§ ARMY ESTIMATES, 1933.
§ MR. COOPER'S STATEMENT.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Duff Cooper)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
A year ago, when it was my duty to introduce the Army Estimates before the House of Commons, I warned hon. Members that those Estimates were the Estimates for an exceptional year, that they must not be taken as the standard to which any future Estimates could be expected to conform, and that we were making that year economies which could be justified solely by the financial position of the country. I added that those economies were made with great misgiving that they were made to the detriment of the efficiency of the forces, that in one particular respect we would save nearly £1,000,000 on one item which we would have to replace in the coming year; and that we saw no prospect of saving it in any other direction. It is, therefore, with a clear conscience that I now bring to the House of Commons Estimates which show an increase over those of last year of £1,462,000. I do not suppose there is any pacifist, however extreme his views may be—and those who hold extreme views do sometimes advance very curious sentiments—who would say that it is a sound method of proceeding towards Disarmament to render such armaments as you retain inefficient.
It is not necessary to apologise for or to defend the size of the British Army as it exists to-day. I do not think that it has ever been seriously criticised either in this House or elsewhere. According to ex-President Hoover's estimate, the British Army is insufficient at present to carry out merely the police duties for which it is responsible in the British Empire, and if the size of the British Army is justified, then nobody can criticise those who spend such money as is necessary to render that Army efficient. Economies which detract from the efficiency of the Army are obviously false economies, and I do not suppose that any 1368 hon. Members opposite will criticise us for introducing these Estimates this year, when they remember that two years ago, when a Socialist Government had been in office for two years, when the international horizon was certainly no more cloudy than it is to-day, they introduced in this House Estimates which were de fended by the then Socialist War Minister, Mr. Tom. Shaw, on the ground that they had been cut down to the lowest possible point, and which were £2,000,000 higher than those we are introducing to-day. The increased expenditure does not represent any augmentation whatever in the establishment of the British Army, in the scale of munitions or in preparations for war. It is simply to replace the cuts which were made last year in face of the danger of national bankruptcy which was then thought—and rightly thought—to be even a greater danger than that of having inefficient fighting services.
As the House is aware, the principal economy last year and the principal increase this year is connected with the Territorial camps. Last year it was decided that we would ask the Territorial Army to forgo for one year their annual camps, and it was realised at the time that we were asking a very great sacrifice on their part. That sacrifice was made cheerfully and without complaint. I am able to say that this year we are making full provision once again for the Territorial Army to hold their camps in the ordinary manner, and this decision has cost the Army Estimates approximately £900,000. I should like to take this opportunity to repeat the tribute that I paid last year to the Territorial Army for the way in which they took that decision. It was asking a great deal of them, and they accepted it without demur and without complaint. I am glad to say that during the year nearly every unit of the Territorial Army, owing to the enthusiasm of all ranks and their unselfishness and willingness to make sacrifices, was able to hold a camp for a few days during the summer months. These camps were often undertaken at great inconvenience to the members of the units concerned and very often at considerable expense to the officers and others.
They were assisted by the Regular Army officially, and sometimes, I think, 1369 unofficially. The Regular Army in the districts did everything they could to help and to lend anything they could lend to make the temporary voluntary camps a great success. They were a great success. In some instances where tents were not forthcoming, the Territorials camped in barracks alongside the Regulars, and I am sure that both forces benefited by the closer acquaintance. The Territorials obviously learned a great deal in discipline and training from the Regulars, and the Regulars perhaps acquired something in enthusiasm from the Territorials. I am very glad that this trial, as it were, of the enthusiasm and loyalty of the Territorial Army has taken place, and that it withstood the trial so well. There have been few complaints, and at the end of it the Territorial Army is as enthusiastic as it was before.
Great sacrifice was also demanded from the Officers Training Corps. They were deprived of their camps, but they also have maintained their high standard of efficiency. At the beginning of this year we had a conference at the Staff College, at which were present the headmasters of the principal schools of England, and we discussed with them the future of the junior branch of the Officers Training Corps which is represented in all their schools. I was much interested to hear the views of the headmasters as to the value of the Officers Training Corps simply from the point of view of the schools and the importance that they attached to it. We were very glad to be able to assure them that we equally attached the greatest importance to the Officers Training Corps, that it did not exist solely for the pleasure or profit or interest of the schools themselves, but that it performed an invaluable service of furnishing officers for the Regular and Territorial Armies, and that in any emergency, for which we at the War Office would be responsible, we would be able to rely on the important support which that branch of the Officers Training Corps could give us.
It was foreseen when the decision was taken not to hold camps last year that it was bound to affect adversely recruiting for the Territorial Army. After all, the main attraction of the Territorial Army for years has been their annual camps, 1370 and when they saw the camps abolished and that it was uncertain whether they would be revived, it was difficult for them to keep recruiting up to the normal standard. It fell off 12,000 or 13,000 last year, and the numbers to-day are 35,000 below recruiting establishment. I do not think that we need be unduly alarmed with regard even to that figure. As soon as it was made known that the camps were to be resumed, an improvement was at once noticed in recruiting for the Territorial Army. That improvement has been maintained. I need hardly say that we are doing everything possible to encourage it. A special campaign is being conducted throughout the country. My Noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War and the Director-General of the Territorial Army have been addressing meetings which have been extremely successful. They have been held in every part of the country, and more are to be held in future to encourage recruiting for the Territorial Army.
I would like to take this occasion to make an appeal, and to ask hon. Members to take such opportunities as they may have to make a similar appeal, to employers of labour throughout the country. They can do so much to assist recruiting for the Territorial Army if they see that men who join that force are allowed to get away for the camps in summer, and are allowed to take their drill, and that allowance is made for them to undertake the duties that joining the Force imposes on them. I am sure that employers of labour who take the line of encouraging their men to join will be rewarded by finding that it does the men themselves a good deal of good; it does good to their health and their sense of discipline, and they come back from camp more ready for hard work, more prepared to throw their hearts and minds into it than when they went away. I am sure that Members throughout the House who are in touch with their constituencies can do a tremendous amount in that way to assist recruiting. One other direction in which it is hoped during this year to encourage recruiting is the proposal to hold a review in London of the London units of the Territorial Army. I hope that it will be found possible to hold the review in summer, but arrangements have not been completed, and it is impossible for me to say more about it. 1371 As far as recruiting for the Regular Army is concerned, the year has been entirely satisfactory. The present numbers are not quite up to establishment. That is not owing to any shortage of recruits. We are expecting that more people will join the Colours this year than will leave, and that at the end of the year the situation will be entirely normal in every respect. Last year I informed the House that we were making serious cuts in the training of the Regular Army, and those cuts were made with greater misgivings than any other cuts, because it was felt that we were risking the efficiency of the first line of defence. This year we are giving the Army its normal and full training. That is also responsible for some slight increase in expenditure. It is intended to hold concentrations of two divisions and two cavalry brigades on Salisbury Plain in September, and of a division at Catterick. Two brigades of the 4th Division will be concentrated at Colchester, and another will be trained in Sussex; and all battalions of the Royal Tank Corps will be in training in co-operation with the other arms. It is a matter of great satisfaction to the General Staff that we have been able to make this arrangement this year, and I would again remind hon. Members that this is only the normal procedure and what the Army demands for average and ordinary efficiency, and that any increase of our Estimate in this respect does not show any change from the normal policy of the Army Council.
We have been able during the year to get on with the mechanization of the Army. We have been able to assure ourselves that the light tractor, which has been adopted as the normal tractor for field artillery is, as it was believed to be, the correct machine to do that work, and we have been able to equip another field artillery brigade with this light tractor. Experiments are being made with a new four-wheeled vehicle which, it is suggested, is capable of doing all that the six-wheeled vehicle can do across country of the roughest kind. These experiments will prove of the greatest interest and importance in any future developments. Experiments have been going on for many years with regard to the Tank Corps. It has now been decided that light and medium tanks 1372 should be employed in combination, and therefore the tank battalions have been reorganised on that basis. A battalion will consist of a headquarters, three companies, each including medium and light tanks, and a fourth company of light tanks.
While speaking of mechanisation, I should like to inform the House of an interesting experiment which took place last year in North Africa. A convoy was formed of four vehicles to travel over a large district of country where they would encounter almost every difficulty which such vehicles would ever be expected or asked to encounter in any part of the world. It was composed of a 30 cwt. Crossley lorry six-wheeler, a 30 cwt. Commer lorry four-wheeler, a 15 cwt. Morris commercial van, and a nine horse power Riley car. They set out from Cairo in January last year and in 29 consecutive days covered 2,900 miles and reached their objective, Juba, near the Uganda border. The return journey was equally successful, and in all they covered 5,600 miles. They kept records of every delay and hindrance with which they met, and during the whole of the journey they were held up owing to mechanical defects for only three hours 50 minutes. The greatest credit is due to the men who were in charge of the convoy, namely, four officers and five non-commissioned officers.
It is a very remarkable record if you think of cars of that kind of calibre and weight travelling over every kind of ground—desert, swamp, fen and moor—without any possibility of resorting to workshops, and carrying it out so satisfactorily. During the whole time not one of the vehicles suffered from any major mechanical defect and none broke down. That shows three things. It shows that these particular vehicles can do that which is of the greatest military importance; that we are on the right lines in our development of mechanical transport; and that these cars are admirably fitted for every kind of Dominion and Colonial use. I hope that full publicity is given to this experiment, and it is largely up to the manufacturers of the cars concerned to give that publicity for it will materially assist the export of British motor cars. We are arranging for a very similar one over an even more arduous course to be undertaken during the 1373 present year, and I hope the results will be equally satisfactory.
Last year I had to report many distressing features with regard to the conditions in which the troops were housed. I am glad to say we have been able to remedy the major defects in this respect, and that we have, by the judicious expenditure of such funds as we have at our disposal, rendered the various barracks and huts in which the troops are lodged more habitable than they were. This also has cost money, and there remains, as there does in every department, a great deal still to be done. But what we have done has produced satisfactory results, because during this year the health of the troops has been better than in the past, which is something to boast of in a year in which there has been so much illness among the civilian population. Not only the health, but the discipline of the troops has improved during the year, for although the strength of nearly every battalion increased the number of courts-martial, the number of convictions and sentences of imprisonment and detention has diminished considerably.
Perhaps some hon. Members have been disturbed, either in their military or in their aesthetic sense—I have had complaints made to me personally—by reports which have reached them, or illustrations they have seen in the Press, of a new uniform which it is stated the troops are to wear in the future. I can assure the House that there is at any rate no immediate cause for alarm in this respect. A committee was set up some months ago to inquire into the question of the uniform worn by the troops on active service, and to see whether anything could be done in order to render it more comfortable, lighter and more suitable generally for the purposes for which it was designed. That committee has reached some provisional conclusions only, and, in pursuance of these conclusions, a certain number of troops have been furnished with a new type of uniform which will be thoroughly tested during the manoeuvres this year. If as a result of that test they are convinced that these reforms are justified and are desirable, then it will be for them to report to the Army Council, and for the Army Council and the other authorities concerned finally to decide whether this 1374 reform is desirable, or, if not, whether any reform at all is desirable in this matter.
While on the subject of clothing, I would remind hon. Members that a year ago I informed them of the decision to close down the Army Clothing Factory at Pimlico, and I then said that it had been decided, pending the result of an experiment which was to be tried, to carry on for a short time the manufacture of full dress at the factory—until we could be sure whether it was possible to obtain satisfactory full dress from the trade. The experiments which have been conducted have resulted in our being able to decide that the trade is perfectly qualified to furnish this form of uniform, and therefore it is not intended to set up any alternative factory. I always thought it would not be a wise policy to create a Government factory for such a limited purpose, and I am very glad that the trade have assisted us in these experiments to such an extent that we are now confident that the trade will in future be able to furnish all that we require, and that a very substantial saving will accrue to Government funds as a result.
Vocational training has gone on in a remarkably satisfactory way. I think that during the past year some 2,203 men have passed through these vocational training centres, of whom 1,706, representing 77 per cent., have gone straight from those centres into employment. Those are the figures up to the 30th September last year. Taking the last four years together, the average of those who have gone straight from the training centres to employment is a little higher; and, when we recall the unemployment during the past year, I think those figures alone entirely justify the existence of these centres. Of the remaining 23 per cent., we are not by any means sure that they have not subsequently found employment, but it is impossible, unfortunately, to keep in touch with everybody who leaves these centres. Certainly it is to be hoped that at least a large proportion of the remaining 23 per cent. subsequently found employment. I would like to see these vocational training centres used more than they are. I would like to see more men apply to go through them. The number of men who go into them from the Army is not yet satisfactory. I hope that during the coming 1375 year something will be done by officers and by any other agency that is practicable to encourage men to go from the Army into the training centres, because there is nothing more distasteful to anybody who cares for the Army than to think of men, after seven years or more of service in the Army, in which they have done their very best, going straight from that Army to join that melancholy, tragic army of the unemployed.
During this year many small Departmental economies have been made, which are hardly worth mentioning to the House to-day, but which do show the continued efforts of the War Office and the Army Council to save money wherever it can be saved. We are always on the lookout for any possible saving, both with a view to the advantage which thereby accrues to the State and the advantage which accrues to the Army, because if we can save money in one direction we may be allowed—though one is never sure that that will be the case—to spend it in another. I assure hon. Members that very careful consideration is given to every proposal for economy which is put forward. To give an instance, we have gone carefully into the proposals submitted by certain Members of this House who put up a list of proposals for economies throughout the Government service. Some of them have been adopted and some have been partly adopted, and even those which Have not been adopted have not been dismissed, for we are still prepared to consider them and are thinking over them. The difficulty in these matters is, very often, that they involve in their inception certain capital expenditure, and schemes which, though they may result in final economy, would probably increase expenditure during the current year, are the kind of schemes which people who are forming Estimates aye always inclined to put off to the year that is coming.
Throughout all these proposals, throughout the recommendations of the Private Members Commitee which went into the question of economy, throughout the proposals of all the committees, from the Geddes Committee to the May Committee, there has been an underlying suggestion that more might be done by greater amalgamation, by greater co- 1376 ordination, between the Fighting Services. I am fully convinced that there is a great deal of truth in that suggestion, though I would remind hon. Members that a great deal has already been done in that direction. Ever since the War reforms have been introduced with a view to securing greater co-ordination. We have, for instance, a contracts coordination committee, which does a great deal to see that there is no unnecessary competition between the three Fighting Services in the matter of contracts. We have also done a great deal of co-ordination in such matters as hospitals, chaplaincy services, education, research and experiment and supply services generally, and, while I should be the last to say that there is not more to be done in this direction, I assure hon. Members that the War Office are fully alive to the importance of this avenue of approach towards economy, and that we are pursuing that particular objective as much as it is possible to do so at present. We shall entertain with the greatest interest and greatest sympathy any suggestions which may be made in this Debate, or at any other time, for securing economy upon these lines.
During the past year there has been one important change in the composition of the Army Council, and I am sure the House will join with me in offering a tribute to our late Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Lord Milne, who vacated his appointment a few weeks ago. He held that, the most important position in the British Army to-day, for seven years, under four different Administrations and under four different Secretaries of State. During the whole of the time great changes have been effected in the Army, and I think there are no critics who will deny that those changes have resulted in the greater efficiency of the Army. He was able to make successive Army Councils work together enthusiastically, and on the best of terms, as a team, and I am sure that hon. Members opposite who have had the privilege and the advantage, as I have had, of serving with him will join with me in offering him a tribute, and in assuring the House that the country has lost for the time being a great public servant and a very useful member of the War Office and the Army.
The Army during recent months has had even more irreparable losses to 1377 record. We have lost in a few months three distinguished Field-Marshals. In the summer Lord Plumer died. I am sure that there are throughout the British Empire British subjects who served under him during the War who will regret his death, who will feel that they have lost in him somebody who had become to them, during those arduous years, the symbol of confidence and of victory. He was one of the most popular and one of the most successful of those who held high command during those anxious years. In Lord Methuen we lost ont of our oldest Field-Marshals. He had done the State great service over many years. When the Field-Marshal was dying and had already lost the power of speech he asked for a piece of paper. Given writing materials, with his last effort he scrawled three words on that piece of paper: "Good-bye, Scots Guards." A facsimile of that message was given to every man in the regiment, and I am sure those pieces of paper will be treasured, not alone for many years but for many generations, as evidence of that spirit of comradeship and of regimental loyalty which pervades the British Army.
The last to go was Sir William Robertson, the best known perhaps of all. His career is one which might serve as an inspiration to any young man in any walk of life who is thinking of joining the Army. It is an evidence that even in these days, and in the days that went before, that high ideal, which was one of the ideals of the French Revolution, the career open to talent, does and can exist in the British Army. There was a. man who started in the ranks and who ended as a Field-Marshal. His name is one which is almost a household word wherever British soldiers meet together. Like all old soldiers who have seen something of war and known the horrors of it, there was no more enthusiastic advocate for the cause of peace, and there was nobody who denounced war in stronger or more vigorous terms than the late Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson.
One of the proposals for economy, among other reforms, is that we should abolish the post of Field-Marshal. If we were to do that, we should save a few thousand pounds a year to the Revenue, but, in my opinion, that financial saving would not be worth what I would call the sentimental loss. When I say "sentimental" I am not using that word in a 1378 derogatory sense. I am not speaking of sentiment as something that is unreal and unimportant, for everybody knows that sentiment is one of the most powerful agencies in human life and is one of the strongest things in the world. The fact that to the last days of their lives the names of those three Field-Marshals of whom I have spoken were on the active list of the British Army was, I think, of real value and a real source of strength to the Army. To-day, the prizes that a military career offers are not too many and are not too glittering. We still want to persuade the best of our youth to join the Army. We still want to encourage the right and laudable ambition that they have to serve their country. I cannot help thinking that the knowledge that those rewards existed for the fortunate few who are at the summit of their career must have been of some importance in deciding young men whether they would adopt this noble profession or not.
I have given a short account of the fortunes of the Army during the past year, and of the prospects during the year that is to come. The Army has suffered during the past year, as have so many institutions and individuals, from the financial stringency of these days. The Army has borne those sufferings with exemplary patience and lack of complaint. It is now looking forward, as are so many other people and institutions, to the possibility of better times. I am sure that the House this afternoon, remembering the Army's performance in the past will send it a message of congratulation and encouragement.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I arm sure that I shall be expressing the views of the whole House in congratulating the Financial Secretary to the War Office upon the admirable manner in which he has presented the Estimates, and upon the way in which he has made them interesting. It is not an easy thing to present Service Estimates to this House, or to prevent them from becoming a, weary, dull recital of a number of disconnected points. The House is indebted to the hon. Gentleman for the extremely interesting statement that he has made. May I also, on behalf of my hon. Friends, echo what he said with regard to the service of Lord Milne, who has now retired from the General Staff. He was not at the War Office 1379 when I was there but, in common with everyone else, I knew of his very great services. I would also associate myself with what the Financial Secretary has said with regard to the distinguished Field-Marshals who have departed from us this year.
When I turn to the general question of these Estimates, the first thing that I am struck by is a certain omission. I read the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War on the Army Estimates, and the Memorandum of the Secretary of State relating to the Air Estimates, and I noticed a difference. That difference is extended to the hon. Member's speech. In. the Air Estimates, almost at the beginning there is a paragraph headed "Disarmament," with a. discussion in regard to the policy of disarmament. There is no such paragraph in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War, and throughout the statement that the hon. Gentleman has made there was not a, reference to the Disarmament Conference or to the discussions which have been going on at Geneva, either with regard to quantitative or qualitative disarmament. In fact, the whole of his speech might have taken place in a time before the League of Nations existed, and when no Disarmament Conference had ever been called.
The second point—I am afraid that I must just allude to it because others will no doubt do so—is one that we mention every year. One cannot consider Army Estimates apart from Air Estimates and Navy Estimates. Defence is a single question, and we never get a full discussion of defence questions in this House. The point that strikes ones that we have increases this year, considerable in the Army Estimates, large in the Navy Estimates and some, at all events, in the Air Estimates. We are told that last year was a very exceptional year, and that the Services all had to undergo certain cuts because of the very serious condition of this country. What surprised me was that apparently according to the hon. Gentleman that time is now passed. He asked us to send a hopeful message to the Army. I wondered where he has been these last few weeks, and where he has managed to get that spring of hope. Surely he has not got it from the Prime Minister, and I am sure he has not got it from the 1380 Chancellor of the Exchequer. I cannot think of any Minister who has spoken from the Government Bench but has been most pessimistic. I cannot see that conditions are in any way better than when the last Estimates were introduced; indeed, they are worse. The condition of the country is immeasurably worse. Unemployment is worse. It has been longer continued, and trade is worse. Yet we are told that it is time to re-establish expenditure on the Fighting Services. Again the Territorials can go to camp. Again we can make up all those Services that had to be cut last time. It shows a very extraordinary sense of values on the part of the Government.
I entirely agree that if you are to have an Army in being you cannot allow it to deteriorate, and you have to keep it up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear !"] Yes, but that does not apply only to Army Estimates; the Government propose to continue the cuts in everything else. We can see deterioration going on visibly. We have had the figures with regard to the rejection of recruits. The Financial Secretary to the War Office is encouraging with regard to recruiting; naturally it is always encouraging to recruiting when there are unemployment and starvation. Unemployment, starvation and hard times are wonderful recruiting agents, only, unfortunately, they produce very inferior material. If you are looking at this thing from the wider point of view of defence, you will find that you are steadily going down, owing to the deterioration of the men of this country.
I was surprised therefore at that note of optimism, and I was also surprised to find that the Government are prepared to pay something like £900,000 to let the Territorials have this camp. We are told that the recruiting has fallen off. I gather that patriotic Britishers must have a camp, and that unless you give them something like a holiday-camp you can not get them to serve. You are paying £900,000 to get these people to serve, and to keep the Territorial Army in good heart, when you could not find a paltry £40,000 for the people outside, ex-service men, Reservists and the like—an extraordinary mistake in values. I am not going to say very much about the question of the camps for the Territorials, as that will be raised later, on a definite Motion on the Territorial 1381 Army, but I must say that I can see no justification whatever for putting on that sum for Territorial camps again. I do not believe that the absence of camps would kill the Territorial Army. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] I am surprised to hear that there is a note of dissent. Am I to understand that the Territorials are only holiday-serving soldiers, and that, unless they get a holiday-camp, they are not going to serve? I thought the Territorial was a patriotic person who made sacrifices.
§ Brigadier-General NATION
Anybody who has been to camp with the Territorials will know that it is not much of a holiday?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I cannot settle the differences between the hon. Member and the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who used the word "holiday" and stressed that point. We shall find out about it at a later stage of the Debate. As at present advised, I am prepared to take the views of the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who has greater experience. I do not believe that there would be an absolute loss of -the Territorial Army if you did not have this expenditure. It is grossly wasteful at the present time, if you cannot afford expenditure on other vital services. I do not associate myself for one moment with the school of parsimony that is ruling this country, but I say, if you have to choose between one and the other, that it is quite ridiculous to choose the Territorial camps.
The next point that I would make with regard to expenditure, before dealing with certain specific points, is on the general question of Army establishments. If one looks back over the Army Estimates, one does not find very much difference year by year in the allocation of men to different services and the amount spent on them, and I am wondering whether that question is being considered. Let me take one example. At the Geneva Disarmament Conference there was a discussion about tanks. I understand that propositions were made to abolish tanks altogether, and that we suggested Amendments which would keep our tanks all right—as is generally done when anybody of authority in the Fighting Services goes to make recommendations at Geneva. I wonder whether that discussion is reflected at all in these Estimates. As far as I can gather, the Tank Corps is to be 1382 reorganised. I should hardly have thought, if we were taking at all seriously the question of the abolition of tanks, that it would be worth while to carry on that reorganisation, and it rather suggests that the question was not taken very seriously.
Again, as regards the number of troops, one finds, as usual, that the largest body of troops are the infantry, and I wonder how far the whole question of infantry, artillery, tanks, and so forth is being considered in the light of modern warfare. I was reading the other day in a military periodical an article discussing the whole of that question. It would appear that almost all War Offices think that the next war will be like the last War. When we discussed in this House the subject of Disarmament, we had a striking speech from the Lord President of the Council. He stressed the importance of the Air Force, and we gathered from him that, whatever might happen to our brave lads overseas in the infantry, we who were keeping the home fires burning here, being over age, would be wiped out by the Air Force. There does not seem to me to be, in this series of Estimates that are presented to us, any particular recognition of the changed conditions that are likely in the event of war occurring again. Perhaps it will be said that we are not contemplating any further war, and that this is only what Mr. Hoover described as "a force insufficient for police duties within the Empire"; but I notice certain extra expenditures in the year's Estimates which are said to be due to preparations for mobilisation—Army Ordnance expenses and so forth. I should like to know whether those are merely routine preparations for mobilisation for police work within the Empire, or whether preparations are going on with a view to something larger in the way of war in the future.
I turn now to one or two points regarding the actual increase in the Estimates. I am sorry to observe that. wherever there is an increase, there seems to be an absence of notes on the pink sheets included in the Estimates. The first big increase, in connection with Territorial camps, has been explained. The next large one appears on page 187 of the Estimates—an increase in warlike stores. Guns and Carriages and Gun 1383 Ammunition show very large increases, but there is no note as to why that is the case. When there is a decrease, we get an explanation. I should like to know what is the cause of this great increase in Guns and Carriages and Gun Ammunition. It may be merely a making up of short supplies last year, but I should like to know more details about it. Again, as regards the purchase of land, which is referred to on page 203, I note that there is an increase of £82,000, but that particular item is not mentioned in the notes. I should like to know where the land is, and what is the need for an increase.
There is a further increase of some size in regard to the Singapore defences. I should like the Minister, when he replies, to tell us what is the policy with regard to Singapore. I notice in the Navy Estimates a renewal of expenditure in regard to Singapore. I rather hesitate to speak too much on that question at the present time, but I should like to know whether we are going on with that base or not. I rather object, myself, to the way in which the Army is generally involved in expenditure on behalf of its sister Services, particularly for services for which there seems likely to be very little return. I remember that in my time we had to provide a good deal of auxiliary works of various kinds for air defence, but we have had it on the best authority, from the late Lord Privy Seal, that there is no such thing as air defence that is in the least effective. I objected at the time. I said that I did not believe very much in air defence, and I believe that many authorities at the War Office do not think there is much in it, but we were dragged in there. Now, apparently, the Singapore base is to be gone on with, and the Army is dragged in there also, to make certain defence preparations for the sister Service. I have never been in favour of the base myself. I should like some information as to the amount that is going to be expended on it, and what is actually going to be done in this present year. I see that we are going to spend £15,000.
I should also like to ask a, question about Catterick camp, which is another item involving a good deal of expenditure. I notice that, while the original Estimate providing for troops at Catterick was £1,235,000, that has now 1384 gone up to £1,438,000. What is the reason for that increase, in view of the fall in costs; what is the total anticipated cost of the whole Catterick scheme; and when is it likely to be finished? I was there the other day, and saw as much of it as a heavy snowfall would allow. There had been a very great advance since I was there in 1924.
I should like to know whether in the course of the year there has really been a close review of the whole expenditure in these Estimates. We were told last year that the Army Estimates had been subjected to an all-over cut. I think that an all-over cut is an extraordinarily unscientific way of going to work. It may have been considered necessary when the Government were in a panic, but it is not good enough, if you really think there is a demand for economy, just to go back to what you were before. I should like to know whether the whole question is being overhauled. I raised a number of points last time, to which the Financial Secretary did not give me any reply at all. I should like to know whether consideration has been given to the question of the relative number of officers to other ranks. I raised that point last time, and I do not want to elaborate it, but in my view, owing to the superior education of the men in the ranks to-day, and the different type of warfare, the proportion of officers to men is too high. I should certainly like some information with regard to the War Office staff, which is still very high.
One finds that there is a cadre of officers, including the Regulars, the Permanent Staff, the Supplementary Reserve and the Territorials, numbering 7,640, and you have for their care 230 officers on the War Office staff, that is to say, one in 33. That seems to me to be an extraordinarily high proportion. It is no use the hon. Gentleman telling me that it was perhaps higher when I was at the War Office as Under-Secretary in 1924; that is not the point. Neither is it of any use to tell me that a similar number was approved by a previous Secretary of State, whether a Socialist or anyone else, because the House of Commons is not concerned with preserving a continuity of policy, particularly if it happens to be a continuity of a policy of mistakes, and I am far from claiming that mistakes are not made by Socialist Secretaries of State 1385 and Under-Secretaries. I should like an answer on the merits of the question. Again, as regards staffs of commands, where I admit there has been no, increase, I am far from satisfied that we are not still overstaffed there, though certainly not as overstaffed as we were some 10 years ago.
Looking at these Estimates, and considering them, as we must, in connection with the Navy Estimates and the Air Estimates, while we may claim to have been more virtuous than any other Power, and to have brought down our Estimates, the fact remains that we have still an enormous burden of armaments. We are told that these merely represent police for the Empire. We shall hear next week the exact reason for the Air Force, and we shall be told that it is for the purpose of policing the Empire from the air; and we shall be told also that the Navy is only for police duties overseas. It seems to me to be an extremely heavy burden of police work. I should agree that the amount which we spend on the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force must depend on our policy, and that the extent to which it is possible to disarm must depend on world conditions; but I am far from satisfied that this country during the past year has really effectively pressed forward the cause of disarmament. I should be out of order if I tried to discuss the foreign policy of this country at Geneva, but I think that one must protest at the size of these Estimates, and at the increase which they show. We must remember that, owing partly to world conditions and partly to the policy of the Government, the general flow of wealth has steadily gone down and conditions are very bad. We are asked to carry these enormous sums, which we are told are an insurance. It is no good having such a heavy insurance as breaks your business. If you are going to be ruined in one way you may as well be ruined in another.
In our view there has been a failure to get adequate reductions in world armaments. That failure has been very largely caused by the fact that, whenever you come to discuss reductions of particular arms, you depend inevitably on the experts in those arms. You never have anyone going to Geneva with a clear idea of defence as a whole. Although we have a Committee of Imperial Defence—I should not underrate its work—you 1386 have still, in effect, these three services, largely in watertight compartments, working largely with separate policies, looking out on the world and looking at possible dangers not from exactly the angle of the defence of this country, but from the angle of the potential opponents to their particular arms. By this we get a maximum of expenditure and a minimum of security.
I should like, if it were possible, some time this year if we could have a discussion on the whole question of defence and the organisation of defence. Meanwhile I must express my regret that the Minister should get up in these days and make no reference whatever to the possibility of Disarmament and that at this time, when we are told that everyone has to economise, the Government should come forward with increased Estimates for the Fighting Services. We shall oppose the Motion on those grounds. We shall not vote against the particular Vote to-night. We shall leave that for the Report stage, on which we shall raise various points of detail. But we shall oppose this Vote on the ground that in these days, when appeals are made for economy, everyone can see that these actual increases in the Army Estimates are going to have an extremely bad effect throughout the whole country.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Captain SIDNEY HERBERT
I should like to add my tribute of praise to my hon. Friend for the businesslike, clear and, indeed, brilliant way in which he has introduced these Estimates. The fact that he was able to do it without once consulting a note rendered me for the moment a little giddy. I recollect no such prodigious speech since I saw the late Mr. Bonar Law introduce a Budget with the help of nothing but an illegible wisp of paper from his waistcoat pocket. I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman who spoke last in his wish that the Financial Secretary should have made yet another of those pious aspirations towards Disarmament, which are quite useless unless you attempt to implement them. The Labour party still believes in a policy of gestures. A little of that has spread into our own party with those who deserted their party for ours. Gestures are helpful. If you take off your hat to a lady at one end of Bond Street, that may be an amiable and a helpful gesture.
1387 If you continue down the street repeating it, you may be considered foolish. If you continue it from one end of the street to the other, you will probably find yourself in gaol. This country has done far better than make gestures as far as the Army is concerned. Of all branches of the Services, the Army is the one which has the least of which to be afraid in its policy towards Disarmament, a policy which has set an example which no country in the world has seen fit to follow.
It is not of this, however, that I wish to speak, but of a very small and humble economy which, I am afraid, has been rejected by the Army Council more than once, but which I wish to press on the Financial Secretary, an economy which, so far from militating against the efficiency of the Army, would, I think, actually add to that efficiency. I refer to the proposal to amalgamate the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich with the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. At the Royal Military College, I understand, there are less than half the cadets that it could accommodate. If to-morrow you were to march the whole of the cadets now at Woolwich to Camberley, you could put them up comfortably without adding anything except, possibly, a new building for the staff, a few more houses for married officers and a few more parade grounds and playing-fields on land that belongs to the War Department. Think of the saving that you would get in overhead charges by combining them at one spot. In the first place, you would have only one major-general instead of two. Before the War it was thought possible for an officer of the rank of colonel to become a. commandant as well at Sandhurst and at Woolwich. During the War a major-general was supposed to be able to command 20,000 men if he could get them. Since the War they think it takes two major-generals at Woolwich and Sandhurst to deal with 250 to 300 boys in each case. I do not think it would be a great stretch of such an officer's powers and abilities if he combined the opportunity of looking after 600 or 700 boys. Just as it would reduce the officers of that rank from two to one, so you could on the whole reduce the staff and the instructors generally. You could sell the site at 1388 Woolwich for a very large sum of money. It is an ideal site for the building of factories, with both land and water transport handy. It is not an ideal site for a training college. To start with, in time of war, it is at the point of maximum vulnerability that exists in the whole country.
So far from the economic point of view. From the efficiency point of view, there is a very great deal to be said. The main objectives of the British Army differ from those of any army in the world. They are, first of all, ability to meet, in its integral units and immediately, any menace that may occur in any part of the Britsh Empire and, secondly to form a cadre from which the existing Army could be pulled up to 10 times its strength in the shortest possible space of time. To achieve the second of these objects postulates that every officer ought, on the outbreak of war, to be capable of receiving promotion at least one or two ranks higher than that in which he finds himself at that time, and that he should be eligible for receiving that promotion not only in his own unit but in another branch of the Service. Most people will agree that it was an unpleasant surprise to find how few junior regular officers in the War knew anything at all of work outside their own unit or branch of the Service. I agree that that has been a good deal ameliorated by the fact that officers now do many more courses and have much longer attachments to other units, but there still remains a certain ignorance between branches of the British Army and there still remains, regrettably, a certain amount of jealousy between those branches. If you had candidates for all branches of the Army in one training establishment, trained on the same lines, meeting each other and making friends together, a great deal of those jealousies and prejudices would be overcome. It is quite erroneous to suppose that artillery officers, engineer officers, and so on, require a, strictly specialised training because, if that were so, they would not accept, as they do, University candidates with open arms. Let us have a training which makes for much greater homogeneity in the Army, which abolishes prejudice, which gets these lads to meet each other when they are young, instead of waiting in the watertight compart- 1389 ments of their units until they get on to some staff job after the age of 30 so that they do not really understand the work of units other than their own.
I know the difficulties of getting such a measure through. The only argument against it is the argument of sentiment. The artillery and the engineers would be very loth to give up Woolwich. The Royal Corps of Signallers have been there a very short time. They are a comparatively young force and, like sailors, they do not care, but this is not a time, when regiments with such magnificent traditions have had to be disbanded, to give too much consideration to sentiment. I, therefore, beg my right hon. Friend in the course of the next year to press this beneficial economy forward and I hope, too, that the new Chief of the Imperial General Staff, another gunner by-the-by, whose fine record shows his good judgment., will not let his sentiment as a gunner overcome his wisdom as a soldier.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
I would like to thank my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office who introduced these Estimates for the very clear and interesting way in which he disclosed them to the House, and also to re-echo the feelings of sympathy which he expressed in regard to the losses which the Army sustained during the past year. We have heard much of what he has said to-day with very great satisfaction. He had much to tell us that was good with regard to the improved conditions of the housing of the troops, and those of us who represent industrial constituencies will have heard with great satisfaction of the progress that has been made in the vocational centres and of the extraordinarily fine results in placing men in occupations. We have all had cases brought to our notice in the past of men who, having left the Army with no occupation at their fingers' ends were consequently very much handicapped in obtaining work. The statement in regard to health and discipline was indeed encouraging and satisfactory.
I regret—I suppose that everybody in the House regrets—the fact that there is an increase in the Estimates, and that there should be a necessity for it. I associate myself with the suggestion which was made by the hon. Member for Lime- 1390 house (Mr. Attlee), that we should discuss in this House, at an early date, the subject of co-ordinating the defence forces of this country. There are many of us who feel that there might be economy and also efficiency to be derived if that matter were thoroughly explored. The Financial Secretary intimated that some of those aspects were under consideration and that some progress had been made. I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse that if we are to have a discussion in this House, he and his friends are the only people who can arrange for it. It would be for them to take steps through the usual procedure of the House to have a discussion on those particular lines.
I do not wish to discuss any matters of broad policy, for Army Estimates take me to a line of country which I am not very competent to follow. I try in my interventions in discussions to confine myself, as far as possible, to a, line of country through which I have some reasonable prospect of getting. I would draw the attention of the House—in fact my hon. Friend has already done so- -to one or two circumstances which give rise to disquiet in connection with the financial control of the War Office. The hon. Member for Lime-house referred to the total staff and personnel of the War Office. I put down a question on that subject to-day, and I received an answer that the personnel was 2,246 this year in comparison with 1,878 in 1914. That question is always put on the day upon which the Army Estimates are introduced, and I imagine that the Department will be very much surprised if the question were not put. Last year it was put down by the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears), and Members who put it always use it as a peg on which to hang some observations with regard to the staff of the War Office upon which they require some explanation. We know that the Army in 1933 is a totally different proposition in every way from what it was in 1914. I am not an authority on these matters, but probably the Army to-day is as different from the Army of 1914 as the Army of 1914 was different from the Army of Wellington. If there has been a revolution in the objectives, equipment and control of the Army, there has been no less a revolution 1391 in office management and business control.
The fact that the personnel of the War Office stands to-day at 2,246, some 400 more than in 1914, is incredible to those who are conversant with up-to-date and first-class commercial practice. It is a thing which they find exceedingly difficult to understand. Although the character and objectives of the Army have altered, the work of the pay department and other departments remains the same. It is true that there have been additional services added to the War Office since the War, but in the bulk the character of the work is of the kind which lends itself freely to the development of mechanisation and the modern practice carried out in all large and up-to-date commercial institutions. I put another question to my hon. Friend to-day on the subject of the mechanisation of one par titular department, and he told me that the number of adding and printing machines and the like employed was 75 I also asked whether the mechanisation was complete, and looking at the answer which I have since received I find that no answer was given to that question. Indeed, that was not necessary because the number of machines given indicated quite clearly that the process of mechanisation had not in fact been carried out.
There are many Government Departments which are fully mechanised in regard to their office work. I will instance the Post Office Savings Bank, which is a model to other banking institutions and to other Government Departments. It is recognised as being the finest centre of work of its kind in the country. I ask my hon. Friend—he may not be able to give the answer offhand—whether the War Office methods have been compared, as far as they are comparable—and they are comparable in some respects—with the Post Office Savings Bank, and whether, if a comparison has been made, the output in the relative Departments of the War Office is equivalent to that which obtains in the Post Office, or is at all comparable with it? From the knowledge which an outsider possesses, one cannot but think that there must be scope for a very considerable reduction in some of the items which appear in these Estimates.
1392 I wish to refer to another matter which is profoundly disturbing. The Financial Secretary in introducing the Estimates made reference to the further experiments which have been carried out with regard to certain types of uniform in order to see whether or not the factory at Pimlico might be utilised for carrying out that particular Army manufacture. He said that as a result of experiments it had, unfortunately, been found that they were unable to utilise the factory for that particular object. It was found that the outside contractors, or whoever competed in the business, were able to do the work more economically than it could be done in the factory. The whole history of the factory in recent years has been profoundly disturbing. On 13th May, 1930, the operations of the. Office and the operations of this factory in particular were under investigation by the Public Accounts Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) being in the Chair.
The position of the factory—its efficiency, and economy in relation to outside contractors—was under discussion, and the general tenour of the evidence which was given before the Committee by those who were representing the War Office on that occasion was that the factory was highly efficient and was a very profitable venture being carried on by the War Office. In fact, so glowing was the evidence that Members of the House who were present were left in doubt as to why the work was not extended or why such work was not carried on in regard to other supplies for the Army. The answers given in that regard were that if the sites were available, or if it were not for capital expenditure, the Department would only be too pleased to extend that particular operation. Within 18 months a decision was taken to close this highly prosperous, successful and economic factory, or, at all events, the decision was taken to close it down in part. We have heard to-day that it has been closed down altogether, and that very substantial savings have been effected by doing it.
During the course of the Estimates last year the matter was raised by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite who urged upon my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary the necessity of keeping on the factory if he could possibly do so on the ground of the number of 1393 men and women who would otherwise have to be discharged and have difficulty in finding occupations elsewhere. My hon. Friend was by no means unsympathetic to that aspect of the case. He made it clear in the course of the Debate that if the economy which would result from the closing had not been very considerable, they would have been exceedingly reluctant—in fact they were reluctant—to take the step which they had done. This is the disturbing aspect of the case. Here is a factory and business which have been carried on ever since the Crimean War. In May of one year it is stated to be prosperous and to be an economy and saving a large sum of money to the nation, and within 18 months it is to be closed down, and a saving of £25,000 or £50,000 a year is to be made by so doing.
I am not suggesting that the factory has always been losing money. It would be an unreasonable suggestion to make, but who is to know how long it has been losing money? I cannot refrain from saying that procedure of this kind is disturbing and disquieting, and a reflection upon the efficiency of the costing department, and upon the efficiency and capacity of the contracting department or whoever is responsible for checking off these matters against outside competitors. It is more than that. It now calls into question the efficiency and the financial control of the War Office which allows a distinguished, able and trusted public servant to give evidence as to the prosperity of the factory, when, in fact, the actual reverse appears to be the case. I have brought this matter and other matters before the House because it is of the utmost importance, when cuts are being made and everybody is suffering, and when reductions are being made here and there which are distasteful, not only to those who have to undergo them, but to many of us in this House, that we should be satisfied that there is no inefficiency in any quarter whatever, and that no money has been spent which is unnecessary. I am by no means satisfied in this particular case that there is not scope for a very considerable reduction in expenditure.
There are many operations which are carried on by the War Office which are directly comparable with large-scale operations carried on outside. For example, I should like to ask whether 1394 the cost of the repair of motor vehicles compares with the cost incurred by the London General Omnibus Company and other concerns which have similar operations to carry out? It is most important that we should have the best checks available on all these substantial operations. The hon. Member for Limehouse made reference to the fact that there was no allusion to Disarmament in the speech of the Financial Secretary. I am always willing and anxious to take part in a discussion, inside or outside the House, for the purpose of bringing about disarmament within the limit that it is possible to secure it, but I do not feel that on these Estimates, when we are concerned primarily with the efficiency and the conduct of the Army, and when we are concerned to hear from the responsible Minister an account of the proceedings during the past year and anticipations for the future, that we should widen the discussion by introducing a matter which can be more appropriately discussed on other occasions.
In recent years, since the War, there have been a number of inquiries into affairs of the War Office, in connection with which the assistance of business men and others has been sought. I do not suppose that the Army Estimates are ever discussed in this House without someone making a suggestion that the time has come for another investigation of that kind. The Financial Secretary pointed out that there have been seven inquiries of that sort since the War. I think it is high time that the War Office should have the assistance of a committee competent to discuss and to advise on these particular matters, and other matters, and I would urge that the Minister should give this matter serious consideration. It is important when a, committee has been established and it makes its report it should not, as usually happens, disappear into thin air. If a committee is set up, I suggest that they should be kept in being, because it has been the rule that committees which have come to the assistance of Departments in the past have dissolved after they have reported. Difficulties often arise subsequently, their suggestions are not carried out and their efforts are very largely wasted.
The Esher Commission is a case in point in regard to the War Office. They 1395 made a very large number of highly valuable suggestions but they were not carried out. It may be that there were substantial reasons why they should not be carried out. If, however, a committee is appointed in order to bring the highest experience from outside to bear upon these questions, I suggest that it should be kept in being, and that if difficulties arise in the carrying out of any of its suggestions the chairman, or some other member of the committee, should have an opportunity of discussing them with the Department, because it is only in that way that the full results of the good work of these men can be realised. The matters to which I have referred arc of great substance. I claim that there is great scope still for reduction of expenditure. within the War Office, without any necessity for any inefficiency whatsoever.
§ 5.50 P.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
Some reference has been made to Army dress, in which connection I have vivid recollections of the time when I had to wear it. I remember the irksomeness of having to wear it under certain conditions. If the Parliamentary Secretary is going to reform Army dress, he might consider what has been done in regard to the wearing of puttees over long trousers. I have seen soldiers since the War and I gather that they still have to fold the puttee over part of the trouser. There was always a difficulty in fixing the puttee, when you had to wear long trousers. Since the War, however, there has been alteration in this respect. Another point to which I would draw attention is the collar of the tunic. The private has to wear a tunic with a very stiff collar. If he appears on parade with the collar loose, he is picked out as being careless and he is "in" for it. The officer has a different kind of dress. He has a looser collar. When the dress is reformed I would like those who are reforming it to remember the time when they wore uniform, particularly with the stiff collar of the tunic, on a warm day. I would ask them also to remember how keen the Army is on having the men up to the mark when they have to be examined on parade. These little, irksome things give rise to disgust on the part of the men when they have to put up with them.
1396 I notice from the memorandum that the discipline of the Army has been improved. The discipline will certainly be improved if these little, pettifogging grievances are removed and the men are treated as ordinary decent human beings in regard to things that can very well be abolished. There are very few soldiers who when they join up do not want to do their best, and they would do their best if these grievances were removed. I hope the Financial Secretary will remember his early days, because he will have had experience, as I had, of discomfort in regard to stiff collars. I hope that he will give the men a little more freedom at the neck when they are on parade. Mention has been made of the health of the Army. I notice that the number of rejections for entrance into the Army has increased from 335 to 370 per thousand. Is that because the standard is higher or because there has been deterioration in the physical standard of our manhood? Either the standard of efficiency has gone higher or the efficiency of our manhood has gone lower. In regard to vocational training, I notice that 2,203 men passed through the training centres in 1932, compared with 2,249 in 1931. Seeing that this work is so useful in regard to the soldier when he returns to civilian life, is it possible for the Financial Secretary to tell us why there has been a reduction in numbers? Is it because of any difficulty with the men, or because of something that they dislike?
In regard to expenditure, this is the first time since 1922 that there has been an increase asked for on the Army Vote. None of us want an inefficient Army. It must be efficient, but it is very hard for us on these benches, when we are fighting for a reduction of the Army, to defend an increase in expenditure. We have always considered that there should be progressive reduction of expenditure with regard to the curtailment of the Army, and it is a matter of dismay to find that this year there is to be an increase of £1,462,000. That requires more explanation than the Financial Secretary has given. He told us that it was due to the Territorials going to training camps this year. He asked us on these benches if we would help him in securing economy. In that regard I should like to make a few suggestions.
1397 I find that the Cavalry, including the Household Cavalry, is estimated this year to cost £605,000. That is a slight decrease. I questioned the Financial Secretary to-day as to the relative cost of the Household Cavalry, because in working out the cost of the 13 Cavalry regiments I find that the cost of each regiment is £46,538. In reply to my question the Financial Secretary told me that the cost of the two Household Cavalry regiments is £158,000, so that each one costs one and a-half times more than an ordinary Cavalry regiment. How does that increased cost for the Household Cavalry regiment come in? Is it because there are more officers for the Household Cavalry, or because they have to wear certain adornments over and above other Cavalry regiments when they are on parade in London? If that is so, it ought to be altered. Anyone who goes from this House to Hyde Park will notice the changing of the Guard, and I take it that the Household Cavalry supply the soldiers for that ceremonial. What benefit is derived from that? This is a time for efficiency and not a time for show. We do not want these showmen any longer. I do not think that it appeals to recruits. If the Financial Secretary is out for economy this is one of the matters with which he should deal. He should go in for efficiency in the Army rather than have showmen, which seems to be the purpose of the Household Cavalry.
The next point is in regard to the coordination of the Services. We have an example of the way in which we could dispense with certain heads of the Army. We have a Secretary of State for War in the other House, and we have the second member of the War Office in the other House. We have only one representative of the War Office in this House, the Financial Secretary, and I think that everyone who heard his speech will agree that he has been able to carry out his work very well. He has explained the work of his Department to the House in a manner which could not have been bettered; indeed, I question if it could have been equaled by anyone else. I want to know whether there is any need for the two gentlemen in the other Chamber. The House of Commons stands for efficiency. If those two gentlemen are really of use, and not, like the Household' Cavalry, out for show, then they 1398 ought to be here. If they are not required here, they are not required anywhere, and we could do away with them and bring about a little saving in that direction, which would be very useful in a time when there is the direst need for economy.
The time has come when the House of Commons should face the co-ordination of the Services. We must have a strong defence force at a time like the present—no one believes that this nation should disarm as long as other nations are arming—but while we want to feel that our defence force is efficient, we must also economise as much as possible. Each section of the Service does all it can to get the last penny from the Treasury. There is a great need for co-ordination under one head. It would be a saving in money for the nation, and would give us a more efficient defence force than we have at present. I put these points to the Financial Secretary in a spirit of helpfulness, and not in any way as an attempt to decry the Army, Navy or Air Force, recognising, as we do, that they are needful. But we must do all we can to prove to the citizens of this country that we are trying to economise. It is very hard to be deliberating one day upon a Motion such as that which was moved yesterday on poverty by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the next day to deal with some branches of the services, costing money, for which we think there is no need. It should be our endeavour to provide an efficient defence force, and at the same time to economise-as much as possible.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Captain ARTHUR HOPE
I should' like to join in the congratulations to the Financial Secretary on his presentation of the Estimates. There is no need for any apology on his part for the increase this year. It is obvious that last year economies were made—and rightly made —which could not be renewed in subsequent years. The increase this year, which is largely due to the better training of the Territorial Force and the replacement of necessary stores, is entirely justified. I could not follow the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) in his statement that there is no necessity for the Territorials to go to camp this year; that it would not affect their efficiency. Of course it would. Men join 1399 the Territorial Army because they think it is the patriotic thing to do and, partly, to become efficient; and if they do not go to camp how can they become efficient? It was a doubtful point last year whether the camps should be abolished, but they were, and the men accepted the decision willingly. If it had been repeated this year it would have had a permanently adverse effect on the future of the Territorial Army.
There are one or two points which I should like to bring before the notice of the Financial Secretary. There is the question of horses in the Army, not necessary for the cavalry. It was delightful to hear the hon. Member's remarks on the subject of the Household Cavalry, which no doubt will be answered by some hon. Member who has been in the Household Cavalry. But I am much perturbed by the condition of the horse-breeding industry in this country. I do not know what is the future of the mechanization of the Army, whether it will be increased, or whether it is satisfactory or not; but, whatever happens, there must be in all branches of the Army a supply of horses in time of war, and I much regret the decision to do away with the light horse-breeding subsidy. It was only a very small amount. I agree that small amounts in the aggregate amount to a great deal, and one must not be too ready to criticise small economies. But the horse-breeding industry in this country is in a serious condition. There is no doubt that owing to a lack of demand in ordinary civil life there would be, if war happened to be declared, a shortage of horses.
I should like to ask what the position is for collecting horses for the Army in the event of mobilisation. Is it the same system that was in force in 1914, when each area was allotted certain powers to commandeer horses at fixed prices from local farmers, or is there some fresh scheme? I feel that any Expeditionary Force sent out now for European purposes, or for purposes elsewhere, would find great difficulty not only in collecting a sufficient number of horses but in sending out reinforcements. There is one small economy that I should like to suggest. I think that troops are moved about the country too much. The moves from one station to another of 1400 cavalry and infantry are fairly frequent. It is said that we cannot have detached units for too long because they lose efficiency in not being trained in larger units; but I think some change should be made. The Household Cavalry move every year from London to Windsor and from Windsor to London. That change is, I think, too frequent, and if they moved every other year it would be more useful and economical. Also units stationed at Edinburgh and York are moved to Tidworth and Aldershot after short intervals of time. Units are constantly transferred from one part of the country to another at great public expense, and at great cost to the officers and their families. I know the argument is that it is essential to train them in large units, but I think in regard to cavalry, at any rate, that that is a complete mistake. The duties of cavalry in a future war will be essentially those of mounted infantry, they will be used not in organisations of cavalry but very largely as troops or squadrons attached to infantry brigades. It would be much more useful, therefore, if cavalry training was directed more on these lines.
I support the request made by the hon. and gallant Member for the Abbey Division of Westminster (Captain Herbert) for the amalgamation of Woolwich and Sandhurst. There should be far more co-ordination between the different units of the Army, there should not be the feeling that, I am a cavalry officer, or I am an artillery officer, or I am a foot soldier, and that other people, although part of the same organisation, are almost in a different world. If from the beginning of their military training officers were brought together and trained together in one place like Sandhurst, it would add to the efficiency of the individual officer. But, apart from that, in these days of necessary economy it is a sheer waste of public money to maintain the establishment at Woolwich. The War Department own a large tract of land around Sandhurst, almost abutting on the Aldershot Command training ground, and there is plenty of room in Sandhurst to accommodate the whole of the cadets and officers who are at present at Woolwich. Woolwich is not a suitable place for training nowadays. It is an exceedingly valuable bit of land which could be sold, and the sale of the land would more than cover the increase in the Esti- 1401 mates this year. I ask the Financial Secretary to bear in mind what has been said, because this is an economy which might well be effected without any loss of efficiency; in fact, it would lead to increased efficiency and put money into the at present comparatively empty pockets of the War Office or the Exchequer.
I should also like to know the position as regards the Albany Street barracks recently evacuated by the Household Cavalry, who are now at Knightsbridge. Are they to be sold, or is the lease coming to an end? A good many people would like to know the position. As regards clothing, I ask the Financial Secretary to bear in mind another aspect of that question. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) that great consideration should be given to the comfort of the soldier, especially the foot soldier. I have been in the ranks myself and I agree that it is not a comfortable clothing to wear, but if improvements are going to be made, let them be made in some reasonable spirit, because there is nothing the individual soldier dislikes so much, especially the young men as being made a laughing stock for people when they look at them. From what I saw in the picture papers these unfortunate young men seem to be more like Nervo and Knox in a crazy month than ordinary soldiers.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
It is rather refreshing to some us to be discussing something which really matters—at all events, something which matters a great deal more than 95 per cent. of what we generally debate in this House. We are discussing the defences of this country and the Empire. After all, it is the duty of the Government to govern, to steer the ship of State to peace and safety, so that the nation can get on with its work and the individual can live his life in freedom and liberty; although freedom, it must be confessed, has been, to a great extent, circumscribed and curtailed by many of our interfering and unwanted laws. The Financial Secretary said truly that the army of ours is a very small army. It has become a platitude to call it a police force. He has also truly said that with such a small army it is absolutely essential that it should be thoroughly well-trained, well-armed and well-equipped. Last year the Army 1402 was shorn of its training—the Regular Army to a great extent and the Territorial Army almost entirely. It would have been criminal if that had been allowed to continue and, therefore, we are all pleased to hear that training is to be restored.
The Army should be thoroughly well armed. I have seen in the Press recently some suggestion of a new rifle, a new bayonet and a new revolver. I do not know what truth there is in this; we have not heard anything about it, and we do not want to ask for any information which should be withheld. We can only hope that when these arms have to be renewed they will be satisfactory. But the re-arming of the Army should be done as quickly as possible so that everyone can be well trained in the use of these new arms at once. There is also in the Estimates mention of the new light automatic machine gun. That has been many years coming about, and I see that this year there will probably be a decision taken. I hope that whatever form of new machine gun is decided upon, it will be issued rapidly, so that the men can train with it and be ready in time of war. There is one part of our armament in which I think we are very much behind-hand, and that is the anti-tank gun. I believe that in manoeuvres the anti-tank gun is represented by a green flag. The sooner that green flag is taken away and the proper anti-tank gun put in its place, the better. One of the most important things that we can attend to at the moment is to have an anti-tank gun chosen and issued to the troops.
Last year I drew the attention of the Financial Secretary to the question of the employment of ex-soldiers. I am very pleased to see this year that the vocational training centres have done their duty well and have got employment for some three quarters of the men whom have passed through their hands. Each year a Member generally gets up and urges the Government to see that a man who joins the defence forces of the-Crown and then goes on to Governmental civil employment should be allowed to treat his service as continuous for pension. I have not heard it mentioned to-day. None the less it is mentioned pretty regularly and just as regularly turned down on the score of expense. The Government must feel that they have great responsibility for all the men who 1403 have not been able to go to one of these vocational training centres. If the Government will not make their service continuous they must feel that they ought to do something for them. There are some 30,000 men who leave the Colours every year for the Reserve and are thrown on the labour market, and a very small proportion of these go to vocational training centres.
There are many voluntary organisations which deal with these men. The principal is the National Association for the Employment of Ex-Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen. This Association is officially used by the War Office and the Navy and the Air Force, and it is through the Association that men get places in Government employ. The Association is mostly kept up by voluntary subscriptions, but the Government do give a subsidy to it, and a very small one—£1,950, of which £1,250 is from the Army, £500 from the Navy and £200 from the Air Force. I think the Government might do a great deal more to support the National Association. If they gave it a little more money it could have much better offices—the offices are very poor now and not half good enough—and it might extend its beneficent sway a great deal further.
In 1906 there was a Departmental Committee set up under Sir Edward Ward, which recommended that the Government should give no less than £16,000 to this Association annually. That proposal has never gone any further. Considering what responsibility the Government have for the ex-service man, I think they might give a little more to the Association than the £1,950 from the three Services. I have said that there are certain other voluntary associations. I am sorry to think that many of these associations have a sort of perverted esprit de corps and refuse to support the National Association. I regret that my old branch of the Service is one of the offenders. If only the Government would do a little more for the National Association that might induce these voluntary associations to see the error of their ways and to be more inclined to come in. I hope that the War Office will use their influence in trying to make the National Association a big thing, so that it can do a great deal better work than it has done up to now.
1404 I will deal only briefly with the question of the merging of Sandhurst and Woolwich. The case has been very ably put already. I have taken some trouble to inquire amongst serving officers, and I have found amongst the thinking ones an opinion that the merging would be a good thing. I will not give the reasons, for they have been stated so well already. But I, who am very conservative with regard to the Army and all its institutions, believe that this is one of those very rare cases where it is possible to combine economy with efficiency.
I will mention one small point which may bring a smile to the faces of some people, but in a voluntary Army like ours small points do count. That is the question of restoring the lowest grade title to officers in the cavalry and infantry—restoring the old title of cornet and ensign. It was in 1871 that the purchase of commissions was abolished. There was an Army Order issued towards the end of that year abolishing the titles of cornet and ensign. The lowest grades were altered to the title of sub-lieutenant and the conditions of that grade were altered. The sub-lieutenant was really an officer on probation for three years. He went to his regiment for one year and then went on to Sandhurst, and, having passed a professional examination, he went back to his regiment and became a full-blooded lieutenant. About six years after that the title of sub-lieutenant was abolished, partly because it would be mixed up with the rank in the Navy, and the title of second-lieutenant was introduced. In 1881 the title of second-lieutenant was abolished, and all second-lieutenants were converted into first-lieutenants. I imagine that the title was abolished because no one liked the title of second-lieutenant. Curiously enough, in 1887 second-lieutenants were reintroduced and they have remained ever since. This is a very small point, I admit, but cannot we imagine that an officer on joining would swell out his chest a little more if he were a cornet of horse instead of a second-lieutenant, and would he not prefer to be called an ensign when he joined the infantry instead of being called a second-lieutenant?
On one point I must congratulate the Financial Secretary, and that is that there has been no tampering with the cavalry, no amalgamation, no condensa- 1405 tion, no tinkering of any sort. As an old cavalry soldier I say that that is very satisfactory, in spite of what has been said by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), whom we are all delighted to hear. Every year he denounces the cavalry, though I am glad to think that his words fall on deaf ears. I know he very much enjoys saying these things.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
And that's that. One thing which is very satisfactory is that the authorities feel that the day of the cavalry is not done. In fact, it is there just as much as ever. Cavalry to-day can be of use at the beginning of the fight and at the end. It can take advantage of success and reap victory in due course. The disorganised infantry will still feel panicky fear when they hear that the cavalry is once more upon them. The cavalry will be able to come into their own when mechanised vehicles have all broken down, as they did two years ago at manoeuvres, and when possibly the petrol dumps are all exploded. The cavalry will be useful again in advance and retreat. A great many people do not realise what the cavalry did in the great retreat of 1918. They were used on every critical occasion to support the line wherever it was broken, to fill the gaps, and by their mobility they were able to turn a very bad situation into a good one.
One other point I must mention about the cavalry is with regard to their horses. A cavalry regiment has only 237 troop horses. When it is realised that at least 5 per cent. are probably in the sick lines, that some 10 per cent. should be put clown as remounts and a large percentage for training recruits in riding school, it can be well imagined that when the colonel likes to see his regiment on parade he will not see very many there. In these days, when horses are getting scarce and when it is important to get horses suddenly in time of war, it is more than ever necessary that a regiment should be well mounted and comparatively up to strength. It should certainly have more than 237 troop horses.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General NATION
I listened with a great interest and a good deal of relief to the speech of the Financial Secretary to the War Office. Those of 1406 us who have been brought up in one or other of the Fighting Services have passed through a period of considerable anxiety. We have seen our land, sea and air forces reduced to the lowest possible limits, and deprived of their normal training, while, at the same time, no other nation has followed our example. Indeed, some have become rather more aggressive, and I might almost say bellicose. We have shown by our example our genuine desire for peace. We have done our utmost at Geneva and elsewhere and we have reduced our forces in every direction. This policy has not, however, brought the results for which we had hoped. Indeed, by some nations it has been looked upon as a weakness, and I make bold to say that, if we had not taken our troops from Iraq and Aden, we should not have had the difficulties which we have just encountered in regard to the Anglo-Persian Oil Concession.
When the Estimates were presented last year the Secretary of State said in his accompanying Memorandum that the enormous cuts of that time could not be repeated in future years. I must say that, as a new Member, I thought he was rather optimistic, because I have had a little experiesce in regard to handing money back to the Treasury. It is very easy to do that, but it is very hard to get it out again. Therefore, when I saw in this year's Estimates that he had got back nearly £1,500,000, I felt like extending to him my heartiest congratulations. I still think that the amount of money that this country spends on its fighting forces is too high. It is more than we can really afford. At the same time, as long as we maintain the organisation and administration that we do maintain, I do not see much prospect of reducing that amount in the near future. With regard to the distribution of the £1,500,000 I think the Army Council have allotted it in the best possible manner for the proficiency of the Army that we have. I observe considerable increases in votes for training and for pay. I think that is probably because it is hoped that there will be a better recruiting year. The sum under the head of training as we have heard is mainly for the training itself, but there are also stores and barracks. At the same time I notice in the Estimate considerable further savings this year. There is something like 1407 £66,000 less for movements, something like £100,000 less for clothing, and a reduction also in the non-effective Vote. I was particularly glad to see the reduction in the amount for movement. Last year I strongly represented that this was an item on which a good deal of saving could be made without loss of efficiency.
I pass to the question of strength. The Secretary of State says in his Memorandum that, inclusive of India, the deficiency is only 5,000 men. I think that is a little misleading to those who have not studied the question closely and are not familiar with the form of this large volume of Estimates. The actual deficiency, exclusive of India, is nearly 10,000, and the deficiency at home alone, according to the figures given to me by the Financial Secretary recently, is about 5,400. But it is when we take the whole of the land forces together that we get a really serious picture of the situation. As I have said, the deficiency in the Regular Army is about 5,400; in the Army Reserve it is about 1,800; in the Supplementary Reserve it is 5,000, and in the Territorial Army, according to the figures given by the Financial Secretary a week ago, it is about 44,000. When we add these together we see that the total shortage at home is no less than 55,000 men and that represents a corps strength of five infantry divisions. When it is looked at in that light, I think, the House will realise how weak we are at home.
I was glad to see that mechanisation is proceeding, and, with regard to the brigade which, it was reported in the Press, was being de-mechanised, I am glad to have the assurance that that does not mean a change of policy in regard to mechanisation. I was particularly glad to see that, for the first time, this year it is intended that mechanisation shall be extended to the Territorials, and the War Office are actually taking in hand the preparation of estimates for the divisional units of the Territorial Army. I think it is a very wise move and a very happy inspiration to hand over the coast defences to the Territorials. It gives them more work of a serious nature at home and at the same time it releases a number of regular infantry and artillery for more active employment and service oversea.
1408 In regard to the item for movement, which, as I say, has been reduced by about £66,000, I still think that there is a possibility here for further reduction. I see in the orders for changing of stations this year that no fewer than six cavalry regiments, two brigades of artillery, eight battalions of Guards, and 14 battalions of infantry, will be changing stations in the United Kingdom. We know the old argument that this is done for training purposes and that some places are particularly bad from the training point of view. But exactly what is to be gained, for example, by moving the 2nd Dorsets from Portland to Dover, and the 1st Battalion of the Royal Sussex from Dover to Devonport? The training facilities, or rather lack of facilities, at these three stations—because they are pretty indifferent—can be of no advantage to these regiments. I think something might be done in the way of replacing regiments, which vacate barracks in this country to go abroad, by the regiments which come home from abroad—that the homecoming regiment should go into the barracks so vacated, leaving at peace, those regiments already established in this country. It has been well pointed out already that continual changing of stations is most disturbing, particularly to young married soldiers and officers. With regard to the item of £115,000 for land purchase, under present conditions of stringency and with constantly diminishing forces, it does not seem to be an appropriate time to buy extra land. I have no doubt there is a very good reason for this item, but that reason does not appear on the Estimates, and I would like to know what it is.
Coming to the question of training, I think everybody will agree that it is the most important item in these Estimates. I am glad to see that the Regular Army is going to be trained again, also that the Territorial forces, the Supplementary Reserve and the Officers Training Corps are to have their camps. I wish to know whether there are to be camps for the cadet units this year. There is no mention of that item but I think these small units deserve attention and encouragement. I suppose it is too much to hope that there is any prospect that they will get their grant of 4s. per cadet by going to camp, but I trust that matter is not being lost sight of by the War Office. I observe that the number of units has 1409 diminished since 1931. There are about eight fewer cadet units, but the total strength has increased by about 1,500, and that is most creditable in the difficult circumstances in which they work. The private members economy report has been touched upon already and I do not wish to elaborate that point.
As regards Sandhurst and Woolwich, I was at Woolwich myself, and all I know about military affairs I learnt there, but in spite of that fact, I agree that Woolwich is no longer suitable for training officers. It is an enormous town and the Academy is entirely surrounded by houses. The places where, when I was a cadet, we did exercises and were instructed in topography and tactics and so on, are now built over completely and it is unsuitable for any kind of military work. I think it would be a considerable advantage to the Army as a whole if all officers coming into the Service got the rudiments of their military training at the same place. We should then have an esprit d'armée instead of the esprit de corps which we have at present and I think that would be all to the good. It has been said that there is plenty of room at Sandhurst and, as regards the specialist and technical teaching necessary for artillery engineers and signals, that could all be done after the officer joined his regiment. He could then go to the special technical schools which now exist.
I want now to say something which, I am afraid, will not please a goad many senior officers, but will, I think, give fresh heart and encouragement to those coming on in the lower ranks. I think that our Army is top-heavy in the senior ranks. There are too many generals and colonels. A system which allows no fewer than 30 generals and 50 colonels to be placed on half-pay and kept in unemployment for anything up to three years in the case of generals, and five years or more in the case of colonels, cannot make for efficiency. I know the answer will be that we must keep the best men, that we cannot let them go on retired pay, that we must keep them on ice, as it were, until suitable vacancies can be found for them. Well, we know what it is to keep things on the ice, and even generals and colonels are not exceptions to the rule. Things that are kept on ice do not remain fresh for long, and in the case of human beings, if they are 1410 kept on ice too long, they take to gardening or chicken farming; and then, if they are called back to command a division or possibly a higher post, I think they have probably suffered a good deal from their enforced idleness.
I know it will hurt a good many people, but I say it with all earnestness and in all seriousness. I would like to see the half-pay done away with entirely, or at any rate the establishment of half-pay officers very considerably reduced. It would encourage all those who are coming along lower down, and it would give a more normal rate of promotion. I would also like to see the rank of full general abolished. There is no appointment and there is no command suitable for an officer of that rank in peace time. Every appointment or every command that exists in peace time can be held by a lieutenant-general. The members of the Army Council need not be higher than lieutenant-generals according to the present rule, and so I think that that would make for a better flow of promotion and be cheaper as well.
I would like now to say something about anomalies that have taken place within recent years. I know of a lieutenant-general, a most distinguished officer, who held command of a division in the War and subsequently an independent command. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general, he was kept on half-pay for three years, and finally he was retired. I should like to know why this officer was promoted at all to the rank of lieutenant-general, if he was to be kept on half-pay and not used. He was a young man, he could not look for any other employment, and now he is out of a job. I would not have minded so much but that he originally came from the Dominions, and I will leave it at that.
I know of three colonels—I will not mention any names—one of whom has had every decoration for valour in the field, the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order, and everything else he could possibly have in that way. He has been to the Staff College, he has commanded a brigade in the War, he was aide-de-camp to the King, he arrived at the top of the colonels' list, he was kept on half-pay, and finally retired.' He had every qualification that an officer could have, yet he was not promoted. I know 1411 of another one, also a V.C., who was wounded 11 times in the War. He also commanded a brigade in the War, and he was one of the most gallant men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was not given a command after the War, but he was given a post of comparatively small importance. Various openings occurred which were suitable for him, but he was not employed, and in disgust he left the Army.
At the present time, at the top of the colonels' list, there is an officer, who also won the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, who was an aide-de-camp to the King, and who commanded a brigade in the War. His name is, I think, a household word, especially in London. He has been on half-pay for five years, and be is still young enough to remain on for I do not know how much longer. These are not encouraging examples to the fine young fellows who are working hard in the Army and trying to get on in their profession, and I think that a system that allows that sort of thing to happen should be changed in some way.
With regard to promotion generally, promotion for junior officers, from lieutenant-colonels downwards, is working very irregularly and is causing a great deal of heart-burning. I would like to mention, in passing, a senior colonel in the Artillery who has 29 years' service, whereas in the Grenadier Guards a senior colonel has only got 20. Among the majors in the Artillery, a junior major has 19 years' service; in the Engineers he has 17, and in the Grenadier Guards only 14. As regards lieutenants, there are senior subalterns in the Army with as much as 17 years' service, whereas in some regiments the senior subaltern has only 10 years' service. During the War, as we all know, we had generals of 30, and here we have got old men of about 40 who are still subalterns. In the Artillery, I understand, there are over 100 supernumerary captains.
Surely something can be done to regulate the flow of promotion throughout the Army. I asked in this House, about a fortnight ago, I think, whether any scheme for regulating the promotion of officers throughout the Army was in 1412 contemplation, and I was told that the Army Council was not considering any scheme, but that it was offering transfers to subalterns and captains from the Artillery to the Cavalry. That is a very poor compensation to an officer who has been brought up in the Artillery. It is like taking a man out of his own family and putting him in another family which does not talk the same language; also, there are not many officers who can afford to change into the Cavalry. I chink something ought to be done About this, and I believe it is possible that s.-,me thing could be done. I would earnestly ask the Financial Secretary if he will consider this matter. I will say no more about the Economy Committee's report; I will just leave it at that.
I want, in conclusion, to mention one more subject on which I feel very strongly. In these last few days we have had a thing happen in this country which, I think, has no parallel in our history. I mean, of course, the resolution that was passed by some young men at one of our seats of learning. It is said by some people that we must not take them seriously, that it is just a passing phase and does not mean anything, And that they are not thinkers. I am afraid I cannot accept that view. I think that if this is allowed to go on and not checked, it will do an infinitude of harm. The fact that any Englishman, of any age, should allow it to go out to the world that on no condition would he fight for his country or for our King is a thing that men and women throughout the Empire will regard with horror and Almost with shame. What their parents or those responsible for their education must be thinking, I can only leave to the imagination.
Compare this miserable picture with the fine young fellows who go into the officers' training corps and the cadet units. These young men do not want to fight, they do not want war any more than the most ardent pacifist wants it, but I take it that if danger were to come to this country again they want to be prepared to do their utmost. They would serve their country with their bodies, and, if need be, with their lives. As to these other young men, I cannot believe that if the hour of danger were to strike again, every young man throughout the Empire would not come, as they did 1413 before, for the protection of our country and our people.
Lastly, we do not want a big Army, we do not want an aggressive Army, but we do want the minimum Army that is required for the protection of these snores and of our oversea Dominions. It is for the Army Council to advise the Government as regards the size of that Army and the minimum size that we require; it is the duty of the Army Council to see that that Army is efficiently trained and ready to proceed to any part of the world; and it is for this House to pro vide the money for that Army.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
A just tribute has been paid to the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office for his colourful treatment of his subject this afternoon. That, of course, is the duty of the representative of the War Office who is asking for something like £38,000,000 in times like these; and bright as were his colours, which, as has been pointed out, were a considerable relief from the mechanical statements with which we are familiar, they did not blind us to the fact that the hon. Gentleman was asking for something like £1,500,000 increase upon last year's Estimates. The Minister said that that was necessary to keep up the efficiency of the Army. Everybody agrees with the need for efficiency, but, after all, efficiency can be relative. I should say that the Army, with the means at its disposal now, and for its own purposes, was never more efficient than it is to-day. Whether you take the side of gunnery, or transport, or on whatever side you touch the Regular Army, I should say it was never more efficient and more powerful for destructive purposes than it is to-day, even with its reduced Estimates.
As I say, the question of efficiency is only relative. The question is, Have we to increase expenditure on the Army for the efficient production of soldiers and thereby decrease the possible efficiency of the citizens I When we are discussing these Estimates it is necessary to keep the mind as a whole upon what we do. One of the points that is regularly put from this Box and from that Box is the need for co-coordinating the Services, for considering the whole of the police services with a view to their work, to their objects, and to their cost. That is quite 1414 true, but as I have sat here over the years I have always thought the real need for to co-ordinate in our minds the whole of the Services, civil and fighting, and give a due balance to all concerned. Now mark the fact that £22,500,000 has been taken from the unemployed. Cuts have gone on in every direction. There has not been a single attempt to restore any of these cuts, except in a slight way upon which I will not touch at present.
I was rather startled to hear the hon. Gentleman state that this £1,500,000 increase was a restoration of the cuts. That is a very strange point of view. If that is considered as a restoring of cuts by the Government, it really explains the point of view of the Government in dealing with the whole of the Civil Services, as well as with the Military arid Naval Services. What gripped the House today was that the hon. Gentleman in his statement gave first place to the personnel, the human side of the Army. One of the things which has always struck me—and herein, I think, really lies the success of the hon. Gentleman to-day, as well as last year—is that he does put the human side first. He deals in a colourful way with the men, and that is really the attitude of those concerned in running armies. I sometimes wish I could get ex-Regular officers in this House to apply the same standards to civilian affairs as to Army affairs. If they did they would be more revolutionary than some of the extreme Socialists in this country.
They demand a standard for the man; they must be properly fed. I wish every citizen was as decently fed as the average soldier. An officer who did not see to the feeding of his men would feel i1.3 was guilty of a real dereliction of duty. The Regular officer regards matters of that description as being matters of conscience. As we are told, rightly, to look after our horses before ourselves, so the Regular officer is very insistent upon looking after his men. As to accommodation, it is true that in recent years some of the accommodation has not been quite up-to-date. No one regrets expenditure for the proper accommodation of soldiers, but it is really much higher, rough-and-ready as it is, than the accommodation of great masses of our citizens to-day.
Then there is the question of clothing. Here I wish to join issue- with the hon. 1415 Gentleman regarding the abandonment of the Pimlico factory. I know the hon. Gentleman was placed in a certain position, but I do not see why, because the lease was up, the system of producing clothing by the State service should have been abandoned altogether. Pimilico was brought into being because of the ill-service rendered by private enterprise in days gone by. The whole of the very varying State supply services was practically brought into being through the very maintenance of the Army by the State itself. There were civil experiences of private enterprise—the corruption of old-time individualism. I am not going to say that the State factory for producing soldiers' clothing was the last, and final, word in efficiency, but I will say that it produced good clothes. It did its work —there was no fault in that—and it always acted as a brake upon people who would otherwise have fleeced the State.
What guarantee have we that we will not get into the regularroutine of certain firms thinking that, because they have accommodated themselves to producing a certain type and cut of clothing, they have some guaranteed position, and that they can take advantage of that guarantee? What guarantee are we to have that we will have any standards by which we can judge of private enterprise if we have an outbreak of war? I am really astonished at the complete abandonment by the War Office of that State service. It is not only alien to what has been the practice of the War Office, but it is a very dangerous line for the War Office to take, either from the peace-time or the war-time point of view. It will not be denied, I think, that the Services Contracts Department, if its experience was used, could give this Government quite a lot of light upon the manipulations of those people who buy in foreign markets on a wholesale scale and sell to retailers. I daresay the War Office, buying wholesale to supply its own soldiers, could, if its experience was open to the average citizen, explain a great deal of the difference between wholesale and retail prices to-day. In supplying its own people, I think the Contracts Department is, probably, one of the most efficient in this country. As a matter of fact, I myself have had experience of this with regard to the Contracts Department. During 1924 a very able civil servant was at the head Of the Department. Im- 1416 mediately he left the War Office, he was snapped up by the National Union of Manufacturers to serve their purposes. I think it is a mistaken policy on the part of the War Office to have abandoned altogether the Army Clothing Factory.
What is happening with regard to the ordnance factory at Woolwich? Are the people there getting their full share of work? Regularly there is a tug-of-war between the private firms and the State factories as to who is going to get the bulk of the work. The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) was going to raise this matter and the question of pensions. Will the hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that the policy of paring down State work is not being followed with the object of giving private enterprise advantages at the expense of those in the employment of the State? I sometimes think we ought to have a different method of dealing with these Estimates. We have here a big book, almost a library of figures, dealing with the expenditure of £37,000,000, and we know that this may be the last, or almost the last, Debate in which we can discuss this matter. It is high time we had some new method of dealing with these Estimates.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on maintaining the educational and vocational training. Vocational training is one of those things which have emerged since the War. The educational training, while it is the same service as that which prevailed before the War, has been so changed in personnel and method that the results, as compared with pre-War results, have been more than could be dreamed of, having regard to the expenditure concerned. I say without hesitation that the best educated adolescent in this country is the young man educated in the Army—not on the military and fighting side, but the plain, general, ordinary educational side. You have only to note his bearing, and to talk to such a man, to see what can be done. It makes me the more regret that we have not such high standards for civilians outside the Services. If we could have the same standards as those which are supported by the Regular officers, applied by employers to their employés—standards of welfare, feeding, clothing and education such as we have in the Army—we would have the outlook of the personnel of this country revolutionised.
1417 One of my hon. Friends raised the question of dress. The committee dealing with the matter has my sympathy. I endorse the sentiment of one of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen who spoke from the benches behind me. I have only seen this dress in pictures and I do not know whether they do it justice—it looks something like the morning after the night before. If the soldiers in this dress are as sorry for themselves as they look, they must be in a bad state indeed. It is true that they may have the right kind of neck, but otherwise they are not worthy of that smartness of appearance which we expect. My hon. Friend who opened the Debate dealt with the main heads of this expenditure. He asked about Catterick. It is about time that camp was finished. It is a beautiful camp in many respects and has a lot of good things for games and amusements for soldiers, but I hope we shall hear from the hon. Gentleman whether we are getting value for the increased expenditure and how much it will cost. On page 137 is a subsidy of £3,000 for mechanised motor lorries and that kind of thing. I understand that £40 a year is paid to certain firms. Is that subsidy really necessary now? I do not think that it is. It was necessary when the kind of lorries that the Army wanted were being developed and were in their infancy, but it cannot be said that they are in their infancy now. I hope that the Financial Secretary will give a definite answer to the points that have been put about the £1,500,000 increase which, however it may be looked at, may be a gain to the Army but is a loss which it can ill afford to the civilian side of the country, a great mass of which is in a lamentable condition.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
I agree with the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) in what he said about the new uniform. I have only seen it in pictures, but if the reality is anything like the pictures, it is a uniform which should only be used for training, another uniform being provided for other occasions. I hope that the introduction of the new uniform will hasten the day when full dress will be restored to the whole Army. The Financial Secretary invited hon. Members to give suggestions which would help for better co-ordination 1418 of the three Fighting Services. To that end I will ask him to put in force the most important recommendation which was made by the Private Members Economy Committee, and appoint a committee to go into the question of Imperial defence as a whole and into the relations of the three Services with each other. That is most urgently wanted at the present time. There has been no committee of investigation into the Army for nearly 30 years. I do not know whether there has ever been an investigation into the Admiralty since it was created, and there has not been one into the Air Force. We certainly want something of this kind for I am certain not only that it will improve efficiency, but that we shall not get any real economy until something of the sort has been done. I agree with those hon. Members who have asked for an opportunity to discuss the Estimates of the Fighting Services together. That point is raised every year, and everybody agrees with it except the Government of the day. There is always some difficulty about it, but I am sure that we shall not discuss the Estimates to the best advantage until we can discuss them together.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) is not in his place at the moment, because I want to make a reference to something that he said. He gave us his annual attack on the Household Cavalry, to which we are quite accustomed. Every time I listen to him I wonder whether he knows anything about their history. One statement that he made was that a regiment of Cavalry of the Line cost £46,000 a year. According to page 286 of the Army Estimates, the cost is £75,600. That being so, it completely vitiates the comparison which he made between the cost of a regiment of Household Cavalry and the cost of a regiment of the Cavalry of the Line. The Memorandum states that the strength of the Army Reserve will fall by about 5,000 men this year. That is most regrettable, and I urge upon the hon. Gentleman the necessity of keeping up the strength of that Reserve because we have nothing else now to keep up the strength of the Army, especially the strength of the Infantry, in time of war. In the last war we had special reserve battalions which did valuable service. These have been abolished and we have nothing left except the Army Reserve. I 1419 am afraid that in the event of a serious war, and the Army needing a lot of reinforcements, there will be a temptation when the Army Reserve is used up to use the Territorial Army for drafting. The new proposals of the Government with regard to enlistment to the Territorial Army will make that temptation to use that Territorial Army for drafting all the greater. I urge the Government to take steps to restore the strength of the Reserve and if possible to increase it.
The same remarks apply to the officers. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) said that he thought that there were too many officers, but I do not agree. In war the wastage of officers is very great. We have the Supplementary Reserve, and on page 9 of the Estimates the establishment and the strength of that Reserve are given, but all ranks and categories are bulked together. On page 67 the establishment of the Supplementary Reserve is given by ranks and categories, but we are not given its actual strength, and we cannot see how the strength compares with the establishment. For one category the establishment of the Supplementary Reserve is given here as 104 officers, but in the February Army List its strength is given as only 53. That is a very serious difference. It may be said that we have the Regular Army Reserve of Officers, but that reserve is composed mostly of senior officers. We must have for purposes of war a proper reserve of junior officers, and as far as I can see we have not got it.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. ROSS
I heard with amazement that hon. Members on the Front Opposition Bench expected to hear something about Disarmament. Considering that the British Army, according to the Hoover scale, is hopelessly inadequate for police purposes, I think that if hon. Members wish to talk about Disarmament they might at least pay a tribute to this country in having set a standard of disarmament which has not been approached by anybody else. With regard to economy, the Army has enormous duties to perform and the truest economy is to have the best organisation. I sometimes wonder whether the present system, which is 60 years old, and is 1420 known as the Cardwell system, is the best for that purpose. The arbitrary method of dividing the Army into two is admirable for some purposes, but not all. The purposes for which we need our Army are lucidly set forth in the Training and Manoeuvres Regulations, namely, (1) Imperial policing, (2) minor expeditions, (3) major operations, possibly including the Territorial Army, and (4) a national war. No doubt for the first two the Cardwell system is admirable, but I am not certain that it is the best system for the third and fourth. The Indian Army has been constantly reorganised. The regimental system has been introduced since the War, but except for the internal organisation of smaller units, the Army at home seems to have had very little thought applied to it. I would put forward the suggestion that a better system might be introduced with great advantage, and we look with confidence to that distinguished Ulsterman, the new Chief of the General Staff, who is a soldier in whom I do not think anybody can have anything but the greatest confidence, both because of his record and his personality.
There is another question in Army organisation which must exercise the minds of those who are interested in military affairs. When is there going to be a clearly enunciated policy of mechanisation? Is it going on a steady considered course? We have not heard very much from the Financial Secretary on that point. It is well known that, at all events as regards one form which was of an experimental nature, the transport has been put back to horse transport. On page 107, where the warlike stores in Vote 10 are considered, I see that as between this year and last there is an increase of £1,000 in the provision of horse transport vehicles, whereas the amount spent on mechanical transport has decreased by £28,000, which prima facie would suggest that that policy is not of a steady forward nature. I do not know whether it is the policy of the War Office to increase the mechanised forces. I expect they must increase, and, if that be so, in what manner will it be done? Two distinguished regiments were transferred from a cavalry to a mechanised basis, and it would be a great misfortune if the traditions of the old regiments should ever be lost through their cavalry or even infantry becoming 1421 to some extent out of date. I would urge that if ever there is any large scale mechanisation that principle should not be perpetuated, but that the existing regiments should be used on a re-armed basis for any extension in that direction.
An hon. and gallant Member who spoke earlier in the evening alluded to various points in connection with the armament equipment. There is the question of the light automatic, which I should have thought was one of considerable moment to the cavalry. From such small experience as I have, I should have thought the light automatic was a weapon on which they relied very considerably, but, as I understand it, they have had no light automatic for a considerable time. Since the Hotchkiss was abolished they have been given no substitute. But the most serious lack in army equipment is the lack of an anti-tank gun. Let us consider the alternative which is provided. The War Office provided the Army with flags instead. In peace time the flag has certain very definite advantages over the gun. It is more portable, it is lighter, it is probably a thing of beauty; but surely the primary condition which should be considered is the use of the Army in war.
The reference to the reorganisation which took place in 1928, alluded to on page 38, describes the organisation of the battalions. The battalion is to have a headquarter wing, and it is laid down that the headquarter wing is to have four anti-tank weapons. "Is to have." As far as I know nothing has ever been done about it. What protection have the unfortunate infantry against mechanised vehicles, beyond their powers of concealment, which are no doubt a military art, but one which we do not want to see overstrained? In that respect I do not think the infantry have any form of retaliation. The modern armoured fighting vehicle is much less troubled by ordinary machine-gun fire than the vehicle of the war-time experiments, and I think we require some rather detailed explanation of what, prima facie, appears to be, perhaps, a neglect of the obligation to have an efficient and properly equipped Army.
Lastly, I would say that I think the House, or such Members as are interested in military affairs, would welcome an opportunity of seeing the Army as it 1422 exists to-day. I may be wrong, but I do not think the Members of the House have had an opportunity of seeing the developments of military science in the last few years, and I am sure there are many hon. Members who would very much appreciate such an opportunity if it were afforded by the War Office. Above all, I hope we shall never sink into the complacency of thinking that we have a perfect machine. There are many points which ought to be considered. The question of a noninflammable fuel is one of them. I might have gone into some of these questions, but at this hour I will content myself with the few observations I have made.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
In the few remarks I am going to make I would like, as so many other speakers have done, to draw attention to the recommendations of the Private Members' Economy Committee. It was a source of great gratification to me to hear from the Financial Secretary that some of the recommendations were in course of being adopted. I am all the happier to have had that assurance, as my perusal of the Estimates had not led me to believe that the recommendations were being considered at all. The hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Colonel Windsor-Clive), I am glad to say, underlined the most important of the recommendations of the Economy Committee, namely, that a committee should be established to inquire into Imperial Defence as a whole. I would add my voice to his, and say that I very much hope that such a committee will be set up. The Secretary of State is particularly fortunate in the military advisers he has just now, and I cannot but believe that the suggestion of an inquiry into the three Services would be welcomed by them. The relationship between the three Services requires to be defined and revised. We know there is a certain amount of co-ordination at present, but the position needs clarifying. Not only would such inquiry, in my belief, lead to greater efficiency, but it would lead to greater economy as. well, since such an inquiry would furnish the only means whereby the services common to all three of the fighting branches of the Crown would come under review as a whole.
I am aware that the Weir Committee reported against any such amalgamation, 1423 but I was glad to hear from the Financial Secretary that he himself was not opposed to the ground being further explored in that direction. I do hope the House and the War Office will not allow themselves to be deterred by the fact that the Weir Committee reported against the amalgamation of these common Services. Anybody who was aware of the composition of that committee, and the witnesses whom they heard, would have been able to prophesy that their finding would be against amalgamation. Perhaps the result of an inquiry such as I suggest would rid us of the dangerous fiction whereby the three chiefs of staff of the three Services are assumed to have individual and collective responsibility for advising on defence policy as a whole. I would very much like to draw the special attention of the Financial Secretary to this extremely important point. The Salisbury Committee defined these three chiefs of staff in this way "The three compose, as it were, a super chief of a, war staff in commission." Perhaps my hon. Friend will explain to me what that means. To me it sounds exactly like a description which was one applied to Metternich: "A loud-sounding nothing." I do not know who said that, unless it was Talleyrand. It was such a formula as the Bishop of Autun would have imagined if he had wanted to hide his meaning. It is as obscure as was the relationship of that prelate with the Church. In any case, it is a formula that is in no way Napoleonic, because it is completely and absolutely obscure. I think that is one of the most important points requiring looking into.
There is only one particular point in connection with economy which I have time to take up. The Economy Committee ask that the names of officers who receive grants for distinguished or meritorious service should be given. Their names were always published up to the year 1914 or 1915. The grant itself was instituted before the days of pensions and I have nothing at all against the maintenance of this fund. It may provide a valuable means of helping officers in need of assistance, but as the money is provided by the public it is only right that the names of the officers assisted should be given. I beg to ask that the Financial Secretary should undertake to 1424 publish the names in future. I would have liked also, had I had time, to go into the question of the personnel of the War Office. I must leave it aside, simply underlining the fact that it is the civil side and not the military side that is so swollen.
In conclusion, I would say one word on the administration of justice in the Army. There is a long-standing grievance which ought to be adjusted. In the Army the right of appeal is illusionary. Any case, at all its stages, is always referred back to the same individual. I think nobody has any complaints against the officials concerned. They are men of outstanding capacity and scrupulous integrity, but there is a defect in the system. Take the case of a general court martial. A charge is made out, and it is sent to the Judge Advocate General's Department. A charge is there framed, and the court martial then takes place, a representative of the Judge Advocate General being presnt. The findings of the court are sent to the War Office. The Judge Advocate General advises the Army Council as to whether the charge should be upheld or set aside, and should there be an appeal by the condemned individual it is again the Judge Advocate General who will advise the Army Council on that point. So that under the guise of examination or of appeal the same individual, who must, perforce, take a certain stand at the beginning, is called upon to adjudicate in regard to the opinion he has himself given. This seems to be contrary to the spirit of public justice, and should be altered.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I wish to compliment the Financial Secretary to the War Office on the lucid manner in which he brought forward his Estimates to-day. He deserves the congratulations of this House for his clear exposition, and for the magnificent manner in which, without a note, he addressed the House upon such an important matter. I intervene to draw the attention of the House to the fact tha on Tuesday of his week a decision was taken to grant £145,000 to 20 county boroughs and three counties in the distressed areas. We pointed out that we considered that that amount was most inadequate. For the life of me, I cannot understand why an application should now be made to this House for £739,000 to be given to the Territorials, five times 1425 greater than that allocated to the depressed areas to tide them over their difficulties. I do not think that there is any danger of a siege or of any enemy landing in this country, nor do I think that there is any danger of a war. Why we should be asked for £739,000 to provide a fortnight's or a month's holiday for Territorials is beyond my comprehension. I could understand it in a time of danger when it is absolutely essential, and I would never dream of saying that the Territorials ought not to get the advantage of training. I believe that it does men good.
We are told by a substantial body of experts on the Government side, when we advance a plea in regard to the depressed areas, that the Government are not able to pay, and that we must be economical. Notwithstanding the disadvantages under which we labour, the Government now ask and expect this proposal for a sum five times greater than that which they are prepared to give to those 20 boroughs and three counties to be passed without opposition. Just for a holiday for the Territorial Service they expect us to pass that proposal. With all due respect to those who favour economy, I say that such a thing ought not to be tolerated. While areas are in such a depressed condition that poverty is rampant—the daily papers are to-day saying so, in spite of what the Minister said—and they are near to bankruptcy in their accounts, it is utterly outlandish to ask us to vote £739,000 for the Territorials.
I am not condemning the Minister, nor, for one moment, am I anxious to criticise his Department, but I am saying that a Department must be logical and consistent. If economies are to be practised and sacrifices are to be made, they must be made all round in the best interests of the nation. To spend £739,000 for military manoeuvres with Territorials, and for playing at sham soldiers, is a waste of the country's money. It could be much better expended in depressed areas like Durham, Liverpool, and other places where people are anxiously waiting to know what they will have to pay in rates in April. If the money were given to depressed areas instead of being applied to the game of toy soldiers, it would be much better for all concerned, I am bound to say these words, No one should come to this House and ask for 1426 such a large sum of, money for this purpose. It appears to, me to be a nonsensical way of doing things.
I sometimes wonder whether it is Bedlam or the House of Commons that I am in. When I point out that two and two make four I am told that I am wrong. If it were to protect the nation, or if it were genuine expense on the Army or Navy, I should have no objection. I am by no means a little Englander. I believe that we have a right to protection. I believe that if other people arm, so should we. I believe that we have a right to protect our shores. For the life of me I cannot understand this expenditure shall vote against it, because I believe that it is a waste of public money which could be put to better use.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. GLUCKSTEIN
I hope that the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) will pardon me if I do not comment upon his speech. it strikes me that it was a very good example of the misrepresentation which these Estimates will have to suffer up and down the country. It is for that reason that I ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office to explain to us, who are loyal supporters of the National Government, what at first sight appears to be a very extraordinary state of affairs. We are voting £38,000,000, and I regret the lack of interest which this House apparently takes in the matter. That sum represents an increase, of about £1,500,000 on last year's figure. It is represented very largely by increases in warlike stores and, of course, by the grant to the Territorial Army, As far as the Territorial Army, is concerned, I am perfectly prepared, and so I think are most hon. Members, to defend- the grant for the purpose of the camps, because it is clear, as anyone who has talked to Territorial officers wall knows, that if that grant had not been made this year you might just as well have disbanded the whole Territorial Army. It is perfectly useless to have a. Territorial force if it does not go to camp. The falling off in recruiting is clearly the result of the cancellation of the camp last year.
That is not subject upon which I feel any diffidence, where the electors are concerned. My quarrel, with these Esti 1427 mates is the same as I had last. year. It is that the economies which could be carried out in the Army service have not been carried out. I gather that the Financial Secretary asked again this year for suggested economies. Although I am not a very old Parliamentary bird, I 'am not going to be caught with that chaff again this year. All I will say upon it is that I advise my hon. Friend to look at the recommendations in the Economy Report of the 1922 Committee. Those recommendations are for immediate economies, and I hope and believe that they would reduce the expenditure on the Army without decreasing its efficiency. I am not encouraged, after what occurred to me last year, to go further into the question and to discuss with the Financial Secretary to the War Office the question, for example, of the Non-Effective Vote, a large Vote of £8,000,000, upon which I made suggestions which do not appear to have been put into operation or even to have been considered.
There are other matters which I think should be elucidated. I wonder how many hon. Members realise that the Army last year spent £150,000 on stationery and printing, and that this year it will spend about £138,000 on this item when the Army numbers only 148,000 men. Is not that the kind of thing which might well be investigated? I can only describe the consideration by this House of a book of Estimates of 350 pages as a pious futility. How can we, in the course of a Debate of some three or four hours, usefully go into details Y We cannot be expected to do so. I do not believe that anybody from the War Office thinks or hopes that we will. We can only skim them, and then conduct a sort of cavalry charge on our respective hobby-horses over the ground that is covered each year by hon. Members.
The Financial Secretary asked for suggestions, and I propose to make two. I suggest that we carry out the recommendations of the Economy Committee dealing with the appointment of a special committee to consider the whole of the Army and the question of Imperial defence, and to go into the whole question of expenditure and co-ordination. We cannot be expected to consider matters of that sort: until we know what the Government's defence policy is. Here is 1428 the Memorandum produced by the Secretary of State for War, and on the back of it, on page 8, there is the statement about Works Services, and the necessity for replacing huts and camps and things of that sort. How can we determine, until we know what the Government's defence policy is, whether most of those places are not hopelessly obsolete and ought to be scrapped altogether, and whether the defence policy ought to produce a concentration of the Forces of the Crown in other places? We do not know, and we cannot discuss the matter. The necessary preliminary must be the appointment of a committee with full powers to investigate and to report.
I should like to see one other reform carried out. The third Recommendation of the Economy Committee's Report consisted in a demand that this House should regain financial control over the Estimates. I am fortified in that Recommendation by the Report of the Committee on Procedure over which the Minister of Mines presided and which reported last year. That committee considered the whole of this question of the Estimates, and it came to the conclusion that the financial control of the House of Commons was very defective. It made Recommendations as to how that financial control could be resumed. One of the Recommendations was an increase in the size of the Estimates Committee, and to that I would add the splitting up of the Estimates Committee into smaller bodies to consider Estimates like this, so that it should not be possible for them to be brought to us a week before they are to be voted without ever having been considered by a committee, but left to each individual Member's consideration and criticism.
Every Vote ought to be the subject of very rigorous examination. It ought to be the duty of every hon. Member, and he should be compelled to attend a committee dealing with some particular Estimate, that is if we are ever to regain real control over public expenditure. That is not an impracticable suggestion; it is not my suggestion at all, but it is made by the Committee on Procedure which heard a very large number of witnesses. It came to this conclusion last year, and I hope that the Financial Secretary will strongly urge it upon his immediate chief, who in his turn will urge it upon the Cabinet. I hope that the 1429 three statutory Supply Days suggested in that Recommendation will be adopted, so that the Estimates can be discussed not merely upon the usual opposition Motion, and that as a result there may be a real consideration of the Estimates and all that they stand for. If we are to regain our proper control of expenditure, if the Budget is to be balanced and economies are to be effected, we cannot do it except by the means that I suggest, and this Debate provides an opportunity of putting such a proposal forward in connection with the Army Estimates.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. COOPER
The Debate has been so interesting, and the contributions of the various hon. Members who have spoken have been so valuable, that it is extremely difficult to reply, and I hope I shall not offend any hon. Members if it is found that I have dealt unsatisfactorily or at insufficient length with the suggestions that have been made and the questions that have been asked. I think that 13 hon. Members have spoken in the Debate. It is obvious that, if I dealt properly with every one of those speeches, I should have to detain the House for a great deal more than an hour, and I hope not to occupy more than half that time.
The hon. Member for East Nottingham (Mr. Gluckstein) referred in ominous terms to something that happened to him last year, which, however, did not discourage him from taking part in the Debate this year. I do not know to what he was referring. I have consulted the account of the Debate last year, and I find that, although I endeavoured to reply to some of the points that he made on that occasion, I did not have time to reply to every one of them. In the same way I had not time to reply to every question asked by the hon. Member for Lunehouse (Mr. Attlee), who also was inclined to complain that he did not receive full measure in my reply last year. I have made notes of every Member's speech in the present Debate, and against almost every one of them I have noted at least three or four points of substance. I am sure that the House will recognise that it is impossible for me to answer them all.
With reference to the observation of the hon. Member for East Nottingham as to the difficulty of discussing Estimates 1430 in Debate in the House of Commons, I must point out that that is part of the general problem of the congestion of business at the present time. When the hon. Member spoke of having a special Committee of Members, I suppose that what he had in mind was a small Select Committee to consider the Estimates of each Department. Apparently he forgets the Public Accounts Committee, which goes into the expenditure of every Department every year, and before which the permanent officials appear and answer questions. The Public Accounts Committee really does much, if not all, of the work that the hon. Member suggests ought to be done by such committees as he has in mind.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
As Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, may I point out that that Committee does not begin to examine the accounts of these Departments until at least three months after the end of the financial year?
§ Mr. COOPER
That does not affect the point that the Public Accounts Committee does to a large extent perform the duties which the hon. Member for East Nottingham suggests should be performed by such committees as he has in mind. It would be very difficult, moreover, to find the time when such committees could sit. Even at present we are only able to get the necessary sanction for our Estimates in time for them to be debated before the end of the financial year. These Estimates are gone into very carefully, first by all the diffevent branches concerned, and then by the Army Council as a whole, where every point is brought out. If, after that examination, which cannot be completed until very near the end of the financial year, the Estimates had to be submitted again to another special 1431 Select Committee of the House of Commons, I am afraid the delay would be so great as to render it almost impracticable to carry out the suggestion.
The hon. Member for Limehouse began by expressing regret, in which be was joined by several other hon. Members, that nothing had been said about disarmament, but I noticed that, having expressed that regret, they on their side said nothing about disarmament. They did not say that our Army was too big for our requirements, that it was unnecessary for us to maintain so many battalions of infantry, that we could easily reduce what was now being spent on artillery. They did not ask, "Why not cut down the cavalry?" If they had made some practical suggestion about disarmament, it would have given me at least something to reply to on that head. I said nothing about disarmament in my opening speech, because I took it as an axiom that our Army at the present time cannot be considered by any reasonable person in the country to be too large, and could not be considered by any foreign country to be a menace to the peace of the world. In the same way I thought that a great deal of the argument of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) was vitiated when he asked why this money should be spent at the present time, when there was no threat of war.
§ Mr. COOPER
That is not really an argument at all. We have to keep up an Army all the year round and every year, as though there were going to be a war to-morrow. It might be said that because there was no certainty of war the Army might be allowed to become inefficient, and the Territorial Army might he disbanded, but I do not think that even the hon. Member would go as far as that. He counselled us not to spend this money on the Army this year because there did not appear to be an immediate prospect of war. Pushed to its logical conclusion, that means that the Army might be allowed to disappear altogether, in the hope that there would be no war. With regard to the Territorial camps, I should like to point out to the hon. Member for Limehouse that he is quite wrong in describing them as a holiday. I used the word "holiday" in my speech in the 1432 sense that I wanted to urge every employer of these men to give them a holiday from their work in order that they might go into camp. It is not by any means a holiday, although an almost entire change of labour and of conditions would be just as beneficial as a real holiday.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has quite realised the point that I made. The point was that the whole question whether we had security or not depended to a large extent upon what was done at the Disarmament Conference.
§ Mr. COOPER
I agree, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that that is not a question which could possibly be debated on the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. COOPER
It is quite true that a great many men who are now unemployed will gain both beneficial occupation and a pleasant and healthy change. The hon. Member for Limehouse went on to express regret, as other speakers did, that we could not here and now discuss the question of a Ministry of Defence. They included the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears), who, however, having expressed his regret that that question could not be discussed, proceeded to discuss it. For that reason I am afraid I cannot reply to some of the questions that he asked and the criticisms that he made. We always remind the Leader of the Opposition on these occasions that it is within their power, whenever they wish to do so, to arrange for a Debate on this question by putting down the Vote for the Committee of Imperial Defence for discussion in the House.
My hon. and gallant Friend the. Member for the Abbey Division of Westminster (Captain Herbert) raised the very important point—and he was supported by the hon. and gallant Member for Aston (Captain Hope) and the 1433 hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Brigadier - General Makins)—of the amalgamation of Woolwich and Sandhurst. One of his supporters was himself an old Woolwich cadet. The difficulty of this suggested alteration and of this suggested economy—because it would no doubt eventually prove to be an economy —is that it would probably necessitate, as so many economies do, an initial capital expenditure. It would almost inevitably be necessary to put up a new building at Sandhurst, while as my hon. and gallant Friend said, we have also to reckon with the natural feeling of those who have been educated at Woolwich—which is an ancient institution, being 200 years old—against any threat of its disappearance. It is possible also that, if it were decided to extend the course at these two academies from the present period of 18 months to two years, as has been urged, there would not be sufficient accommodation at Sandhurst to house all the cadets at one time. Nevertheless, so strong a case has been made for the suggestion this evening, and so unanimous an opinion has been expressed by Members in all quarters of the Committee, that I will undertake to have this matter given careful consideration in order to see whether anything can be done in the direction desired.
The hon. Member for Limehouse raised one or two minor points, such as the amount provided this year for the purchase of land. He wished to know where those purchases were, but I think it will be apparent to him on reflection that we cannot very well inform the House where it is that we intend to purchase laud, as such an announcement would no doubt increase the idea. that vendors have of the value of the land that they have to sell.
§ Mr. COOPER
I could not say. The increase in warlike stores, to which the hon. Member also referred, is due to the reductions that were made in our purchases last year, and to the fact that such purchases have become inevitable this year. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) asked why the War Office staff had been increased. When I was replying to the Debate last year, I gave a summary in reply to a similar question, and I think the hon. 1434 Member must either have listened to my speech on that occasion or have refreshed his memory, because he quoted from the remarks that I then made. I reminded the House that since the War seven separate committees had sat to consider the question of the War Office staff, and they were satisfied that it was not too large for its requirements. I do not propose to repeat all the arguments that I used on that occasion, but I would remind the hon. Member, who a few months ago was Assistant Postmaster-General, that, in the period during which the War Office staff was increased from, I think, something like 1,878 to 2,2,47 the Post Office staff was increased by over 50 per cent., and I am sure that the Post Office was satisfied that that increase was necessary. My hon. Friend will no doubt tell me that the number of letters posted and telegrams despatched has now increased out of all proportion to the figures of 1914, That is true, and I would say that many of those letters, as I know to my cost, are addressed to the War Office and are sent from the War Office; and that is one of many reasons why the staff has increased so largely of recent years.
With regard to the Army Clothing Factory, I do not think that the situation is really clearly understood. It is not as though the factory were going on happily and could have gone on for ever. A decision regarding it had to be taken. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead quoted with some force the fact that two years earlier an official of the factory had stated before a commission that it was working very satisfactorily and economically, and was in every way a very desirable factory. He says that, in spite of that, a few years later we abolished the factory in order to make economies. He should remember that there was no possibility of our continuing the factory where it then stood. The lease was coming to an end, it was an unsuitable place for a factory and, no doubt, had we sought to renew the lease, we should have had to pay a very much larger sum.
Therefore, the question arose whether it was desirable to set up another factory and it was found that, although part of their work, the full dress work, which they were carrying out at that time was done more cheaply at the factory, on the other hand the greater part of their work, the ordinary service dress, could be 1435 furnished by the trade more cheaply than the factory could produce it. It was decided that it was better to get that kind of dress from the people who made it more cheaply. Then the question arose whether it was worth. while continuing the setting up of a new factory for the manufacture of this single article of full dress. If it could have been shown that the article could be made cheaply by the trade, no ground could have been put forward for setting up a special factory for that single purpose. I am sure that even hon. Members opposite will agree with the view that I always take in regard to this question. Either you should have one Government Clothing Department for all the clothing worn by all Government servants, including Army, Navy and Post Office, which could be made a workable proposition, or else we should get it all from the trade. To set up a small factory to make one particular kind of garment was, on the face of it, not a workable proposition.
The hon. Member for Leigh had some interesting contributions to make to the problem of the clothing of the troops, and my hon. Friend the Member for Aston also put forward a. point of view which was supported by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street. I will see that those recommendations are conveyed to the proper quarter, but I can inform the hon. Member for Leigh—it may be some satisfaction to him to know it—that, so far, it seems to be his view that is prevailing with the Committee, since I understand that, in the new clothing, puttees have been abolished and there is an open neck without any high Dollar, and without even the necessity of wearing a tie. Whether this ideal can be combined with the dignity of appearance to which other hon. Members rightly attach considerable importance remains to be seen. I do not think the hon. Member for Leigh was in the House when his figures with regard to the Household Cavalry of the Line were corrected by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Windsor-Clive). He will find, on reconsulting the Army Estimates, that a regiment of the Household Cavalry costs only £2,000 or £3,000 more than a regiment of the line. and that is partly due to the greater expense of their uniform.
1436 I do not want the hon. Member to go away with the impression that he sometimes seems to convey to the House that those distinguished regiments do nothing at all except ride from one part of London to another. They are as frequently called upon for active service as any other regiment and they have as fine a tradition as fighting regiments as any others. I will not go into a long discussion with him as to the desirability of maintaining some full dress in the British Army, but there are two opinions on the question. I hold very strongly that the expense is well made up for by the appearance of the soldiers so dressed. If you took a referendum of the people of the country as to what they thought about it, I think they would say they would gladly pay the almost negligible sum per head of the population in taxation in order to keep up the remnant of the parade and ceremony which were once more apparent than they are to-day.
When he comes to questioning whether I and my Noble Friends in another place are too many Ministers for one Department, I feel that I am treading on rather delicate ground. I can assure him that plenty of work is found for all three Ministers, and that in other Departments where there are only two Ministers there are frequent complaints that they are overworked. I am sure that, if the number of Ministers were reduced in the War Department, we should complain that we were overworked and of the many complaints that I have made in the last two years, that is the one complaint that I have not yet made. So it would be really a misfortune if that additional cause of grievance were added to the many that we have already. I think, on the other hand, that perhaps it would be better if the example given—there are only two Departments- in which there are three Ministers—were followed by other Departments. I am sure that the majority of Ministers do not have much time for their work and in the majority of the Departments they could very easily do with another Minister to assist them in the many demands that are made upon them. For the last 100 years or more there have been two or more in each Department. Of recent years the work has increased out of all measure and the suggestion that the number of Ministers should be cut down is one which will really not bear investigation and which 1437 I should be quite prepared to have put before one of those inquisitorial committees which the hon. Member for East Nottingham is so eager to appoint.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Hull (Brigadier-General Nation) asked us about cadets, what we were paying for them this year, and what we were doing to assist them to go to camp. We pay nothing at all for cadets. That was made plain at the time we re-recognised the cadet corps. Our attitude to them was simply, "We will do anything for you. We like and admire you. Any help that we can give we will but, for Heaven's sake, do not ask us for a penny of money, because you will not get it." That is the attitude we have taken up from the first. My hon. and gallant Friend also criticised the number of senior officers and said it should be reduced. He also went so far, I understood, as to suggest that retired pay should be abolished altogether. I do not know how many of his fellow retired colleagues he has consulted before putting that suggestion forward but I am sure it is not one that would be very popular, and I do not see that it is one that any Government could possibly justify that you should dismiss servants of the State after many years service and give them no pension whatever.
§ Mr. COOPER
It is necessary to keep a large number of senior officers on half pay. It is necessary to have a certain number to select from when appointments come along. In the same way, it is necessary to have a large number of officers in comparison with men. The British Army, so small and so inadequate as it is for the tremendous demands which may be made upon it, and which have been made upon it in the past, must be one that is capable of expansion and, whereas it takes a comparatively short time to train a private soldier, it takes a long time to train an officer and you must have a larger proportion of officers in comparison with private soldiers than you would have in a, conscripted Army.
§ Mr. COOPER
I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend was here when I spoke 1438 earlier in the day. I dealt with Field-Marshals then. The question that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aston raised, of the number of horses and the abolition of the light horse breeding scheme, is one that I have gone carefully into. We have registration of horses, all over the country which we could rely upon and avail ourselves of at any time of mobilisation and we believe and hope that, despite the lack of assistance that we are now given by the light horse breeding scheme, we shall have at all times a sufficient supply of light horses to satisfy our needs. He also dealt with the question of the movement of troops. Since last year we have saved a certain amount of money in this direction. No doubt, if the hon. and gallant Member goes on raising it every year we shall have each time a slight reduction until his wishes are completely met.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carlisle (Brigadier - General Spears) asked me broadly why we had not dealt with any of the subjects that have been recommended by the private members committee. There is a list of some 32 subjects, and I thought it would shorten my speech if I left it to the Members themselves to bring up one or two of those subjects rather than give an answer to all the 32 one after the other. It is interesting to note that he himself only brought out one a them, and that is the recommendation that we should publish the names of all officers drawing special awards. The only reason why that suggestion is not adopted is because it would involve considerable expense and would not be justified by the desire of a majority of Members for the information. Invariably when you find hon. Members talking about economy, the only suggestion which they feel strongly about is one which involves, further expenditure.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
It is not quite fair to say that only one point was brought out by me, because owing to the late hour I was asked to curtail my speech, and so I only selected one point not dealt with by other Members.
§ Mr. COOPER
I apologise to my hon. and gallant Friend but I could not help taking advantage. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) raised one or two points of importance about the question of mechanisation and wanted to 1439 know our policy with regard to mechanisation. He 'referred to a particular instance in which he found that the expenditure upon horses had been increased and that upon machines had been reduced. I have not had time to look up the particular point he mentioned, but I imagine that it occurred in a case where the machines had been withdrawn and where, with regard to horses, and in accordance with previous policy, renewal was needed. Our policy with regard to mechanisation is perfectly plain. We mean to go on with it and to proceed gradually with the mechanisation of transport throughout the Army and the Territorial Army. It must be a gradual process. It is a mistake to go too quickly and to buy machines which may prove obsolete or unworthy before they actually come into operation. We are going steadily forward in one direction. With regard to the new light machine-gun, that again is a matter which is still under consideration and the delay, which no one regrets more than I do, in coming to a decision is solely due to making sure that they get the right weapon and go in the right direction by right methods.
§ Mr. COOPER
The question with regard to anti-tank guns is the same as that with regard to various other new inventions with which we are dealing and making experiments. I think that I have dealt with the majority of the points that have been raised. I see that I have forgotten to reply to the question of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) about subsidised lorries. There is a certain kind of six-wheeled lorry of very great value to the Army which at present—I am not certain that they will not have in the future—have no commercial market, and therefore no firm will use them simply to supply the War Office unless subsidies are paid to them. It is necessary that we should pay a subsidy to the firm which uses them, and we hope that in time to come that subsidy will not be necessary. I regard the points which have been raised by hon. Members as of real substance. They have been very helpful, and I am grateful to them for the assistance which they have given in the Debate, and I am 1440 sure that the War Office will appreciate the suggestions which they have made.