§ Order for Committee read.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Duff Cooper)
I beg to move, That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
When, a year ago, the Secretary of State for War introduced the Army Estimates he informed the House that in his opinion the maximum of economy had been achieved, and later in the Debate one of his own supporters, the Socialist Member, at that time, for South Shields, Mr. Ede, said that in his opinionA 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1931; col. 1053, Vol. 249.]And that opinion was not challenged in the course of the Debate. That, then, was the position a year ago. After two years of a Socialist Government the British Army, in the opinion of a pacifist Member of this House, was nothing better than an armed police force.
§ Mr. COOPER
I do not see why a sergeant should not be a pacifist. It may be difficult to define exactly what a pacifist is, but at any rate he was a Socialist and a representative of his party. He described the Army as an armed police force. In the opinion of Mr. Shaw, the maximum of economy had already been achieved; but within six months of that date the Army Council were asked by His Majesty's Government to make further reductions in expenditure of £3,500,000. These plain facts will give the House some idea of what was put before the Army Council in the autumn of last year, and what they were asked to do becomes still more stupendous when we remember that out of the £40,000,000 which last year represented the Army Estimates £8,750,000 was for non-effective charges for pensions, etc., with which the Army Council could not interfere.
1650 I think it is very much to the credit of the Army Council that they were able to achieve the economies demanded of them, in view of the fact that the economies already made had, in the opinion of Mr. Shaw, reached the maximum. All credit should be given, especially to the military members of the Army Council, without whose cooperation, and without whose suggestions and advice, often given much against the grain in advising things as to the desirability of which they had the gravest doubts, these economies could not have been achieved. They acted in the desire to carry out the orders of the Government, orders which they understood were necessary for the welfare of the country at the time. With other members of the Army Council they assisted in attaining the results, and I think a real debt of gratitude is due to the military members of the Army Council from the House of Commons and the country. These economies are a result of the events of what has been an exceptional and, as we hope, a unique year in our annals. They must not be taken, they cannot be taken, as the standard to which any future Estimates can be expected to conform. I will deal very shortly with some of the principal economies which have been made this year and the House will then see how impossible it will be for any Army Council to achieve similar economies in another year.
This is the first time since the economies of last autumn were introduced that a Minister representing the War Office has had an opportunity of addressing the House, and perhaps it would be as well if I were to explain, briefly, the nature of some of these economies, because I think a great deal of misunderstanding still exists with regard to them. One of the principal economies has been in connection with the pay of the Army. There seems to be an idea in the minds of some people that everybody's pay has been reduced, and that the Army is now being paid at a rate which the Army Council consider too low, of which they do not approve, and which they would like to raise at the earliest possible opportunity. That is not the case. As the House will remember, in 1925 a committee reported on the pay of the Army, and recom- 1651 mended that, in their opinion, at that time, the pay of junior officers and other ranks should be reduced. The rates had been fixed in 1919, when the cost of living was very high. They did not then recommend, that is, in 1925, that any reduction should be made in the pay of senior officers.
The Government in 1925 acted on their suggestion, and introduced the new rates of pay which they recommended. It was a question at the time whether those new rates should apply to the whole Army. The Government, rightly, in my opinion, took the view that it would be very hard on those who had joined the Army on the understanding—a tacit, implicit understanding, but nevertheless an understanding—that the rates of pay prevalent at the time they joined would be continued, if their pay were reduced in accordance with the recommendations of the committee. Therefore, it was decided that the new rates of pay should apply only to those joining the Army after October, 1925, when the new rates came into force. It was not that the new rates were too low, but it was felt that those who had joined at the old rates would have a legitimate grievance if they were reduced suddenly to the new rates. That decision was reversed in September of this year, when it was decided that everybody should be put upon the same rate of pay. Those who had joined before 1925 receiving the same rate as those who had joined since. It was a very severe hardship, an unmerited hardship for a man to be told suddenly that his pay was to be reduced after he had, possibly, entered into obligations on the justifiable assumption that his pay would continue at the old rates. That very real hardship was realised at the time, although it is not to be supposed that in our view anybody in the Army is receiving a rate of pay which is too low. Of course, by a subsequent decision of the Cabinet all reductions in pay were limited to a maximum of 10 per cent. of what they previously received.
The spirit in which those reductions were met is, in my opinion, worthy of a tribute from the Members of this House who voted for those reductions. Not only has there not been, in any unit of the Army, in any part of the world, the slightest manifestation of any open dis- 1652 content, but, so far as it has been possible to ascertain, there seems to have been a very great lack of that natural outlet for the relief of grievances such as grumbling, letters to the Press, and letters to Members of Parliament which have to be handed on to the Minister responsible. That applies to both officers and men in the Army. Really, I think that in September of this year there was in the British Army something of the spirit which possessed it in 1914. Once again the men of the Army felt that the sacrifices demanded of them were demanded in the interests of the whole country, and were necessary for the sake of the country, and when that is understood such sacrifices are always made generously and ungrudgingly. Lest there should be any misunderstanding with regard to senior officers, I would like to point out that, although no reduction has been made in their rate of pay as none was recommended by the 1925 committee, their pay was reduced by a further 3 per cent. in October, 1931, although it had already been reduced by one per cent. so short a time ago as July, 1931, making a reduction of 11 per cent. in all since 1919. This matter was not due to be examined again for two years, and therefore, as a direct result of the economies of September last, all senior officers have suffered a reduction in their pay, not to mention any who were in receipt of salaries of £2,000 a year or over whose pay was reduced by a special cut of 10 per cent.
There has been some suggestion that the Reserve have been unfairly treated in this matter. May I point out that reductions in the pay of the Reserve have, when examined on a percentage basis, been larger than those in the pay of the serving soldier. The facts are, of course, that the Reserve receive their pay not in return for any work that they are actually performing at the time, because they are free to spend their whole time in any other employment, but merely as a retaining fee for their services should the need for them arise. It is well known that before the War a man on the Army Reserve was receiving 1s. or 6d. according to class. Last year he was receiving 1s. 6d. or 1s. Under the present arrangement he receives 1s. 3d. or 9d. Even allowing for the cost of living he is still receiving at least as much as before the War, and I cannot believe that any 1653 member of the Reserve, with those facts and figures before him, can maintain that he has any legitimate ground of grievance.
Another very large economy has been effected by the decision that no annual Territorial Army camps will be held this year. This will save the country very nearly £1,000,000. This decision was taken by the Army Council with the very greatest reluctance, because it was fully realised how valuable the Territorial Army is to the country. It was a heavy blow to ask the Territorial Army to give up their camp even for one year, because these camps are something to which they look forward from the beginning to the end of the year. It was almost as great a hardship as if the Estimates of the Fighting Forces were passed without Debate, which would deprive the responsible Ministers of their one annual chance of addressing the House of Commons. I think that what has been said about the Territorials is a wonderful tribute to that force, and I hope that they will accept this decision in the same spirit as other sacrifices have been accepted by the Regular Army. It should be clearly understood that, so far as it is possible to speak for the future, the Territorial Army will not be asked to repeat this sacrifice next year, because, if the Territorials were to go without the camps for two years in succession, that would be almost equivalent to disbanding them. I do not think that there is any danger of that happening, and in the Army Estimates for next year there will be £1,000,000 required which there is no prospect of being able to save from any other source. Arrangements have been made to hold short week-end camps, and assistance in that direction will be welcomed by the War Office, because we want to give the Territorials as much encouragement as we can.
Another small matter in connection with the Territorial camps which appears to have caused some little feeling is the decision of the War Office to charge for the tents and camp equipment, and also to charge for the damage done to them by the Territorial units concerned. I think the best way to allay that feeling is for the people concerned to realise that they are not being unfairly treated. In order to dispel that feeling, I would like to explain that it was at first proposed 1654 that the annual grant should be £45,000 instead of £50,000, and that tents and camp equipment should be issued free. It was calculated that the cost of this last concession would amount to between £3,000 and £4,000, and those concerned felt that they were doing a generous action in saying that they would increase the training grant to the round sum of £50,000 and charge extra for tents and equipment instead of haggling over this small sum of money. Fortunately civil servants are not politicians. To them two and two invariably make four, and £50,000 is always a larger sum than £49,000. The politician knows better. My view is that if it had been decided to limit this grant to £45,000, and to issue the tents and equipment free, no complaint would have been heard, and the sense of injustice which now exists would have been avoided. If hon. Members who receive these complaints from their constituents will be good enough to convey to them this explanation they may be persuaded that, after all, they are not sufferers by a decision which increased their grant.
Before I leave the question of the Territorial Army there is one other matter which I should like to mention. The question of coast defence has been occupying the Army Council for some time, and a decision has been reached with regard to it during the last few months which materially affects the Territorial Army. Ever since the War there has been a lack of co-ordination with regard to this important matter, and it has now been decided to hand over to the Territorial Army practically the entire responsibility of defending the shores of this country so far as land forces are concerned. I hope that the confidence which the Government thus display in the Territorials may have some effect in convincing them that the sacrifice they have been asked to make this year with regard to their camp was not due to any lack of appreciation on the part of the Government of their great importance, and of the part that they must always play in the great task of Imperial defence. It seems peculiarly fitting that the defence of our territory should be handed over to the Territorial Army—a high responsibility for which, I am confident, they will show themselves to be 1655 in every way fit and competent. It is not only the Territorial Army who have suffered in their training this year; £30,000 has been saved on the training of the Regular Army, and the House may be sure that that £30,000 has been given up with the greatest misgiving by those who are responsible for the efficiency of the troops. The expenditure on training has been reduced so far as it is wise to reduce it.
Those who have been Members of this House for any length of time have seen Minister after Minister standing at this Box regretting that recruiting has not been satisfactory, and hon. Members have shown their ingenuity by suggesting year after year new ways in which recruiting might be encouraged. This year, for the first time for many years, we have been obliged to fix a limit to the numbers that we were willing to receive. We have been able also to raise the standard of height and weight of those who have been selected from among the men who have come up to other conditions. Even so, we have got all the men that we require. We have got a sufficient number of men of a higher quality than have been recruited in previous years.
There is another matter in which we have made a great saving this year, but which we have been very reluctant to make, and that is in the housing of the troops. The standard of houses in this country has, I am glad to say, advanced a great deal during the last 100 years, but I am sorry to say that housing in the Army has not been able to keep pace with that advance. In many parts of England and abroad our troops are housed in conditions which are really unfit not only for troops, but for any British subjects. We are now reducing this year, as far as possible, the expenditure upon them. We have got hutments in various parts of the country such as Larkhill, Colchester and elsewhere which are so flimsy that it is possible to pass an umbrella through the walls. We have got huts in places such as Longmoor and Bordon dating from the South African War, and at Chichester there are some which date from the year 1803.
We are building new barracks this year at Aberdeen. I am glad to say that Aberdeen is the one place where we are not economising this year, but their barracks date from 1789, the year of the 1656 French Revolution. If they had been continued any longer, they might have caused a revolution in Aberdeen. At Carlisle, I am told, the barracks are infested with rats, and at Malaya the barracks are infested with white ants, which eat through the structure and may be responsible for a collapse at any moment. At Pontefract, owing to mining operations under the barracks, they are on the point of falling down, and this year at Armagh some did actually fall down. I am not mentioning these things in order to discourage recruiting, but to show that we are doing everything possible in every department of Army administration to effect economies, and there is, as far as I am aware, no suggestion that can be made for saving more money on Army Estimates which has not been thoroughly examined, and, if feasible, has not been put into force. It is that kind of condition which justifies some of the economies we have made.
There has been one economy which has been a good deal criticised, about which I have had to answer many questions in the House and about which many Members, no doubt, are occupied in their mind. I refer to the decision to close down the Royal Army Clothing Factory at Pimlico. That factory was set up in the year 1855 at the time of the Crimean War, in the Golden Age, or rather the many-coloured age before khaki, when every regiment wore full-dress and each had its separate uniform to distinguish it, when, rightly or wrongly, the highest importance was attached to the correctness of uniform, to the perfection of fit, and when it was held to be sacrilege for the clothing of the troops to be entrusted to the hands of ordinary tradesmen. So far as I am aware, there has not been a special factory for the manufacture of any other clothing of the servants of His Majesty, whether in the fighting forces or elsewhere, but the Royal Army Clothing Factory has grown up in that way, and I may say that at the time no more suitable site could be imagined for a clothing factory than the banks of the Thames, within about a mile from this House, and about the same distance from the richest residential quarter of London. At the time that the factory was set up, it was considered necessary, and large stores of uniforms were collected there before the War.
1657 Year after year since the War the question of disposing of these uniforms has come up for decision by the Army Council, but there have been always a few optimistic reactionaries who have cherished the hope that the day might come when the whole Army would go back to full-dress. I, myself, have the greatest sympathy with the people who held that view, or at least cherished that hope, but in September of last year it was realised that the time had come to make a decision, and although sentimentalists would boggle at the thought of handing over to the theatrical costumier And the producer of films uniforms originally meant to be worn by His Majesty's troops, they were obliged to give way, and the whole stock of uniforms is now to be disposed of for the benefit of the taxpayer. Bright uniforms are no longer in the picture, which becomes drabber and easier for the change.
One of many factors which led to a reconsideration of the whole problem of the Pimlico Clothing Factory was that, unfortunately, it was, and is, the case that the factory does not manufacture the ordinary dress worn by the greater part of the Army to-day as cheaply or conveniently as it can be purchased from the trade. This is due to a variety of causes, partly to heavy overhead charges, partly, perhaps, to old-fashioned methods of manufacture, and partly to the old-fashioned construction of the factory itself. An effort has been made to introduce, into the factory a more modern method of manufacture during the last few years. The experiment has been tried for all it was worth, and to a large extent it has given satisfactory results, but not so satisfactory as to make the manufacture of any article in the factory as cheap as the manufacture of it outside. There is a tremendous saving by purchasing all that we have to purchase from the trade.
These arguments alone would have been insufficient to drive us to adopt the policy which has been adopted but for one very important factor which has been largely overlooked, or, perhaps, not known by those who have complained about the decision to close the factory, and that is that the lease of the factory will come to an end in 1937, and there is no prospect whatever of our obtaining a renewal of that lease on terms which the War Office 1658 could possibly accept. It is obvious that it is not an ideal site for a clothing factory, and we have carefully gone into the question whether to set up a new factory. If it had been decided to set up another factory, it would probably have been somewhere in the North of England, And those who are suffering from the closing of the Pimlico factory—and I do not want to under-estimate the suffering of those affected—the blow would have fallen upon them later rather than sooner. During the years that intervened they would have benefited, but the country as a whole would have suffered. The taxpayers would have suffered considerably, because the economies would have been put off for many years, and when the time came for handing over the lease, the taxpayers, again, would have had to pay, probably, heavy dilapidation charges, instead of receiving, as they are to receive, a substantial sum for surrendering the lease four years before its time.
In spite of all that, the decision was come to by the Government with great reluctance. It is always unpleasant and painful to close down a factory, and put a number of people out of work, and I may say, for my own part, that the fact that this factory was in my own constituency did not make me the more eager to recommend, as r did, this decision to the Secretary of State. The clothing depot and inspectorate will be removed to Didcot. As far as the manufacture of full-dress for the Brigade of Guards is concerned, we are making experiments to ascertain whether this can be performed by the trade satisfactorily or not. If the experiments are not successful, it may be necessary to consider the possibility of setting up a small clothing factory for this purpose elsewhere. It is impossible to make any further statement with regard to that until we know how far the experiments are successful or the reverse.
These are some of the economies we have effected, but by no means all. I have not time to go into them all. We have economised even in such matters as research. In these days nothing could be of greater importance to an armed force than keeping up with scientific development. We have saved £22,000 in this direction. We have economised also in education. We have saved £35,000 in that direction. I am glad to say that, although we have cut down expenditure on re- 1659 search, we have been able to go on with our programme of mechanisation. There has been no alteration in the programme as originally laid down. The Cavalry have been experimenting this year with a new light machine gun, and their experiments have been so satisfactory that they are to be extended and tried upon a broader basis. The Artillery have been testing the practicability of the new light dragon, and this also has been sufficiently satisfactory to warrant the adoption of this machine for a complete brigade. Further mechanisation has been introduced into the organisation of the Divisional Royal Engineers. The Infantry have been practising with small armoured machine gun carriers, and there is to be an increase in the number of mortars issued, in order that as many battalions as possible may take part in this experiment There has been an increase in wireless signalling experiments, and an inquiry with regard to tanks, to ascertain the proportion of tanks of various types which should form part of a tank battalion. It is intended this year again to form a tank brigade for purposes of training. If our savings do not include a reduction of expenditure in regard to the mechanisation programme of the Army, I think the House will recognise that this was a wise decision, since an army that is old-fashioned and out of date is worse than no army at all.
I have spoken of the decrease of £35,000 in expenditure on education, but I am glad to say that, in spite of that decrease, we have been able to keep going our three centres for vocational training at Chisledon, Hounslow and Aldershot, and during the past year more men have passed through those centres than in any previous year. I will not disguise from the House the fact that during recent months the numbers of men applying for these courses have been steadily going down, and the situation is being carefully watched by the Army Council. It may be largely due to the fact that the new rates of pay have just come into operation so far as men leaving the Forces are concerned, and that, under the new rates of pay, the fees which they have to pay for these vocational training courses are too high. I am not sure of that, but we intend to inquire into it, because we fully realise the im- 1660 portance of these vocational training centres.
The ideal at which we are aiming, and which is not impossible of realisation, is to ensure that every young man who joins the Army shall, while he is in the Army, be able so to equip himself that, at the end of his period of service, he will have certainly a better chance of employment than if he had not served in the Army. There ought almost to be a feeling of certainty that such a man will readily obtain employment in civil life, and, if we can once attain that level, it will be a double benefit, from the point of view of the Army and from the point of view of the country as a whole. We should then be able every year, during our recruiting period, to choose from the best of the young men of the country, because, instead of feeling that the Army is a sort of last resource, they will feel that it is a splendid training, giving them seven years of vigorous, healthy, active life, and leaving them at the end of the period fitted and almost certain to obtain employment. At the same time, every year there would be coming into the industrial market these men who had been through this period of training, and who would be not only skilled craftsmen, but also disciplined soldiers. I hope that employers will realise that such men are the best men that they can get. I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the importance of this vocational training scheme, and it is hoped that nothing will ever be done that will cause it to lose the position which it already has in the Army, and that there will be no failure to impress the men with its importance and its good effects. Even in the depressing circumstances of the past year, the proportion of men from these vocational training centres who have obtained employment is as high as 75 per cent. If the advantage of the courses were really known, I feel sure that men would come forward very freely to take advantage of them.
This leads me to mention an important decision which the Government have taken, and which, perhaps, should be explained to the House. I announced it shortly before Christmas, and it was so well received that perhaps no explanation is necessary. I refer to the decision to grant full recognition once more to the Cadet Corps. This decision reverses the one taken by the previous Government, 1661 but I do not want the House to think that it was just taken on the spur of the moment, in the spirit that anything done by the last Government was wrong and the sooner we altered it the better. On the contrary, full consideration was given to every aspect of the case before the decision was arrived at. It was felt, and I think rightly, that the decision of the Labour Government to withdraw recognition from the Cadet Corps had been taken as a gesture towards the pacifist feeling in the country. Many of that Government's supporters had doubtless been disappointed with their record on the question of Disarmament, and I think it was felt that there was some need for a gesture, and this was the gesture which was decided upon.
It is not the wish of His Majesty's Government to do anything to outrage or hurt that section of opinion which demanded, and was pleased by, this decision. It is only because we feel that it was a wrong decision, ill calculated even to achieve the object for which it was designed, that we have decided to go back upon it. When it was taken by the Labour Government, there were protests all over the country from religious and teaching bodies, headmasters of every type of school and religious leaders of every denomination from the Archbishop of Canterbury downwards, saying that the Cadet Corps fulfilled a most valuable function in the training of boys in this country, that in many cases it gave boys in the towns almost their only opportunity of healthy exercise and of getting into the fields, and that it would be a great disaster to withdraw recognition from it, or do anything to discourage it.
In my opinion, it must be the first object of every Government to avoid war, and the abolition of war between civilised countries is an ideal that every rational man must sustain. But it is no use trying to stop war by hushing it up. It is no use, in my opinion, trying to educate children in ignorance of the evil that exists in the world, and treating war as if it were one of those unpleasant subjects which could only be mentioned among grown-up people, and must not be spoken of in front of children. That really was the meaning, so far as I could ever see any meaning in that decision of the Labour Government—that it was terrible for children to know that there 1662 were such things as armies, although, on approaching the age of 17, the full truth might be broken to them. The time may come when we shall be able to do without armies, but I do not think the time will ever come when we shall be able to do without the military virtues—courage, loyalty, the qualities of leadership, the spirit of self-sacrifice—qualities that are best taught through experience of discipline and the habit of obedience. It is because we believe that it will contribute to engendering these qualities in the youth of the nation that we have decided to extend recognition once more to the Cadet Corps. No grants have been made to them this year, but I understand that those who are at the head of the movement are entirely satisfied with the action that has been taken.
During the last few weeks the attention of everyone in this country has been fixed on the small detachment of the British Army which is carrying out a very grave responsibility in the Far East. It has had to perform the most difficult duties that soldiers can be called upon to perform—to maintain neutrality among bitterly hostile factions, and to maintain calmness and coolness in times of danger and good humour under pro-vacation. To say that these duties have been carried out in a spirit worthy of the traditions of the British Army is, I think, sufficient; to say more would be unnecessary. Owing to the incidence of the trooping season, we have been able slightly to increase the garrison without in any way altering our arrangements. The battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment which was going to relieve the Second Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers has arrived, and the Scots Fusiliers have remained in addition. We have transferred from Hong Kong one battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, together with a mountain battery of the Hong Kong—Singapore brigade. We now have four infantry battalions and one battery at Shanghai.
It may be that, when the history of what has taken place in these recent weeks at Shanghai comes to be written, it will be found that to nobody is greater credit due for what we hope will be the comparatively happy outcome of these events than to the British officer commanding on the spot. Brigadier Fleming has been asked, as so many British 1663 officers have been asked in the past, to show not only the qualities of the soldier, but those of the diplomatist and statesman, and I think it will be found when the full story is known, that he has shown those qualities to a degree of which anybody might be proud. As for the troops themselves, I was told the other day by someone who had come back from Shanghai, and who knew China well, that five years ago the anti-British feeling in China was extremely bitter, but that in the town of Shanghai, of which he spoke, it seemed to have disappeared altogether. He put this down very largely to the competence and behaviour of the British troops on the spot. That has happened before, and here again the British soldier has shown himself to be one of the best ambassadors of peace. I am sure that the whole House will join with me in sending a message of congratulation and good will to this small detachment who, so far away from their own country, have been upholding so nobly during the last few weeks both the cause of peace and the honour of Great Britain.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am sure the House will agree with me in congratulating the hon. Gentleman on the very able way in which he has performed the always difficult task which an Under-Secretary of State for War or Financial Secretary has in introducing the Estimates of his Service. The hon. Gentleman has given us an extremely interesting account, and has raised several points of general interest. Before dealing with the particular points, some of which he has raised and some of which arise naturally from a consideration of these Estimates, I should like again to draw attention to one general point. One cannot really consider Army Estimates entirely by themselves. This week we are considering Estimates for the three fighting Services, the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. We are considering them in three separate compartments, but, in effect, they are only one department of one subject, the subject of defence. All the Ministers who have spoken so far have said that they have effected enormous economies. They have all protested that they have gone to the very limit of cutting down, and that they are hardly able to say that their respective Services will be, with 1664 this expenditure, in a satisfactory position to defend this country. The remarkable thing is that we are spending something like £100,000,000 on armaments between those three Services. £100,000,000 is being spent on defence 14 years after the close of the Great War, at a time when we are supposed to have departed from the very idea of war—to have renounced war. The point that struck me in the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, as in that of the hon. Gentleman to-day, was that there was nothing in either, or in the tone of them, which could not have been said just as well at any time during the past 100 years, without anything having ever been done towards disarmament, without there having ever been any proposal for a League of Nations, and without there having been any Covenant signed by the leading nations of the world. We on this side do not profess to be in the least satisfied that the country should be spending £100,000,000 a year on armaments. We do not stand here for continuity of policy. We believe it is merely an indication of the general insanity with which the world's affairs are conducted that at a time like this, when everyone is calling out for economy, we should be asked to spend £100,000,000 on armaments.
The next point to which I wish to call attention is the disadvantage at which we are always placed owing to the fact that we never have any real exposition of the defence policy of the country. We have Estimates put forward. The First Lord gets up and touches here and there on the question of the Atlantic Fleet and changing its name to the Home Fleet. He deals with the question of trade routes and so forth, but there is nothing of a comprehensive survey of the position in which we find ourselves or of the real strategy of the Empire and its relation to the world forces in arms. No doubt, the Air Ministry will make much the same sort of speech. The hon. Gentleman did not deal with defence policy at all. He merely said we had not enough. He did not even outline what is the role of the British Army. That is because no one of these three Ministers can speak authoritatively on defence. We have never in my recollection had joining in these Debates either the Prime Minister, 1665 the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord President of the Council, or any of the leading Members of the Cabinet to expound the defence policy of the country. If we ask a question on it, we are told that is all dealt with in the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Committee of Imperial Defence, no doubt, does excellent work, but is is one of those things that work rather in secret. The House knows nothing whatever of the decisions or the discussions in the Committee of Imperial Defence and cannot debate it unless by any chance a Motion is brought forward on some private Members' day on the general question of the defence of the country.
I have said that we get no reference at all in these speeches to the fact that we are living in a time when the leading nations of the world are supposed to have renounced war. We always discuss this as if we were still surrounded by a host of potential enemies, although we are supposed to be closely tied by the Covenant to a number of other nations all desiring peace. It is very difficult to discuss defence policy when you do not know on what strategic and political considerations it is based. I could understand a defence programme based on certain realities of alliance or hostility between the nations of the world. I could understand a defence programme that was definitely based on the fact that we belong to the League of Nations and that we have certain obligations under the League of Nations which we should be prepared to fulfil. I cannot understand the kind of indefinite policy that is put forward by Ministers responsible for the various defence services. The First Lord yesterday was discussing mainly the need of defending our commerce. He did not say who was going to attack it. In the same way we have to-day the obligations of our land forces. We do not know who is going to attack us, or whether anyone is going to attack us or not. We shall, doubtless, be told we must have an Air Force of a certain strength. I have no doubt the Under-Secretary of State for Air will be unable to tell us which particular nation we must come up to in strength for fear lest they should overcome us.
The trouble of this kind of haphazard, unconnected defence organisation is that we get a maximum of expenditure for a 1666 minimum of security. Armaments that are put forward by one nation as the irreducible minimum for its security form a potential menace to another nation on which it bases its defensive armaments. It is most desirable that we should have a comprehensive discussion of the defence policy both of the British Isles and of the British Empire. That policy should be laid down clearly by a responsible Minister. It should not be in terms of Navy, Army or Air Force, but in terms of broad defensive policy. Let us know what the dangers are to which we are exposed and let us know how we are going to meet them, but do not let us year after year vote millions of pounds on Estimates brought forward in a speech which, admirable as it was, did not attempt to deal with any principle at all, but merely dealt with a number of interesting little details and a few little explanations. But there is really no excuse when the nation is asked to spend all these millions on the Fighting Services.
Besides that, the House ought to face up to a wider question. If you read these Estimates, you will see the distribution of the land forces of the Crown. You will find that some are located here. We have also an army in India, which does not come in these Estimates, and you find armaments in Bermuda, Malta and various places overseas. I do not think we have ever had tale principles of the defence of the Empire discussed in the House. The Statute of Westminster having now been passed, and the Dominions having come into absolute equality of status with the Mother Country, the whole question of the responsibility for Imperial defence is one that wants our consideration. The problem of India, now coming up for discussion, is one of very great urgency. If you discuss Indian matters with Indian statesmen, they will tell you that India pays far too much for the defence of the North West Frontier, which is an Imperial obligation. On the other hand, we maintain that we are defending India from her enemies. Sooner or later, and I think sooner, you will have to face up to that question of Imperial defence and Imperial frontiers, and you will have to get some idea of what is the line of demarcation between the responsibility of a particular part of the Empire for its defences and the responsibility for Imperial defence in the larger sense, 1667 which in my view should be borne by the whole Empire. To my mind, we have been going on for years on the principle that used to be known in the trade union movement as the method of the governing branch. This was the governing branch and this governing branch paid the piper. I think the old lion has borne the lion's share in providing defence, and it is time the whole matter was thoroughly discussed again.
I do not want to go to any length into that rather hardy annual, the question of a Ministry of Defence. I am aware that a good deal can be said on both sides. But we ought to have a Minister to speak on general defence questions as apart from Ministers who are necessarily concerned only with a particular service, Army, Navy or Air Force, and I believe that Minister should be the man who presides over the Committee of Imperial Defence. I believe, too, that he should be a man who is furnished with a staff, so that he will be in a position to take a broad view, and an informed view, of the rival claims of the Fighting Services, because there is no doubt that there is a certain rivalry in their claims. He should be able to come here and expound policy, and he should not be the Minister for War, or even the First Lord of the Admiralty, but he should be essentially a Minister for peace, because that, after all, is what you want. The Financial Secretary is not at the War Office because he wants to make war. He is there to see that peace is secured. It may be that the methods he adopts there are those that ultimately bring about war. It has occurred with some of his predecessors. The whole object of the Army is not to have war, but to have peace, and, therefore, a defence Minister should be essentially a, peace Minister. When we have had disarmament Conferences I have always thought it unfortunate that a Minister representing either the War Office, the Admiralty or the Air Force should go there and enter into technical discussions with the heads of the Fighting Services of other countries, and that there is not that co-ordinated defence outlook on which these matters would be discussed on a much broader footing than is possible to people whose interests, after all, are concerned with only one arm.
1668 Apropos that, I should like to be told a little more about the Imperial Defence College. It was started in 1927, and you have there a gathering of officers from the three branches of the Service, from India and from overseas. They are concerned, according to the memorandum, with broad questions of Imperial strategy. I should like to know what result has been attained so far and I want to know what has happened to the officers. I gather that they spend a certain time there and do very useful work. I have talked to them myself—officers of the Navy, Air Force and Army. They get an unrivalled grip of defence problems from a broad point of view, and then, as far as I can make out, they are dispersed. One goes back to his ship, another to command a regiment, and in a year or two they are quite rusty on all these problems. If you are to have an Imperial Defence College, you should build up an Imperial Defence staff, which should consider defence questions, not from a narrow departmental view, but from a broad point of view. It seems to me that a really well-informed staff like that, drawn from all the Services, representing not only the home country but other parts of the Empire, would be just the sort of people to surround the Minister who goes to discuss Disarmament. I think he would then have a far broader point of view.
I would next like to draw attention to the very unsatisfactory method in this House of dealing with Army Estimates, as with Navy and Air Estimates. A few days before the Estimates come on we receive this handsome volume full of figures. It calls for a great deal of study, and I think generally a certain amount of previous knowledge to get anything out of it. This is what we are supposed to discuss at this moment—pages and pages and pages of figures. We do not discuss figures by debating them on the Floor of the House. We can only discuss figures and Estimates properly if we meet round a table and have an official there to explain them by question and answer. It is high time, if we are to get any economy in the Army, that this House should change its method of dealing with Estimates. There is another very bad feature of our financial control that appears in these Estimates, and that is the all-over cut. You suddenly get a cut. Orders are sent to the Secretary of State 1669 for War or the Admiralty or the Air Minister that there must be a cut of so much per cent. That is not a scientific way of going about the matter at all. No one can say offhand whether the amount of such a cut is going to do more damage to this Service or to that Service. To my mind, one Service probably wants its expenditure repressed and another encouraged. The haphazard way of saying "Cut off so much," is entirely wrong. It illustrates the fact that the methods of the Treasury and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer want a great deal of overhauling before we shall get a satisfactory arrangement.
With regard to the War Office, I have a very high opinion of the financial organisation there. It was developed antler Lord Haldane's reforms, and was worked out in detail by a very great public servant, Sir Charles Harris, and to my mind economy is applied at the War Office even better than in most Government Departments, because it is applied steadily all the time, and there is not the haphazard kind of check that one gets by the ordinary Treasury procedure. I would emphasise that, because it is up to every Member of the House to consider carefully, after the conclusion of the Debates on these Defence Estimates, how little has been done. We have had no satisfactory discussion of defence policy and no detailed consideration of finance, and in the interests of economy and efficiency it is time that the House devised some other way of dealing with the Defence Service Estimates.
I want to deal with one or two points apart from that general question. First, I would ask a question with regard to the present cadres. Have the War Office made the necessary examination of possible changes that might lead to increased efficiency and increased economy in the Army? There is a great deal of the vis inertiae in military affairs. We find that the formations tend to come down to us unchanged from one generation to another. Old customs hang on long after their utility has departed. The particular point to which I would call attention is whether we have not got to-day a higher proportion of officers to men than is really required. The proportion was settled roughly a long time ago, when the average man in the ranks was far less educated than he is 1670 to-day and when the tradition in the Army was that a man was not there to think. From some things that the Financial Secretary said, I rather gathered that he still does not think very highly of brain work. I notice that he has economised in education and research, which seems to show that attitude. But we have to-day in the rank and file a far more highly educated body of men than were to be found in the old Army, and I do not think they require the same amount of supervision as those of the old Army did. The old idea was that a private did nothing unless a lance-corporal told him how to do it, that the lance-corporal had to be told by the corporal, and the corporal by the sergeant.
I notice that the proportion of officers to men in the Infantry is 1 to 25, 1 to 21 in the Cavalry, and 1 to 20 in the Artillery. I think that figure is probably too high and that it ought to be looked into from the point of view of tactics. In the old days, in fighting, there was a mass of men who had to be led forward against the enemy, and for that you were obliged to have a large number of officers. But war, as we learned recently, is an intensely individualist thing to-day. A man finds himself in some position and has to act for himself. Therefore, I say that we want a smaller number of officers and a greater development of initiative among the men. We shall not get initiative in the field unless we get it as far as possible in the ordinary peace-time soldier. That matter is worth looking into. As a particular instance of the disproportionate number of officers to men, take the ease of the Household Cavalry. The figures there are remarkable. It takes 24 officers and 46 warrant officers and noncommissioned officers to command 364 men. That is one to five men. I do not know the reason for that extraordinarily large number, but it certainly seems to be a waste of officers. Apart from the question whether economy might not be better achieved by the abolition of the Household Cavalry, the high proportion of officers is a matter that should be looked into. I am not at all sure that the staffs of Commands are not too high. Attention has been called to this matter before. It may he argued that we must have staff officers to provide for expan- 1671 sion in time of war, but on the whole I believe we are rather profligate with the number we have on the staff compared with other armies.
My next point relates to the Army Clothing Factory at Pimlico, about which the Financial Secretary spoke. The hon. Gentleman seemed to show an extraordinary lack of appreciation of the reasons why, in 1855, the Army Clothing Factory was started. The hon. Member seemed to think it was an experiment. I dare say he has read Major-General Forbes's book, "History of the Army Ordnance Services." If not, the book will repay reading. He will find there the kind of stuff that the contractors served up to the soldiers before the factory was started—rotten cloth and rotten leather. There was jiggery-pokery of every kind going on. The year 1855 lives in most people's minds for two reasons. One is the work of Florence Nightingale, and the other is the question of the boots, all made for the left foot, which were sent out to our troops in the Crimea. It was the golden age, the hon. Member said. It was the golden age of the corrupt contractor, and that is precisely the reason why the Army Clothing Factory was introduced. It was not an experiment by some awful Socialist at the War Office. It was introduced by a practical administrator. Major-General Forbes says:The Army contractor's sole interest was his profit, and he was notorious for scamped work.It was as the result of the experience of clothing the Army through private contractors that the Government eventually decided to make itself responsible for clothing the Army, and the Pimlico Factory was established in 1863. General Forbes wrote:This novel experiment of the Army making its own uniforms had several advantages. Contractor's charges could be checked with those of the factory.Have we got so much more moral since 1855 that we do not need to check the contractors? Does the Financial Secretary not know what happened in the War? Does he not know the extent to which the charges for all sorts of munitions came down when the thing was taken in hand by the Government? The 1672 figures came tumbling down. Yet this is the time when the Financial Secretary is going to throw away his yard-stick for measuring the honesty of the contractor. General Forbes also wrote:In the cheap tailoring trade, the most sweated and underpaid of industries, there were several middlemen's profits before the unfortunate sempstress got any wage; these were saved in the factory. Work was less likely to be scamped, and the danger of garments becoming infected with disease in the worker's home avoided.That was the reason for the institution at Pimlico. It had another advantageous result, that of reducing the chaos of patterns of clothing in the Army into some sort of order. There is no doubt at all that the Pimlico Factory introduced a very great reform in Army clothing. Now it is proposed to close it down. It will mean a saving, we are told, of £25,000. But the War Office is sending out about 750 people. Who are these people at whose expense the saving is to be made? They are people who have been given a job because they are the relatives of fallen soldiers, the daughters and widows of fallen soldiers. There are cases of three and four sisters working together in the factory. They are all to be thrown out, and it will not be easy for them to get work. We are told that work is to be found for some of them, say, in Edinburgh. How are they to shift their belongings there? Most of them will have to take up work as they can, and before the War Office are through with the business the State will have spent much more than £25,000 in unemployment benefit, and we shall have put ourselves back in the hands of the contractors. The hon. Member said Pimlico was in his constituency; well sweated tailoring is in mine.
The Pimlico factory was admittedly an efficient factory. The Financial Secretary know s that during the Labour Government changes were introduced there in the direction of the division of labour and the adoption of efficient modern methods and that part of the factory paid. The Financial Secretary referred to the heavy overhead charges. What is the real reason for the changes now proposed It is partly bias in favour of private enterprise, and partly the distaste of the War Office for anything that has to do with constructive work. I think it is probably due to the War Office civilian staff. They do not like the 1673 bother of a factory, or having anything to do with industry. That is very unfortunate, because the civilian staff at the War Office are much stronger on the critical than the constructive side. They want this type of experience. The War Office have closed down the factory and have got rid of the lease. I do not know what terms they got, but it should not be impossible to get another site. Does the hon. Member think that this is the proper time to do this sort of thing? It is not easy for women who have been working for 40 years in that factory to get another job. The Government have shown the greatest lack of consideration for those workers. I know that they are having the greatest difficulty in finding employment and are suffering great hardships. It is a thoroughly bad and shortsighted example of cheese-paring policy to close down a factory which not only produced work but enabled the War Office to keep a check upon the voraciousness of contractors. I am not attacking British industry in that regard, but the voracious army contractor has been a, figure in history since armies began to move across the world.
I was gratified with what the hon. Member said with regard to the vocational training centres, and I hope that they will continue to be successful. I was struck rather by one point which he made in regard to recruiting, which has suddenly been lifted up. It is only too true that bad times are the greatest recruiting agents. Perhaps the hon. Member will be able to get additional economy by abolishing the recruiting department, for, as affairs in this country become worse and they continue to cut down wages, the Army will be able to recruit without having any recruiting officers.
§ Brigadier-General NATION
As one who has had no previous training or experience in politics and has taken on a new profession rather late in life, I feel that I must ask for an even greater measure of that sympathy which this House always accords to a new Member when he first makes a speech. Even now I should not have risen, but the very serious nature of the subject which we are considering to-day makes it impossible for me to remain seated. Quite recently, and for a period of four years, I was intimately connected with one of the great armies on the Continent. The 1674 very cordial relations existing between the highest authorities in that country and myself were of such a nature that I had facilities to go almost anywhere and see anything I liked. It was a privilege that is rarely extended to the representative of a foreign nation. Therefore, I have perhaps rather a unique viewpoint in studying the Estimates of the British Army. I confess and say at once that I am alarmed at the proposals which are being made.
During the last five years the armies of France, of Italy, of Yugoslavia and of Russia have all had substantial increases in their Estimates. Only this morning we saw in the Press that the Army Estimates for France are being increased by no less than £5,000,000 for this year. With the experience of the Great War, and with the military activities of foreign nations all round us, and with the situation in the Far East as a warning, it is amazing that we can reduce our Army Estimates at the present time by £3,500,000. I realise that the Government have to study the whole field of economy in this country, and take our relations with foreign Powers into consideration before they come to a decision what amount of money to allocate the various Defence Forces. Having allotted that money, the redistribution as far as the Army is concerned rests with the Army Council. I do not complain so much about the reduction in the total amount; it is because of some of the items from which the money has been withdrawn that I am anxious. It is true that in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War which accompanies these Estimates he says that the savings are only "temporary and transitory," and that "they cannot be maintained in future years." He also admits that "the measures involve a definite and obvious loss of military efficiency." The Secretary of State for War said that, but we must remember that last year the Economy Committee presided over by Sir George May said:We are satisfied, from the evidence submitted, that ale present strength of His Majesty's Forces is no more than adequate for requirements under present world conditions.Further on they say:Large-scale economies must, await further reductions in the strength of the 1675 Services, which in turn must depend on general agreement on the policy of international disarmament.Those two statements are pretty clear evidence of our position to-day. I do not know if the Government have any indication of the likelihood of a satisfactory issue at Geneva, but I confess, after having lived on the Continent for the last five years, that I can see no indication whatever of any likelihood of any of the foreign nations reducing their armaments in the near future. Therefore, naturally I am very anxious as to what is happening in this country. I only wish to draw attention to one or two items, because I would rather press home one or two points than make a, long speech at the end of which hon. Members might say, "I wonder what the dickens he did say." First of all, I refer to the question of training. As far as the Regular Army is concerned, the allotment this year for training is £70,000. Last year it was £110,000, and in 1927 it was £130,000. We have made a reduction of 50 per cent. in five years, while the strength of the Army in personnel has remained about the same. I would not complain so much about the Regular Army because the Regular Army is training throughout the whole year upon ground more or less suitable for the purpose, close to the barracks, so that to forego the manoeuvres or camp for one year is not vital to the safety of the nation. When, however, we come to the Territorial Force and we see a reduction of £1,000,000 in this year alone for the Territorial Force and the Supplementary Reserve, and that they are not to go into camp at all and are not to have any manoeuvres, I think that the matter is so serious that the House and the public should be informed of the position. The Secretary of State in his Memorandum says thatthe annual camp trainings of the Territorial Army and the Supplementary Reserve are not to take place and that a saving of £1,000,000 has thereby been secured.We all in this House remember the famous Blue Water School who said that we could sleep safely in our beds. Nobody listened to the warnings and pleadings of that very great man Lord Roberts which, over and over again, he expressed in the House of Lords and in the Press and elsewhere, and in a very 1676 few months afterwards the Great War was upon us. We might well ponder over the words of Lord Roberts to-day. The anxieties and sufferings which the people of this country went through in the first few months of the Great War are very acute in the minds of us all. We remember how our Expeditionary Force went out and was almost annihilated in the first few months, and that we had to wait for months and months until new armies could be trained and sent overseas. Those months of waiting were perhaps the most anxious and precarious for the Empire that this country has ever known. With all that experience before us, we are making these great reductions today. After the first few months, for the remaining three years of the War, we were represented practically entirely by the Territorial Army and the new Armies. During that time they had to face some of the greatest battles in history. Yet with all this experience, we are not going to train the Territorial Army this year. I regard this as a real calamity. It can only be excused by the most pressing and insuperable need for economy. I could not excuse it upon any other ground. I would prefer to see the Regular Army give up some of its training and to allot the money instead to the Territorial Force.
I will now come to my second point which relates to the Officers Training Corps and the Cadet Units. The Officers Training Corps this year is to have a grant of £64,000 as against a grant of £109,000 last year, or a cut of very nearly 50 per cent. in one year, and the whole of it in regard to training. The Cadet Units, up to 1930, received a grant of about £10,000 per annum calculated at the rate of 4s. per qualified cadet. But in that year a peace-loving, but I am afraid, rather ostrich-like Secretary of State for War in the late Government withdrew the recognition of those Cadet Units and cut off the grant. I should like to extend my heartiest congratulations to the present occupant of that high office for his courage in restoring the recognition to those units, although he cannot at present renew the grant of money.
In my humble opinion as an ex-service man, the Officers Training Corps and the Cadet Units of this country deserve all the encouragement and all the financial assistance that we can afford. Upon them 1677 should rest the responsibility for training the manhood of this country. I do not believe that they should engender a sense of militarism in the young, but they should educate their minds and their bodies in order to foster the spirit of adventure, love of travel, enterprise, and esprit de corps which, alas, I am afraid, appears to be declining at the present time among our young men. I would suggest to the Secretary of State, with all humility, that he might study the "Balilla" system which Mussolini introduced into Italy about six or seven years ago and which to-day numbers no fewer than 1,500,000 boys. That innovation has made a change in the manhood of Italy which is something extraordinary to behold. If we could adopt something like that in this country, without any attempt at militarism, it would be of the greatest possible benefit. Full reports on that system are in the War Office—I must be forgiven for saying that I wrote them myself—they are there to be studied, and I am prepared to help in any way I can. They are worth looking at.
Last week I put a question to the Financial Secretary, and he said that £13,000 was allocated last year for the cost of changes of station between Regular Army units in the United Kingdom. I notice in the programme of changes this year that there are about the same number of units which are due to change stations at home. I know that changes of station are very desirable. I liked them myself, and I would not deny them to my friends in the Army, but in times like the present I suggest that it seems hardly worth while, for example, that the 1st Battalion of the Inniskilling Fusiliers at Hollywood, in the North of Ireland, should change stations with the 1st Battalion of the Border Regiment at Bordon, near Aldershot, and that the 4th Hussars, the 8th Hussars, the 3rd Carbiniers and the 1st King's Dragoon Guards should play a sort of musical chairs between York, Colchester and Aldershot before they decide which of them falls out and goes to Egypt. It seems hardly worth while in times like the present. I am sorry to say that, but it is my duty to do so. The programme of changes this year affects three Cavalry regiments, two batteries of Horse Artillery, five Brigades of Field Artillery, eight battalions of Guards and 11 1678 battalions of Infantry, all at home. One can imagine all the changes involved, the transport of the men, their wives and families, the officers' horses and the equipments, all of which have to be transported up and down the country. I would like to see that money saved this year. I would like to see all changes of station withheld entirely this year, that the changes should be made, perhaps, every two or three years in times of national crisis, and that the money thus saved should be used for the training of cadet units, or, failing them, for the Officers Training Corps.
I feel that I have already exceeded the short allowance a new Member is supposed to have on the first occasion that he addresses the House. There are a number of other items to which I should have liked to refer, but I will not say anything about them now. I would ask the Committee to bear in mind that the days of the old Regular Army are dying. Modern war is no longer fought by Regular Armies, but by the manhood of the whole nation. About 10 per cent. of the whole nation in the case of a serious war has to take part, and that nation which prepares for the enrolment, training and organisation of its manhood is the one that has the best chance of surviving when the day of trial comes. If we have to make cuts in the Army, and the Government are the judge of that, the cuts must be made, but I would prefer to reduce, say, one or more of the Regular units—if we have to make a permanent reduction and not a recurring reduction—and instead have more and more Territorials, Officers Training Corps and Cadet Corps. We know the old argument that one must have a battalion at home for every battalion abroad. That argument is very hard to kill. It was taught to me as a cadet and almost to the last minute before I left the Service, but I believe that with a will that difficulty could be overcome. I believe that our Regular forces abroad could be maintained from depots or from some other means to be devised at home. But for goodness sake let us keep the Territorials, and let us keep them in training.
If we cannot afford a volunteer Army such as we have had now for many years—we are the only nation that has a voluntary Army—then let us be honest and adopt some other system like the Conti- 1679 nental system, modified for our purposes, but let it be trained. A small army is bad enough for any country but to have one which is not trained, is to court disaster. There must be many hon. Members in this House and a large percentage of the population outside who have personal experience of what war is like under modern conditions. It is nothing short of murder to send troops to face a modern army unless they are trained. Speaking from my experience of the Mediterranean and my knowledge of the enormous Air Force of Italy, which is within 12 hours' flying distance of Malta, with their Air Force and Naval base in the Aegean Islands, which is closer to the Suez Canal than we are, I should like to leave the problem to the Committee as to whether our communications with the Far East, the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal are considered to be secure.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
The House will desire me to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Brigadier-General Nation) on his admirable maiden speech. He has issued a grave warning from his own personal experience as military attache in Italy. I am certain that the lesson to be learned from his speech must have impressed the Committee and that we shall await his further intervention in Debate with interest. I have listened to a good many Service Debates and I must say that I have never heard two more admirable expositions of the Estimates than we heard yesterday and to-day. The First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday and the Financial Secretary to the War Office today struck the same note in calling attention to the drastic economies which have been forced on the country owing to our financial position. It must make anyone who is responsible for the safety of the country feel grave concern to see the way in which we are cutting down our defence forces, whilst other countries are increasing theirs. We are all anxious for Disarmament, but I cannot help feeling that unilateral disarmament has been carried too far in this country. Indeed, in the unfortunate event of the League of Nations requiring this country to apply sanctions, considering the great demands upon us for police purposes I do not believe that we should be in a position to 1680 back up our bond to the League of Nations.
I should like to criticise the Memorandum which has been issued by the Secretary of State. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull in what he said about the serious situation that arises, seeing that we have cancelled the annual training camps of the Territorial Force. The confession in the Memorandum that these are drastic reductions of services which are essential to the efficiency of the Army, is a very serious confession. There is one other aspect which has not been touched upon, and that is that there has been a reduction of the grant for training. It is most important that the senior officers of the Army should have an opportunity of commanding large forces in the field both from the tactical and administrative point of view. It is now several years since there has been anything greater than divisional training, and I am sure that the senior officers in the Army must demand that there shall be greater opportunity for training than that.
I must stress the lack of accommodation in some barracks. Men should not be compelled to live in quarters which are insanitary and an insufficient protection from the weather. The Financial Secretary did not refer to the question of married men's quarters, and I should be glad to have an assurance from him that the condition of married quarters has been improved from what they were a few years ago. According to the Memorandum the regular artillery in future are to carry out practice camp biennially. That is bad for the efficiency of the artillery, and I suggest that it might be possible to attach officers who are not due for their annual training to units who are to carry out the practice for that year. During the past two years the Estimates Committee of this House has been endeavouring to secure greater coordination in the bulk purchase of stores for the three Services. There is a provision of £120,000 for barracks and hospital stores, and I should like to know whether these stores are purchased by the War Office or obtained through the Office of Works. On previous occasions we have been told that the War Office do not regard the Office of Works as a suitable medium for the purchase of 1681 stores and furniture, although the Office of Works supplies the Navy and the Air Force and I believe many of the Army Commands throughout the country. I cannot see why the purchase of these stores should not be carried out through the Office of Works, who are already engaged in doing this work on behalf of many other Departments of State.
The figure of £25,000 has been mentioned as the saving on Pimlico, but I can hardly think that that is a sufficient amount to make it worth while disturbing those who have been employed there for so many years. There must be other reasons which have induced the Secretary of State to agree to that cut. A very large sum is spent on the pay of inspectors and their staff. The Army, apparently, undertakes the inspection of clothing on behalf of the Navy and the police. I want to kno4w whether they carry out the purchase of clothing as well as the inspection. If it is advisable for the inspection of clothing to he done by one department, it is just as well to have the bulk purchase done by one department instead of departments bidding against each other. I am not satisfied that there is proper co-ordination in this matter, and the avoidance of overlapping in the making of contracts. The same consideration applies to small arms and machinery. There is also the question of works, buildings and land. The War Office employs a number of land agents of some experience and spends a considerable sum of money on buildings and land. For agents and valuers alone there is an annual charge of £15,400. In the Navy Estimates there is a charge of £45,000 for works and land. I want to knew whether the Army does the estate agency work for the Navy and Air Force. It is not clear from the Estimates. The work is the same whether you are buying land for the Navy or the Army, and it is much better to have the work done by one single body purchasing on behalf of the three Services.
In these bad times there is little to criticise except to view with regret the state into which the Service is reduced at the present moment owing to the shortage of money. At the same time, further economies could be made and the money saved could be spent far more usefully if there was more co-ordination in the purchase of equipment and in those ser- 1682 vices which are common to the three arms. If the Office of Works is efficient and run on business principles—I am certain that the present First Commissioner of Works is to be trusted—then real economy could be secured by co-ordination and by the bulk purchase of stores and furniture and land by the Office of Works. Let me in conclusion congratulate the Financial Secretary on the admirable exposition he has given us of the Estimates.
§ Mr. TINKER
I should also like in the first place, to congratulate the Financial Secretary on the lucid exposition he gave us of these Estimates for the Army. Apparently, he did not use any notes, and he must have a very good memory indeed. He mentioned the British troops in Shanghai and said that they had made a very good impression there. Anyone who has had any connection with the British Army will agree that the British soldier, wherever he goes, makes a very good impression on the people. It is one of the traditions of the service. Anyone who served in the Army during the War felt that he was proud to be a. British soldier because of the way they were received by the people with whom they came into contact. The Financial Secretary stated that they had been able to make some saving on almost every item except the amount spent on training purposes. I was sorry to hear that, because I think there should be a progressive reduction in armaments. We must have a progressive reduction in our expenditure if we are to give a lead to the world and show that we do not want war.
There has been a total saving of £3,420,000. Out of 15 items there is a saving on 13, and an increase on two, and I should like to know how those increases have taken place. In connection with miscellaneous effective services, the expenditure in 1931 was £558,000. This year it is £879,000, an increase of £321,000, or a 57 per cent. increase. That requires some explanation. Then on Vote 15 there is an increase of £14,000, upon which I should also like some information. In regard to the Household Troops, there is one item in the Memorandum which is not very pleasant reading. It says:For the rest, it has unhappily been found necessary to postpone still further the improvement or replacement of barracks and huts which are falling below the required standards.1683 Economy can be false economy if it is practised on the health of the men. The health of the men has been fairly good, but no one can say that it will remain so if they are not properly housed. If you want contentment and satisfaction an essential condition is that they should live under healthy and sanitary conditions. It is not the actual fighting which troubles the soldier very much, but the conditions under which they have to live are important and if they are not satisfactory you cannot get your real fighting man, the man who is up to the required standard. I appeal to the Financial Secretary to see that the men are properly housed. I hope there will be no economy in that direction. Then with regard to cavalry regiments. The mechanisation of the Army is for the purpose of removing what are called obsolete units, and in these days cavalry cannot be called a useful arm of the Service. It is a spectacular part of the Army, but there is no reduction in this branch of the Service this year, nor was there last year. The total for the cavalry is 8,115, the same as last year. I think there should be some reduction in cavalry regiments. Take the Household Cavalry in. London. There are 48 officers and 886 of all ranks, with 510 horses for their convenience. Will anyone tell me that these are necessary in times like the present. I quite agree that for parading through the streets and engaging public attention they are quite nice and pleasant to look upon, but in times when economy is necessary we do not want to retain that kind of thing. The Financial Secretary has said that an old-fashioned army which is out of date is worse than no army at all. The Household Cavalry come under that description. They are old fashioned and out of date. There is no need for them, and I hope that close attention will be paid to this matter. Last year when we were considering the Army Estimates I mentioned this point, and although Mr. Thomas Shaw in his heart agreed with me he was unable to get away from the influence of the War Office. He said:It is perfectly true, and one might as well confess it, that the cavalry in London are really an appanage of Royalty. At the same time they are trained soldiers, and as the War showed in, case of emergency would have to take their place in the 1684 ordinary way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1931; col. 294, Vol. 250.]Mr. Shaw then told the House that there was no need for them, and that they were really a "show" brigade. If we say that we are out for economy, and that we are prepared to cut down expenditure in every possible direction, is it fair to have this cavalry regiment parading the streets of London showing off and attracting people to look at them, when we know that other and more useful branches of the Service are being cut down? I say that it is not fair, and I shall take the opportunity on all occasions when it offers of protesting against this kind of thing. I do not speak as one who wants to do away with the Army altogether. I believe that while there are armed forces in other countries, we must have an armed force, but I want that force to be as efficient as possible, and not to be carrying a redundant arm of this kind. Last night during the Debate on the Navy Estimates an hon. Member who is a supporter of the National Government referred to the fact that the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve was to be cut down. He said that he could not ask the First Lord to restore that expenditure because economy was just as urgent now as it was before, and he used this expression:We must remember that every penny spent comes out of the pockets of the working man."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1932; col. 1584, Vol. 262.]If that is correct, and no one can deny it, then any branch of the Service which is not efficient or is not worth its place, ought to be cut away and those pennies saved to the poor man's pocket. I hope that next year when the Financial Secretary comes before us again he will have taken into consideration the views which we are urging upon him to-day and that he will cut away, as far as he can do so consistent with efficiency, branches of the Service like the Household Cavalry which appear to have no use at all and to be no good either to the Service or anybody else. If the people of London desire to have these cavalry for the purpose of attracting visitors, then let the cost go on the Civil Service Vote. Let us know exactly what the cost is for, or, if the cost cannot go into that Vote, then let the London County Council take it over themselves. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Why not, if it is for the purpose of attracting visitors to London?
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
Has the hon. Member ever looked at the battle honours of the regiments which he is abusing so heartily?
§ Mr. TINKER
Does the hon. and gallant Member mean the battle honours belonging to these cavalry regiments?
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I am referring to the honours which these regiments won in battles, in the last Great War and in many other wars before then. The hon. Member is trying to make out that these regiments are purely ornamental. I say that that is untrue.
§ Mr. TINKER
Every one of us who fought in the War attained some honour for trying to save the country. Any citizen who went out in the Great War brought some credit and honour to the country. If some particular regiments have records of that honour, that is a satisfaction to them, but all I am trying to point out now is that redundant arms of the service ought to be cut away. If Londoners want this spectacle of cavalry parading daily in the streets of London, they ought to bear the expense and it ought not to come on the Vote for the Army. That is my protest and I shall continue to make that protest at every opportunity until I am able to impress on the Secretary of State for War, whoever he may be, my reasons for doing so.
§ Mr. GLUCKSTEIN
Among the minor calamities which overtook the Socialist party as a result of the General Election is the fact that they have been doomed in this House to listen to more than 200 maiden speeches of which this, I regret to say, is only the 99th. I trust, however, that I shall receive that consideration from the Members of the House, which is always extended to those who seek to emerge from the ranks of the mere inarticulate Lobby fodder. We are considering to-day Estimates for a sum of something like £36,500,000 and I would associate myself with what was said by the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Attlee) when he referred to the difficulty of considering these Estimates in the very short time during which they have been in our possession. It is an almost impossible task to do so, but I am encouraged by the suggestion of the Financial Secretary to the War Office to attempt this afternoon a few criticisms, which, I trust, he 1686 will regard as helpful. In connection with the search for economy, which I believe is universal in the country, I would say at the outset that economy is not to be obtained by curtailing necessary expenditure. Real economy is obtained by seeing that the country obtains value for the money which is voted in respect of particular services.
In case there should be any misunderstanding I should like to say that I am not in the least a believer in uni-lateral disarmament. I believe with the May Committee that this country has gone as far as is possible, consistent with safety—in fact I have grave doubts as to whether there is safety—while other nations retain their present scale of armaments. However, I do not propose to trench on the Debate which I understand is to follow on that subject. I regard the economies which are being suggested here as bad. I use the words of the Secretary of State for War himself when in his Memorandum he describes them as being achieved by:a drastic suspension or retardation of many services essential to the well-being and efficiency of the Army.I cannot but think that anything which leads to a loss of efficiency in the Army must be a false economy and one to be avoided. Are these cuts, amounting to £3,500,000 really necessary in the particular manner in which they are being made? I hope to show the Financial Secretary to the War Office that there are certain avenues which might be explored and from which he might get some revenue which has been overlooked. I know that numerous committees have examined various aspects of Army expenditure from time to time. There was the Geddes Committee as long ago as 1922 which recommended a cut of £20,000,000 and made certain other recommendations. From that time onwards other committees like the Assheton Pownall Committee, the Carpenter Committee and the Ramsay Committee, have dealt with certain departmental aspects of Army expenditure. But the only Committee which has done work of real value to us in our present emergency has been the May Committee which sat last year and which was designed for the purpose of considering the whole expenditure of the country with a view to effecting economies. That Committee had only four months in which to pro- 1687 duce its report and naturally it was only able to make a superficial examination of the problem of the defence forces. In fact, very few pages of its report are occupied with suggestions in regard to defence, but even in those few pages are to be found numerous valuable suggestions which, if followed up, would, I am certain, produce economies without loss of efficiency. If I may again refer to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War on that point, he says:Minor variations …that is from the May Report—relating to education, inspection, research, etc., were offset by equivalent economies in other directions.I am tempted to ask whether it would not be possible, in addition to making these equivalent economies in other directions, to make the economies which the May Committee decided, even after such a short examination, were quite possible for the Army. The first and and one of the most important recommendations of the May Committee in this connection isthat each of the Services should be examined immediately after the Disarmament Conference in order to determine, in the light of the conditions then prevailing, the organisation best fitted to carry out the national requirements with the least expense.That cannot be done with advantage unless there is first some preliminary work and I shall presently make a suggestion which I should like the Financial Secretary to consider with regard to the sort of preliminary work which is necessary. I suggest some sort of stocktaking against the day when that Committee has to sit. I hope I shall be forgiven if I touch briefly on some details of these Estimates which seem to be susceptible to reduction and are certainly worthy of closer examination. Although the Financial Secretary has said that in his opinion no further economies can take place that was not the view of the May Committee.
I take, for example, Vote 4 dealing with education. The May Committee there recommended a cut of 10 per cent. and said that they considered the proportion of administrative instructional and general staff to the number of officers under instruction as high, and that reduction was possible. I have looked to see what has been done as a result of 1688 that suggestion. I find that although £35,000 has been saved on education it has not been saved on those parts of the Service which could bear a reduction: Establishments like Woolwich, Sandhurst and Camberley show figures which are practically stationary. The reduction has been made in the case of schools in the fighting arms and I should have thought that it was far more important to maintain those schools at a high standard of efficiency than the others. Everyone knows that the earlier training is largely lost sight of when practical work has to be done. That training is theoretical to a large extent and most people forget what they have learned in those institutions when they become practical soldiers.
Then I come to Vote 7 which relates to clothing. I refer to this with a certain amount of trepidation. Indeed it may be a case of "Poole's rushing in where Angels fear to tread." Here, again, there has been recommendation by the May Committee in respect of clothing allowances. They said that a 10 per cent. cut on the clothing allowances should be made which would produce £55,000, but when we look at the Estimates we find that that saving has not been achieved. There has been a saving but that saving has been made on the Pimlico factory and is not the result of cutting the allowances. If you look to see by how much these allowances have been cut, you find that they are only down by about 3 per cent. I suggest again that there is another field for economy in that recommendation.
I come now to Inspection, Votes 8 C and 9 B. I wonder how many Members realise that with £3,000,000 worth of stores which are covered by inspection, it costs the country £450,000 to inspect them, or something like 15 per cent. I wonder how many business undertakings could afford a charge of that kind and remain solvent. I may be told that in addition to the stores which are shown here, there are war stores, which, of course, quite properly, are not disclosed, but I am bound to point out that the Secretary of State himself, in the Memorandum circulated with the Estimates, said this:Surplus stocks of stores accumulated during the War are now approaching exhaustion, with the result that progressively 1689 increasing provision by purchase has to be made.The May Committee recommended that the present percentage should be inspected, and that a 10 per cent. cut at least should be effected, but here again that has not been done.
Now I come to the question of Research, on which a certain amount has been said to-day. There has been a saving, according to the Financial Secretary, of £22,000, but the figure to-day is £617,000. When the Geddes Committee sat and considered Army Estimates of £75,000,000, it recommended that the figure which was then being paid for research, of £1,250,000, should be cut to £600,000, and we have not reached that figure yet. There is certainly room for a very close investigation of this question of research, for another reason, that although it is necessary that the army should be kept up-to-date, yet it is a fact that the more research we carry out, the more expensive does the army become in consequence of it, because you are constantly changing your material and equipment. When you get industrial research, that is usually dealt with and restrained by the profits which have to be earned as a result of its possibilities, but this factor does not arise in the question of the Army or the Navy. Therefore, it is a matter that ought to be very closely watched. I would again refer to the May Committee Report, which says that at least a 12½ per cent. cut ought to take place. There has not been anything like that in respect of research.
Examining the Estimates further, one finds that the non-effective charges are referred to by the Secretary of State as being no less a sum than £8,300,000,which are not susceptible of direct reductions, and have indeed grown steadily in recent years.That seems to me an extremely serious state of affairs. If you look at Vote 13, you will find that the 1914 and 1931 establishments are there set out. I would again, if I may, refer to the May Committee's investigation of this question of non-effective charges, and, I think that here there is a possibility of effecting a considerable saving. The May Committee point out that quite different considerations arise in the case of the Air Force establishment and the Army and Navy. They say: 1690The essential requirement of a combatant service is a high proportion of fairly young officers.Then they say:In the Air Force, there is a large element of short service recruitment. Speaking broadly, only such number of officers are engaged on permanent commissions as can hope to find careers in the Service, allowing a margin for selection in the filling of higher posts. In the Navy and Army, on the other hand, officers are normally engaged on pensionable tenure, and reliance is placed on limitation of promotion, followed by the compulsory retirement at early ages of those who are passed over.They go on to say:We think that the whole scheme of pensions in the Fighting Services calls for immediate examination in the light of its extremely expensive character.I will give the House some figures as to the establishment, which appear in the Estimates themselves, showing the percentage of officers of high rank who are unemployed at the present moment. There are six Field Marshals, of whom five are unemployed; there are 20 Lieut.-Generals, of whom eight are unemployed; and there are 75 Major-Generals, of whom 17 are unemployed. My submission is that you must reduce the establishment in order to show a more reasonable surplus of officers, or you must adopt the method of the Air Force and go in for short-term recruitment. That would undoubtedly produce an economy, not immediately, but spread over a period of years, which would reduce these noneffective charges. I find an item marked "Stores," on Vote 8 B, and I would refer to the impossibility of really considering, on the Floor of this House, details such as we have put before us. In that Vote there is £440,000 worth of stores, and out of that figure £250,000 worth is described as "Miscellaneous." How is it possible to examine, criticise or comment on figures like that?
I was very interested to hear what the hon. Member said about vocational training, and it was very gratifying to know that that training was being so successfully carried on, but I would like to ask him one or two questions about the matter. I believe that the practice is for men who are leaving the Army to be trained for some six months before they actually end their period of service, and that at various centres different forms of training are carried out. I believe that at Aldershot training in carpentry, brick- 1691 laying, plastering, and so on is gone through. I notice, according to the figures, that some 800 men went through last year at Aldershot. It must be known that there are many thousands of troops at Aldershot and probably very extensive maintenance and repairs to be carried out. Do any of these men who are being trained in the vocational training centres take part in the work of repair and maintenance at, say, Aldershot? It must be possible far them to do some of the work there. Or is the practice for the Garrison Engineers to put out the work to outside contract, and for these men who are being trained vocationally not to take part? Would there not be a saving if those men who are being trained in the vocational establishments were put to do the work which outside contractors now do?
I do not wish to go any further, except to make a remark or two about the War Office. I listened this afternoon to the answer to a question put by an hon. Member, and the figures that were elicited, I remember, were 1,800 persons at the War Office in 1914 and 2,200 now. That is a very astonishing state of affairs, and one notices that the figure required to keep the War Office going is some £818,000. One notices also that:Since 1904 the main organisation of the War Office has not been fundamentally altered, although various changes of detail were made before the outbreak of the Great War.What business with a similar turn-over could go to its shareholders with a statement of that kind, that after 28 years no change had taken place in the main organisation, when one remembers the vast changes that have taken place in the whole theory of war, and when one remembers the changes brought about as a result of all the modern inventions which have come into being in that period. But the War Office apparently is so successfully organised, as a result of the Esher Committee, I think it was, in 1902 or 1903, that it has never moved since that date; and it only requires 400 people more to-day than it did in 1914 to look after a smaller Army. I think it is only reasonable to make that criticism. I hope I have not made it in an unreasonable spirit, but it strikes one as being a matter which ought to be investigated, and certainly one feels that there could be an economy.
1692 Now I come, after certain destructive criticisms, to something constructive, and my suggestion to the hon. Member would be this: I am told that the House has a very bad opinion of committees and commissions, but I would suggest that the hon. Gentleman should now appoint a small committee of two or three business men, who would be advised by a staff officer of great experience, some person who holds high rank in the Army and who would be competent to advise in connection with the matters to be investigated. I suggest that that committee should not sit in some room here or elsewhere, but should go about and see for itself, that it should go into rooms and say to people, "What are you doing?" and that it should find out what they are doing. I venture to think that an examination of that character, carried out by two or three business men who understand the problems of transport, of feeding, of housing, and various other factory problems which arise every day in business houses, might be a very useful thing to have.
I may be quite wrong, and what I am suggesting may be futile and useless, but it will not be expensive, and I think it will be useful; and if I am wrong, the expense will be very small and possibly negligible. It is possible, I expect, in these days to find public-spirited, retired business men who would probably give their services free, and so far as the officer is concerned, I suppose he would have his ordinary pay. I ask for that committee, because I am satisfied that the work cannot be done inside the War Office itself. You cannot possibly expect people who are working in the War Office to think that anything much is the matter. It may be that this suggestion will be uncomfortable to some people, but the first consideration is the efficiency and well-being of the Army, and if by some chance we have to be ruthless in obtaining that efficiency, then we must not shrink from being ruthless. I hope, therefore, that the Financial Secretary will consider this proposal and, if possible, put it into operation. May I, in conclusion, thank the House for the very patient and courteous hearing which it has given to me?
§ Mr. AMERY
I should like to congratulate most heartily the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Mr. Gluckstein), who has just spoken, on a most interesting 1693 and most practical contribution to our Debates. He has dealt with a number of topics affecting the administration of the Army, as a great business, in a businesslike spirit, and I am sure that his suggestions will be welcomed and carefully considered by the representative of the War Office. There is one point on which I did not find myself altogether in agreement with the hon. Member, and that was when he criticised the expense and numerical strength of the War Office. I have heard a great deal since the War of the argument, as affecting both the War Office and the Admiralty, that a smaller total force should not require a larger headquarters staff. After all, the size of your headquarters staff depends not upon the numbers of your force, but upon the complexity of the problems with which it has to deal.
No war office in the world has a more complex military problem to deal with than the British War Office, and yet its general staff, its intelligence sections, and so on, compare very favourably from the point of view of smallness of numbers with those of great powers which have comparatively simple problems to deal with. Again, every new device or weapon which is introduced, either in the Army or the Navy, creates its own administrative and strategic and training problems, which have to be reflected in additions to the strength of the general staff, of the training staff, of the material sections that deal with the matter. If I may give an illustration of the problem, I will put it this way. The number of keys required on a typewriter depends not on the number of letters to be written, but on the number of letters in the alphabet of the language which you are employing; if you use a language with a complicated alphabet, you will have to use a great number of keys for a comparatively limited correspondence. That is only one point which was raised by my hon. Friend out of many other points in which I found myself very largely in agreement.
We have been fortunate in the maiden speeches which we have heard this afternoon. A little earlier we had a most admirable speech from the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Brigadier-General Nation). While the hon. Member for East Nottingham dealt with the Army as a business organisation, the hon. and gallant Member dwelt upon the 1694 Army as a great instrument to prepare this nation for the dangers that may confront it in time of war. The practical suggestions which he made in his speech were valuable in themselves, but even more impressive was the sense of danger, of the gravity of the situation, which ran through it and which was emphasised by his wide experience in other countries. Not only in the speeches of hon. Members to-day, but in the statements issued by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, we are confronted with the fact that our defence equipment is entirely inadequate to the needs of our defence. No considerations, not even those of the gravest financial urgency, can more than very temporarily justify such laches in the necessary provision for our safety.
It is clear in that connection that this, if ever, is the time when we ought to consider very carefully the whole structure of our defence system to make sure that we get the fullest value out of it. The hon. Member for East Nottingham has justifiably drawn attention to minor details in which economy is possible. But big economies can only be effected if our whole defence system is properly adapted to its end and the different elements in it properly correlated to each other. I entirely agree with what was said on this subject by the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) as to the necessity of properly co-ordinating the parts that the Navy, the Army and the Air Force should play in our defence, and in urging the importance of discussion in this House not on one defence force alone, but on all the defence forces taken together. At the same time, I am a little surprised that the hon. Member seemed unaware that the remedy was very largely in his own hands. It is for the Opposition to ask for a day to discuss the Vote for the Committee of Imperial Defence. On that Vote, for a good many years past, it has been within the power of the Opposition to secure an effective discussion of the whole of the problems of our defence, and not merely of the problem as it affects a particular Service. So I look forward with interest and anticipation to a request being made by the Opposition in the near future for a day on which we can discuss that vitally important question.
The hon. Member also raised an issue more directly bearing on to-day's Esti- 1695 mates, namely, the policy for which the British Army is organised and whether its organisation bears any relation whatever to our strategical needs. I think that one can say with regard to both the Navy and the Air Force that their organisation and their strength are planned with some sort of relation to the functions which they may have to fulfil in war. It is impossible to say that that is true of the British Army. For nearly 60 years it has been organised on a basis which frankly makes no attempt to coordinate the Army which we can produce on mobilisation to the purposes for which it will be wanted in time of war. The whole basis of our structure is the Cardwell system, a system by which the strength of the Army which we can mobilise is fixed by two factors. One is the strength of the various garrisons which have to be maintained in different parts of the world, including India, for purposes largely unconnected with strategy in war; and the second factor is the total length of service and the number of years required to keep a young soldier before he is physically fit to serve in an oversea garrison. The soldiers who are in training for the oversea garrisons constitute the home units. These skeleton training units, strengthened by the reservists who remain over after the total period of active service, make the force available for war, but a force whose size bears no relation whatever to any particular military problem which we may ever have to confront.
Only once in the course of the last 60 years has an attempt been made to break down that adhesion of the regular officers at the War Office to the simplicity and convenience of the Cardwell system. That attempt was made by the late Mr. Arnold-Forster, who endeavoured to create an organisation which would, by a double period of service, provide a career for the man who wished to make his career in the Army, and by a short period of service provide a really large reserve; thus to enable us immediately to dispatch a small force on the outbreak of any serious emergency and to follow it up shortly afterwards by a very much larger Army than anything we had contemplated in the past. Unfortunately, Mr. Arnold-Forster's scheme was not put into effect before the Government of which he was 1696 a Member fell, and his successor, Lord Haldane, had not the courage to carry the scheme out. There was a time when Lord Haldane's services to the Army were greatly underrated. It is also fair to the memory of his predecessor to say that if Lord Haldane had not gone back to the Cardwell system and simply confined himself to giving the best organisation he could to its product, but had carried out the plans worked out by Mr. Arnold-Forster, we should have had at the outbreak of the Great War a far larger force available for that War, and we might have been spared incalculable loss both in lives and in treasure in consequence.
That is the kind of problem with which we are faced because of our financial position, and which we ought to thrash out in this House. The Government ought to face the whole question of what our Army is for and how its period of service and period of reserve should be adjusted, not to immediate administrative convenience, but to our strategic needs. That should be thought out more seriously than it has been at any time since the Great War. At the same time, we ought to consider more carefully than we have done before, and with perhaps less of that old regular soldier bias, which is undoubtedly very strong in the War Office, the proper relations of our reserve forces to the Regular Army. I was delighted to hear the stress which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Hull laid upon territorial and cadet training, which, from the long point of view, is money far better spent than money spent on retaining one more regular unit. We have to look not to immediate dangers, but to dangers which are drawing near. The foundation of the nation's military training matter a good deal more than immediate efficiency in one or other of the items of equipment of the Regular Army. I hope, therefore, that we shall face seriously the problem of the whole reorganisation of our defence forces. If we face that rightly, we shall solve it on the most economical lines possible.
But I am not so optimistic as to hope that the greatest economy, in effective organisation as well as in detail, will enable us to defend our peace adequately on the kind of Estimates to which we have been reduced in the last few years. 1697 It is inevitable that for an Empire of the size of ours, and with problems like ours, the Estimates for the defence forces will have to go up. And the money will have to be found. That involves a heavy burden, but I think that we sometimes tend to over-estimate the weight of that burden a little. We talk of the "crushing burden" of £100,000,000 for defence, when, after all, it is only 10 per cent. of our total local and national expenditure; and that burden has certain compensations, such as employing a part of our population in giving them training of a high physical and mental value, and a good deal of that expenditure conduces, and may be made to conduce even more, to the promotion of research, and may be made to help industry in many ways. We have to face the fact that the whole problem of our defence must in the future be taken more seriously than it has been during the last few years. I think the years of fond delusion are nearly over. The harsh facts of the situation in the Far East to-day are speaking far more eloquently than any evasive formulas or pleasing fictions that can be concocted at Geneva. We have got to face the fact that our own peace, that our power to contribute to the peace of the world, is going to depend in the future, as in the past, upon our armed strength, and that any undue weakening of our forces, any incapacity on our part, any drifting towards the position of a China, is going to bring the calamity of war nearer to ourselves and, possibly, to other nations.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Listening to the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman and to other speeches from Members of the Government during the past two days, expressing the spirit which they embody, one can scarcely believe that this is a Government which went to the country and appealed to the people on the ground of economy. When one thinks of the speeches made on platforms up and down the country, and the appeals made to unemployed men to submit to reductions, and then hears speeches like that of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Mr. Gluckstein) and others, one can scarcely credit that this House was elected to promote economy. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman means well, but I wonder whether he knows this 1698 Britain of ours, whether he knows anything of the lives of the people who have suffered reductions during the last six months or so. As one who saw some little service, as one who was in the War Office, as one who does not wish to see the country throw up its hands and realises the point of view which has been put forward, I can yet tell the right hon. Gentleman that if that is to be the attitude of mind which is to rule during the next year or two, it will breed in the country a spirit with which, in the long run, it may be very difficult for Parliament or any other organisation to deal.
The hon. Member for East Nottingham, in his very incisive maiden speech, supported the point-made by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) that the House of Commons finds it difficult to analyse the Estimates. The Financial Secretary to the War Office, though he spoke easily, and made what may be described as a comparatively able speech from the Government point of view, knows very well that, although he has combed the Estimates, he has been saying in his heart during the last few weeks, "I hope to goodness the House of Commons will very carefully overhaul this book of the Estimates." He must be very conscious of the fact that even he, with all his knowledge, finds it difficult to keep a grip on the expenditure for which he is responsible. We have a book of Estimates here covering an expenditure of £37,000,000, dealt with under 15 heads and filling 350 pages. If hon. Members had had this book in their hands for a few weeks they could not have analysed it thoroughly, but it was presented to us only a few days before these Estimates come up for discussion, and yet we are asked to overhaul this large expenditure as stewards of the people in order to see that the money has been property spent.
It is time that the Government considered seriously the proposal of the hon. Member for Limehouse that there should be a separate investigation of the Service accounts by a committee. I know that the Public Accounts Committee overhaul the expenditure to some extent, but able as that investigation may be, it is by no means thorough, and even the members of that Committee would admit that it is impossible to make a thorough 1699 examination, seeing that they have to deal with practically all the Departments of the State. Therefore, if we are to get value for our money, this House must, sooner or later, set up some definite organisation to overhaul this expenditure. There is an expenditure of over £1,000,000 upon general stores and of £2,000,000 upon warlike stores. Do those stores actually exist, and, if they do, is that the proper value of them? Who values them? Who knows whether that is the proper value, or whether in reality it may not be double or treble? What is the method of doing the work? Nobody knows. I wonder whether the Financial Secretary knows. He can tell me who does the valuing. Really, there ought to be a closer watch over these matters. Then there is an expenditure of £2,500,000 upon works. I am very pleased to see that some of this expenditure is for the proper housing of men and officers. It is sad that some 13 or 14 years after the War we should see numbers of soldiers still housed in very questionable types of huts up and down the country.
Here and there throughout the book one sees the statement that the existing accommodation is unsuitable. Take the case of Catterick, a comparatively new camp, established to be what was called the "Curragh of the North." The accommodation for the units in that camp is estimated to have cost something like £1,500,000. I think the Estimates show that something like £28,500 is to be spent this year, and there are quite a number of other sums—£10,000 and £30,000. They are to be found on page 195. I would ask the Financial Secretary whether it is not time that the whole design of Catterick was settled, that the housing accommodation was finished, and that there was some sort of finality in the arrangements there. That is necessary for the health of the soldiers. Catterick is in a very exposed part of the country, it is a detached place, and by this time the troops there ought to have been sure of securing adequate accommodation. There, again, the question comes in of whether we are getting full value for our money. What is the value of the houses and the barracks which have been built, and how 1700 long will they stand? There are rumours of jerrybuilding in the case of the accommodation for the soldiers—jerrybuilding such as created the slums. I have heard rumours that the quality of some of the building is very questionable. One does not expect a great camp like that to be completed in five minutes, but from the point of view of providing proper accommodation and of bringing the expenditure on the camp to an end, the work ought to be completed quickly, so as to avoid this dribble and drain of funds year after year. In this case are we getting value for our money? This is the sort of thing with which the House of Commons can deal, and a committee should ascertain exactly what is being done.
Then there is under the same heading the question of the abolition of the clothing factory at Pimlico. After the criticism which has been made on this subject by my hon. Friend the Member for Lime-house, there is scarcely any necessity for me to refer to the subject. All I wish to say is that the winding up of the Pimlico clothing factory seems to me to be one of the most unbusinesslike things that was ever done by a public Department. The closing of that factory is uneconomic, and it will certainly do much damage to people who have up to now been employed by the War Office. I think that the Financial Secretary will agree with me when I say that the contracts department at the War Office has to be eternally on the alert in their dealings with the various firms from whom they buy goods. If there is any organisation which has business knowledge at its disposal enabling it to keep a grip on the people with whom it does business, that organisation is the War Office. The Financial Secretary could give dozens of cases almost from memory of dealings for the supply of boots, meat, and food, in which if the War Office had not some means of bringing pressure to bear on the people who supplied them with those articles they would be bound to become the victims of rings, and they would be exploited more than any other business organisation in the country. With the knowledge which the War Office possesses as to the possible exploitation by private firms in regard to the supply of articles necessary to feed, clothe, and house the soldier, it is not only unbusinesslike, but it is un- 1701 economic and wrong to close the factory at Pimlico.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lime-house said that stage by stage the War Office has taken these questions out of the hands of private exploiters, and placed them under the control of Government Departments. Everyone knows that if there happened to be a war to-morrow we should immediately adopt that policy for our own protection. The Government, by closing the Pimlico factory, are not merely saving £22,000; they are not merely robbing the people in that district of their work, but they are wiping out the experience which the War Office has gained in the conduct of a business organisation of that kind. No doubt the Financial Secretary will tell us that the Government cannot compete with private firms in these matters.
I wonder if the hon. Gentleman has ever considered the very definite analysis which has been made in the comparison between the cost of production at the Pimlico factory and other Government Departments and private firms. We used to get the exact cost, point by point, of the things supplied to the War Office by contractors and the cost of similar goods made in Government Departments, and, as a rule, the Government Departments supplied the goods cheaper and, in some cases, at half the price quoted by private contractors. I remember on one occasion calling attention to the fact that while the bakers in London were selling the loaf at 11d., the War Office was producing the loaf at 5½d. If we compare pound for pound in cost, I think the Pimlico factory could compete with any ordinary business organisation.
I have great respect for the staff at the War Office, and by their activities during the last few years they have shown themselves to be very efficient. It is true to say that it is a military Department, and they have not the necessary industrial psychology. They do not want to be bothered with wages, and the trouble arising from the running of an ordinary factory. I hope that that is not the spirit which is going to prevail at the War Office. There is nothing to meet the arguments which have been put forward by the Member for Limehouse on the point that the lease of the Pimlico factory will run out in four or five years' time. That is no answer to the argument which I have put forward, that in view of the 1702 history of the Pimlico factory and the reason for its establishment, it should not be closed. I am aware that the War Office does not like the industrial psychology of these questions. I wonder if we shall hear the same argument in reference to Woolwich Arsenal, in view of the attempt which is now being made to abolish armaments. I hope that the War Office is going to have another look at the Pimlico question, not for the sake of the workers alone, but in the interests of the country.
I wish to say a word or two about the education question. I notice that there is going to be a re-recognition of cadet corps. There may be good reasons for taking that course, but the reasons which have been given by the Financial Secretary are not the only reasons. It is claimed that in the training given to cadets courage and loyalty are developed, but will anyone deny that those qualities are developed by the miners and the ordinary workers? I am surprised at that argument being used, because it is well known that when War broke out there was no lack of the qualities of courage and loyalty among the workers who joined the Army. Nobody was surprised when we discovered that those qualities were so highly developed when War broke out.
I would like to ask the Financial Secretary what has been the result of giving commissions to rankers? A man who passes through the ranks in the Army becomes very intelligent and develops qualities suitable for the rank of officer. Is it possible to increase the numbers who are passing from the ranks to commissions? Serious attention should be paid to that point. I would like the ordinary citizen to consider the various stages through which an officer passes, and note the amount that is paid to the various ranks. It may be said that these men have shown great ability. That may be quite true, but I would like to tell the House that if this kind of thing goes on in the case of officers side by side with a reduction in the maintenance allowances for the unemployed, the people of this country will not stand it any longer. It may be said that these pensions to officers are not too generous or too high, but everyone knows that officers are placed in good circumstances, and are treated much better in comparison with the great mass of the 1703 workers of this country. I urge the hon. Gentleman and the War Office, if they are going to maintain the present numbers of the Army and get the fullest value for their money, to take steps to obtain a more insistent and incisive analysis of these Estimates. I would urge upon the Government to bear in mind the position of the great mass of the people when they pass Estimates of this kind. To those who think that they can increase these Estimates indefinitely, I say that they cannot continue a policy of that kind without danger of no Estimates and no Services at all.
§ Captain ARTHUR HOPE
I would like to congratulate the Financial Secretary on the presentation of these Estimates, but I would have been more pleased to have seen him present them as Minister of Defence, a position which I hope before long to see him occupy in his political career. I am certain that under a Ministry of Defence you would get more efficiency and more economy. That, however, is not a subject which we can discuss on this Vote. These Estimates are important and extremely interesting because, unless there is some general scheme of disarmament throughout the world, I do not see how the War Office can cut these Estimates another year one penny lower. There may be objections to certain individual economies this year. One, in particular, is the abandonment of the Territorial camps. That may be necessary but, as the Financial Secretary said, although it may be necessary this year, it cannot possibly happen another year or the Territorial Army would be doomed. There are other ways of economising, possibly small ways, but none the less effective, and those economies could be used in order to spend more money on the training of the Territorial Army. Various speakers this afternoon have said that in future the Territorial Army is the important army of this country. I agree, because a future war—if there ever are future wars and I hope, as one who went through the last war, that there will not be—means a war like the last war on even a greater scale, and every able-bodied man having to go out as he did last time. Therefore, some citizen army is essential to the future.
How can we economise in any directions other than have been shown by these 1704 Estimates? I cannot agree with the Financial Secretary or with the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) about the satisfactory state of the War Office. I, myself, have never been in the War Office, but I have been on the staff of two commands, the London District Command and with General Harington in Constantinople eight or nine years ago. I am convinced that there is an unnecessary amount of paper circulating about in these various headquarters and in the War Office in particular. I have seen clerks spend day after day writing out completely useless memoranda addressed to every branch, not only in the building, but in the whole Command not "for your information and necessary action" but "for your information." All these papers are filed, and you get files piled high in a week or so with stuff that will never be looked at again. All that means labour and waste of time. I am satisfied that if some small committee were appointed, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Gluckstein) in an admirable maiden speech, to go into the War Office and to find out exactly what every officer and every clerk, every civilian and every soldier, was doing, you could make cuts there.
I remember how in an expedition sent out in a hurry in 1922 to Turkey there was a brigadier, a brigade-major, a staff captain and a transport officer. Soon after the brigade-major fell ill, and the transport officer was moved elsewhere. The whole work of the brigade was left to the brigadier and staff captain. Did the work suffer by that? Not in the least. There are, to my mind, too many staff officers on a peace footing and also on a war footing. During the War we know that the headquarters staff was extraordinarily well run in France. Compared with the French Army, however, and I believe with the Italian Army, and certainly with the German Army, we had far more people on the divisional corps and army staffs than all the other armies put together. When we go through the Estimates for economies, we can cut down the staff officers not only at the War Office and at Aldershot and Catterick, but also in our armies abroad, in Shanghai and elsewhere. I have had some experience of being a staff officer of a brigade, and I know that there is not enough work to do in peace time for 1705 the three or four officers in headquarters. I could myself do all the staff work done by three people.
A question was raised by the hon. Member for East Hull (Brigadier-General Nation) about moves in this country. He referred to the moves, the "musical chairs," of certain cavalry regiments, but there are certain moves that take place not far from here of the Brigade of Guards. They remain in their station only one year and move from Aldershot to London, from London to Windsor, and so on. It would not only be a considerable saving to the Estimates by not moving so frequently, but it would also be a very great saving to the officers and men, who frequently have to find other accommodation unless they are on the marriage strength. It means a considerable amount of travelling about, and no permanent home for anybody. It would be an advantage not only because of the present financial difficulties, but also for the general comfort of the Service if the battalions, instead of moving every year, moved every two years or even every three years.
One other point on the subject of the Brigade of Guards. For many years past they have always recruited, not on the basis of the Line recruits of seven years with the Colours and five with the Reserve, but three with the Colours and nine with the Reserve. That used to work well before the War, but I am not so certain it will work well now, because there is always a battalion of the Brigade of Guards abroad and a battalion sails this week to Khartoum. They are bound to take a certain number of men who have only a short time before they finish their service. It happened before when the Guards were sent to Shanghai and Constantinople, and it will happen now when they are sent to Egypt, that, immediately after they get there, they will have to send back 30 or 40 men time-expired who cannot be continued unless a state of war exists. That is an extravagance that is unnecessary. I would ask the Financial Secretary to inquire whether they could not have some other system of recruiting other than this three years' and nine years' system.
There is one other question I would like to mention, that of the type of man we want to recruit in the Army. 1706 The vocational training schools are doing a great deal of good, but, as the Financial Secretary said, the applicants are not so numerous as they were. It may be for the reason he mentioned, that the fees are too high. It is essential, however, to get the right type of men into the Army, not the type who only go into it because there is nothing else to do. We want the type of men who go into it at 17, 18 or 19, young men who will spend the best years of their life in learning all the qualities that a good soldier requires. It would be a good thing for the Army, Navy and Air Force if a principle were adopted, which has been advocated for many years past both inside and outside this House, that, once a man enters the Government service, his service should be continuous and that, when he goes into the Post Office or anywhere else, his previous service in the Army or Air Force should count towards his pension. Imagine a boy of 18 who says, "I will join the Army, see something of the world, learn what discipline is, and learn something of those qualities which are necessary." When he leaves the Army with a good character to go into the Post Office or any other Department, he should be able to count those seven years he has spent in the Army towards his pension. In a business a man begins in one department and is later transferred to another, but it is all the same employment. Surely, when a man enters the employment of the State it should be counted as one employment, whether it is the Army, Post Office or anything else. It may be said that this is the wrong moment to advocate anything in the way of pensions, but this reform would undoubtedly be a great encouragement to the recruiting authorities in this country, and would get the right type of man into the Army, Navy and Air Force.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
I should like to join with the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) in his complaint about not getting an opportunity of discussing the Estimates for all the three Services together. We cannot discuss the question of imperial security in watertight compartments. Before we discuss the Estimates of the Services in detail we ought to have an opportunity of discussing the broad aspects of Imperial security. I do not agree with the 1707 hon. and gallant Member for Aston (Captain Hope) in thinking that a Ministry of Defence would result in either greater economy or greater efficiency. I shall not follow the hon. Member for Lime-house in some of his other conclusions. He began by complaining that the Estimates were too high, but they were not as high as the Estimates introduced by his Government last year, for which he voted. He then made a curious complaint that the Financial Secretary today and the First Lord yesterday had confined themselves to explaining the work of their Departments, and had not given us a lecture on peace. It is not their business to do that. He did not rebuke his own Ministers last year when they expounded the work of their own Departments and made very excellent speeches, which showed what one can learn when brought in contact with facts. He did not rebuke them for not giving lectures on peace on that occasion. We regard the Estimates this year as we regarded a good many things we agreed to last Autumn. They can be justified only by reference to the present financial position of the country. The Memorandum of the Secretary of State says:This reduction of expenditure has only been achieved with the greatest difficulty by resorting to a drastic suspension or retardation of many services which are essential to the well-being and efficiency of the Army.It is not the first time in our history this has happened. Many times before essential Services have been cut down, and that has generally had to be paid for by the lives of men. A hundred years ago we were doing the same thing and cutting down all those services built up after the experience of the Peninsular War. The consequences did not fall upon the Members of this House who cut them down; the consequences fell on the men who died for want of those services in the Crimea, I am glad to hear it stated that the special reduction cannot be maintained in future years, because the Memorandum goes on to say—It has only been rendered possible … by measures involving a definite and obvious loss of military efficiency …That seems to me one of the most serious statements that could be made. After all, nothing could be more wasteful or 1708 expensive than an Army which is not efficient, and the cutting down of training, both of the Regular Army and of the Territorial Army, is an exceedingly serious matter. I hope that next year it may be possible to be more generous, and also that it may be possible to make a beginning with that very desirable reform of feeding the Army, at any rate for a period of each year, on British meat.
The Financial Secretary spoke of the decreasing number of men in recent months who had come forward for vocational 'training prior to their discharge. I think that that is very unfortunate, because, as my hon. Friend pointed out, it is essential that a man leaving the Army with anything like a good character should be reasonably certain of obtaining employment afterwards. A man who leaves the Army and does not get employment is a very bad advertisement for it. I endorse the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aston (Captain Hope), that if a man who leaves the Fighting Forces and afterwards enters any other branch of the Service of the Crown could count his period of service in the Fighting Forces towards his Civil Service pension, it would be a very real attraction, and I hope that that suggestion may be considered.
With regard to the Officer Cadet Reserve, I should like to ask whether it is intended that these cadets shall receive any periodical training. It seems to me that their knowledge is probably almost entirely theoretical. They probably have never done duty as officers, and, unless they receive a certain amount of training every now and then, I doubt whether their value will be very great. As regards the new scheme for artillery and engineer units of the Territorial Army taking over the coast defences, I believe I am right in saying that the Territorial Army can only be embodied when the Army Reserve has been called out, and the Army Reserve will not be called out until there is a general mobilisation. That means the existence of a state of war. We cannot, however, wait for a declaration of war before manning our coast defences. Our coast defences must be manned at the very beginning of the precautionary period. Therefore, I should like to know whether any powers exist for calling out these artillery and engineer territorial units in advance of a declaration of war; and, if those powers do not exist at 1709 present, I hope that the Government will lose no time in obtaining them.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
There are one or two criticisms that I should like to make in connection with these Estimates. The hon. Gentleman, in dealing with the mechanisation of the Army, said that the Government were not contemplating, and did not see their way to making, any economy in that direction. Indeed, he used a very significant phrase when he said that an army might as well be abolished if it were nut thoroughly up to date in its mechanical appliances and knowledge. He also spoke about housing, and he might almost have been speaking of the Glasgow slums when he was describing the housing conditions of the British soldier. His description of the Aberdeen barracks and of the huts in various parts of the country would almost have done credit to a novelist writing a book of popular fiction. The contrast is this: The mechanical needs of the Army must be kept up to date; nothing must be saved on them; but, as regards housing the man who is to work this machine, we must let him be housed in filth and squalor and disgraceful conditions. Let the House note the distinction. Not a penny is to be saved on mechanisation; indeed, it is better to have no army than an army which is not effective; but when it comes to the men's lives, let them live in filthy huts that were built almost at the time of the Ark, in barracks built in 1780, in such places as the hon. Gentleman described at Carlisle—rat-infested places. But let us see that this machine to kill someone is beautifully equipped and that the knowledge of it is absolutely par excellence. Let this machine be got ready, which might not only have to be used against a foreign Power, but might be used on a miner in a trade dispute. The machine must be effectively oiled and well cared for; but as regards where the man is to live, let the rats share his housing conditions with him. That is the description which has been given to the House to-day.
I am not very much perturbed about the recognition of the Officers Training Corps. I may be wrong, and, if so, I shall be very glad to be corrected, but, as far as I can gather, the previous Secretary of State for War did not abolish entirely recognition of the Train- 1710 ing Corps. What happened, as far as I can gather, was that until a boy was 16 no grant was to be paid in respect of any equipment or anything in the nature of military training, but that after he had reached 16 the grant was to be paid. I find that on the 10th March, 1931, the right hon. Gentleman who was then Secretary of State for War said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1931; col. 1018, Vol. 249.]
§ Mr. COOPER
That relates to the Officers Training Corps. I was speaking of the Cadet Corps, recognition of which was withdrawn the year before.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I see; I am very much obliged. I should like to put this point. I am not arguing the pacifist, idealistic case, but the case that is generally argued by business men—the business case. Why should the Government go back to the granting of money for this purpose, seeing that the country is supposed to be so hard up. It is true that it is not proposed to give the grant this year—that recognition is now being given without the grant—but I understand that the grant will be given next year.
As far as I can gather from the memorandum, there is really no effective reduction as compared with the Estimates of last year. The number of men in the Army will remain the same; the savings are effected without in any way affecting the strength of the Army. The establishment, the fighting force of the Army, is the same, but certain services are being reduced. The housing programme is being reduced to some extent; the educational programme is being reduced to some extent; there are to be reductions in the wages of the men. In these ways the savings are made, but from the actual, effective Army point of view it remains at the same strength as last year, I cannot see much criticism of that statement from the Labour point of view, because the hon. Gentleman's predecessor said that the Army was then at the lowest possible point having regard to the safety of the country. He said that the Army could not be made any less without endangering the safety of the country. The present Government say the same as 1711 last Government, the difference being that they have taken, not from the strength of the Army but some £3,500,000 from other sources without affecting the actual strength of the Army itself. The previous Government and this Government agreed that the strength of the Army cannot be any less. I should be ruled out of order if I argued the question of an army versus no army, but, had I been here yesterday, I should have entirely opposed the Navy Estimates, and I shall vote entirely against the Army Estimates, because I think that, from the point of view of Governments, these forces are maintained for the purpose of strengthening Imperialism and capitalism against the mass of the common people, and not for the well-being of democracy or of the working people of this country.
I want to say a word about the hon. Gentleman's statement with regard to recruiting. During the 10 years for which I have been a Member of this House, I have heard, on each Army Estimate, almost a wail that recruits were not coming in. Conservative Members were suggesting that, if unemployment benefit were lowered and the conditions of benefit were made stricter, recruits would be obtained; but, even when recruits were obtained, those recruits, as was pointed out last year, were altogether of a stature and condition of health that did not permit of their becoming good soldiers. Mr. Shaw then brought home to the House with terrible realism the facts about the condition of the recruits who join the Army. He said that, despite the fact that they had lowered the height and lessened the chest measurement, they were still not getting the number of recruits required, and those who were being accepted were not satisfactory from the point of view of health and the physical standard. Here we have the hon. Gentleman saying that that is now ended, and the Army is capable of getting recruits of a physical and a health standard which has not been equalled in the past, and, so good is the response, that they are able to impose a more severe test, because the number is up and the class of recruits is better. I should have liked the hon. Gentleman to give us some reasons for that. The means test seldom affected the very poorest in the community. They 1712 already come within the scope of the means test. But it reduced the population which had a little comfort and a little physical well-being to the level of the very poorest. Until this year, Army recruits were practically confined to the very poor. To-day, for the first time, sections just outside the very poor and, therefore, of a higher physical standard are being forced into the Army. We constantly boast that we have no conscription and that a man is free to say "yes" or "nay." There never was a bigger misreading of facts.
The ordinary working person is forced into the Army as cruelly as ever he was even in the old days of the press gang. The means test forces a better type into the Army. It is not that they want to be there, but they are driven there by hunger. The hon. Gentleman said that for devotion, for leadership, and for character the British soldier is unequalled. In the same breath he says that these men are sent to live in Carlisle barracks, which is infested with rats, or to Malaya, where they will have the company of vermin. I never in my life heard such strange contradictions. The hon. Gentleman's praising of the good qualities of the soldier seemed to me to be overdone. Ex-soldiers go into the Post Office. That is a common form of employment for them. In sobriety, in honesty, in integrity, they are not any better than men who have not been in the Army. Let the hon. Gentleman go over the convictions for dishonesty and the ex-soldier is no worse, but no better, than the civil population.
One of the savings in these Estimates is on reservists' pay. The reservist got a shilling a day, and it was reduced to 9d. Of all the men in the Army, the reservist was the one who was singled out for a 25 per cent. reduction. Even the teachers got less. You entered into a contract with him and you broke it. These men cannot break their contract with the State, but the State can break its contract with them. For seven years they are to be in the Reserve, and they are kept to that contract. The State makes a contract in return to pay them a shilling a day for their services, and breaks the contract. It is different with the teacher. The teacher can throw up his job, and so can the postman. It is true that the sacrifice would be terrible if he did, but 1713 he could do it. The reservist cannot do it. It would be a crime.
I could have understood it if the State had said to the reservist: "We are going to renew our contract. We are going to make the terms different, and, if you like, you can cease to be a reservist." But they say: "You must continue to be a reservist, and we will take 25 per cent. off you." To add to the meanness of it, the 9d. is assessable under the means test. I hear Members talking about Russia keeping her contracts and her obligations. One would have thought their sense of patriotism would lead them to see that the Government kept their contract with the reservist. I should like to ask when the shilling is to be given back. You did not even have the decency to make the reduction 10 per cent. You made it 25 per cent. When he is in the Army he is honourable, capable and clever. The moment he is a reservist, you take 25 per cent. off him. The hon. Gentleman is a defender of the War Office, and it is his duty to defend the men in the Army, and the reservists as well, because any day might see them in the Army. It is not fair to allow the breaking of the contract and the disproportionate cuts in the pay of these men.
I should like to put another point regarding the wages of the soldiers themselves. The district that I represent has a very high recruiting average, and this complaint is constantly put before me by men who send money home to help their parents. If the hon. Gentleman could not restore all the wages, I was wondering if he could not restore the pay of those who have aged parents and make allotments to them. We hear talk about, reducing the Income Tax. If we are going to have an Army, for God's sake, beside making them mechanically sound, let us pay them well. Do not take their pennies and twopennies from them. Who would say that they are too well paid? Watch the fellows in Chelsea barracks. By Wednesday night all their pay has gone. Why take the few remaining pennies from them? They do not drink this money. They are a good type of clean living men in the main. I hope the War Office will restore the wages, and also the pay of the reservists which they have so unfairly taken. If the opportunity is given me, I will repeat 1714 what I have done in the past and vote entirely against the Army, as I would against all the Fighting Services.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) complained that the Estimates were presented to the House very late and that it was impossible to go into them in any detail. There is a body of opinion in the House which believes it is essential that the Estimates should be looked into by a committee before they are presented to the whole House. The Government of which the hon. Member was a Member took no steps in that direction, but, if the hon. Gentleman is prepared to press for some action of that kind being taken, he will have a good deal of support from different parts of the House. The hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) made an excellent speech, with a, great deal of which I am in thorough agreement. He complained, as did the right hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery), of the difficulty in which the House finds itself in considering the Defence Estimates together. The Financial Secretary will have seen that there is sufficient feeling in the House concerning this to justify the Government in attempting to deal with the matter.
May I join with others in congratulating the Financial Secretary on the way in which he presented the Estimates? It is a matter of extreme satisfaction to an old soldier like myself to feel that the interests of the Army are in such able and such sympathetic hands. I also wish to pay a tribute to the way in which the Army has responded to the national call for economy. It has made greater sacrifices than any of the other Services. In common with many other hon. Members, I cannot but regret that these sacrifices were necessary. It is obvious that if they were to be continued the efficiency of the Army would suffer very seriously. We would soon have only the semblance of an Army; we would still be paying very large sums of money for an illusory protection. To go on sacrificing efficiency to ill-considered economy would be as foolish as it, would be extravagant. It was a doleful tale indeed about all these Government buildings that are either collapsing or on the verge of collapsing, and I wondered whether my hon. Friend was not going to conclude 1715 by saying that the Army would no longer march to the tune of "The British Grenadiers," but would adopt the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down."
In view of the magnificent way in which the Army has responded to the call for economy, it may seem a little ungracious to criticise the overhead charges of the Army, but the fact remains—here I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook—that these charges are too high. When a fine comb was being put through the Estimates, it is a matter of very deep regret to me and to others that the main sacrifices had to be borne by the Fighting Services rather than by the administrative ones. The Army has decreased by 30,000 men since 1914, and, yet the administrative staff has increased. I do not want to criticise particularly the military side of the War Office. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Aston (Captain Hope) was, I think, a, little bit excessive in his criticism of the staff. He pointed out that fewer staff officers could often do the work just as well as the members of the staff to-day, but what he forgot was that in a tiny Army like ours it may be necessary to expand enormously, and it is therefore necessary to have rather more staff officers than would be required in another army.
I know the answer is always given that the large increase in the War Office staff since the War is due to the fact that we have now many specialised services which we had not in the past. But that does not apply to the civil side of the War Office. It is hard to understand, for instance, why the permanent Under-Secretary's Department employs 764 persons, costing £309,692 a year, whereas the combined departments of all the Army members of the Army Council employ only 825 persons at a cost of £385,500. Those figures alone show that there is something wrong somewhere. I do not want to weary the House by going into many figures, but it will be found that the War Office employs far too many individuals to administer the finance of so small an Army as ours. Then it seems to me, too, that the political side of the War Office, the Department of the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary, and their staffs, is more than the Army can afford. I hope that some cuts in that direction 1716 may be made. The administrator class in the War Office is also much too heavy in proportion to the Army. I am sure that if the Financial Secretary will look into the matter he will find that there are large numbers of individuals drawing comparatively large salaries and doing the work of girl typists.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that the War Office compared favourably with similar offices in other countries. He was entirely mistaken in that statement. I have collected figures for the purpose of comparison, and I find that the French War Office, which administers an army of about 510,000 individuals, is administered by a War Office comprisong 1,761 persons, soldiers and civilians, male and female, costing £350,000 a year. Those figures compare with our own War Office, with its 2,268 individuals, costing £818,000. I know that it is not possible truly to compare the one with the other. Naturally, in the French War Office, in the lower ranks, there are a good many individuals who are paid less money, but certainly, as far as individuals are concerned, there is no justification, in comparison with other countries, for employing as many people.
There is a further point I would put to the Minister. Is it a fact that the Whitley Councils are habitually consulted before promotions are made among the civilian staff at the War Office? I hope it is not the case, for I can hardly see what justification there could be for such a procedure. There is a further point. The May Economy Committee recommended that subsidies for mechanical transport should cease. They amounted last year to £20,100. This year they are still shown as £8,100. Does that mean that this is a terminal charge, or that the recommendations of the May Committee have not been adopted in their entirety I see under the same heading, on page 136, "Charges for Civilian Subordinates," and that the wages are exactly the same this year as last. The May Committee also made certain recommendations concerning the Ordnance factories, and I venture to ask whether those recommendations have been carried out or not.
I should like to put forward a suggestion which would be applicable to the War Office as it would be applicable to 1717 any Department of State. I have seen it applied with success to one of the biggest railway undertakings in the United States. It is as follows: Let the War Office or any other Department show the capital value of all land and buildings which they own in their Estimates at 5 per cent. The result will work out in this way. Suppose Knightsbridge Barracks were estimated at a value of £1,000,000. If they were shown year after year, as an item of £50,000 in the Estimates, there is no doubt whatever that that item would very soon disappear from the Army Estimates, and the public would be so much better off.
Before sitting down I wish to make a concrete suggestion, and I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend opposite will draw the attention of the Financial Secretary to it when he returns. Would he consider lowering the age of entrants to the Staff College? There are many advantages to be advanced for such a course to be adopted. In the first place it would mean economy. It is obvious that if you had younger officers with more junior rank than at present, the, Staff College itself would cost less money, and it would cost less money to replace those officers while they were being seconded for duty with their regiments. It has the further and extremely important advantage that it would bring the staff officer and the regimental officer much closer together than is the case to-day. The staff officer, having terminated his course fairly early in his career, would return to his regiment and stay there for a longer time and not merely be a temporary spectator, as is often the case to-day. It would broaden the basis of our staff and would also have the very great advantage that in time of emergency we should have far more numerous staff officers available than we have to-day. I would point out, and this will be my last word on the subject, that in all foreign countries the age of entrance to the Staff Colleges is very much lower than it is in our case.