honourable to them or fair to the men who saved us in the late War. I do not say that the Labour party can stop that, but I do say that, If the Labour Government want recruits, it is up to the members of the Labour party to help their Government to get recruits, and not to suggest that there is something entirely wrong in serving in the Army—[An HON. MEMBER: "Journey's End."] What would he the end of the journey if our Army had been beaten?
There is another point, and that is as to the attitude of hon. Members opposite with reference to military tournaments and tattoos. There is no disputing the fact that there is a strong objection to military tattoos on the part of a number of people on the Labour benches—[Interruption]. Then those hon. Members ought to be satisfied with the display that was given at Tidworth, because, although there was the battle of Hastings, it was a battle in which our side 1027 were beaten, and we had no Navy; and, from inquiries that I have made, I gather that at the Aldershot tattoo this year there will be a battle in which the defenders of this country again are to be beaten. I do not say that battles ought to be represented at tattoos, but I do say that, if they are represented, they need not be battles in which the British Army is always beaten.
Furthermore, I believe that these tattoos bring an enormous number of people into touch with the spirit of devotion, of sacrifice, and discipline which pervades the Army, and that those people who go to these tattoos realise something of what the whole nation—I speak from the point of view of a civilian—owes to those who defend us. At all events, it is not for a party which at this moment is endeavouring to get more recruits for the Army to run down military service as though it were something wrong, to endeavour to stop tattoos, and generally speaking to discourage recruiting, because we now know from the Labour Government that they do want more recruits, and that they consider it right, at all events after the age of 15, to have some sympathy with the Forces of the country.
There are certain points reference to which should not be omitted. The first is the shortage of men. On that point I believe a great deal has been done, particularly in connection with training and opportunities of work for men on returning from the Army to civil life. I know, for instance, that men are released at once towards the end of their time if they can get a job, and I know that officers in the Army go round and find out whether their men are looking out for jobs and are getting jobs. A great deal of trouble is taken in the Army to help men on their return to civil life. With reference to officers, I think that all this pacifist feeling to which I have been referring has done something to discourage the supply of officers. I think that that will pass away, but at the same time the financial position of a young officer on first joining the Army is an extraordinarily difficult one. I cannot see that the Secretary of State for War has made any very material contribution towards that problem. There used to be a war-cry in the 1028 days of the coal strike, "Not a penny off the pay," but I understand that in the case of young officers the Secretary of State for War has just taken 2d. a day off their pay, which does not seem to me to be much of a contribution towards getting recruits in the ranks of the officers of the Army. With regard to medical officers, I believe that some of my hon. Friends, who have more knowledge and experience of this matter than I have, will speak later, but it is a great pity that we, who so carefully select our recruits and enlist the pick of the healthiest people in the country, should not provide them with the best possible medical attention while they are in the Army. There is a grave shortage, and the pressure is very heavy, and I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for War views that problem with grave concern.
There are one or two points on which I should like to ask questions. I wonder whether it is not the case—I am not saying that it is, but I think the matter is worth examining—that there are too many moves in the Army. I see that no less than £444,000 is being spent on moves. It is obvious that men have to come back from abroad, and that battalions have to go out, but there is an enormous amount of moving done from station to station within this country, to the greatest possible inconvenience of married men and officers in the battalions and regiments concerned, and I think it is worth inquiring whether it is absolutely necessary to have such constant changes from place to place. With regard to the form of this particular Estimate, I hope that the Secretary of State for War will allow me respectfully to say that these pink notes, if I may so describe them, are of the greatest possible assistance to everyone who reads the Estimates, and they are in some cases of great historical value. They give explanations as to the training, changes and disposition of the troops, which are extraordinarily clearly written, and, if I may, I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman and those who prepared them for this which is one of the most valuable additions to the Estimate.
Finally, I should like to say that I think that all the Regular Army now serving has the greatest respect for the work which is being done by the Terri- 1029 torial Force. I hope that the Secretary of State for War will not be shocked when I say that I myself went to a military tournament in my constituency, where there were some real guns and a number of horses jumping over small hurdles. I do not think it had a very bad effect on my electorate. At that display, which was the display of the Territorial Force Artillery, I was sitting next to an artillery officer, who had spent his whole life in the artillery and had served throughout the War from beginning to end in the artillery. Speaking to me privately—and he was perfectly unbiased—he was loud in his praises of the efficiency, keenness and zeal of the Territorial Force whom we had the honour of seeing in my constituency at a tournament.
I do think that this House and the country ought to view the Army and service in it, not as though it were something to be ashamed of, but as though the Army was a thing to which we owed a great debt. Civilians in this country, who are protected in time of war and who are safer in time of peace because we have an Army, should not regard military service as something which is wrong, but as something which is highly honourable and should be respected, and the contribution that civilians can make to the Army is, by every means in their power, to ensure for these gallant men proper treatment and good conditions, and, above all, we ought to see that by every means in our power we preserve peace throughout the world.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not propose to follow my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brighton (Major Tryon) into the various points to which he has alluded in such vigorous and forcible style, but I should like, if I may, to deal with one or two points in the speech of the Secretary of State for War which have not been dealt with by my right hon. and gallant Friend. I will say a word or two first upon what the Secretary of State, at the end of his speech, called the general policy. Nobody realises more than I do the extremely difficult situation in which a Secretary of State for War in a Labour Government finds himself. The problem with which he is faced is the legitimate problem of trying to combine adequate defence with the spirit—the prevailing 1030 spirit, I am glad to say—of disarmament. I shall have many criticisms to make on matters of detail, but I must frankly confess that my right hon. Friend appeared to me to have adequately judged that problem, and to have dealt with it fairly and squarely and with admirable courage.
He went on to say that the numbers in the Army are as low as in his estimation they can be. That is perfectly true. I think, myself, that at the present time, so long as there is still a spirit of war abroad in the world, and so long as it is necessary for this little island of ours to be defended, the numbers in the Army are down to the bone. My right hon. Friend made one very significant remark which weighed with me very considerably, and that was that our unilateral disarmament has not helped disarmament as a whole. No belligerent country has done so much in the realm of disarmament as this country has done. It was the first to abolish conscription; it has cut down in every possible way; it has attempted, in every one of its efforts since the War in dealing with the Army, to give a lead to other countries. But you can do too much of that, and I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has called a halt and until he finds out, if he remains in office, that there is not only unilateral disarmament but general disarmament, he cannot afford to come down to the House of Commons and ask for smaller numbers in the British Army.
Let me deal with one or two points which he made. First of all, let me associate myself with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brighton and with the Secretary of State for War in their remarks about the late Sir Laming Worthington-Evans. I had, naturally, known him personally for a great many years, and with everything that has been said, both from the Government Bench and from the Opposition Bench, I whole-heartedly associate myself. I am not going to deal with the first point which was made by my right hon. Friend with regard to vocational training, because I understand that one of my hon. Friends behind me has an Amendment dealing with that subject. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says that he agrees with that Amendment. As being in some way asso- 1031 ciated with the institution of vocational training in the Army, I was very glad indeed to hear the good things which the Secretary of State had to say in connection with the very important problem of the resettlement of the fighting soldier in civil life. The numbers at present under training are not very high. In other days I thought that they would be very much higher, but I am glad to see that there is an increase, and I hope that, so long as the Secretary of State for War is in his present office, he will continue to encourage a thing which is destined to be of enormous benefit to those who are serving in the Army, and, ultimately, to the civil and industrial life of the country.
No one can have read, in the White Paper which my right hon. Friend circulated, the paragraph dealing with recruiting, without feeling some disquietude. There may be some Members in this House who say they do not want any more recruits, but the fact remains that, human nature being as it is, and world conditions being as they are, we do require recruits to keep up the standard of the Army. I cannot help thinking that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been as responsible, individually, as anyone for the fact that recruiting is not as good as it might be. It is not for me to lecture anybody, but, if I had been Secretary of State for War, I should have felt it incumbent upon me, if I was informed by my advisers that certain recruits were necessary, to do my level best by a recruiting campaign to strengthen their hands; but I know of no single instance in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War ever helped in a recruiting campaign, though I may be wrong. I venture to think, however, that it was his duty—his public duty—to help to bring the Army up to the standard which he himself feels that it ought to reach at the present moment.
I am very glad that there is no pressure or compulsion exercised upon individuals, whether they are unemployed or not. I do not think a soldier is ever at his best when he is conscripted or compelled to fight, whether by the law of the land or by economic circumstances. If in a voluntary Army you want to get recruits, you have to attract them. If 1032 you have a conscripted Army, you may dress them in sackcloth and ashes. The law will see that they appear on the parade ground. But, if you are dealing with a voluntary Army, you have to make plain to prospective recruits what inducements you are holding out. You have to appeal to sentiment and tradition, and you have to point out that nowadays the old soldier need nut necessarily be a man drawing 6d. or 7d. a day, and very often tattered, war weary and helpless at the street corners. You can point out to-day that by your vocational training, by the pocket money that he gets, by the greatly improved conditions, the allowances and the uniform, and with a good character and good prospects in life, the conditions are such that the Army is one of the finest employments.
Naturally, because of the better conditions, and because of the high standard that you exact, a man's chances of employment in civil life are very much better than ever they were before. It is no longer the case that, when a boy enlists, he does it because of some moral delinquency. You find the finest types of men enlisting to-day. It is a sad comment upon recruiting to hear that 52 per cent. of those who volunteer actually belong to a C.3 population. It is a tragedy. On the other hand, it is consoling to hear, and the world should know about it, that the character of the British Army on the whole was never higher than to-day. The statistics that the right hon. Gentleman gave on the point were exceedingly valuable and far-reaching in their influence. I have never heard these attacks on the canteens that have been alluded to. They are very admirable institutions which have done very much to alleviate and ameliorate the conditions of the private soldier. What I can say about character I can say about crime. I do not believe there is an Army in the world with less crime than the British Army. I was glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about the absence of the old rigidity and rigour of the prison discipline. I take a certain amount of credit to myself that at the War Office I took an active part in abolishing the old prison life, and you have now not prison in the Army but detention barracks. The old chains that one saw lying about are all abolished. 1033 So far as it was possible to deal reasonably and, at the same time, adequately and effectively with crime, I believe a new and a much more generous spirit has entered into that branch of discipline.
We are accustomed, when discussing civil questions, to pay a great deal of attention to housing problems. Some of us believe that the house should be the home, and that the home should be the real basis and foundation of our country. I was astonished, when reading the paragraph dealing with what are called the Army services, to see how utterly inadequate the barrack accommodation is for the troops of to-day. I am not sure whether my facts are accurate or not, but I should not be at all surprised if it is due to the slum conditions that are obtaining in the barracks of to-day that you had, for example, that epidemic of spotted fever at Aldershot. We are told that, because of financial stringency, the Secretary of State can only dole out a few pounds this year, indeed less than last year, and at the same time he says the conditions are not only antiquated, because some belong to pre-South African war days, but there is a danger to the health and discipline of the troops. If it were possible, I should try to compel the right hon. Gentleman to divert some of the money that is at his disposal towards an object of that kind, rather than to an object which in the course of a day or two may be a thing of the past. He has told us that, with the advance of science and mechanisation, some of the implements of the Army may be out of date. The advance of science is so marvellous that we cannot possibly have anything more than in the experimental stage. It would be wise to divert some money which is very likely being misspent in that direction to an object of this kind which will do so much for the wellbeing of the soldier now and after he has left the Army.
I do not cavil at the extent of the staff in the War Office. I think the right hon. Gentleman justified the numbers that are being employed. There is nothing that is more often commented on with greater ignorance than the amount of staff that must be employed in certain Government Departments, but the committee upon which the right hon. Gentleman is relying finished its work seven years ago. 1034 Surely, in seven years there must have been some chance of economy in the matter of staff, and there seems to be no sign of economy. I am quite willing to take his word and to believe that there is an enormous amount of correspondence and an enormous increase in various directions; at the same time, I should like him to assure the House that he is paying very careful attention to the question of the numbers of that staff.
Another point that the right hon. Gentleman viewed with very great gravity was the filling up of the ranks of officers. He expressed some astonishment that they were depleted. We must remember that we had a stage, after the War, when fathers themselves who had to endure the horrible rigours and realities of the War, had to consider whether they should put their sons into a profession of this kind. That has as much to do with depletion as anything. But there is another ground, in my judgment, and that is that for a long time there was a feeling that the Army was no longer the profession, with promotion and preferment, that it was before the War. These two causes, in my judgment, have as much to do with the depletion of the officers' ranks as any, but I am delighted to hear that there is such a high percentage now of commissions given to men from the ranks. If anything was proved in the late War, it was that it was not absolutely necessary for a man to have spent years in barracks before he became qualified to be a commissioned officer. There are men in the Army, as in other professions, who pick up their work, whether it is a brief or anything else, as quickly in a few months or hours, as the case may be, as another man may do in years. The experience of the Great War as a whole was that the finest type of officer could always be got from the non-commissioned ranks. I am very glad that so many men have got commissions from the ranks, and I hope the Secretary of State will make it possible for even more to get commissions by making it easier for them in the Military Academy, or wherever they go for their ultimate training.
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to deal with another branch of officers, the Royal Army Medical Corps. One or two of my colleagues who have had war experience can speak on this 1035 subject with much greater authority than I can, but I know a great deal about the Royal Army Medical Corps, and what I have been reading recently about its condition is extraordinary. I cannot understand how a corps which has such a fine reputation, and which was so anxiously sought after as a profession before the War, should become almost the Cinderella of the profession. I am told there is no longer any competition for entering into that service, that the vacancies are advertised, about 50 a year, and that you cannot get sufficient applications for them, that instead of 25 or 50, there are only seven or eight. That is an extraordinary state of affairs, and there must be some reason for it. I am told that, out of 600 officers, 500 are majors and 100 subalterns, and the majors have to do mostly subalterns' work. That is a condition of affairs that is unthinkable. Surely, something must be done, because, if you are going to look after the health of the Army, you cannot have a discontented and chaotic corps of this kind. I am told there is no chance of promotion, there are miserable pensions and allowances and there are no special grants for specialised service. The State cannot allow it to be in that chaotic state without demanding from the Minister why it should be the case and what attempt he is going to make to improve it.
I have no doubt that a great deal of this discussion will turn upon the Officers Training Corps. I can quite see the point of view of those who wholeheartedly belong to the peace party. It is a logical point of view, but I do not see eye to eye with them. If it had not been for the Officers Training Corps and the Territorials in the Great War, I do not know where the British Army would have been. These were the two great forces which, in my judgment, from the civilian point of view, had such an enormous effect upon the whole of the campaign. I cannot enter at this stage into the ethics of the question as to whether it is right or wrong, or whether it is militaristic or not, but I can say that I have never seen any militaristic desire intensified by the Officers Training Corps. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has the courage, in any case, to try and find a middle way. I cannot see the logic of allowing recognition to a boy of 15, with no arms or 1036 equipment, and of giving a grant to a boy of 16, with arms and equipment. If you are sending a boy of 16 to camp, why camouflage the situation by saying that he cannot have equipment? What is he going to do? If you took the line of preventing him from going to camp I could understand the position, but I cannot understand why you should send a boy of 15 and a boy of 16 to the same camp and that one boy, who probably may be a day older than the other boy, should be allowed to have equipment and the other should not be allowed to have equipment.
The whole thing is ridiculous. I hope, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman has gone the length he has, that he really will not rest by allowing a blot like that to remain. He should take his courage in both hands and do the right thing, either get rid of it altogether—[An HON. MEMBER: "Get rid of it!"] Naturally, I do not agree with that, but if you are going to do anything, do it properly. I hope that before the Debate is over we shall be told that both the boy of 15 and the boy of 16 shall be allowed to have equipment. Indeed, I know there are many boys of 15 who are far more capable of carrying equipment than boys of 16. It is true that boys of 12, 13 and 14 may not have reached the stage when they should be asked to do the strenuous work which training demands, but one cannot forget that General Wolfe commenced at 13½, and that he conquered Canada when 31. I know that I shall be told that, of course, conditions are different. I am grateful even for the compromise of the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will bear in mind what I have said, and which, I should think, is the view of almost every Member of the House, that he should not stand on a little matter of that kind in regard to whether a boy of 15 should have equipment or not.
I have endeavoured, as well as I can, to go over the various points which suggest themselves to my mind, and I will conclude by saying that I support the Vote, and that my colleagues behind me support the Vote. A good many of them do not take the same view as I do with regard to the Officers Training Corps, but we intend to support the Vote to-night. Taking into consideration all the circumstances with which my right hon. Friend is faced, I say, as I said at the beginning, that I think he came to 1037 a fair, adequate and courageous compromise, in view of the opinions which are known to be held by a great many Members on his side of the House.
§ Dr. HASTINGS
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) will excuse me if I do not follow him very fully in what he has just said. I think that I can explain the smallness of the number of the doctors who are joining the Royal Army Medical Corps. There are two reasons, as I see it. The first is the lack of professional interest because, fortunately, to-day the Army is a very healthy body, but I think that an even stronger reason which prevents so many doctors joining the Royal Army Medical Corps is the fact that the remuneration is small. We have now a panel service, and by putting up a plate in any industrial area a doctor, as a rule, can within a year or two make a better salary than he can obtain in the Army. Personally, I think that the solution of these difficulties will only be found when the medical services of the three fighting forces, possibly even the medical services of other Government Departments as well, are joined together to make one larger body. It seems to me to be quite unreasonable that there should be three separate medical services in the combatant Departments, and I think that it may possibly be thought desirable to fuse the medical services of other departments of State as well.
I should like to deal mainly to-day with the question of the Officers Training Corps, and if I am in order I should like, first of all, to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War a question about the Estimates for them. In the Estimates for next year the amount put down to the Officers Training Corps is some £400 more than that for last year. This seems a little strange, seeing that the personnel of the Officers Training Corps has, according to the figures given in this year's Estimates been decreased by well over 7,000. I can hardly understand why if there is a decrease in personnel more money should be required. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman's announcement about the Officers Training Corps, I was greatly disappointed. In the Debate on the Army Estimates last year the Financial Secretary to the War Office said: 1038More and more we wish to prevent the mind of the child from being destroyed by military training."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1930; cols. 137–8, Vol. 237.]The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said:The boy attending a public school is certainly not too young to join an Officers Training Corps at an age which has been considered high enough for a working class boy to join the ranks."—[0FFICAL REPORT, 24th March, 1930; col. 86, Vol. 237.]The age at which a working-class boy joins the ranks is 18. The right hon. Gentleman himself, by the abolition of the Cadet Corps last year, arranged matters so that a boy could not have military training except in special circumstances under the age of 18. I accept this statement of his that the middle-class boy, that is the boy in the public school, should not receive military training at a lower age than 18, because that is what is implied. Now, apparently, he has changed his mind and he is going to allow a boy to begin to receive military training at the age of 15, although there can be no doubt at all that the working-class boy at 15 is, generally speaking, much more mature than the boy in the public school at this age. The working-class boy, for good or evil, leaves school at 14. He goes to work or he becomes unemployed, but at the age of 15 or 16 he has much greater knowledge of the world, unfortunately, than the boy who is sheltered in a public school. Therefore, it is far from desirable to let these boys of 15 commence their military training in a public school or other Officers Training Corps. After all, I do not think that what the right hon. Gentleman has given us—and we are certainly grateful for it—accounts for very much, because if I read the Regulations aright, I find that no grant is to be obtained for boys under 16 in a rate-aided school. What the right hon. Gentleman is now doing is to put the public schools on to the same level as the rate-aided schools, and I do not see that he is doing very much more.
There is another point in connection with this matter to which I should like to refer. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite accuse those of us who are sitting on this side of the House of being in favour of class legislation, and by this they mean that the working class people are treated, by legislation and administration, more favourably than 1039 any other class. I have seen no evidence of it so far, but I see clear evidence today, because the working class boy up to 18 is free from compulsory military training, whereas the middle and upper class boy in the public schools is not free from it. It seems to me to be quite wrong in these days of freedom when we believe in a free Army, an Army which a person can enter or not as he chooses—and the right hon. Gentleman himself has said to-day that "men must join the Army of their own free will"—to spend public money on the compulsory military training of boys at such a tender age.
I would point out to the House that this training is, in fact, compulsory. I wanted to find a school for a boy of mine, and knowing that it is necessary to put boys names down early, I sent for the prospectuses of certain schools, and I have pages from them in my hand. The Epsom Medical Benevolent College, is a college to which certain boys are really compelled to go because their fathers were doctors and their mothers have become widows and are badly off and cannot very well choose a school. They have to accept places there. I read in the prospectus of that college thatEvery boy of the requisite age who is not exempt on medical grounds is expected to join, and does so.I read similar statements in the prospectuses relating to Downside School, Bath. Birkenhead School and other schools. It is a very undesirable thing, indeed, to make military training compulsory. I think that it is bad for the boys who are forced to be trained as soldiers. It is equally bad for the boys who stand out. No boy likes to be peculiar. It is bad for the boy to be thought peculiar. It results in one of two things; either he gets the idea that he is inferior to his fellows and he develops an inferiority complex, or, what is worse, he becomes a pharisaical little prig.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
The hon. Member mentioned the name of one school with which I happen to be personally acquainted, and which my two sons attend. They are neither of them members of the Officers Training Corps. There is not the slightest compulsion exercised. If the other cases that the 1040 hon. Member is putting up are based on no better evidence than that particular case, he has no case to set up.
§ Dr. HASTINGS
Perhaps I may read the prospectus of Birkenhead School. Here is the statement:All boys over 14 years of age who are medically fit are expected to join the Officers Training Corps.
§ Dr. HASTINGS
I can only take what is said in the prospectus. My point was, that if pressure is exerted, and there is pressure, upon boys to join the Officers Training Corps—I do not say that they all join—it is very bad for the boys who do not join. That was the main point of my argument.
§ Dr. HASTINGS
I accept the hon. Member's statement fully, and I am very glad to learn that there is, at any rate, one school which is very much better than its prospectus.
It is difficult for me to understand the point of view of the headmasters in desiring so strongly, as the Secretary of State for War has shown that they do, the continuance of the Officers Training Corps. I have not the slightest doubt that a great many of them—
§ Dr. HASTINGS
I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for correcting me. I accept what he says, but I read into his statement that the headmasters accepted the duty placed upon them, gladly. If I am wrong, I am very glad that I am wrong. I am trying to explain the reasons why they do accept that duty. No doubt some of them think that there is useful training to be obtained in these corps, but I cannot help feeling that there are other reasons, and that some of them think that they are getting a cheap advertisement for their school at the expense of the War Office, that the corps give them an excuse for collecting the school together and showing to the world what a fine lot of boys they have got. Another reason may prompt them. They are getting from the War Office facilities for their corps. They are occupying the time of the school at the expense of the parents and the War Office and at comparatively little expense to themselves and the school.
No doubt the Secretary of State for War can give very strong reasons, military reasons, for the continuance of the Officers Training Corps, but I cannot think that a boy who enjoys strutting about in military uniform is necessarily going to make the best officer. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that a great deal of use is made in the Army of scientific discoveries, and I cannot help feeling that boys trained in physics and chemistry, and possibly bacteriology and other sciences, as well as mathematics, are going to be of the most use to the Army in the future. If there has to be a war, we all know that it will be fought very differently from the last War. We know that in the last War, some of the men who did most to help us to win the War were men of science who, for instance, by making use of physics and the laws of transmission of sound, enabled us to spot and to destroy the guns of the opposing Army. I cannot help feeling that leadership, if we need it, and I am sure that we do, is not going to be developed in the best way merely by boys training smaller boys in drill, with the whole of the authority and traditions of the school as well as the War Office behind them. I feel that the qualities of true leadership are going to be developed much better in games and 1042 in other free associations where the moral qualities and the moral calibre of the boys can be shown.
I will not deal with the advantages and disadvantages of such physical and moral training as can be obtained in these corps, but I would say that, in my opinion, the main objection to the Officers Training Corps is that it gives the boy an entirely wrong idea of what war really is. The members of an Officers Training Corps have a very good time. They go to inspect guns and different implements of war, mechanical instruments in which boys are keenly interested, and they go to camp, which, of course, is an excellent thing for them. They get the idea that war is a kind of glorified picnic. Those of us who knew anything of the last War know that it is a very different thing from that. If we make military training an essential part of eduction, the boys who obtain such education are very likely, subconsciously, to assume that war is inevitable, and that is an impression which a great many of us desire that people should not get.
§ Sir HERBERT NIELD
One would almost ask oneself after listening to the last speaker, whether he has ever been guilty of presenting his young boys with a box of soldiers. [Interruption.] It will come to that presently. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I wish the cheers of hon. Members opposite could be heard throughout the world. Fancy the ridiculous absurdity of depriving a child of a box of soldiers, which may be wooden soldiers, because it is going to inculcate the desire for war! It is about as absurd a thing as anything I have heard in this House, and I have heard a great many absurd things. I have been long enough here to know this House in very different circumstances, and I never thought that we should get to such a ridiculous state that we should hear such arguments as are put forward from time to time from the benches opposite. Now we know where we are, and we know that the Peace Group, as it is called in this House, are far more likely to find that their advocacy of unilateral disarmament of this country will, as regards foreign nations, place them in the position described by the Psalmist in the words: 1043I labour for peace, but when I speak unto them thereof: they make them ready to battle.Our helplessness would in spite of treaties, as we saw in August, 1914, be our adversaries' opportunity and we should learn to our cost the price of our surrender. I saw in the "Morning Post" a letter of such a character—a letter in which the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Ayles) is specifically mentioned—that it must be inquired into.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I am very glad to hear the hon. Member's statement. The letter comes from a lady. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh. We seem to be getting into the realm of absurdity again. Why should not a lady write a letter to a newspaper, just as well as a lady should sit in this House? The contents of that letter are going to be thoroughly examined, and if they are true it is about as serious a matter as was ever brought forward.
§ Mr. AYLES indicated assent.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I am very glad that the hon. Member nods his head in approval. My claim to speak in this Debate merely as a civilian is that of a member, for over 20 years, of the Middlesex Territorial Association. When I obtained a place in the ballot the conditions of recruiting were exceedingly bad, but they have improved since then though the position in the County of London still leaves much to be desired. We in the County of Middlesex have pursued a different way. We have been able to get our recruiting very much more advanced by the sacrifice of time on the part of members of the Association, in interveiwing the employers of labour in the districts and convincing them of the necessities of the country. [Laughter.] Evidently, we are going to have an 1044 amusing afternoon. I should like to ask the peace group where we should have been but for the Territorials and the Officers Training Corps during the War.
Let me refer to a statement made by the Secretary of State for War with regard to the improvement in the Regular Army. I want to give testimony not only as a Member of this House but as Recorder of the City of York, where the Army of the Northern Command is situated, that drunkenness in the Army has been very much reduced. At my court, I have the figures separated. When the Chief Constable's report is presented to me at each Quarter Sessions it discriminates between those offences which appertain to the soldiers and the civilians, showing which convictions are due to the Army, which are due to the civilian residents and which are due to visitors. The diminishing number of cases of drunkenness throughout the city is perfectly wonderful.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I do not know whether that applies any more in the City of York than elsewhere, but I do know that the number of convictions for drunkenness in the Army has been very much reduced, almost to vanishing point. In 3 months I think the number has been reduced to as low as 10 or 12. In view of the large number of men in the Northern Command, that is extraordinary testimony to the sobriety of the Army. I have taken some pains to find out to what this dearth of recruits is due, and I am told by men holding responsible positions in the Army that it is due, in the first place, to the dole, secondly, to the disarmament propaganda, which has adversely affected the recruitment of the right type of men, and thirdly, to the uncertainty regarding the future of the soldier. If the Secretary for War desires to improve recruiting he has only to put an end to this uncertainty and to the disparagement by his supporters of recruiting.
§ Sir H. NIELD
My authority is the secretary of the County of London 1045 Territorial Association and the military secretary of my own association—and they ought to know. As to the Territorial Army, I am told that the reason there is the continual cutting down of the grants awarded. Commanding officers are unable to make the drill halls sufficiently attractive to encourage the young men of the neighbourhood to use them in preference to going to public houses and cinemas. If the drill halls were properly equipped they would be used as clubs, with advantage from a military point of view as well as from a social point, of view. There is a general feeling that the Government do not regard the Territorial Army as of primary importance, and this has had some effect on recruiting. In my own county the members of the association and the adjutant have put themselves out in order to go to the large establishments and convince both masters and men of the desirability of the men joining the Territorial Army. With regard to London, I am told that the 47th and 56th Divisions are the weakest in the whole country, and that this is attributable to the superior attractions in London. It is not necessary to discuss the figures which have been already given in the Memorandum, but I suggest to the War Office that if they improved the amenities of the headquarters of the various battalions they would have a marked increase in recruiting. The grants are not in excess in London of those given in the country, while the expenses of equipment are infinitely greater than they are in villages and provincial towns. I also suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should consider improving the conditions under which the Territorials are called upon to serve.
With regard to the Officers Training Corps, I was hoping that the absence of any reference in the Memorandum might lead us to suppose that it would be unaffected by the Estimates and would be left as it was. I am not going to defend putting a lad of 13 or 14 into the Officers Training Corps, although my own boys went in at that age with advantage to themselves, but I do think it is unwise to attempt to differentiate between the ages of 15 and 16, and in this matter I agree with the right hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Major Tryon). We have 1046 heard a great deal about the Officers Training Corps. No hon. Member opposite, who has any real knowledge of the War, would attempt to deride the services of the young men who were trained in this way. The House will not mind a father making a reference to a son who lost his life in the first advance on the Somme. That eldest boy of mine, who had gone through the Officers Training Corps at Winchester for six years and afterwards at Oxford for three years, where he was in charge, ended his life in the Battle of the Somme on the 1st, July, 1916. The House will, I hope, allow me to read an extract from a letter from his commanding officer which will be found in the Album of Biographies very shortly to be deposited in this House, biographies of those Members and sons of Members who fell in the War:The men of his platoon had complete confidence in him, and the gallant way in which he led them is beyond any praise my words can express. I cannot say how much I deplore his loss for I too had the utmost confidence in him. I never had a finer officer.How can I listen and sit still when the Officers Training Corps is criticised in the way it has been this evening when that young son of mine, who was a civilian and in training for the Diplomatic Corps, who had no idea of taking up a military career afterwards, behaved in that way as a military officer? Yet he did so, and that was his end. Hon. Members cannot wonder if I speak feelingly on the training of these young men when I have such a notable example in the case of my own son.
§ Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State for War and the War Office on the excellent volume they have issued on Army Estimates. But these Estimates have already been accepted, and the Committee on Procedure has pointed out the fact that it is necessary, if you are to keep control of policy which rules the amount of money we spend on these Services, that we should have a chance of examining the Estimates before they are accepted by the Department. It is the same with all Departments, and I hope that we shall have some alteration of our procedure in this respect. I am sorry that we are not able to deal with actual control and supervision of the Services. I refer to the Minister of Defence. 1047 I feel convinced that we shall get no great economy, no value for money, in any of the various services unless we have some control of the distribution of the money given by Parliament to the various services. Undoubtedly, there is overlapping, and this should be one of the things to be investigated in the future if we are to get the same results for a less expenditure, if we are to get better value for the money spent.
I have watched the recruiting figures for some time with concern, both in the Regular Army and Territorial Force. It must come strongly to the Adjutant-General and to those in charge of the Territorial Army as to what is to be done. The campaign inaugurated at the end of last year had good results, but the fact remains that, notwithstanding that we have 2,600,000 people out of work at the present time, the Army does not attract them. There must be some reason for this. It is not that the military service is not attractive, but that the conditions of service want looking into. At the end of their service they come to a dead end, and I press upon the Secretary of State the desirability of examining the conditions of service, not only from the military but from the psychological point of view in order to find out what is wrong with the Service. You can get men for the Royal Navy in any numbers, and if the Army is to be kept up to the present standard, which is the minimum required as a police force, having regard to our obligations throughout the world, the authorities must make some inquiry into the conditions of service and why it is not inducing young men to join.
In that respect I have one or two suggestions to make. Men leaving the Service are at a great disadvantage, especially those who are on the married register. They finish their military service and go towards a pension for long vice, but when they come into civil life they have nothing with which to start, nothing to provide even furniture for a house. I have known cases of non-commissioned officers with three children, who have spent a long time in the Service and collected about £20, and got their final discharge with certain moneys to come, hoping to get some employment which would sustain them along with the 1048 pension, but they found it extremely difficult to start in a house with a family, and have been unable to do so except by the aid of relatives. I suggest that the War Office might consider some form of gratuity to those who are to get pensions for long service. It would be an attraction to the Service, and would greatly help the men in facing civil life. There are also forms of employment in the various institutions in the Army which should be open to the men leaving after long service. I am referring to regional institutes and canteens, and I regret the policy which has directed so many women into these services. It is a good thing to have a certain number of women, but I think it has been overdone, and if the right hon. Gentleman will inquire he will find that many of the canteens are almost entirely staffed by women. I do not see why a great many ex-Service men should not be used in this direction. Possibly women are better than men for some things, but there are many occupations in the canteen service which men could perform rather better than women.
Let me say one word about the Officers Training Corps. I was in the War Office when it was inaugurated, and I know, therefore, from personal acquaintance, the good work they have done. When the great pressure of the War came, and we began to get short of officers, we found that the schools at Sandhurst and Woolwich could not give us the number of officers we wanted. We had to start, first of all, in France, outside St. Omer, an officers training battalion. We took men from the ranks and gave them training before they received their commissions. Then we had to tackle the problem at home here. There were established five or six of these training battalions for officers. We took promising privates, corporals and others from the ranks in France and gave them training to fit them for officer appointments. I think that from a national safety point of view the Officers Training Corps is a very valuable and a very cheap method of keeping our officer class in being. We all know that the competition for Sandhurst and Woolwich is not as great to-day as it was previously. In fact a good many units complain that they have not the selection that they ought to have. 1049 That being so, it is all the more reason why we should do what we can to foster the Officers Training Corps.
I wish to say something about the question of compulsion. I know that in a great many schools boys who are not medically examined are expected to join the Officers Training Corps. If that method is objected to why cannot the War Office say: "Well, if there is any compulsion at all, if there is anything put into the curriculum asking the boys to join under compulsion, we will not give you the grant"? Let joining the Officers Training Corps be on a really voluntary basis. I am certain that it is not beyond the ingenuity of the War Office to frame such regulations that membership of the Officers Training Corps will be a really voluntary service, approved not only by the boys but by the boys' fathers.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that the steps which I have announced will take away all recognition by the War Office of an Officers Training Corps for the first two or three years of a boy's life, and if the boy and his parents cannot look after the boy's position in those circumstances, I do not think the War Office can be blamed.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I was arguing that the War Office ought to continue the grants, for the reason that this is a very cheap way of ensuring a supply of officers. Everyone knows how undecided many boys are as to the profession that they will take up. I am not at the moment pleading that the Officers Training Corps is a good training for the boy, although I believe that it is, but from the Officers Training Corps ranks we do get many boys who, with this preliminary training, take up an Army career and go to Sandhurst or Woolwich. For that reason I regret that the Officers Training Corps has been curtailed in the public schools, though I am glad to think that the universities will not be affected at all. It is perfectly reasonable to say that the Officers Training Corps in the various schools is a real channel for our officer class to go along to Sandhurst, and I for one regret that there is any limitation of its activity.
I want to thank the Secretary of State for War for his courteous letter to me on 1050 the subject of health in the Army. He wrote to me and kindly gave me the figures as to the fever at Aldershot. I am glad to think that the statements we have received, not only from the Services but in the Press, have been exaggerated. I am sure that the matter is receiving attention, and I would remind the House that in nearly every case the contagion came either from serving men or a corporal—some cases came through certain women who are employed at Aldershot—but the greater number of cases came from barrack rooms, from active carriers. There are very few who are such carriers. Therefore, there is a possibility of elimination by careful examination. I am certain that that is being done by the medical authorities, who have experience in the matter, and I am glad to think that the outbreak at Aldershot is not as severe and extensive as I at one time thought.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman alluding to the outbreak of paratyphoid fever?
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I am talking of spotted fever, and I understand that there are not as many cases at Aldershot as I at first understood. The disease is due, as everyone knows, to contagion and lack of ventilation. Let me now say a few words about the tattoos, to which some hon. Members opposite object. I like tattoos. We started them on the Rhine to amuse the Army there first of all, and then as the Army gradually filtered home, the tattoo became a really great pageant for the eye. I am sure the tattoo cannot really induce a military feeling or drive into the Army people who would otherwise be of a peaceful nature. I am speaking now of the wonderful tattoos at Aldershot. It might as well be proposed to prevent the cinemas from showing films of the gangsters of Chicago. No doubt it is very deplorable to be "put on the spot," but films of the gangsters are to be seen, and every child can go to a cinema and see them. The pageant of the tattoo is a very valuable recruiting agent for the Army, but there is no harm done to those who have the amusement of seeing a tattoo. At any rate I hope that the tattoos will continue, as I think they are a very good thing.
1051 I wish to put one question on Vote 9, relating to warlike stores. I notice that in these days of peace, when we are all talking of disarmament and that sort of thing, the expenditure on warlike stores is one of the expenditures that is mounting upwards. I presume that the Vote refers to mechanised vehicles or something of that nature. It has mounted up by about £290,000. I suppose it has something to do with the replacement of worn-out vehicles, tanks, machine guns, or something to do with the artillery. At any rate it is a large sum. Finally, let me ask the Secretary of State whether he is doing anything for the pre-war pensioner. This House passed a Resolution by a majority demanding that something should be done. The question relates to a class of man who is rapidly disappearing and who in the course of a very few years will have disappeared altogether. I would like a promise from the Minister that he will devote some effort towards helping these old pensioners, who deserve the best that we can give them. I hope that in the coming year the right hon. Gentleman will devote his energy to directing a small sum towards alleviating the prewar pensioner's lot.
§ Mr. EDE
I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for War, on the speech with which he introduced these Estimates. I intervene with some hesitation in a military discussion, because I understand that it is usually confined to the higher commissioned ranks, and as one who never held a higher substantive rank than that of sergeant, although I was for a few weeks an acting sergeant-major, and nearly learned a language, I hesitate rather. But I wish to say that my right hon. Friend's speech really seemed to me to look at many aspects of the Army from the point of view of the man in the ranks. I want to say quite frankly that I think many parts of the speech showed quite a refreshing common sense with regard to the subjects with which they dealt. We were told, for instance, that drunkenness has decreased by three-quarters in the Army. I was at Aldershot recently speaking to a friend who has continued in the Army from the time that I was serving with him, and he assured me that the main cause of 1052 the decrease of drunkenness is that the strength of the beer has gone down in even greater proportion than the drinking of it. But one cannot go about the military centres of the country at the present time without realising that what my right hon. Friend said is quite true, that there is a difference in outlook of the soldier on civilians and of civilians on soldiers that marks a very distinct advance in the social prestige of the rank and file of the Army.
I am not quite sure what my right hon. Friend meant when he said that pack drill had been replaced by useful instruction. I do not know whether that refers to the way in which the old schoolmasters had of making instruction distasteful by inflicting it as a punishment, but at any rate that was one of the changes that was bound to come with the increased intelligence of the rank and file of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was going to make a sacrifice, and so he had decided not to increase the ration allowance of the rank and file soldier on leave. I am bound to say that the soldier was quite prepared for the sacrifice to be made, provided that he was not called upon to share it. There may be some difficulty in persuading him that the sacrifice is really that of the right hon. Gentleman and not of the serving soldier in the ranks.
In my speech on these Estimates last year I raised the question of commissions from the ranks. I wish now to thank my right hon. Friend for the appointment of a Departmental Committee during the year. I can only hope that its labours will not be unduly prolonged, and that it will be able to present some report that will enable commissions from the ranks to be very substantially increased in proportion to the total number of commissions. We are told that since 1st April last 105 commissions have been given from the ranks, out of 616 granted altogether. How many of these commissions were quartermasters' commissions? It may be that I have in my mind an older army than that of to-day, but I do not put quartermasters' commissions on the same footing as other commissions. I believe that most quartermasters end as members of the capitalist class, and as one who was for about a fortnight an acting quartermaster-sergeant I can imagine that that 1053 is what happens to them in spite of themselves; it really cannot be helped in that part of army administration. But how many of these 105 commissions were quartermasters' commissions? I hold very strongly that there ought to be one avenue of entry into the Army, and I totally dissent from the view expressed by the last speaker that there should be an officer class. He used the phrase "officer class" three or four times.
§ Sir R. HUTCHISON
I said that as we are losing the entry from the competition for Sandhurst and Woolwich, it was very desirable to stimulate more young men to come forward. Before the War there were 700 applicants for 100 places. My statement does not mean that I object to entry from the ranks.
§ Mr. EDE
My point of view, and I may be the only person in the House who holds such a point of view, is that history proves it to be correct from the military standpoint that the proper apprenticeship for the officer is the Army itself. The great army which defied Europe for 22 years under Napoleon recruited its best officers from men who joined in the ranks. The great army which this House maintained and which broke the power of kings, was largely officered in the same way. I think the changing standards of education will involve our having an army of that sort before many years have passed, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give largely increased opportunities to youths who join in the ranks to take commissions. I am sure he will do more to get the proper sort of recruits from the secondary schools—I am now talking about the rate-aided secondary schools—for officers' posts, by that method than by continuing the Officers Training Corps in the secondary schools. I do not regard the British Army as a military organisation at all. A force of 148,800 men to carry out the duties of the British Army over the whole British Empire cannot be regarded as a military unit. It is little more than an armed police force, but that it forms a most valuable nucleus for this country, if we should ever be attacked again cannot be denied. I hope that the House will maintain the Army on the lines advocated by my right hon. Friend. The closing words of his speech, I think, proved that the policy of the Government with regard to the Army is the best 1054 contribution to the cause of world peace, as far as land armies are concerned, that we in present circumstances can make.
If I may offer some criticism of what my right hon. Friend said about the Officers Training Corps I would say that while, in the main I agree with his conclusions, I am not sure that while these corps are in the schools, he will be able to avoid some form of indirect compulsion. I give the House a fortuitous example which came to my notice. I was sitting as the chairman of a body conducting a viva voce examination of some youths who were competing for a university scholarship. There was a highly intelligent youth who was easily the best of those before us, and in answer to certain questions he disclosed the fact that he was not a prefect of the school of which he was quite a distinguished intellectual ornament. As a result of questions we elicited from him that the prefects were confined to the non-commissioned ranks of the Officers Training Corps. That, in itself, is a form of indirect compulsion to get boys into the Officers Training Corps and that boy was put in that invidious position, not because of any beliefs which he held himself—because I do not think he was old enough to form those beliefs properly—but because of the beliefs of his parents. They were hardened pacifists, opposed to all forms of militarism, and they denied him permission to join the Officers Training Corps. I think it wrong for distinctions of that sort to be made inside the schools and I am sure that while my right hon. Friend continues to give any grants at all towards Officers Training Corps he cannot prevent that sort of pressure being exercised.
I wish to ask a question with regard to the Officers Training Corps which are outside schools altogether. What effect will my right hon. Friend's regulations have upon them? Last year his regulation in regard to cadet corps had the effect of abolishing certain units outside the schools altogether, although I think, he was really aiming at units inside the schools. The junior Member for Brighton (Major Tryon) said he hoped that the Army was going to be above party. I join in the hope but I do not think that the right hon. and gallant Member's speech helped us very much in that respect because he went on to talk about 1055 the party on this side, as if we were as united in our policy with regard to peace as his own party is united, shall we say, with regard to tariffs. He should realise that just as there are considerable differences on various subjects in every party at the present time, on this subject there are very wide divergencies of opinion in, at least, two of the parties in the House.
I join with him in his remarks on one point. I think that some of the books and plays which have appeared during the past few years pretending to portray the British soldier as he was in the War constitute a great libel on the common people of this country. That there were excesses everybody knows. There are excesses in times of peace, but that the 4,000,000 and more men of our race who enlisted, not because they loved war but because they hated war, who fought—mistakenly as we have found—because they believed that the war would bring peace, who fought because they were serving a great ideal, were the beasts and monsters portrayed in those books is utterly untrue, and to represent them as such is one of the worst things that any private citizens of this country have done during the past few years. I would be untrue to the men whose bones are buried in Flanders and other fields in which our armies fought, if I did not say, as one who served in the ranks, that I fail to recognise the picture given in those books as anything approaching the truth, and I think that more steps ought to be taken to make it plain that those who saw the War, who knew the War, while realising the horror and beastliness of it all, recognise that the horror and the beastliness were in the system and not in the men who fought—at any rate as far as this country is concerned.
I can only speak for this country. I never had the misfortune to be a prisoner of war, and I do not know what went on in other armies and in other countries, but that we proved, from 1914 to 1918, that the inherent vitality of the British people in time of military stress is undiminished, I think, goes without saying. Could our army have gone through the March and April of 1918 had we been the moral degenerates which these books portray us to be? It was only the individual moral discipline of the indi- 1056 vidual British soldier of the new armies, serving in the old county regiments, which stood between this country and disaster, and I feel that the policy which my right hon. Friend has outlined is the sound one for this country because it recognises that the inherent moral fibre to which I refer still exists. It also takes into account the great work done, in the education of our people in the last 60 years, to give us an army that, should the need ever come again—and I hope it may not come again—will not be unworthy of the great army in which some of us served during those four years.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I am sure that the House will appreciate the speech of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and I cannot help thinking that the admirable way in which he defended the British soldier shows that there is a considerable value in military training. I should like to add this to what he has said with regard to the misleading films and novels which have appeared dealing with the War. I notice, in one part of the Estimates, that money has been received in respect of the use of troops and army materials in the compilation of films. I should like to be assured that it is shown to the satisfaction of the War Office that no part of a film taken with military assistance contains any sloppy or objectionable story such as the hon. Member for South Shields has mentioned.
The Secretary of State maintains that there has been a reduction in the Vote for the Army—not a large but a substantial reduction—in spite of the fact that there has been a large increase in the non-effective Vote which, of course, materially affects the Estimates. I do not believe that any substantial economy can be made in the Army Estimates so long as Europe is in its present condition and so long as we have our present commitments, not only in India and the Empire, but also, be it remembered, in connection with the League of Nations. That matter has not, I think, been mentioned this afternoon and, while I cannot go into it on the present occasion, it ought to be taken into consideration. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) said he did not think that any effective economies could be made unless there was 1057 something analogous to a Ministry of Defence. I agree that it would not be in order to discuss that subject but I think it would be in order for the Financial Secretary to the War Office to tell us to what extent the bulk purchase of stores and so forth has increased and to what extent it is common, not only to the Army, Navy and Air Force but to all the services of the State.
Some mention has been made of this subject on former occasions and the view has been expressed that the appropriate Department, the Office of Works or whatever Department it may be, should purchase such articles as coal and clothes and that there might be some system of common purchase of general stores whereby economies could be made. I would like to go a little further than that. I think substantial economies could be effected if many of the Departments mentioned in these Estimates could be amalgamated and made common to the three Services. The hon. Member for Reading (Dr. Hastings) rather disappointed me because I thought he would have developed his argument when he mentioned the advantage it would be to have a medical corps common to the three Services. I know that specialised treatment is necessary in certain respects but I believe that something could be done in this direction, and that there are other branches, such as the dental service, the chaplains, education, land agents and others in which something could also be done. The right hon. Gentleman if he looks into the matter will find that money is spent on land services and on other works which could be combined, so as to take away from the overhead charges. I believe that in the purchase of stores of all kinds with the exception perhaps of specialised stores such as naval guns much could be accomplished on these lines.
I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose who also spoke about the increase in expenditure on stores, and I take it that he did not read the Debate of last year when the late Sir Laming Worthington-Evans called attention to the fact that £600,000 worth of stores were consumed from stock in the year. I presume that this is intended to make up some of the shortage which has thereby developed. I would also like to call the attention of the 1058 House to the fact that we are living on stocks this year, because on page 145 it will be seen that the stocks of clothing are being used this year to the extent of £151,000 while general stores are being used to the extent of £212,000. That will mean, presumably, that next year the right hon. Gentleman will have to come to the House in order to get replacements of those sources or else that he is allowing mobilisation stores to get dangerously low.
It is necessary for almost every speaker to pay attention to the very important question of the Royal Army Medical Corps. We really do want to know what is the exact shortage and whether the numbers given in these Estimates are regular serving medical officers in the Army or are men hired to do the work of the Royal Army Medical Corps. What is the position in India? I have been trying to find out what is the position of the Royal Army Medical Corps in India, and I find that the number shown on the Estimate is 290. Are those 290 expected to be receiving pay during the coming year? My information is to the contrary, that, although there is a bad shortage at home, it is even worse there. I hope that the Financial Secretary will give us figures as to the shortage both at home and in India. Another question is that of barracks and married quarters. Last year the right hon. Gentleman said he had been out to Gibraltar and Malta and had seen the accommodation there. I said then that I hoped he had not only enjoyed himself during his visit but had improved the lot of the soldiers there. He also said that he was going to establish married quarters at home. I hope he has been able to do that. Last year he said that soldiers were living in quarters and barracks which were not worthy of them. Perhaps he will be able to give some information on that point, but it is rather disturbing to read in the Estimates that the Vote is down by no less than £56,000.
One word about recruiting. Everybody is glad that there has been a distinct improvement in recruiting, and we hope the improvement will be maintained, because the difficulty of securing drafts for India is such that it is almost impossible under present circumstances. I would like to give an experience of my own during the past few weeks. I was down at a place 1059 where a man wanted to give employment, and he employed 60 men in order to do a certain job. I happened to see those men and a more deplorable looking lot I never saw. He insisted on getting them all from the Employment Exchange, and they consisted of boys and young men from 18 to 25, who appeared never to have done any work in their lives, and not only to have no ambition but to have lost all hope. It was one of the saddest things I have seen for many a day. I should hope, not perhaps by compulsion but by getting the recruiting staff down to meet cases of that kind, that it might be possible to get a large accretion to the Army, who would in the course of a very few months improve out of all recognition in their appearance, their physical condition, their moral character, and their future. Young men of that kind, who are unfortunately out of employment to-day and drifting into becoming unemployables, would be different individuals if they were in the Army for two or three years. I realise it is necessary to hold out hopes for employment in the future. It is rather disturbing to read that, out of 30,000 men leaving the Army this year, only 1,991 have received vocational training. I know that the reason is that the Army is so short of men at home that one simply cannot spare them to go for that training. It is to my mind most unfortunate, and I hope something will be done to rectify that state of affairs.
Another matter arises out of a paragraph on page 4 of the Memorandum which the right hon. Gentleman has prepared. It states there that, with a view of enhancing the prospects of ex-regular soldiers in finding employment in civil life, endeavours have been made to coordinate the work of those voluntary organisations which work on behalf of ex-service men. I assume that he is alluding to the National Association for the Employment of Ex-Regular Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen and that there is a scheme for the absorption of regimental associations into that body. I do not know whether it is to be absorption or not. I know what good work that association has done, it is liberally supported by the Army and Air Force, and it has its representatives in many of the great cities and also in the garrison towns. To that extent it has a great pull over the 1060 regimental associations, but it would be unfortunate if we were to discourage these old comrades association. There is a pride in the regiment which it would be a thousand pities to discourage, and I hope grave consideration will be given to this matter before any definite arrangement is made. I have spoken for some time and have asked the right hon. Gentleman a considerable number of questions, but, after all, the advantage of a Debate of this kind is to get information which cannot be given in the opening speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I hope in due course we shall have some information.
§ Mr. AYLES
The pacifists in the House have been very roundly attacked during this Debate, and it is as well that at the beginning of the evening some reply from one, who is not only an unreprentant pacifist but a very definite pacifist, should be given. If we are to have a discussion upon the merits of the matter before us, we ought to be quite clear that we understand one another's point of view. The right hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Major Tryon) has suggested that we pacifists have no respect for the men who are in the Army or the men who might join the Army. That is an entirely wrong idea of the attitude that we who are pacifists take. He has said in almost so many words that those of us who are opposed to the Army and to war are not patriotic. That again is an entirely wrong idea of what we stand for. We are pacifists because we respect the men who are in the Army; we are pacifists because we love our country. I protest with all my power against hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who believe that war is the ultimate authority in the affairs of men and nations, monopolising the whole idea of patriotism and of love for country. Those of us who are pacifists have spent, the whole of our lives in doing our utmost to remedy the evils that exist in society. We not only love our country, but we love all the best things that our country stands for, and it is because we believe that war degrades our country rather than elevates it that we are the pacifists that we are to-day.
It has been said that without our Army we would have no security. We 1061 who are pacifists believe the contrary. We believe that armed force is a menace to the security of our country and to the security of any country. If armed force were a security to the country, how is it that the Central Powers today are smashed? In 1914 they had a military organisation that had been developed as high as any military organisation had been developed up to that time; yet to-day they are smashed. If one reads the histories of the War which have been written, few of them really agreeing with one another but all endeavouring to portray the things that actually happened, one finds that quite a number of them would have us believe that it was not military force that gave us the victory in the last War but rather the luck of circumstances and of occasion. I, as a pacifist, want to ask the military authorities in this House—and there are men and perhaps women in this House who have studied military science as deeply and profoundly as any in this country or in the world—to get up and say that they know of any means which has ever been discovered by military science that can guarantee the security of a single man or woman or child in this country. There is not one.
The fact that we are asking our men, men of the finest calibre, of the finest physique, of the finest minds, and of the finest character to do the deadly, beastly work of war is to my mind worthy of the condemnation that the Anglican Church has itself made of war when it has told us that it is unchristian and is a kind of crime in which no Christian nation should take part. You cannot prevent the blockade of one country by another country. When once war has started, you cannot prevent any means being taken in order that a military victory may be achieved. I do not forget that I was in Germany just after the last war; I do not forget that we carried on the blockade not only during the war but after the war; I do not forget that we are going to ask these men—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member's speech would be more suitable to the Amendments on Vote A than at this particular place, because this has to do with the administration of the Army.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
There are one or two important points which have emerged from the Debate and are visible in the Estimates to which I want to refer. The first subject about which I would like further information is regarding the Army medical officers. The right hon. Gentleman in his White Paper acknowledges the serious condition of affairs, but he does not say how he proposes to remedy it. This shortage of medical officers in the Army is no new thing. When I was in the Army many years ago, the great change made in order to induce gentlemen to become medical officers was to give them military rank, but that did not help very much. It is quite impossible that the present state of affairs can continue, because, after all, the health of the men is the first consideration. It is most uneconomic not to have it properly looked after. You cannot leave it to temporary civil medical officers to look after the troops. When the Financial Secretary replies, I hope that he will tell us what steps the Government are taking to remedy this shortage.
The right hon. Gentleman said that vocational training was being given to a certain number of men, but that he was discouraged in training them on the land because the migration of workers to our Dominions has been almost entirely suspended. Why not go on with the training and let the trainees go on the land in this country?
§ Colonel ASHLEY
If that be so, the right hon. Gentleman did not give us quite a true picture of the state of affairs, because he gave the impression to my mind that nothing more could be done in land training because the men could not go overseas; but no doubt, owing to the wonderful policy of the Government, with their Land Utilisation Bill and Marketing Bill, the countryside will blossom as the rose, and there will be a happy future for the trainees on the land.
Another subject of great importance is barrack accommodation. I know from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman last year and from what he said to-day that he feels very deeply about the state 1063 of barrack accommodation. But what is he doing? He is asking us to vote less money this year than last year. I do not understand the position of the Government. They are always talking about how the State should be a model employer and show the way to private employers as to how things should be done, and yet they are taking no steps as far as the Army is concerned—and the Army is the servant of the State—to remedy this very disgraceful state of affairs, especially in regard to the married quarters. If the Government consider it necessary to have a housing Bill to ameliorate the conditions of the civilian population, they ought to provide better accommodation for their own servants in barracks. The State will not allow the policeman to be lodged as the soldier is lodged, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to tell us what steps the Government really mean to take to improve the barrack accommodation.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us as one of the reasons why there was an increase in the staff of the War Office that the correspondence was 50 per cent. greater last year than it was in 1913. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not going to sit down under that. I was only a humble Under-Secretary with six months at the War Office, but I was appalled with the files that were given to me to read, and the innumerable documents that I had to go through and which sometimes took me an hour before I got a gist of the matter. Is it really necessary in the War Office to have so many files, for all the heads of Departments to initial all these files, and for the wretched Under-Secretary and Financial Secretary and Secretary of State to have to wade through them? At the Ministry of Transport we had no files at all. It may be that it was a new Ministry which had not had time to accumulate files. I speak in all seriousness for the sake of the higher officials in the War Office and of the right hon. Gentleman himself. Why cannot he have a little Committee to go into the matter and to see whether this enormous amount of written and printed documents cannot be reduced. If they were, I am sure that he would greatly reduce his task and reduce the number of clerks who have to deal with the correspondence.
1064 I cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his handling of the Officers Training Corps. With everything else in his speech, I am in cordial agreement and congratulate him upon it. He says that he is against compulsion in the Officers Training Corps. I am equally against compulsion. I do not think that a boy ought to be obliged to join an Officers Training Corps whether he likes it or not. It ought to be a matter of his own free choice whether he joins or not. Years ago when I was at Harrow in the volunteers, it was purely voluntary. If the right hon. Gentleman would take the line that he will give no public money to Officers Training Corps where there is compulsion to join, I would be with him, and he would have a clear-cut issue, but it does not help to go into a lot of niggling regulations such as that no grants will be given to a boy until he is 15 and that he is not to have a rifle until he is 16. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not think that that will prevent militarism spreading in the Officers Training Corps. He could deal with it far better by saying that they shall not have public money where there is any compulsion than by going into these finnicky regulations.
With regard to the numbers in the Army, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his speech; it was bold, courageous and logical. He said—and his views were supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson)—that we cannot under present conditions afford to reduce our effective military forces any more. Looking round the world, and seeing that in this year of grace 1931, more men are under arms in Europe than in 1914, we cannot possibly, if we believe at all that an Army is necessary—which the vast majority of people do in this country—reduce our numbers by one single man—foot soldier, horse soldier or artillery man. We are below the figure for 1914. Under Vote A in 1914 we had 186,000 men; this year it is only 149,000. The Army reserve on 1st April, 1914, was 146,000. This year it will be only 128,000, and probably by the end of the year it will fall to 120,000. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that no further reduction can be made. This ought not to be party question; it is not a party ques- 1065 tion. I admit that when we were in Office, we reduced the numbers, and I think that we were quite right to do so, but there must always come a point when you cannot reduce any more with safety, and I am sure that that point has been reached, and that the right hon. Gentle man agrees with me. We are now roughly 10,000 men and officers below establishment in our small Army of 149,000 men—a very large deficiency. It is true that it is not very much more than in the same period in 1914, when we were 8,000 short, but in 1913 and 1912 we were up to strength.
I know that the deficiencies in recruiting go up and down according to the number of people going out of the Army, but the right hon. Gentleman gave us no clear view as to how he was going to get the Army up to strength. Candidly, I do not think that he knows how he can get the Army up to strength. Frankly, I am not able to offer a clear-cut solution. It is one of the most difficult problems of the day why, with the increased pay, better accommodation, in spite of the barracks being bad in some places, far better food and means of recreation, far less severe punishment, and with conditions in every way infinitely superior to those of 20 or 25 years ago, we have this great difficulty in getting recruits. I do not understand the physical rejections either. The right hon. Gentleman said that last year 52 per cent of the men who came forward were rejected on physical grounds. I do not suppose that the standard of medical inspection is higher than it was. It may be, of course, that during the War years the present recruits, who would then be three or four years old, were badly nourished, and that their physical state was affected, but it seems an extra ordinary thing that with improved hygiene in the schools, better housing for the civilian population, and in every way better conditions for those classes who join in the ranks, we should have this enormous number of rejections. I have always advocated that the troops should be put into smarter uniforms, and the right hon. Gentleman laughed last year when I put that suggestion forward. It would cost money, but, when everything else has been tried, why not try another alternative? Human nature being what it is, a boy of 16 or 17 1066 will be attracted by smart clothes, perhaps even more than the money he gets when he joins. I think that the suggestion is worthy of consideration.
I think that the reason why in late years there has been a falling off in recruiting for the Army is the talk of disarmament. I wish that when hon. Members opposite talk about peace and disarmament they would at the same time take the line which the right hon. Gentleman has taken that, as long as this imperfect world is what it is, we must have an Army. You may advocate peace and disarmament, but with all these other armies in the world, and especially in Europe, we cannot afford to be defenceless If hon. Members will say that and make it clear that we must have an Army to ensure peace, men will come forward in greater numbers. Not knowing what the future of the Army may be, so many fathers tell their boys, "We do not know what is to happen in the Army; there will be further reductions; and if you join the Army you will probably be reduced and sent out before you have been there very long. Go into some other profession." Similar considerations affect those who would join the ranks of the Army, and thus they are deterred from joining one of the finest Services. Therefore, if hon. Members, without giving away any of their principles, could see their way to join with the right hon. Gentleman and with us in pointing out what an excellent career the Army offers, both to officers and to men, they would be doing a very excellent work.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Sanders)
The House will agree with me that we have had a very wide and at the same time interesting discussion on the general administration of the War Office. Certain main points have been referred to by most of the speakers, and I propose to deal generally with those points, and then to reply to the particular questions which were asked by several speakers. The first point to be dealt with is barrack accommodation. I share with my right hon. Friend a deep concern about what may be called the "housing conditions of the troops," especially married soldiers. I have taken the trouble to visit a number of barracks in order to see what the position is, and I ask the 1067 House not to exaggerate things one way or the other. I have seen most excellent housing quarters, especially for married soldiers, in London and in what may be called the suburbs of London. There are, it is true, a number of bad spots, but when we are asked what we are doing, with the implication that it is not proposed to do anything—
§ Mr. SANDERS
I withdraw that remark. I would point out that of the total amount of building to be undertaken in connection with barracks we shall this year expend £148,000 on married quarters alone, regarding that as the most urgent part of the problem. I am not sure that any single speaker has really summed up the main difficulties in recruiting, though many aspects have been touched upon. In all those branches of the Service where technical qualifications are required there is no difficulty in obtaining recruits—wherever there is some activity beyond drilling and having to learn what are ordinarily understood to be the duties of a soldier. It is when we come to the infantry that we find difficulty. Without saying whether I agree with disarmament propaganda or not, or whether I agree with the publication of books and films which deal with the more horrid side of war, may I suggest that since the Great War there is a quite different attitude towards the Army, not only on this side of the House, and not only among the people who support this side of the House, but among the population generally? That is not due to any propaganda from specifically pacifist organisations.
It was understood by the majority of the people in this country that when the War was over there would not be any more war, and the population, not being particularly discriminating in its methods of reasoning, jumped to the conclusion that if there was not to be any more war there was no longer any need for an army. That may seem to be a very crude idea, but I assure hon. Members that many people I meet who do not belong to the working classes or support our side in politics still do not understand, as I do, and as do hon. Gentlemen opposite, why it is necessary, 1068 although there may not be any great war in the future, still to keep up an army. In addition to that, whatever we may think of the books and films which have been referred to, certain parts of them do bring home to people the fact that war has a side which is distinctly horrible and disgusting, a circumstance which does affect their feelings. That kind of propaganda, either intentional or unintentional, against war is, I am sure, bound to act on people of a sensitive and also of a literary turn of mind.
There are also several other what I may call anti-recruiting agencies. I know that in my own constituency every soldier who was severely wounded in the War—not the regular soldiers, but the loan who went into the War direct from civilian life, is, consciously or unconsciously, an anti-recruiting agent, because the sight of him brings home to a young man what the hon. Member for Reading (Dr. Hastings) did not think could be brought home to him, that is, what modern conditions of war are like. The conditions under which the Great War was fought were different from the conditions of any previous war. There was very little romance in it, there was very little opportunity for obtaining distinction as the ordinary civilian regards it; the overwhelming belief among the great mass of the population was that it was a very beastly business, such as anybody with any sense of decency ought to try to avoid. That is the prevailing atmosphere, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is very difficult to get through that atmosphere, and convince the general run of people whom we wish to interest that, in spite of all that we went through during the late War, in spite of the fact that we on this side, at any rate, do believe in ultimate disarmament, in spite of the fact that the world is soon to come together to try to settle the problem of disarmament once for all, it is still necessary to provide for the defence of the country, that we shall have to do it, and that we propose to do it according to the policy which the Secretary of State has outlined. During the last two or three months we have had encouraging results in recruiting, not as the result of any new pressure, but as the outcome of adopting new methods of attracting men to the Army by associating them with the districts in 1069 which they live. We hope that this success will be continued.
May I say one word to my pacifist friends? It is all very well for us to take up the line that we in this country have to set the pace for disarmament in the world. I would assure hon. Members, from a wide knowledge of the Continent of Europe, that the chief obstacle we have to face in connection with disarmament is the deep-rooted attachment of even the most democratic countries of Europe to the idea that it is the duty of every healthy man to undertake training for the defence of his country. If my particularly pacifist friends want to do their best work on behalf of disarmament they should get among their colleagues on the Continent—[An HON. MEMBER: "Russia."]—and point out to them that while the principle of compulsory military service is retained in such pacifist countries as Switzerland, for example, which has nothing to fear in the way of invasion, because it is definitely protected by the public opinion of all countries in Europe, we cannot expect to go further in this country in the direction of cutting down the numbers of our Army.
The other point to which considerable attention was devoted was the Officers Training Corps. My own view is that, no matter how illogical the proposals put forward by the Secretary of State may appear to be to some hon. Members, they are a big advance on what existed before. They form a very good compromise between those who want to have the old system retained and those who want the present system in its entirety abolished. I have been fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough, during a long political career, to come into contact with officers of armies on the Continent. In many countries on the Continent the general custom is to mark out a boy to be an officer from the time he is born, and educate him in special military schools almost from the time of adolescence, until he becomes—and this was especially the case in Germany—one of a kind of segregated class in the community, with very little understanding of and very little touch with the general mass of the population. I think that accounted very largely for what was known as the military spirit of Germany, and I personally would regret very much if the War Office 1070 were driven to have to establish special military schools for boys to train them up to be officers. I think it is much more preferable, from the point of view even of our most pacifist friends, that the boys who may become officers should remain as long as possible in the closest touch with the general life of the community, as they can by going to the ordinary public schools. I noticed quite a different atmosphere when I was in Geneva. There I came in contact with officers from other countries, and I found quite a different atmosphere and a different point of view actuating military men there as compared with that which surrounds and actuates the military men in this country. There seemed to be a specially hard militarised point of view which one does not associate with the usual run of the British officer. I think the introduction of that atmosphere in this country would be deplorable if we had to establish special military schools where boys almost from their birth were destined to be officers in the British Army.
The question of vocational training has been touched upon, but it is going to be debated presently. Perhaps I may be allowed to say, in regard to the question of fitting men in the Army for occupations, that we must take into account the fact that we have special classes for different trades, but with the constitution of the Army as it is at the present time there is outside those classes a wide range of training in various occupations. The mechanisation of the Army means the employment of a large number of men with vehicles, tanks, dragons, and other mechanical appliances, and in this way they acquire a special knowledge of the trades connected with those vehicles and instruments which will be extremely useful to them when they leave the Army. I will not dilate upon that subject now, because I shall probably have an opportunity of dealing with it later on.
I come to certain special points which have been raised by various speakers. One question was in connection with the staff of the War Office. I have only been at the War Office seven or eight months, and what strikes me most strongly is that, when you are dealing with things other than men, it is difficult to take short cuts. When you are dealing with the human factor, you have to take a great 1071 deal of trouble if you wish to maintain the popularity of the Army. I am certain that hon. Gentlemen opposite who have had experience at the War Office know that, owing to the late War, an immense amount of correspondence arises in connection with the men's claims for pensions, gratuities, and all kinds of things which have to be dealt with over and over again.
§ Mr. SANDERS
That is so, but there are a number of men who have pensions for service with which we have to deal.
§ Mr. SANDERS
I know there is a technical difference, but there are hundreds and hundreds of men who have claims for all kinds of gratuities, including their war service in the Great War, who apply to the War Office again and again, and directly a new Financial Secretary is appointed new claims are made in the hope that the new occupant of that office will give a different decision. I do my best to see that every one of those claims is examined, and that justice is done. I must remind the Committee that the War Office has to deal with an Army constituted differently than it was before the War. There is a great deal more science in the Army now owing to mechanisation. I can assure right hon. Gentlemen opposite that science is not a cheap thing, although it is important. You cannot carry on the mechanisation of the Army without having a special technical staff, and that means an increase over what the staff would have been if mechanisation had not taken place. We have also to recollect that, although the War Office staff is larger than it was in 1914, as shown by the figures given by the Secretary of State for War, the War Department has cut down the staff by 500 since 1924. There has been a decrease to that extent. I would also like to point out that we require a larger number owing to the fact that we employ a considerable number of disabled men.
The question of promotion from the ranks has been raised, and I was asked certain questions with regard to the com- 1072 missions that were given. In 1929–30 28 soldiers received ordinary commissions and 65 commissions of the quartermaster class; in 1930–31 there were 33 such ordinary commissions and 72 of the quartermaster class. I think that answers those questions. On the general question I can assure the House, and especially those who are interested in the question of promotion from the ranks, that the Secretary of State is devoting considerable attention to the problem of how to meet and justify the demand for promotion from the ranks. I am sure that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) realises that it is not so easy to deal with this problem as might appear on the surface. I agree with the hon. Member that there ought to be some avenue through which officers should emerge to better positions from lieutenant to field-marshal, but in present circumstances it is not possible, because it is very often found that the men whom we should like to promote do not always agree to take up the responsibility and duties of the officer, and that they prefer to remain where they are. In spite of that, we are doing our best at the War Office to find some means of making the proportion still higher, and I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields that the subject will not be lost sight of.
§ Mr. SANDERS
I think it does. With regard to the shortage of medical officers, there are 173 officers short of the demand, and this falls entirely on the home establishment. The foreign establishment is kept up whatever the results may be.
§ Mr. SANDERS
Yes. The shortage falls entirely upon the home establishment. We all agree that this is a very serious matter, and we also know that several of our predecessors at the War Office have been concerned about it. This affects not only the War Office, but also the Admiralty and the Air Force, and we are now setting up an interdepartmental committee between the three Services with an object of finding some solution to the problem. My own 1073 view is that it is mainly a question of finding out some new attraction to the Army, which in these days seems to consist mainly of money. That also brings up other questions which we have to take into consideration. If we increase the rates of pay of the Army Medical Corps, other classes in the Army will demand to be placed on the same footing, and this question has to be considered in connection with all the three Services. It is one of the matters in which the Secretary of State is taking a particular interest, and we are hopeful that we shall be able to find a solution of the problem.
With regard to the question put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) as to the constitution of the items proposed under Voe 9, I may inform him that they consist of Army stores, munitions, vehicles, tanks, and other equipment. That accounts for the largeness of the sum. It is up, because the surplus stocks from the War are being more and more used up, and a certain amount of stock must be maintained. There was a very special cut last year, and this year is likely to be the standard of normal expenditure for future years. Certain vehicles have in addition to be replaced. Referring again to the Army Medical Corps, the question was raised as to whether specialist pay was given. I am informed that there are 107 members of the Royal Army Medical Corps who have specialist pay of five shillings per day extra. The hon. Member for Reading wished to know why there was a slight increase in the cost of the Officers Training Corps, although there was to have been a reduction in the numbers which were proposed to be included in the Estimates. I find that the increase in cost is not in respect of the junior service but in regard to the senior Officers Training Corps, where the numbers are in excess of those of last year.
There were one or two small points raised by the right hon. and gallant Member for Tonbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay), who raised the question of stocks. The stores referred to were not from the normal stocks nor from mobilisation stocks; they are surplus stocks left over from the accumulation during the War. They are naturally being gradually used up, and that is one 1074 of the reasons why we find it difficult to cut the Estimate. With regard to the regimental associations which are engaged in endeavouring to find work for men who leave the Army, there is no idea at all of superseding them. The object that we have in view is to co-ordinate the different Services, to try to prevent overlapping and make them more efficient in the splendid work which they are endeavouring to do.
With regard to bulk purchase, the right hon. and gallant Member knows, of course, that the canteens of the Army, Navy, and Air Force are all run under one establishment, and I would like here to pay my tribute to the very efficient and satisfactory way in which the work is done. I think it may be said that a good deal of the improvement in the canteens is very largely due to this organisation. In addition to that body, which controls a turnover—I am speaking from memory—of something like £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a year, there is a central co-ordinating committee on contracts, which meets regularly. In many cases the biggest user buys for the rest. I will give a case where we bought certain vehicles in conjunction with the Air Ministry, and by buying them together we were able to get each vehicle at a cheaper rate than if we had bought them separately. The biggest user buys for the rest, and close touch is maintained to prevent overlapping and to avoid competition. There are also co-ordinating committees on stores, works, and buildings, and various services.
A point was raised with regard to films. All films in which Army help is given are very carefully censored by the War Office. First of all, the scenario is gone through, so that it does not contain anything which the War Office should not help, and afterwards the film is examined to see that nothing has been introduced that we ought not to countenance in any way. In that way we guard against any improper use being made of the War Office and its resources. If I have overlooked any points, it is largely due to the fact that I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House and because, on the whole, I think the criticism that has been brought against the War Office this year has not been particularly heavy.