§ Order for Committee read.
§ 3.45 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 few weeks ago I was asked at Question Time to explain the reasons for which the British Army existed. I declined at that time to answer that question, but, in reply to a supplementary question, I said that I would endeavour to deal with it when I came to speak upon the Army Estimates. Certainly it would be a good thing to preface my remarks this evening by clearing our minds as to the reasons for which the Army exists. To-day we are going to vote money to pay for the Army, and it would obviously be undesirable that we should pay for anything the reasons for the existence of which we were not clear about. In my opinion, the Army exists for four different, separate, and specific purposes. If I enumerate those purposes, I wish to make it plain that they are not counted in order of merit, because they are all equally important. The four corners of a house are all equally important to the maintenance of the structure. If one of them falls down the whole building collapses in ruin, and, equally, if the Army fails to fulfil any one of the four purposes for which it exists, then the British Empire itself is in danger of collapse.
One of the first purposes which the Army is there to perform is the protection of our naval bases. It is true that the British Empire depends upon sea power. I do not think that my friends from the Admiralty will be offended if I say that the Navy itself depends to some extent upon land forces. Ships cannot be at sea all the time. They have to come into harbour. They have to be assured of reception, of fuel, of safety all the time, and the means for refitting and refuelling; and those bases to which they return must be protected from land 600 attack. And so, just as the Empire is held together by the protection which our Navy affords to our trade routes, just as those trade routes are like the invisible steel girders which hold together a great edifice, so those harbours, to which they are obliged to come from time to time, and which are protected by British soldiers, form the joints and the hinges of the vast structure of the British Empire.
Too little is known about this great work which the Army annually performs. Every year the troopships go out unannounced, unostentatiously, without any public manifestation of the vital work which they are carrying on. They stop first at Gibraltar, the gateway of the Mediterranean. Two battalions are left there. They pass on to Malta, in the very centre of that great sea. Again, two more battalions form the garrison. The normal garrison is four, but two battalions are engaged at present in Palestine. They pass on to Egypt and the Sudan, where there are only seven battalions, from whom a small contingent is stationed in the Island of Cyprus, down through the Suez Canal, through the Red Sea, emerging into the Indian Ocean at Aden, which is another vital point, where there is a garrison of some 200 men. Thousands of miles to the South—in the same Indian Ocean—lies the Island of Mauritius, where there is yet a smaller garrison of British troops. Continuing eastward we come to the subcontinent of India and the Island of Ceylon—there again there are ports of vital importance—and, further East, to Malaya, where again one battalion only is left, and so on to China, where at Hong Kong and other stations five battalions are distributed. There we return and begin the process of coming back bringing home the soldiers who have been relieved. Even then they have not completed the orbit of the British Empire, for on the other side of the Pacific Ocean there is yet one more battalion guarding our possessions in the Western Hemisphere at Jamaica and Bermuda. That is one only of the purposes for which the Army exists and is carrying out all the time.
Another purpose for which the Army exists is the defence of certain frontiers and the maintenance of order in certain 601 territories where we have undertaken a serious obligation. By far the most important of these is India. In comparison with the size of our Army, India occupies an enormous proportion of our forces, but in comparison with the size of the native population and the work they have to do, the number of troops there is infinitesimally small. In Egypt and the Sudan there are battalions to protect those countries, and they are responsible also for the protection of the Suez Canal, that vital link between our eastern and our western Empire. In Palestine there are, as I have already said, two battalions. Here I might remind the House that in 1929 there was disorder in Palestine, riots occurred and the whole matter was inquired into, and when the report was made to the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations this country was censured for not maintaining more troops in Palestine than we were maintaining at that time. We probably hold the unique privilege among the nations of the world as being the only country that has ever been blamed by the League of Nations for not maintaining adequate armed forces.
Thirdly, the Army exists to protect this country. When I say "thirdly," I should like to emphasise the warning that I gave at the beginning of my speech that I am not enumerating the purposes of the Army in the order of their importance. There is, obviously, nothing of greater importance than the protection of our own homes, the great reserve of the Empire, the arsenal of the Empire and the centre and heart of it. In addition to the three great purposes which I have already mentioned, we have to provide a force which may be called upon to defend the interests of the Empire outside these shores, perhaps in Imperial territory, perhaps in some foreign land; a force which may be called upon to fight in a country which nobody can foretell and under conditions which nobody can foresee. When we read, in the Press and elsewhere, criticisms of the British Army, they are nearly always based upon a view which regards the Army as existing for one only of these four purposes, not remembering the other three, and the last purpose that I have mentioned is the one that is usually uppermost in the minds of the critics. They nearly always write as though the Army existed only to fight a war with a great civilised Power, of which the first 602 battle would be fought upon Salisbury Plain one day next week.
Let me deal with the various purposes for which the Army exists and in the order that I have enumerated. First of all, there is the protection of naval bases. We are this year spending an additional £450,000 in providing works and buildings at Singapore. The desirability of having a naval base at Singapore is not a matter which we can discuss this afternoon. It has already been settled earlier this week and has been approved by the House. If you have a naval base, you must have troops there to protect it. You need antiaircraft, artillery and men to man the artillery. You also need barracks and houses, buildings of various kinds, schools and other places which the men will require. Upon these things we are spending a comparatively large sum in the present year.
With regard to the movement of troops from place to place, we occasionally meet with criticism. We are asked: "Would it not be better, instead of continually moving the troops, to leave them in one place until they come home again?" That is not an unnatural criticism to spring to the mind, but it is not a good thing for one unit to remain in one place. They may get to think that it is the only place in the world or, on the other hand, the climate may not be suitable for a long stay. More important still is the fact that our Army has to be trained for every need, and, seeing that at many of the stations I have mentioned, there are only small contingents of troops they cannot enjoy the training which they require and they cannot have an opportunity of training on a large scale. For that reason, it is essential, if the Army is to serve every purpose for which it exists, that we should be continually moving troops from one place to another. It would be so much simpler if we could have a large number of armies to carry out different jobs.
There are some individuals who are so fortunate as to be able to afford four motor cars, one for London, another for the country, a third for carrying heavy luggage, and a fourth, a little car, perhaps for work on a farm or some other specific purpose. Those individuals are as fortunate as they are few. A large number of people can afford to have one car, and when they buy it they have to 603 bear in mind the many purposes for which they may need it, and the result is a compromise. They buy a ear which is not ideally suited to any one purpose, but which, on the whole, will best suit the various purposes for which they may be called upon to use it. In the same way, if we were a country of unlimited means in wealth, in man power, and in material, it would be very convenient to have four armies, one for each of the purposes I have described, but we can only have one Army and that one Army has to be designed on the basis of compromise, with the idea that it has to fulfil all the four purposes for which it is designed.
When we have a small body of troops in a small station far away, we have to remember that that unit may one day be called upon to do exactly the same duty as another unit which is enjoying the best of training at Aldershot, in India or elsewhere, and therefore we cannot always leave that unit in one place. The movement of troops is necessarily complicated and difficult. It needs a great deal of calculation and hard work. If, for instance, a regiment is moved from the West Indies to Egypt and the troopship happens to call for a few hours in a British port, it seems to sentimental people—our people, I am glad to say, are mainly sentimental—a shame that the troops should not be allowed a few days' leave so that they might visit their homes, their native counties, or travel about the country, but if that were allowed it would upset the whole trooping programme at the expense of the taxpayer—although our people are sentimental, they are not very fond of paying taxes, and, although they are continually complaining about necessary expenditure, they are always urging it—it would hold up the ship; it would send the various soldiers who wished to travel across the length and breadth of England to their homes; it would send them away from their regiment for a few days, while the majority probably would not want to travel and would not want to spend their money in that way; and at the end it would always be possible that all the men might not rejoin exactly at the moment when the whistle blew, and that some might be left behind, which would be a loss to the taxpayer, to the British Army and to the men themselves. 604 But it would also mean that if that was done once it would have to be done on every occasion, and the only result would be that never again would a ship coming from the West Indies be allowed to touch at an English port, and never again would the soldiers enjoy, as they certainly did on this occasion, owing to the admirable arrangements of the railway companies concerned—never again would they be allowed to enjoy a few hours with their own friends and relations. It is not the case, as some hon. Members and some writers think, that every man who joins the Army is separated from his wife. Most people know that a percentage of married soldiers are married "on the strength" of their regiment, and that they take their wives and families with them wherever they go.
So much for the Army abroad. With regard to the Army at home, I am sorry to say that I can no longer give the House a satisfactory report with regard to recruiting. Recruiting was excellent, or at least satisfactory, up to the end of last September. Since then it has fallen off and fallen off very badly. I would like to make an appeal to Members of the House. I know there are some people who think that we should not have an Army, nor a Navy, nor an Air Force—nor, of course, an Empire either, for we cannot have that without the others—and that we should allow anyone, any foreign country, to interfere with our liberties if they wish. Of course, you must surrender what you cannot defend. But I do not think that that view is held largely in this House. It is a logical view and more comprehensible to my mind than the view of some who recognise the necessity for an Army and a Navy and an Air Force, but who do everything in their power to discourage anyone from joining them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, whose prolonged absence from the House and the cause of it we all regret, is one of the principal offenders in this respect. He uses his great influence and eloquence to dissuade people from joining any of the Defence Forces. Perhaps there is still present in the minds of many people who take this attitude, a remnant of the old belief that the Army is not a career for a respectable man. We all suffer for the misdeeds of our ancestors. The soldier of the eighteenth and even of the nineteenth 605 century was a very different individual from the soldier of to-day. Wellington, whose armies performed such remarkable feats, used the most scathing language in which to describe the character of the men he led. But the modern soldier is a different man. He is not the hard-drinking ne'er-do-well of the past.
I suggest to hon. Members that in these days, when so many boys are faced, almost on leaving school, with the prospect of going straight into the melancholy and tragic army of the unemployed, there still exists a splendid alternative, and that the Army provides a career which any man ought to be glad to see his son embrace. Look at the figures accompanying the Estimates. See how the figures for crime, for instance, that is to say offences against the military code, have fallen. And this is only a continuation of a prolonged decline. The figure is the lowest yet reached. At the same time we see the figures of health better than they have ever been. That applies not only to the Army in England but to the Army in India and abroad. It is quite wrong and misleading to suggest that young men entering the Army and going to India put themselves into any peril in the way of health. On the contrary, the health of men in the Army is a great deal better than the health of the general population outside the Army.
Then take education. It will be seen from the figures how large a number of private soldiers pass high tests in education to-day. The record with regard to vocational training also shows an improvement. More men are passing through these vocational training centres that give a man during the last six months of his service a chance of learning a trade, so that when he comes to the end of his time he does not become a useless supernumerary in the army of the unemployed, but a man who can earn his living in skilled labour. The number this year shows an improvement; more men have passed through the centres, and the number who have gone straight from the centres to employment has risen from 77 per cent. to 85 per cent. That is a very remarkable improvement even in a year of general improvement.
Hon. Members ought to realise what a good life the Army does provide for a young man. When I am asked, as I so 606 often am, to consider what is called compassionate discharge in the case of young men who have joined the Army in a hurry and want to get out, the main consideration which appeals to me in such cases is whether it can be proved that by their discharge their family will materially benefit. So far as the boy himself is concerned, I have not the slightest doubt that in every case he is much better in the Army than out of it, because of the life in the open air, the attention to health, the good food, the exercise, the splendid comradeship and the great traditions. When a soldier leaves the Army he has behind him the support of his regiment or regimental association, to which he can turn in difficulties. I cannot think of a better opening for a young man to-day, if he means to work and to prosper within the Army. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that any young man joining the Army, even in these hard times, if he is a worker and means to do well, can look forward to a future of complete security.
Having spoken of the men, there is one point in connection with the officers with which I would like to deal. In the Debate last year I was approached by many hon. Members in different parts of the House with a suggestion that it would be a good thing to amalgamate the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich with the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Again, that is one of the reforms for which on the face of it there is a good deal to be said. The question is asked, "Why have two institutions when you might have one? You can always economise by combination." I undertook on that occasion to have the matter inquired into before I spoke on the Army Estimates again. My Noble Friend the Secretary of State was good enough to set up a committee, of which I was chairman, to inquire primarily into the financial aspect of the question, as to how much money could be saved and as to whether it was feasible. We sat for some time, and we went very carefully into the matter. We visited both institutions and called for reports from both Commandants and asked them to give evidence, before us.
Let me say here how deeply the Army Council deplore the sudden and premature death of General Wagstaff, who was; then at the head of the Royal Military 607 Academy. We finally reported to the Army Council that the scheme was, in the opinion of those best qualified to know, perfectly feasible, and that a very large saving of money would result. The Army Council, having considered the report, decided finally to leave matters as they were. I will not disguise from the House that there is plenty of room for two opinions on this question. There is division of opinion between military authorities as well as between civilians. But I am glad to say that personally I entirely concur in the decision arrived at by the Army Council, and I am very glad to be able to recommend it to this House.
The military argument in favour of the amalgamation was that it is better to produce all your officers of one type, to get them together early, to let them make friends early, not to split them up into separate cliques, to let them know one another, let them start with the same training and the same traditions behind them. That seems to me rather more a military argument from the drill sergeant's point of view than from the civilian point of view. By the drill sergeant I mean the military class which does always exist, based largely upon uniform, wishing to see uniformity in everything, everybody doing things at the same time and in the same way. I think, on the other hand, that it is a good thing to have officers of as many different types as possible, of as many different traditions, brought up under as many different systems. Not only does that inspire a friendly and useful spirit of emulation, but variety in itself is a good thing.
When I look into the records of recent years I find rather striking confirmation of my opinion. Take six of the most distinguished field-marshals who have died in the present century. You will find a very great difference in the education which they had before they went into the Army. Take, first, Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener. One went to Sandhurst and the other to Woolwich. Lord Haig took a degree at Oxford before he went for a short period to Sandhurst. Sir Henry Wilson failed to get into either Sandhurst or Woolwich, but passed into the Army through the Militia. Lord French started as a cadet in the "Britannia" and went straight from that training to his regiment. Sir 608 William Robertson rose from the ranks. Those facts are rather interesting as showing that field-marshals do not always come from the same origin.
A stronger argument for the decision of the Army Council is this, in my opinion: The type of education at Woolwich is admittedly higher than that at Sandhurst. It is no reflection on Sandhurst to say so, because the branches of the Service for which Woolwich prepares cadets, demands greater technical knowledge than is required in the cavalry and infantry. The proportion of instructors to cadets is larger at Woolwich than at Sandhurst, and the classes therefore are smaller. If you amalgamated the two and, as was proposed, slightly increased the ratio of instructors to cadets at Sandhurst, even though it might be possible slightly to raise the level at Sandhurst, it is really unarguable that you would be obliged slightly to reduce the level of education of the Woolwich cadets. In these days, in military affairs nothing can be of greater importance than the education of officers. Slightly to lower the level of education of the officers of Artillery and Engineers—that idea alone would seem to be a conclusive argument against the amalgamation.
There is one other argument, for which I do not apologise. After all, the British Army is built up on tradition, which not even Governments can create. It takes years, generations and centuries. For 200 years the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich has been in being. If anybody has any doubt about the strength of the tradition which hangs about that place they have only to walk into it and they will feel it immediately. They have only to look at the names on the wall, where they will see the names of the same family, generation after generation, who have been to the Academy, and an old official will probably show the book in which the misdeeds of General Gordon as a cadet are recorded. All over the world, British officers look back to Woolwich with the affection with which a man looks back to his home or his school. No doubt a strong case can be made out on the grounds of economy for amalgamating Eton College and Harrow School—[An HON. MEMBER: "Withdraw."]—but, however strong that case might be, there would be Old Etonians and Old Harrovians who would be blind to all the advantages and who, owing 609 to narrow prejudices perhaps, would prefer to keep to themselves. The same is true of Woolwich. I am a Conservative, but there is, I think, one conservative principle which many who are not Conservatives will support, and that is that if there is one thing worth preserving and conserving, it is an ancient, honourable and useful tradition. Places like Woolwich are the shrines of such traditions and I hope that I may never be instrumental in destroying such a tradition or such a shrine.
I come to the defence of these Islands, the third of the purposes for which the British Army exists. The House is aware that the coast defence of Great Britain has been handed over to the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army suffered severely from the decision in 1931 to go without camps for one year. It saved the country nearly £1,000,000. It was realised that it would affect badly recruiting for the Territorial Army, but perhaps it was hardly realised how great a blow it would strike to the sense which the Territorial Army have as to their importance to the country. That has always been the danger. Just as the regular soldier suffers from the traditions of his ancestors, so does the Territorial suffer from his traditions. There was always associated with the Volunteers a certain spirit of comradeship, and in some people's minds there still remains the idea that the Territorial Army, upon whom a great deal of ridicule was heaped when they came into existence, at their best are only a lot of jolly fellows playing at soldiers during the summer months.
I want to get rid of that impression once and for all, and to say to the House that the Territorial Army is just as essential a part of our Defence Forces as the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, or the Regular Army. By that I mean that we cannot get on without them. If there is no Territorial Army we shall have to review entirely the whole position of our voluntary defence scheme. If that were realised, perhaps more would be done for recruiting all over the country. I appeal to hon. Members to use their influence in their constituencies, and above all with employers of labour, who can do very much to encourage people in setting an example in joining the force. I would press upon hon. Members that the 610 Territorial Army, which is based on patriotism, is the cheapest army in the world, that the country relies upon it, and that if it fails we shall have to resort to some other system which would be less satisfactory and certainly more expensive.
There is one particular branch of the Territorial Army to which I want to refer, and which I think suffers from people not knowing enough about it. I refer to the air defence formations. These formations work in conjunction with the Air Force, and they are primarily designed for the protection of London. There are some people who profess to be both pacifists and patriots, who say they will never join anything which might lead them to take part in an offensive war, but they love their country just as much as their fellow citizens. Here is a unique opportunity for them to prove their sincerity. They are only asked to defend their country. They will never be asked to go overseas or to interfere with anybody else. If people come and attack London, drop bombs on their homes, on their own families, their wives and children, on their own town, they are asked to do their best to destroy that invader. It is interesting work which demands a considerable amount of skill, knowledge and education. The batteries are there, but the numbers of men are short at the present time, and perhaps if more were known about these air defence formations we should get the number of recruits we need.
I have also an announcement to make with regard to the creation of a new branch of the Territorial Army, to be called the Royal Defence Corps. It will be recruited from men who are no longer fit for active service owing to age or some infirmity but who can be used in an emergency to protect vulnerable points in this country from any attack by persons of ill will or foreign agents inside this country. They will be enrolled under the Territorial Association and will not be called upon except in case of an emergency; but they will be under an honourable undertaking to come up when called upon and will receive a bounty of £5, and after that the normal rates of pay. They will relieve active bodies of people who are fit for active service from these duties in case of emergency, fill a gap which has hitherto 611 existed in our defence forces and provide an opportunity for people who are anxious, when an emergency occurs, to help their country but who often complain that their country has no use for them. It will provide them with a valuable service which they can perform in protecting vulnerable points, bridges and railways, and thus set free younger men for more active work.
§ Mr. COOPER
The idea is that they shall be ex-Territorials and ex-Regular soldiers.
Having dealt with those who are too old for active service, let me say a word about those who are too young, the members of the Officers Training Corps. There, again, I think there is a lack of conviction in the public mind as to the importance which the Army Council attaches to the Officers Training Corps. We are not likely to suffer from a greater lack in a time of emergency than that of men with some military training who are fit to command. In the early days of the Great War an enormous amount of valuable material which should have been trained for work as officers perished too soon, without having had an opportunity of performing that valuable service. The Officers Training Corps provides that training. It has been subjected to a great deal of criticism lately.
A book appeared this summer which had a large circulation. It singled out in particular as one object of its attack the Officers Training Corps attached to our public schools. The argument put forward with great force and vigour was that these Officers Training Corps induced and created a spirit of militarism in the worst sense among the youth of the country, and, secondly, that it did not really train them for modern war. It said that if you want to train boys for modern war you should teach them the quickest and best way of killing other boys; otherwise, it was a waste of time. They should be trained in gas warfare, in anti-aircraft warfare, instead of drilling and being taught musketry on comparatively old-fashioned methods. That book had a large circulation and I think considerable influence. I am told that 612 schoolmasters even are to-day unquiet in their minds as to the propriety of retaining an Officers Training Corps. The error of that book was based on a fundamental misconception of the purposes of education. After all, the object of education is to prepare the minds and bodies of young people for the life that lies before them, for the responsibilities and duties which will come their way.
When, therefore, a schoolmaster has to deal with this difficult problem, what is he to say to the young men and women he is training? Ought he to say "war is so horrible that you had better not think about it at all, and hope it will not happen?" That would be no preparation at all. Ought he to say, "war is so horrible that you must take care never to have anything to do with it; you must teach pacifism and by refusing to fight yourself adopt the best method of preventing war?" That, to say the least of it, is an extremist doctrine held by few people; and the truth of which is at least open to considerable doubt. Ought he not rather to say, "war is the greatest calamity which can befall a nation. It happened in your father's days, and it may happen in yours. Pray God it will not. Do everything in your power to prevent it. But is is the opinion of most people that a man ought to be able to defend those things which he holds most dear, most precious, most sacred, the people he loves, his home and the ideals in which he believes. Here in this school we offer you some military training, a training which, in the opinion of those best qualified to know, will render you in time to come more valuable, more fit, more apt to render service should an emergency arise, and to render the kind of service which you will no doubt wish to render to the cause in which you believe." That seems to me to be the point of view that a schoolmaster should take. To say that squad drill, musketry and field exercises make a man militarist is just like saying that football leads to murder and the reading of Horace to dipsomania.
With regard to the other object, that you should render them more fit for modern warfare by instructing them in gas attacks, and in anti-aircraft attacks, that is not the object of education. You do not teach boys in any public school the technicalities of the profession into which they are going. They have to earn their living. Mathematics no doubt may 613 be of some use in the city, though I never found that men in the city knew more mathematics than anybody else, but I never heard of a school in which there were lectures on the Weekly Stock Markets, the ups and downs of shares, or the reliability of the principal financial houses. Yet these are things boys will have to know about if they go into the city, as they will have to know about poison gas if they go to war. That sort of specious argument carries considerable weight, especially if it is well written, but there is nothing in it. I wish to assure the House that the Army Council does attach tremendous value to the Officers Training Corps and hopes to see it going on as it is going on, rendering the service it is rendering.
I now come to the last of the purposes for which the Army exists, and that is to give help if need arises in an emergency, to fight outside the shores of this country. I would like to emphasise that, in discussing the field force, I am not discussing a different Army. It is the same old Army about which we have been talking all the while, an Army of Regulars and Territorials, which has to provide the reinforcements of the Army and protect our naval ports, and our shores. It is the same Army all the time. To return to the motoring simile: Your expert motorist who takes in magazines about motors and really knows what makes them go, when he comes to look at your one car does so with a smile of pity and contempt, and will always tell you the things that are wrong, the modern gadgets it ought to have, the hundred and one improvements it must undergo before it is entered in a race. In the same way your military experts will tell you to exchange your last horse for a motor bicycle and push your last infantryman into a tank. He has forgotten that there are 66 battalions of infantry defending British interests all over the world, and this force has to provide reinforcements for them. The War Office does not indulge in propaganda, publicity or advertisement. I sometimes think it is a pity it does not, because people in this country have no idea of the work the Army is performing all the time overseas. Hardly a month goes by in which British infantry are not called upon to perform duties of restoring confidence and providing protection and maintaining 614 order—duties which they always perform with a minimum of fuss, ostentation or advertisement, and nearly always successfully.Peace hath her victoriesNo less renown'd than waris a quotation with which we are all familiar, but many people do not realise that the victories of peace also are often won by soldiers, and it is not so much in their power to destroy and kill as in their power to make friends that the British troops carry out their work to-day. There is no more valuable weapon than the good nature of the ordinary British soldier. Bad news gets bigger headlines than good news. Nobody hears of battles that are not fought, although they require as much good will and courage as those that are. It was only the summer before last that an example of this kind took place. In Iraq a situation arose which the High Commissioner considered extremely dangerous, and he asked for a battalion of infantry. They were conveyed by the Royal Air Force from Egypt in the minimum of time, at the minimum of expense. There was no fighting, no casualties; there was not even a supplementary estimate, and the profound knowledge which the High Commissioner had of the psychology of the people among whom he was living, was proved by the result that the situation resolved itself immediately into peace and quiet. One battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment had done the trick.
We could not convey a tank or an armoured car in those aeroplanes to Iraq, in that way, and if we could, they were not the weapons that were needed. When you have an enemy before you on the battlefield and a definite military objective to capture, machine guns and tanks have their place, but when you have to deal, as we so often have to deal, with a disaffected population and widespread hostilities, perhaps unorganised, these are not the weapons. You need subtler and more delicate weapons which only infantry can provide. It has been said lately by a very distinguished officer in the Press, that the greater must contain the less. It is always dangerous when soldiers dabble in Euclid. An army that can fight against the most highly armed civilised Power in the world, it is argued, must be the best to fight a less civilised and organised Power. But you cannot judge 615 human nature in terms of geometry. Human nature is not all made up of squares and triangles, though some of our modern painters would have you believe so. It does not follow that because a cat-o'-nine-tails is the best instrument for correcting a hardened criminal, it is also the best for a little child. Because an elephant is the heaviest animal in the world it does not follow that it is the best instrument for cracking walnuts.
It is true that the tank was in the last War a great invention which had a profound influence, and far be it from me to underrate in any way the formidable character of that weapon perhaps to-day the most formidable in the world. The Army Council have shown their appreciation of it this year by establishing a tank brigade of four battalions, and we are continuing to study any improvements in that weapon. The tank to-day is as much more formidable than the tank of 1918 as the modern rifle is more formidable than the first rifles, but you cannot commit yourself irrevocably to any one invention. Colonel Henderson, one of the greatest military historians, has said that it takes years for military criticism to recover its equilibrium after any great invention. That to some extent is true. People think that it must be the only thing. As nobody can say when the next war will be fought, so nobody can say how invention is going to proceed. At the present time there is every indication that the invention of armour-piercing bullets is going on much more rapidly than the invention of bullet-resisting armour. I am not in a position to give any information, but it is at least possible that in a few years' time the most heavily armoured car or tank will be as vulnerable to the fire of the future as an old wooden caravan would be to the firing of to-day. On Salisbury Plain or even on the fields of Flanders the tank is no doubt the most powerful weapon you can possibly use, but it is not necessarily the most powerful in the North-West Frontier, or in the swamps and ditches that surround the suburbs of Shanghai. The Japanese discovered that to their cost in recent military operations when their armoured guns and tanks collapsed and proved a great hindrance to their operations.
The hundred years that led up to the Great War, we are apt to think of as 616 the time of comparative peace, and yet in that period the British Army fought in many lands and in many different conditions. They fought in the heat of summer on the plains of Egypt, and in the depth of winter in the Crimea. They fought in the roadless hills of Afghanistan and in the open veldt of South Africa, in the dense forests of Ashanti, and the waterless deserts of the Sudan. Tanks would not have done; and, just as we cannot say when the next war will be, so we cannot say under what conditions it will be fought. We have to be ready for all conditions and provide an army that will do its best in any circumstances. To revolutionise our whole policy in view of the latest inventions, would be as unwise as it would be to revolutionise our political system because some other system has been going well for a few years in some foreign land. Hon. Members who were impatient last year will doubtless be more impatient this year, because we have not decided on the ideal anti-tank gun. We cannot commit ourselves until we are sure we have the best. We must go on experimenting. We have gone far and our experiments are approaching finality, so that we hope soon to make a definite decision.
I do not think I am called upon to explain at any length the increase of expenditure in these Estimates. It was admirably dealt with in the Secretary of State's Memorandum where the fact that the Estimates are a little larger is shown not to be accountable to any expansion of our armed forces. Hon. Members opposite cannot think that the inhabitants of foreign countries will imagine that these Estimates show any war-like spirit. When they remember that when they were in office four years ago and the international outlook was at least not more disquieting than it is to-day, they produced Estimates for a considerably larger sum than we are producing, I think their minds may be at rest on that particular issue. Great and terrible are the inventions of modern science, and awful are the instruments of modern destruction that modern science produces, but the ultimate test of an Army in the future will be, as it has been in the past, the man behind the gun and the man in the machine. I have endeavoured to draw some picture of what the British Army is there to perform, and I should like to conclude by saying that if it were 617 not for the patriotism and devotion which inspires all ranks, both of the Regular and the Territorial Armies it would be impossible for so small a force to fulfil duties of such vast magnitude.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The hon. Gentleman has introduced these Estimates in that brilliant style which he has taught us to expect from him. He has not, however, spent so much time in illuminating the Estimates themselves, as in intimating to those who are attacking the Army that the Army is not going to take those attacks lying down and also to some extent in anticipating attacks upon the Army. The Navy has been called "the silent service." I have sometimes thought in recent years that the term could with more justification be applied to the Army in view of the attacks which have been made upon it. While the hon. Gentleman used the pacifists as a stalking-horse and particularly mentioned my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—to whom he made a kindly reference—his speech was a straight tip to the Air Force and the Navy that the Army is going to have something to say when the Debate on general defence takes place. That does not lead us very far in considering the Estimates as a whole. Let me say at once that I endorse what the hon. Gentleman said about the general conduct and character of the soldier of to-day. What he has said about the intellectual advantages of the soldier of to-day as compared with the soldier of the past is no more than the truth. One of the things which does not seem to be realised outside the Army is that the soldier of to-day is getting an education far superior to that of the average adolescent in civil life apart from those who go to the secondary schools and the universities. Whether the civilians like it or not, it is the case that in matters of adolescent education the soldier has turned the tables on the civilian since the War.
The hon. Gentleman asks us to-day to give our assent to an Estimate of over £39,000,000. One would scarcely think from his remarks that he was really asking the House to assent to an increase of £1,600,000. That, at a time like the present, is bad enough but this is the second year in which we have had an increase, and these two increases 618 together represent an increase of over £3,000,000 for the Army since 1932. The increase asked for to-day by the hon. Gentleman, added to the increases in the naval and air Estimates for this year, makes up a total increase of £4,750,000 in respect of the defence forces for this year. If we take the two years since 1932 there has been an increase on the ordinary Estimates in that time, for all the forces, of over £9,000,000. Let the House understand what that means because it is very relevant to the point which the hon. Gentleman made as to the difficulty of getting sufficient recruits for the Army. The hon. Gentleman did not tell the House, because it is stated in the Memorandum, that over 33 per cent. of men were rejected this year. The percentage of rejects is going up; the figure now amounts to over 300 per thousand, and the Memorandum significantly points out that that was in addition to over 10,000 men who were rejected, on sight, and without reference to the medical officers at all. They merely showed themselves and were refused. I submit that such a state of things prevails because we are taking money for the defence services which ought to go to feeding and clothing the people, and keeping men in decent health so that they will be fit, if and when they do wish voluntarily to offer themselves for military service.
When the cuts were made in the Services and on all the people outside, including the unemployed, we were told in the Command Paper of 1931 that the total reduction, including reduction of pay and pensions that would be made in the Estimates for the defence services in 1932 was £8,600,0000. That was the defence forces' contribution to solving the difficulties of that time. I think the amount was made up of £3,600,000 cut in pay and pensions and £5,000,000 cut in other expenditure on the defence forces. The Army, Navy and Air Force have had that £5,000,000 returned twice over, but not a penny has been restored either to the unemployed men outside or to those who serve in the various forces. We have restored the cuts made in expenditure on guns and tanks but there has been no restoration of cuts for those who need it most. We appeased the mechanical god of war and allowed our own people to suffer.
619 The fundamental matter for the War Office as well as the other service departments to consider is the relation of this question to the question of recruiting. They ought not merely to complain about not getting the necessary recruits. They ought to make representations to the officers of the civilian forces of this country—that is the Government—and urge them to pay just as much attention to men and women in civil life who need attention, as military and naval officers pay to their men, in reference particularly to food and clothing. I repeat what I have said on a previous occasion. I know at first hand something of the attention which an officer gives to his men. I have known it as a ranker. I have known it when I occupied the exalted position which the hon. Gentleman opposite occupies to-day. I have seen it from various angles. I know that officers insist that their men should be well-fed and well clothed. Indeed the same spirit applies even to the animals in the service of the War Office. It applies even to the mules—animals for which I have a great respect.
I am unstinted in my admiration of the care which officers give to their men to see that they are properly fed, clothed and housed. But I think if service Members of this House clearly understood the state of affairs existing among great masses of men in this country to-day, if they realised how many of our people lacked the elementary needs of life, if they realised the deterioration which is going on in those standards which are essential to reasonable health and fitness, they would join with us in criticising the policy of restoring cuts in expenditure on mere mechanical needs before such a restoration is made to the people who need it most in various parts of our national life. So I say that the additional £1,500,000 extra for which we are being asked to-day must be considered in the light of the circumstances in which the nation finds itself. It would be true to say that in case of trouble to-day, or at any time, the whole nation is a potential army. If we allow the deterioration to go on which is marked and admitted by the War Office itself, we can pile up arms and fortify ourselves as much as we like, but like other Empires we shall go the way of dust. We shall have something to say 620 about that aspect of the question before this Debate closes.
I wish to ask whether the Government are sure that we are getting full value for the money that we are spending. The hon. Gentleman in his opposition to proposals for the amalgamation of certain services was rather sarcastic at the expense of certain people who have made such proposals. We are being asked to spend nearly £40,000,000 on the Army and on the three Services together we are spending £114,000,000. Are we sure that we are geting value for that expenditure 2 That is a matter which might well be discussed when we are discussing Imperial defence generally. Members have asked for a Debate upon that subject, and I am sure they are going to have a Debate, but it will be after the Estimates have been passed. We had such a Debate last year—after the Estimates had been passed. We always get that Debate when least can, be effected. This matter of pooling resources and amalgamating for the purchase of food, clothes, stores, and a whole lot of such things, must come down some day to a really fundamental discussion, and I do not think we shall get it when we have this general Debate. It is true that the Imperial Defence Committee has been responsible already for making certain services co-operate in the three Forces, but I am not familiar with the extent to which that operates. It is also true that the Public Accounts Committee investigates the accounts and makes certain suggestions, but it discusses these matters, I believe, from 12 to 18 months after the money has been spent, and I think the time is not far distant when, from the point of view of supplies alone, there will have to be a more meticulous investigation of these matters, in order to see that we are getting full value for our money.
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman about the question of works and buildings. I see the gross estimate for Catterick has disappeared from the Estimates. We used to be told regularly that over £1,500,000 was required, but it seems that the Catterick business has been split up, so that we still have very large Estimates for work to be done in that particular part of the country. There is £106,000 to be spent up to 31st March of this year, then there is £62,800 for 1934, and then we are told there is £139,600 for future years. This has been going on 621 almost since the War. I think the original Estimate was for about £1,500,000, but that, as far as I can see, has been used up, and now we seem to be setting out on another almost indefinite range of expenditure which is so big that it is almost impossible to grasp. I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell us what their plans are with regard to Catterick. This year we are spending on works and buildings alone £3,303,000, an increase of £663,000, or, on the two years, of £882,000. I am aware that a good deal of that is due to the fact that some of the old hutting of the South African War and some that was put up temporarily during the War has proved unstable, but some of these sums are, I must say, interminable. We are given bare facts and figures in this great book of Estimates, but we are given very little explanation, and it seems to me that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that in the case of works and buildings there should be joint action between the three Forces.
Then there is Vote 7, the clothing Vote. Last year there was no increase in this Vote, but this year there is an increase of £107,000 on a Vote of £1,025,000. That is a very large increase in the cost of clothing, and it is rather disturbing, in view of the fact that it cannot be said that there has been any increase in wages so far as clothing is concerned. The old Pimlico factory has gone. The hon. Gentleman, if he had had it in his power, might have retained it, but in so far as the capacity to make our own clothing on a large scale has gone, we not only lose what I think is a valuable force, but we also lose a sort of testing standard for the people outside. I think we should be given an explanation of this very large increase in the cost of clothing for this year. Is it the result of exploitation? Has the War Office placed itself in a position, by abandoning the Pimlico factory, whereby not only can it not produce its own clothing on a large scale for the Army, but it has also abandoned the means of keeping those who make tenders for the supply of clothing from private sources somewhat in hand?
I used to boast that the War Office were in a position to produce clothes and many other things much more cheaply than they were produced outside. There was a time when the War Office could compete in the most remarkable way with outside forces. We used to get, in the 622 Army Estimates after the War, an idea of what was the cost of such a thing as a loaf of bread, through the operation of what was known as the costing system. That was abandoned, and it seemed to me, when it was abandoned, that we lost a means of gauging our expenditure at first hand and of knowing whether we were getting value for our money. I remember very well calling attention, I think it was in about 1921 or 1922, to the fact that when the loaf outside was selling for about 11d., the War Office was producing and supplying it to its own men at 4½d.—the same weight and the same quality—and there were many other striking instances. This increase in the cost of clothing is all the more significant when the Government's own factory at Pimlico has gone, and the Government are now largely, though not wholly, in the hands of private traders for the supply of clothing for the Army.
There is the perennial question of how much longer we have to continue with vast numbers of horses in the possession of the Army, even in increasing numbers, when the Army is committed almost wholly to the policy of mechanisation. It is very difficult to say, in these circumstances, what is the value of mechanisation. The hon. Gentleman has given an illustration of how ineffective tanks and tractors have proved to be in one part of the world. I do not know whether he had in mind the ineffectiveness of tanks at one stage late in the War, but if the Army is going to decide upon continued mechanisation—these Estimates give many instances of increased expenditure for that purpose, and there is nearly as much for the building of shelters for tanks and all that kind of thing as there is of building for human beings—then we really must some time have an answer to this question of the increase in the supplies of Army remounts. There is an increase of £14,000 for animals—chargers, mules and what not—this year, and that is in addition to the 16,000 horses and mules on the establishment already. Further, it is exclusive of India, where there might be said to be much more reason for the use of the horse or the mule. In the face of the increased expenditure of the last year or two on the deliberate mechanisation of the Army, what is the explanation of keeping 16,000 horses and even more this year? That is a matter, it seems to me, upon which 623 the War Office will be open to very real attack unless an answer is forthcoming.
The real point that the House has to consider to-day is that which the Financial Secretary made almost the centre of his speech. I started on that point and I finish on it. It is the condition of those people who would like to join the Army and cannot. The country cannot afford to increase its expenditure upon the Army, Navy and Air Force. I am one of those who follow matters of policy very closely so far layman can, and I am also one of those who unfortunately are in daily touch with the great masses of men from whom the Army, the Navy and the Air Force draw their supplies, and upon whom in case of war we must depend for defence as a last resort. In just that supply we are weak. This country cannot afford to restore £9,000,000 in two years to the Services while it takes £56,000,000 from the unemployed and great cuts from the very men in these Services.
That is the realism of the position which these Estimates can be said to represent. Other nations and other empires have kept out the forces that were seeking to get over their frontiers. Sometimes I walk along that old wall in the North of England where soldiers once kept guard in order to keep out the enemies who were attacking the Roman Empire. We have vivid descriptions of how forces in various parts of the world strove to get through and how Rome kept them back. There is one thing, however, which she did not keep back. She did not keep back hunger, unemployment and want and the deterioration of her people. She could keep enemies outside, but she could not resist those forces of deterioration inside which ultimately brought her down. If there were realism in this House in reference to defence and general policy, we would, instead of increasing the Army Estimates, be restoring what has been taken from those who so badly need it. That is why to-night we shall go into the Lobby against this Vote; we think that in reference neither to this defence force nor to the others can this country afford the money until such time as she meets the needs of her people.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
May I start by expressing the special pleasure that 624 some parts of the Minister's speech gave me? I was glad to hear his announcement that a new corps, which I think he called the Royal Defence Corps, was going to be formed, which men who had been Regulars or Territorials were to be invited to join for a special limited but defined and useful purpose. This Corps after all is, I think, only a revival of one of Lord Haldane's organisations. It was called by him the Special Reserve and was one of several pieces of work which he did and which Lord Kitchener expressed himself unable to understand and to make use of when he was in charge. I remember the pleasure with which, as an old Volunteer and Territorial, I joined that Special Reserve, and I am now proud of a rather chipped badge that was given to me on joining. That body, of course, disappeared, and now in a way and under a different name it is being revived and will, if called upon, do work which otherwise the more mobile forces would have to do. It is a very good development.
I agreed with the hon. Gentleman as to our Army being an all-purposes army, and it would have very much delighted my old chief, Lord Haldane. I was brought up in his tradition, what you may call a modified and improved Card-wellianism. I was glad to hear it so ably defended to-day, and to know that there was no going away from that system even though it does not, as the hon. Gentleman of course admitted, provide separate armies for all separate purposes which our Army has to carry out, and therefore is not and cannot be absolutely perfect for all possible duties for which our Army is called upon. I was delighted at the Minister's able praise of the ordinary infantryman, the ordinary footslogger. I believe that the ordinary rank and file of the British Infantry, with their good nature and their strong shoulders always to the front in whatever part of the world they may be called upon, and with their side-arms kept very carefully in reserve in the hope that even that minor weapon will not be needed, is one of the finest peace agencies in the world. I am glad that the Minister made an indirect, but none the less effective, corrective of the idea, which one reads of here and there, which encourages overdue specialisation and mechanisation to take place in this glorious 625 force with its wonderful tradition and reputation.
I suppose that I was asked to say something on this occasion on behalf of my party partly because my name happens to begin with A, and I was the first person to come to mind, but also because I was not present at the party meeting where the Estimates were discussed, and therefore could not make any excuses. It is the fact, however, that I had the honour of occupying the position which the Financial Secretary to the War Office adorns no less than a quarter of a century ago. As I listened to him I was very glad, looking back on those days, to realise that it did not fall to me then, but to Mr. Haldane, to make the statement introducing the Estimates, because I am sure that I could not possibly have done it as ably and attractively as he did.
I would like to refer to the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates. That takes a common form of many memoranda that must have been presented this year to many other assemblies besides this House up and down the country. I was amused as I read the sentences of the Memorandum of the Secretary of State to see how almost every sentence echoed the words with which a few weeks before—to compare these great things with a very small matter—I had introduced and justified the estimates of the education authority of Devon. It is common form nowadays to say that heavy cuts have to be made on account of the financial crisis, that stocks are depleted and have now to be renewed, that repairs are now overdue, that rebuilding must be attended to, and that things unfortunately are rising in price, and that all these things account for the higher figure which has to be presented. It is also almost common form to have to continue to say that the figure is not yet back again to its previous level before the cuts took place in 1931, and to add, as the Memorandum does, and as I did to my county council, a few guarded phrases, as little alarming as possible, which suggests that the services will probably come above the figure of 1931 in a year or two's time.
One notices also that useful phrase about factors beyond one's own control: in my case the Burnham scale and the increase in the attendance of children in 626 schools, and in the case of the War Office the better recruiting and the extra provision that has to be made to meet the risks of unemployment. The parallel is curiously exact in that both the Secretary of State in the Memorandum and I in talking about the education estimates in my county spoke about the necessity of having to replace the wooden army huts which are no longer tolerable and must be replaced by permanent buildings.
But when I read that the cuts that took place in 1931 can no longer be maintained and that the expenditure is gradually coming back to the old figure, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) that it is not tolerable to envisage a return to the old figure which is presented to us in these Estimates if there is to be no return of the other cuts. If we are told that this expenditure is going to creep up but that nothing is to be done for other people, there will be a great cause for criticism, whereas if there is a restoration all round it will be only doing what may naturally be expected on account of the improved financial position of the country. It seems to me that although what I have mentioned in the Secretary of State's Memorandum may be all right when it was expressed by me in a small matter of county estimates, it is a little meagre when it is applied to the Army. I would have liked to have had something more, something like we had this afternoon from the Financial Secretary, but even a little more than that, as to what the Army is for, particularly on that side to which he referred at the end, namely, its power of mobilising into a foreign service force.
In the Memorandum which Lord Haldane presented to the House 25 years ago he was quite definite about that. He said that he was so organising the Regular Army as to be able to mobilise one cavalry division and six other divisions and to keep their numbers up for six months, and that he was organising the Territorials in 14 divisions, and that that was the force aimed at for overseas services in the one case and for home defence in the other. No one has to grope a little in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State, and even in the admirable speech we have heard, to find any definite statement as to what the Army is for from the point of view of its possible foreign service. Comparing the position 627 at the two dates, I find that our establishments abroad now total 31,000, compared with 45,000 25 years ago, and in India 57,000, compared with 76,000. One wonders whether we need a home establishment—as certainly we should not under the Cardwell system—of 110,000 to maintain a foreign establishment of 88,000. If it is not wanted for the purpose of maintaining the Indian and other overseas garrisons what exactly is it needed for? I am not saying that we do not want it, but that we should have had rather a better picture of the Army if we had been told what force on mobilisation it is estimated that this country can now produce, compared with Lord Haldane's cavalry division and six other divisions.
It is rather interesting to compare the main figures of strength and of expenditure in those days and now. Lord Haldane had an establishment 33,000 larger—183,000 then, against our 150,000 now—and the effective Votes came to £23,500,000, as against £31,500,000 now. There was a regular establishment 33,000 larger and costing £8,000,000 less. In the case of the non-effective Votes the contrast is even more interesting, because the total was, with £4,250,000 less on the Pension Votes in those days, £27,500,000, against £39,500,000 now. That is an extra expenditure of £12,000,000, although the regular establishments are 33,000 down. The Territorial strength then was 200,000 and now is only 133,000. There has been an obvious decline in numbers and an obvious rise in expenditure. If one had to explain this increase of expense one would centre on three things, namely, the increase of mechanisation and specialisation since the War, the increases in pay, and the very considerable increases on the non-effective Votes. It seems a rather remarkable thing that there has been more than £4,000,000 a year increase on the non-effective Votes, seeing that all War pensions are carried on the Vote for the Ministry of Pensions and do not come into the ordinary Army pension lists at all.
As to mechanisation, it is interesting to note how far it has gone, not only as regards turning cavalry into artillery and giving the artillery tractors instead of their horses, but also to notice how very much that standard unit, as I regard it, 628 the battalion of infantry, has tended to become a mechanised unit. I remember in the year 1908, at about this time, when the Estimates, for which I was partly responsible, were under consideration, reading a paper circulated to members of the Army Council on the manoeuvres in Germany—it had been prepared by our Military Attaché or some person who was an authorised observer and reporter—and noticing what great use the Germans seemed to make of machine guns. I wrote a note to the Master-General of Ordnance, with whom I happened to have some pretty stiff disagreements on financial matters, saying that if he and the military members of the Council would like to have more machine guns for the Army that at any rate the Finance Department of the War Office would make no objection. I got, of course, the answer to which they adhered for years after that—even till a fairly late period in the War—that two machine guns per battalion were enough.
How things have changed now. Every infantry battalion is to have four antitank guns, two antiaircraft guns, each of the three rifle companies is to have eight Lewis guns, and the machine gun company is divided into three platoons, each with four machine guns; so that each unit of infantry has a total of 42 pieces of ordnance of different sizes, in addition, of course, to rifles, If that is done in the least specialised arm, what are they now doing as regards specialisation and mechanisation in the more specialised arms? No wonder that one finds in these Estimates that the Vote for Armament and Engineers Stores, which 25 years ago was £1,600,000, is today more than £3,000,000.
Let me make a comparison in the matter of pay, taking the same unit, the infantry battalion. The establishment of an infantry battalion is only 10 less than it used to be, being 791 against 801, but the annual pay of that establishment, which used to be £20,000 a year, is now £53,000 a year. I have worked out the increases for some typical ranks. A married lieutenant-colonel now gets exactly 90 per cent. more than he did then, receiving £1,153 a year in pay and allowances, compared with £607. A second-lieutenant, unmarried—one must assume that normally he is unmarried, because he cannot afford to be otherwise—who 629 used to get £145 a year in pay and allowances now gets £262, exactly 80 per cent. more. But the biggest rise is found when we come to the private soldier. I am glad of it, and I think he deserves it, but it is worth mentioning how very much his position has improved. In the old days he used to get the proverbial shilling. Now he gets 2s. a day, with an extra 6d. after three years, an extra 3d. as soon as he has passed a low educational proficiency standard, and another extra 3d. for military proficiency, which he can gain within a fairly limited time of enlistment. We may take his pay as an average of 2s. 6d. a day, even during the quite early years of his training, rising to 3s. if he becomes an efficient soldier later. His pay has gone up 150 per cent.
An interesting point to notice, and I am bound to say that I cannot understand why it should be so, is that recruiting was brisk in those old days, although the infantryman used to get only 1s. a day. Unemployment at that time, 1908, was at the lowest point ever known since the figures were collected, and yet now, when unemployment is so bad and the position of the soldier is so very much improved, recruiting seems to be more difficult. To-day the infantry private gets £46 a year and everything found, with other allowances for the upkeep of his clothes. That does not seem to be at all bad for a man in these difficult times, and I would like to join with the Financial Secretary in getting that made known as showing how wonderfully good is the provision which the Army makes for those who join.
A few other rather interesting points emerge, which I hurry over, when one compares expenditure now and 25 years ago. The first is that the medical services, which then used to cost just under £440,000, now cost £910,000. The doctors have far fewer men to look after, but the Medical Corps, which used to be only 1,100 strong, is now 3,600. I remember that in my day I always used to feel that the Adjutant-General could never stand up against the claims of the doctors for a larger personnel and higher pay and allowances, and increases have gone on steadily since then. I expect we get value for that extra medical attention; certainly the Army does make men who join healthy and keep them healthy, and sends them back to civil life about the finest set of men the nation turns out 630 from any of its services. That is done partly on the physical side, no doubt, by the care of the medical service; and partly done, as the hon. Member who preceded me showed, on the mental side also. The Vote for educational establishments used to be £146,000 in my day, and now it is nearly six times as much, £844,000. The cost of Woolwich is up by two-thirds and that of Sandhurst is quite double, and the Staff College costs six times as much.
Then there is a new item of expenditure, altogether unknown in those days, namely, schools for fighting arms, on which we now spend £366,000, an increase of £71,000 between last year and this, which, of course, is an illustration of the development of mechanisation and specialisation. Included in this Vote for education is one thing to which I wish to refer with special pleasure, and which I do not in any sort of way grudge, namely, the maintenance of a unit of organisation called the Vocational Training Centre, at Chisledon. I believe it does perfectly admirable work. By the courtesy of the War Office, some of us who are interested in these ideas of land settlement and are trying to develop them and make them a success, and who are also interested in training men to make a better use of the land, were allowed to visit Chisledon the other day. Persons connected with the Society of Friends, and others with whom I have had the pleasure of working, were extremely impressed by the wonderful spirit of efficiency and the effectiveness of the training which these men got. I am only sorry that the organisation trains no more than 1,400 men per year. Those men must be very carefully selected, and many people who could get a great deal of advantage from that training must have been left behind. It would be a very fine thing, and one to which I do not think the House would grudge the extra expense, if an organisation of that kind could train 4,000 or 5,000 men, rather than 1,400 which pass through it now.
I have only two more points, but I am afraid that they are both rather critical. Looking through the Estimates, I came across a rearrangement of the Votes which rather puzzled me. It was a reversion to the 1904 arrangement. We used to have Quartering and Movements, and Transport and Remounts, all in one 631 Vote—Vote 6; and Supplies and Clothing both in one Vote—Vote 7. That was a logical division, because all movement was together and all supplies were together, other than warlike stores. That is now altered. We now have Quartering and Movements in one Vote, which is a logical thing, but we have Supplies, Transport and Remounts in one Vote, which is illogical, because it mixes supplies with movement. We have a separate Vote altogether for clothing, which is again supplies. So we have movement divided and supplies divided. That seemed to me to be curious and interesting, and I began to burrow into the Estimates to see if I could understand what had happened.
I found that there had been a change of function between the Departments of two of the military members of the Army Council, the Master-General of the Ordnance and the Quartermaster-General of the Forces. The Master-General has taken over clothing, which accounts for its now being in a separate Vote from other supplies, and in exchange, the Quartermaster-General has taken over fortifications and works, which used to be, and I maintain still should be, in the Department of the Master-General of the Ordnance. There must be some reason for something which sounds so illogical as that. I wonder what it is. I do not know that I am right, and I want to ask: Has the war organisation of supplies been changed—the old, simple organisation on which we ran the Great War? Nobody really complained about the Quartermaster-General's side of the War, whatever complaints they made about the Master-General of the Ordnance's side.
The old, simple principle was that the Master-General of the Ordnance and his Department stayed at home. They were responsible for the production of munitions, which they handed over to the Army Ordnance Corps and which were then distributed by the Quartermaster-General, so far as it was not done by the artillery itself. All distribution in the field, however, as contrasted with the distribution of certain munitions at home, was done by one man, namely, the Quartermaster-General with his staff. All the supplies were the responsibility of his Department, and all such things were the property of his Department.
632 That was in accordance with a principle which I believe is essential if there is to be an efficient field service. That principle is, that the wagon and the load must belong to the same department—if I may put it so. That no longer happens, so far as I can see. It seems to have been dropped, and I want to know whether that is so. Has there been, since the War, a Master-General of the Ordnance strong enough not only to get clothing into his Department but to establish a field service of the supply of that clothing to the Army alongside the service for which the Quartermaster-General is responsible? Is there to be a Master-General of the Ordnance's Department in the field, responsible for the distribution of some supplies alongside the main distribution for which the Quartermaster-General will still be responsible? If so, I believe that to be entirely wrong. In the field it would be bound to lead to muddle. If there is competition between the Departments of the Quartermaster-General and the Master-General of the Ordnance in the field, it will be necessary to have a new man in the field who will be boss of both of them, and that will make things worse than ever. The simple plan, which used to be that of having the wagon and the load under the same man, is right. I would like an answer to this question at some convenient time, and if I am right about the change that has taken place, I ask that the matter should be re-inquired into.
Just in passing, may I remark that the result of mechanisation is again seen in the fact that the figures for general stores have more than doubled in the 25 years with which I have been dealing? The figure was then £535,000, and now it is £1,181,000. The figure for war-like stores was £1,604,000 then and now it is over £3,000,000. I want to call special attention to a point in Vote 10 which illustrates what I regard as an extremely important principle, and which involves an important matter relating to the proper control by this House over expenditure. It used to be, and always has been, a favourite dodge or method of the Works Department to start new works services with quite small items which have made very little show in the Estimates for the year, and therefore have escaped notice. In the following years when the cost of those works very 633 largely increased, the answer was always given—I expect I have given it myself—that the House was committed to that work by having admitted it to the Estimates a few years ago, and that it was a continuing service about which it would be unfair to make any criticism.
I looked into Vote 10 to find out whether that process was repeating itself. I did not find as many instances as I expected until I came to one in which we are asked, by a vote of £500, to commit ourselves to a vote of £1,750,000 for rebuilding barracks in Hong Kong and Shanghai. That will be on next year's Estimates as a continuing service which was begun this year. Not a word was said about it in the Secretary of State's Memorandum, or in the speech of the Financial Secretary to the War Office, yet it is starting with what is really only a token vote of £500, to which we commit ourselves if we pass Vote 10. That figure is described as a "provisional" figure. "Provisional" is an ominous word, because it generally means that the expenditure is more likely to go up than to go down. The figure will be £1,750,000. It means that we shall be lucky if we can get these new barracks under £2,000,000.
That ought not to have been put into the Estimates without some attention being called to it, especially as Vote 10 is generally guillotined and not discussed in the Committee at all. Never was a bigger item slipped in so quietly, and I want to ask some questions about it. What inquiry has been made as to whether the Department really ought to build three new infantry barracks at Hong Kong and Shanghai, involving £1,750,000? Who is to do it? Is it to be done by the commanding officer of the Royal Engineers with his local staff and with local labour? If so, have the War Office considered whether it could not be done better—a great work of that kind running up to £2,000,000—by a civilian contractor from this country. Those things are important. I do not think that we ought to be asked to authorise it without being told something about it, and I would like the Financial Secretary to consent to withdrawing this Estimate of £500 which, as I say, commits us to the larger item, until this House has had & full report as to what is really 634 intended with regard to the expenditure of such a very large sum of money.
That could not have happened in my day. [Interruption.] That interruption sounds rude, but it is not meant to be rude. I admit that the Financial Secretary to the War Office is probably far more efficient at his job than I was. The point I want to make is that the system has been changed. It is because the system has been changed that things of this kind can slip through. The Financial Secretary to the War Office used to be a member of the Army Council, and was almost exclusively charged to see that financial principles of this kind—of not slipping in an Estimate of £1,750,000 upon a token Vote of £500—were observed. That has been altered. It is no longer the job of the Financial Secretary to have care and guardianship over those things. In my day he had under him not only the Director of Contracts as he has now, but the Director of Army Finance and the Director of Financial Services, with the Assistant Financial Secretary over the two of them as his principal financial adviser. Starting a great service of this kind without it even being mentioned in the Secretary of State's Memorandum would have been reported to him through the Director of Financial Services. It would have been my duty to go to see the Master-General of the Ordnance about it, and if we could not have agreed to cut it out and not to do a thing of that kind, it would have been my duty again as Financial Secretary to have the matter brought up before the Army Council. It would have been the duty of the Secretary of the Army Council to see that my minutes on the subject were printed for the Council's consideration, and it would have got done.
If I am right, no papers on a subject of that kind would come to the Financial Secretary at all. They would go up to the Permanent Under-Secretary, through the Deputy Under-Secretary, and the Permanent Under-Secretary would take as much or as little notice of a financial point of that kind as he pleased. Of course, we would not know whether he took notice of it or not. My point is that the old Esher system, under which a Financial Secretary was really responsible for the principles of Army Finance, ought never to have been abandoned. 635 If that was right, under Lord Esher, the British Army owes a wonder ful debt of gratitude to Lord Esher.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
That system, under which the Financial Secretary really was responsible for Army finance, was the right system. The principle on which Army finance is now only one of the duties of the Permanent Under-Secretary is a mistaken principle, and the change is not to the good. The fact that we have now almost the insult of being asked to pass an Estimate embodying £1,750,000 for these barracks under this token Vote to which I have referred, is a complete justification for further inquiry as to the change which has taken place since the Haldane system was worked out on the basis of the Esher Report, and some of us here will feel bound to vote against Votes like Vote 10 and the others to which I have referred unless at the proper time we can get an answer on the matters which I have thought it right to bring before the House.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Sir IAN MACPHERSON
I do not propose to detain the House for more than a few minutes, because I understand that many of my colleagues would like to take part in the Debate. I do not intend to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) into his comparison with what happened 25 years ago, but I should not like him to go away with a misunderstanding. The Royal Defence Corps is not a Special Reserve. The Special Reserve is quite a different body of men. As I understand it, the Royal Defence Corps is practically the same corps which existed during the War purely and specially for home defence, recruited from the older men of the community who 636 were not fit to take part in active service. The Special Reserve, on the other hand, was usually the third battalion of any regiment, which acted as a special feeding battalion to the regiment at the front. I hope that my right hon. Friend will keep that distinction clearly in mind.
§ Sir I. MACPHERSON
I think I am within the knowledge of a great many active service Members of the House when I say that that is the proper description of the two forces. It is a great satisfaction to me to know that the Royal Defence Corps is to come into existence again. For myself, I believe that it is a very valuable corps, and that a great many men who have been active Volunteers or Territorials all their lives, some of them ex-service men, would be anxious, at an age when they are not as fit and active as they were, to take some active part in the defence of their country.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary on his admirable speech. It has been my fortune, good or bad, to introduce several Army Estimates, but I frankly confess that I have never heard the Army Estimates introduced in so admirable a manner as they were this afternoon. I felt that my hon. Friend had a message to the country about the Army, and, for the first time in a long period, he said what should have been said long ago. I remember, when I was Under-Secretary of State for War, going one morning into the Secretary of State's room, and his saying to me, "What we want is a booster in this office." I did not know at the time what a booster was—whether it was a species of tank, or a mule, or what it was; but I had to pretend that I knew something about it. This great servant of the State saw that other Departments were using the Press and publicity for their needs, while the British Army was doing effectively, as the Financial Secretary pointed out to-day, the most useful work in the world and no notice was being taken of it. To-day we heard, for the first time in a long period, what the British Army has been doing, and I think that when to-morrow we read my hon. Friend's speech calmly and quietly, we shall come to the conclusion that it was one of the best efforts that I, 637 for one, after 23 years in the House, have heard delivered here.
I should like to deal for a moment with the speech of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). It was a very interesting speech, as his speeches on Army questions always are, but it seemed to me that the gravamen of the charge which he made lay, not upon the Financial Secretary to the War Office, but upon some other Department of State. The hon. Member complained about the bad physique of would-be recruits, and it is a regrettable fact that at the present time no less than 33⅓ per cent. should be rejected. But the War Office and the Army are not responsible for that. I regret to say that the conditions obtaining in many parts of the country are responsible for it. The hon. Member quite rightly pointed to that fact, but any charge that the War Office has anything to do with it is, in my judgment, a mistaken charge.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
In the absence of my hon. Friend, may I point out that he did not do anything of the sort? The point that he made was that the Financial Secretary said that the important factor, after all, was the man, whatever we had in the way of machines, and my hon. Friend pointed out that actually the man was not there.
§ Sir I. MACPHERSON
In view of the hon. Gentleman's statement, I am quite willing to withdraw what I said. I should not like to misrepresent the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, and I am perfectly certain that he would not make a false charge. He did ask, however, whether we are getting full value for the money that we are spending. I think that he himself answered that question, because he said, for example, that adolescent education in the Army to-day was better, probably, than adolescent education outside. He paid a great tribute to the morale of the troops. He said they were never in finer condition, and he also pointed out that vocational training and the other advantages which accrue from enlistment in the British Army were never so good as they are now.
Anyone listening carefully to the speech of the Financial Secretary would see that every single penny spent on the Army at the present time is very carefully watched. There is the most careful 638 economy—not false economy, I hope, because nothing is more dangerous, where the armed Forces of the Crown are concerned, than false economy, but there is clearly no recklessness in spending. I felt very much indebted to my hon. Friend for the special attention which he paid to the various scientific improvements which have been suggested by many high officers of State in connection with the Army. He pointed out to the House how careful they are, and have to be, before they accept any new scientific implement, because in four or five years that scientific implement, with all that it implies, may be out of date. It is well to know that great care is being taken in regard to the acceptance of any new ideas in connection with these scientific implements of war.
I should like to say just a word about the Territorial Force. Again, it is very rarely that one hears sufficient credit given to the Territorial Force, and I am sure the House was delighted to-day to hear my hon. Friend make special reference to them. It is now quite clear that what I may call the coast defence of Great Britain is definitely handed over to the Territorial Force. Everyone knows what this country owes to the Territorial Force, but for two or three years there was a great deal of difficulty in connection with it. One of the reasons ascribed was the fact that there were no camps. But the Territorial soldier does not require very much in return. It is far more a question of patriotism than of pay, and I think that all those who have given voluntarily so much spare-time service to the State will be greatly delighted to read to-morrow the speech which my hon. Friend has delivered this afternoon. I do not wish to detain the House any further, but I thought I should like to add my quota of praise to that to which has already been given to the Financial Secretary, and to say on behalf, not only of the Officers' Training Corps but of the Territorial Force, how delighted they will be by the announcement which has been made this afternoon.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
May I, first of all, add my most sincere congratulations to the Financial Secretary for the way in which he has introduced these Estimates? He has done so with a clarity and wit which I think surpassed 639 even his effort of last year. I always consider, and I think a great many other people consider, that these Estimates for the Defence Forces of the Crown raise the most important questions that we have to consider in the whole year in this House, for the simple reason that everything depends upon the defence and the security of this country and the Empire. In the event of defeat, our very existence as a Power would disappear. Our economic structure would fall to the ground; we should have no money for any social service, for the relief of unemployment, for debt services, or anything else; we should become absolutely pauperised, and no doubt the Empire would disintegrate. When people talk about cutting these Estimates for the purpose of relieving unemployment, I should like to ask what, in case of our defeat, would be the number of unemployed that we should have in this country? It would not then be a question of cutting their pay; they would get no pay at all. This year we are discussing the Army Estimates on a rather different footing from previous years since the War. Our vigorous and wholehearted attempts to bring about agreement between the nations have so far hardly had a modicum of success. We have been told that we should go on hoping. We are not to beeven as those without hope.I remember the quotation:Hope, if once believed, lasts a long time. She is indeed deceitful, but she is nevertheless a convenient deity.We do not want to make a convenience of this hope. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, and this hope has been deferred for a great many years now. All the gestures that we have made during recent years—the great and serious reductions that we have made in our armaments—have so far had no effect whatever. Indeed, many people are now of opinion that we are only weakening, and not strengthening, our position in the councils of the nations. Anyhow, I think that the country at large is beginning to wake up to the seriousness of our position and the risks that we are running.
The Army Estimates are in a different position from those of the Air Force and the Navy. The Air Force and the Navy have certain definite objectives. The Air Force has the long-range objective of 640 seeking parity with the next strongest nation; and it has its short-range objective of building up and completing the 1923 programme. The Navy is bound by treaty, and its objective is to replace all obsolete ships and keep itself as efficient as it can be within the treaty. The Army is bound by no treaty. This small Army of ours should be the most perfect instrument that human skill can possibly make it. The most important points that occur to me come under five heads. The first is that the Army should be up to full strength; secondly, the reserves should be sufficient to put it on a war footing and supply war wastage for a sufficient number of weeks and months in order to train other men; thirdly, that it should be properly trained; fourthly, that it should be armed with up-to-date armaments and that there should be sufficient warlike stores and equipment; and, fifthly, that it could be mobilised and ready to take the field at home or abroad in the shortest possible time. As regards strength, things are not very satisfactory. We are 3,800 under strength. The general Army Reserve seems to be a diminishing quantity during this year, though there are hopes that the Supplementary Reserve will be increased. However, on those two points we have the satisfaction of feeling that the Financial Secretary is fully alive and is taking every step he possibly can to keep the numbers of the Army up. With regard to training, it is again very satisfactory to hear that we are going to have extended manoeuvres this year, because you cannot train your Army properly, you cannot have your higher command exercised, and you cannot have your other troops trained without extended manoeuvres.
On the fourth point I do not feel quite so happy. We were in the position for some years after the War of living on our own fat. There were a great many warlike stores accumulated, and we were able to use them up. Now they are used up, and we have to replenish them. I saw last week in the military correspondence of a reputable paper—they are not all reputable, but this was one—that to put the Army on a war footing would cost the country £50,000,000. I can only hope that that is either untrue or grossly exaggerated. We should like the Financial Secretary to reassure us on the point. There are other good points that I have 641 noticed which come under this heading. At last we are going to have an anti-tank gun. We have been calling out for this for the last two or three years to replace the green flag which has always been carried on manoeuvres, and I hope we shall never more see what I understand happened in the manoeuvres last year, when a local parson stood strictly to attention and saluted the green flag thinking it was the regimental colours. I am glad to see, too, that the cavalry regiments are going to be issued with a new light machine gun. We have also been asking for that for some time to replace the obsolete Hotchkiss. I understand the cavalry have also had issued to them a gun and I hope it will be not merely fortuitous that the British cavalry and Indian cavalry will be armed with the same gun.
With regard to mobilisation, in 1914 we mobilised six divisions with some speed, and got them sent to France. There was also a seventh division which got to France in about two months, together with the third cavalry division. At present, I understand, we have only five divisions. I do not know whether a sixth division is to be formed on the same lines as the seventh in 1914, but the great point that we are worried about is how soon these divisions, five or six, can be mobilised. I know there may be good reasons for withholding this information, but people are disturbed with regard to the speed with which these divisions can be mobilised and made ready for war. It seems to me that the period of mobilisation really should be accelerated and shortened. War may start within a very few hours. Hostilities will very likely begin within two or three hours of a declaration of war, if there is a declaration of war, which is not always certain. We shall not get the breathing space which the old wooden walls of England, or the steel walls of the Navy as they now are, gave us so that we could mobilise more or less at our leisure. Therefore it is most important to get on with the work with those five divisions and see that the mobilisation period is accelerated as much as possible. Vocational training, health and discipline are all things that are most necessary and go to make the machine perfect and efficient but they are all more or less ancillary, and the points that I have mentioned are those 642 which it is most important to look at at present.
It is good news to hear that there is to be this new Royal Defence Corps. That will enable the Territorials to keep their units complete, and the Defence Corps will take over all the smaller duties which have to be performed. I always like to see a piece of organisation of this sort, which is useful and at the same time costs nothing. It will cost nothing until it comes into being. I often think that a great deal more organisation without cost could be done, and I wonder if there is in the pigeon holes of some Department a scheme for food control of the country immediately war breaks out, so as to stop all confusion at the commencement. There might also be some plan with regard to man power so that we do not find, as we did in 1914, that key men, who would be most useful afterwards, are rushed to the colours and killed when other men might have served in their places and the key men might have been kept for better work later on.
We who have belonged to the Army do not want to criticise our own Service in any way. All we want to do is to impress upon the Government the importance of seeing that it has all the personnel and matériel to make it a perfect machine for war. The staff, the officers, and the men are as good, I should think better than ever they were before, and all they want is to be provided with the sinews of war. We do not ask for information which it is not in the interests of the Service to divulge, but we should like an assurance that the Government are alive to the serious situation and will remedy any defects at the earliest possible moment. Some years ago, when the country was very disturbed with regard to the condition of the Navy, Lord Fisher said that everyone could go home and sleep quietly in his bed. I should like the Financial Secretary to tell us, with that conviction which comes from truth, that we can go home to-night with a feeling of confidence and sleep the sleep of the just.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. PALING
This is the third Estimate for the fighting forces that we have debated this week, and in each there is an increase on what has been spent previously. I have never heard such acclamation from admirals, rear-admirals, 643 vice-admirals, generals, air people and all the rest, as there has been because the Estimates are going up, and that now, all these years after the War, we are once again getting back to fighting efficiency. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken was despondent because he read in a reputable paper that it would cost us £50,000,000 to prepare for war. I do not think he need be over-despondent. If we go on at this rate, we shall soon have achieved the £50,000,000 mark and he will have all the efficiency that he requires. I wonder where we are going to land ourselves. Have we given up all hope that war cannot be avoided, and are we going to join, have we already joined, in a general race of armaments? It appears very much like it. Far from viewing with acclamation the things that have occurred in the last week in these three Services, I view them with considerable alarm. The hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes us to be in such a state that we can sleep quietly in our beds. If we go on like this much longer, in a year or two at the most we shall probably be in such a state that we shall not be able to sleep quietly in our beds.
The right hon. Baronet the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson) joined in the general acclamation. He thinks everything is all right and that this increase is to be welcomed. The Army is efficient and everything is being done for the good of the Army, the people, the nation and all the rest of it. I can remember the time when Liberalism, if it stood for anything, stood for peace, retrenchment and reform, and Liberals used to fight the Estimates for the fighting Services with all their might. They are part of the National Government to-day and appear to have dropped their Liberalism, and they have joined with the generals in their acclamations because the Financial Secretary has come forward with another increase in the war Services. There appear to be only the few people on these benches left to oppose these things at all. I must, however, join in the general acclamation in congratulating the Financial Secretary on the way he presented the Estimates. He said this was the day of mobility and, if we required a small force anywhere, we conveyed a 644 few men by aeroplane. In other words, we did not use an elephant to crack a nut.
The same thing applies to the question of presenting these Estimates. They used to be presented in a much cruder and bolder form than they are to-day. The hon. Member has learnt a lesson too. He presents them in a much more subtle form, and because of that they are much more dangerous. He was so powerful in his advocacy this afternoon that I am not sure whether in a few more minutes I would not have joined the Army myself. He made it appear to be such a glorious place, that if young men and old men could get into it, it would be a better job than being in the House of Commons. Why on earth, in face of all the things he said about the Army this afternoon, we should lack recruits passes my comprehension. Somebody said that we wanted a booster. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman would like that term applied to him. Perhaps it would be too much of an American term and too crude, but I think that he is probably the best booster which the Army has in this country at the present time.
He went on, with regard to the schools which are training officers, to criticise a book which has been written this year against this kind of thing. He said that the book had been admirably written and presented its case so lucidly and so well that some of the schoolmasters who were the heads of these schools were very much disturbed in their minds about it. I hope that that is true. If these people are getting disturbed in their minds, it is a very good sign, and it may be that these things will tend to drop in the future rather than become more efficient. After all the admirable arguments of the hon. Member, I disagree with him as to whether this training does not create a military spirit in those who have to undergo it. I have exercised my mind about this matter since he uttered those words, and I have not quite found out what he meant. He said that he was trying to illustrate it, and that in stating that the training in a public school tended to create a military mind, you might as well say that the training for football or playing football tended to induce people to attempt murder. I do not see the analogy. If a boy is trained to kick a football, he is trained with the idea that 645 he is going to take part in actual football. It appears to me also that if a boy is trained in military exercises he will have inculcated the idea that at some time his training will be of use, and that he will actually take part in fighting and in war. That is the danger which we think lies in this question of training from that particular angle.
I want to make another protest, and I am glad that the Prime Minister is here. I wonder what he thinks about all the arguments which have been advanced during the past week in respect of the Air Force, the Navy and the Army. I learned a lot of things from him. In so far as I am a pacifist, a lot of my pacifism is due to the words which fell from his lips and the books which he wrote. I wonder whether, in those circumstances, he feels very comfortable to-day as Prime Minister of a Government who, for the first time since the War, are beginning to send up the Estimates and the cost of things which make for war. What is his idea about disarmament problems and so on? Has he given them up? Has he finished with them, and has he come to the conclusion that we have reached the end of our efforts and have done all that is humanly possible, and that there remains nothing now for the country to do, with him at the head of the Government, except to spend more money on armaments and to prepare as fast as we can for the next war which everybody here seems to think is inevitable? What is his idea about it? It will be very interesting to hear it.
Is the right hon. Gentleman comfortable as the Prime Minister responsible for the Government which imposed all the cuts in 1931, and does he think that it is right, if it is true, as is so often claimed from the benches opposite, that under their guidance the country has recovered financial stability, that the first things which should have precedence in extra money being spent upon them should be the war Services, the Air Force, the Navy and the Army? What does he think about that? In other words, has he departed from his own principle that the first people who ought to have preference in this regard are the people whose lives depend upon the amount of money which they are getting to-day. Would it not have been much better if the £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 being spent extra on the Services had 646 been spent in restoring benefits to the unemployed people, or even in giving the three shillings which a good many of his own supporters wanted when children's allowances were discussed a fortnight ago? I protest as vehemently as I can against this money being spent in this particular direction at the present time.
I wish to ask a question or two on the Memorandum which has been placed before us. The first paragraph is a jewel. It says:Although the Army Estimates for 1934 which have been fixed at a net total of £39,600,000, show an increase of £1,650,000, they are still £330,000 legs than the Estimates for 1931.In other words, although it is true that we are increasing the Estimates this year, you need not be alarmed, take it calmly, there is no reason for disturbance, as we are still spending £330,000 less than in 1931. Nobody has any room for any criticism until we have passed the point at which we stood in 1931. Is that the policy of the Government? Does the Prime Minister agree with that aspect of affairs? Is he prepared to adopt the statement that, although there is an increase, as it does not reach the 1931 level, there is no room for alarm? They go on in the third paragraph to say:The additional funds which the House of Commons is asked to vote this year will be devoted to the modernisation of coast and other defences, the continuation of the programme of mechanisation, the building up of suitable reserves of stores, the improvement of barracks and particularly the replacement of hutted accommodation, etc.Perhaps the Financial Secretary will reply to these things. Are not the things contained in this paragraph those which occur every year? Has not some provision to be made for these four or five things mentioned here every year? Is it not part of the ordinary expenditure of the Army to spend money on things such as depreciation and replacement? If that be so, why is it necessary that such a huge amount of extra money should be spent on the things mentioned in the third paragraph of the Memorandum? There is another thing, too. It is said:The provisions of the new Unemployment Bill will add nearly £150,000 to the Estimates.It goes on to say:Prices of certain commodities have risen with the result that the cost of feeding and clothing is greater.647 When the hon. Gentleman replies, will he tell us the commodities the prices of which have risen, from whence we get them, and how much the price has risen? Has the price of these commodities risen because of the policy being pursued by the Government in other directions, because, for instance, of the activities of the Minister of Agriculture and of the tariffs, prohibitions, etc., which have been put on as part of the general policy of the Government? On page 3 of the Memorandum a table is given which shows that the amount spent in 1931 was £39,930,000, as against £36,488,000 in 1932 after the economies were imposed. So much of these economies, I think I am right in saying, resulted from the imposition of cuts on wages. I do not know how much. Generally speaking, I think that people in the Army had a cut of about 10 per cent. or something approaching that figure. I do not know what the aggregate total of the cut amounted to. It is well to bear in mind that the increases which were made last year and this year do not take into account a single penny towards putting back the cuts made in the pay either of officers or men. Suppose that in the Budget the cuts are restored—I do not think it will be so—then the Estimates will be increased by that amount. I am not complaining about that, but I wish it had been possible, in increasing the Estimates, for the Financial Secretary to have looked to the rank and file of the Army first and restored the cuts which were imposed upon them, and which, no doubt, they feel to be as big a hardship as that on any other section of the community. On page 4 of the Memorandum we come to the question of "Strength and recruiting," and the Financial Secretary in his statement said—if I am wrong he will correct me—that the increase in recruiting came to an end in September last.
§ Mr. PALING
The hon. Gentleman says that I am right. I should like him to explain why this was so. It has been said by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Liberal Benches this afternoon that it was generally held that recruiting was best in times of unemployment. How far that is true I do not know, but when the hon. Gentleman said that it stopped suddenly in September, I 648 wondered whether there was any particular reason for the stoppage. If there is, I would be very glad if he would explain it when he replies. At the bottom of page 4 the question of "Vocational Training and Education" is referred to. Will the hon. Gentleman give us some idea as to the particular trades in which the men are trained and what is the length of time taken in their training? He stated this afternoon that 85 per cent. of the people turned out get into employment, and I am ready to agree with him that that is a remarkably high percentage. I should like to know if the efficiency of the training and the particular trades in which they are trained have anything to do with it. Probably they have not. On page 5 of the Memorandum under the heading "Health of the Army" the second paragraph says:The figures for rejection of recruits by medical officers again show a slight increase from 370 to 378 a thousand "—That is roughly one-third—and, in addition, nearly 16,000 men were rejected by the recruiting staff for obvious physical defects.Roughly one-third are refused after they have been medically examined, but there are 16,000 whose physical defects are so obvious that they are refused without a medical examination. When the 16,000 is added to the one-third, what is the percentage of refusals in relation to the total number of people applying for entry? The last question to which I wish to call attention is that dealt with at the bottom of page 5 under the heading "Discipline."The physical and educational standards of recruits accepted are higher than in past years.Does it mean that the physical standards set down for recruits in the Army to-day are higher than they have been in past years, and, if so, has it anything to do with the increase in the percentage of recruits refused?
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Major The Marquess of TITCHFIELD
The late Lord Chaplin, whom we loved and respected, was once lost in the maze at Hatfield. It was a hot day, and Lord Chaplin knew that he would be rescued before long, so he sat on a seat in the middle of the maze to practise a speech which he was to make in this House on the following day. A friend of mine overheard him declaim like this: 649Mr. Speaker, it was not my intention to intervene in this Debate;Nor would I have intervened if the Financial Secretary to the War Office had said something about marriage allowances in the Territorial Army. Historians relate that Alexander the Great gave marriage allowances to his troops on the proviso that they married Persian ladies. It is my intention to-night to persuade the Government, if I can, to give allowances to other ranks in the Territorial Army at an earlier age than heretofore. On the 14th February last I put a question to the Financial Secretary to the War Office asking what was the annual cost to the taxpayer of a Yeomanry trooper, corporal and sergeant, and I received the reply stating that a trooper costs the taxpayer £28 10s. per year, a corporal, £30, and a sergeant, £32. Throughout the Territorial Army there is an annual wastage, which varies all over the country, of really good men who leave the Territorial Army when they enter the marriage arena. They are valuable men, and I believe that it would pay the State to retain their services.
Let me take the cost of a boy who enlists as a trumpeter at the age of 14. This is by no means a rare case. When I was a Squadron Leader in my own regiment, which I have now the honour to command, I enlisted two trumpeters, brothers, at that age, and I am proud to say that they are now both troop-sergeants in the regiment. What have these men cost the State? I worked it out, roughly, the other day. Let us say that it takes a trumpeter, who has the same rate of pay as a trooper, five years before he gets his two stripes. According to the Financial Secretary the annual cost of his training is £28 10s. per year. Therefore, the cost to the State of his first five years is £142 10s. Let us say that he is for three years a corporal, which means another £90, and one year a sergeant, which means another £32. That man is now 23 years of age. Apart from the cost, which amounts to no less a figure than £264, that man I say is an extremely valuable asset to this country.
A married soldier in the Territorial Army gets 1s. a day marriage allowance. My regiment go to camp for 17 days. Therefore the allowance that a married soldier gets, if he has no children, is 17s. 650 per year. This man refuses to re-engage. The State has spent a great deal of money on him and through training him has made for itself a very valuable asset, but just because the State refuses to pay a trifling sum it throws a great asset away. During the past year the regiment which I have the honour to command has suffered 10 casualties through the depredations of cupid. I have worked it out that to train those 10 men the State has paid no less a sum that £1,140, and by paying £8 10s. per year these men might have been kept as very valuable assets to the State.
Let me say a few words about marriage allowances in general. The yeoman, I assert, is far worse treated than his brother in the Regular Army. The yeoman gets 1s. a day for his wife, and 5s., 4s. and 2s. per week according to the number of children that he may possess. Let us compare those conditions with the conditions in the Regular Army. There are very few employers who while the yeoman is in camp continues to give him his civilian wage. There are a few who allow the wage, but they are few and far between. I am certain that all of us take off our hats to those employers who are patriotic enough to go on giving the yeoman his civilian pay while he is doing his training. The yeoman in many cases gives up his annual holiday to go to camp. I should think that the average rent which a yeoman in my part of the country pays is somewhere between 9s. and 10s. a week. The regular soldier gets coal and gas free. He pays only 1s. per week for his quarters. He gets a certain amount of furniture supplied, also free medical attention for himself and I believe for his family, and I understand that he gets free travelling allowances for his family on one or two occasions in the year. Therefore, compared with the yeoman the married Regular soldier is far better off.
I believe we shall all agree that those people who are prepared to serve their country ought to be treated equally, at any rate during the time they are in uniform, but I assert that there is no equality in the matter of marriage allowances between the Regular soldier and the Territorial soldier. In these days not a few of our yeomen are out of work, and the yeoman and his wife in many cases are going through very hard times. It should be the duty of every 651 Member of this House to try and ameliorate those conditions if they possibly can. The yeomen of England are still one of the vertebra in the backbone of this country, as they have been for many hundreds of years past. For my peroration I would go to the words of Henry V, when he was trying to rouse to the utmost the fighting spirit of our people:And you good Yeomen,Whose limbs were made in England,Shew us hereThe metal of yon pasture.I think the wars of the last 30 years have proved that that sentiment is as true to-day as when it was first declaimed 350 years ago by England's greatest poet. I do ask the Government to try and do something to ameliorate the conditions in which the yeoman and his wife found themselves at the present time.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
The candour of the Noble Lord is very entertaining and pleasing to all of us. He does not attempt any disguise. He said that he was working up to his peroration. We all try to work to a peroration but we do not like to say that it is a peroration. He began by saying that he had not intended to take part in the Debate. I will begin by saying that I intended to take part, and I have been trying all the afternoon to get in. I hope that hon. Members will not take the wrong view of what I am about to say, but I do think that speeches might be shorter. It is well that from time to time we should draw attention to this matter, because often a speaker does not realise the length of time that he has occupied. I appreciated very much the speech of the Financial Secretary except the reference he made to the Leader of the Opposition. I should have been glad had he left that out. I do not think that it was meant in any wrong spirit, but I think it would have been better had he not mentioned it. Apart from that matter, the speech was all that could be desired.
With regard to the Memorandum, I should like to deal with vocational training and education. I am very pleased that vocational training has been developed in connection with the Army. I find thatDuring the year ended the 30th September last 2,340 soldiers received training 652 before leaving the Service, of whom 1,997 or 85.3 per cent. obtained employment.That means, I suppose, that the remaining 15 per cent. have not found employment. It is stated that:In the three years from 1930 to 1933 7,040 men have passed through the Army vocational centres, of whom 78 per cent. are known to have found employment.Even after the vocational training and education these men are getting, when they are sent out into the world a large number are not able to get employment. That brings me back to this point; does the House realise how difficult it must be for others who have not had vocational training to find employment, when those who have had vocational training cannot find work. The men who get this special vocational training in the Army are men who are physically fit and who leave the Army fit for anything. When they cannot get employment, surely it must occur to the minds of hon. Members that there is little if any chance of the vast army of unemployed obtaining employment. While we desire that the ex-soldiers should get work we cannot get away from the fact that the vast army of the unemployed need our urgent attention.
I should like to raise a point with regard to men who have left the Army. I have particulars of a case which I have sent to the Financial Secretary and I should like him to clear up something in connection with it. I do not know exactly what the position is. The man was demobilised from the Great War in 1919. Twelve months ago he wrote for his papers and he was told that he was discharged on the 31st March, 1920. Therefore he has asked me whether he is entitled to any pay from the Army from the time he was demobilised to the time when he was removed from the active list. The reply of the Financial Secretary is not very clear. He told me that it is extremely improbable that the person mentioned is entitled to any remuneration for the period between his demobilisation and discharge, that the relevant pay records had been destroyed and that no claim could be entertained for that period. That will give no satisfaction to the man. All I am asking is that the hon. Gentleman in his reply should tell the House definitely that a man cannot receive any further 653 pay from the Army. The man wants a definite answer one way or the other, and the mere statement that the Army papers have been destroyed will not give him any satisfaction.
Another point concerns the various forces that we have. On the first page we are told that we now have 149,500 people on the active list, and further on we are told that the average regimental strength is 183,000 persons. I am at a loss to know what forces are toeing added to make the first figure up to the second. Next the Memorandum gives the number of courts-martial as 1,938 and the discharges for misconduct as 692. I wish to find out from the Financial Secretary whether these men were discharged because of the courts-martial, and, if so, what were the particular grounds that led to their discharge; was it because of discontent with Army routine or because they were not fit for service? That information means something to hon. Members on this side of the House. If recruiting is going down and men are not coming forward, there must be some reason to account for it.
Turning to the Army Estimates, and the subject of the mechanisation of the Army. I wish to say that I want an Army; I believe that it is necessary, and I do not object to the Army being as efficient as possible. I agree with every speaker on those lines. But while mechanisation is coming along, I cannot understand why we keep obsolete items of the Army. It might be thought that that mechanisation would take from us many of the things which are not required. Here we have cavalry retained practically at its former strength. In 1933 the full total for all ranks was 8,114; this year it has fallen by 12. Yet we are mechanising and improving the Army, and everybody who knows what mechanisation means knows that cavalry is out of date altogether.
§ Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN
Would the hon. Member pardon me if I say that mechanisation would not work at all if the cavalry were not there to make a way for the mechanical vehicles?
§ Mr. TINKER
The hon. and gallant Member expresses a fine sentiment, but I hope that the old Army officer will recognise the change in the times. I cannot understand how an Army officer can stand up and tell me that the mechanised 654 forces require cavalry to make a way for them. They do not require it at all; the cavalry are useless for all practical purposes. In the Great War, except on one or two occasions, they were of no use except for purely spectacular purposes.
§ Mr. TINKER
That is the point. Mechanisation has not decreased the cavalry. The total number of horses and mules used on British establishments in 1933 was 16,408; now it is 16,294. There is no necessity for horses to that extent. I wish to appeal to one hon. Member to whom I mentioned the matter last night, but who is not present now, the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower). From time to time he brings forward appeals in the House for the removal of pit ponies, arguing that there is no right to keep them in the mines. I hope that he will turn his attention to horses in the Army. It is sheer slaughter to use horses in the Army during war. They are of no practical use; they are just sent out and blown to atoms by the artillery of the opposing forces. I am not speaking from mere theory, but from practical experience. In the last War I saw horses blown to pieces on many occasions with no chance of escape, and they are not of the slightest use at all to the Army. I therefore claim that, if we are to build up an efficient Army—which is necessary—the heads of the Army will try to remove the obsolete parts of it and not lay upon it this tremendous burden of unnecessary horses. I have been trying to find out the cost of keeping the horses, but it seems to be merged in the general expenditure. It is probably a tremendous item. Perhaps the Financial Secretary—who has not been taking much notice of me; I dare say he expects me to come forward with my complaint in every Debate on this subject—will endeavour to abolish these redundant items in his efforts to build up an efficient Army.
On the question of the co-ordination of the Forces: We are taking these Debates separately, and each Service is striving for its own hand. In the excellent speech which he made to-day the Financial Secretary said that the Services were each interdependent on the others, and he proved conclusively that the Navy would not get on very well without the 655 Army to provide its means of transport and defend the docks, and that it was necessary for all the Services to work together. The time has come when the heads of all three should come together and try to reach a co-ordination of the Estimates so as to deal with all the Services as a whole. Hon. Members on this side are just as anxious as any hon. Member on those benches to have an efficient force to defend these shores. I am not for disarmament for example, only by agreement. While, however, we are considering this matter, I want to work on the lines of economy and to build up the three Services together, so that we may know exactly where the money is going. Anybody who deals with these matters, on a town council or anywhere else, knows that every Service is fighting for its own hand. We cannot blame them. Each one thinks that its own particular branch should get everything. The three should, however, have one common object, the protection of those parts of the Empire which have the right to be protected. The Services ought to be coordinated so that everybody would know the extent of all.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Captain ARTHUR HOPE
Every year I look forward to two things in these Army Debates. One is the speech of the Financial Secretary, which to-day was, by common consent, one of the best we have heard in this House for a long time. The other is the annual wrangle between the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the ex-cavalry officers in this House. As I see many cavalry officers thirsting for the blood of the hon. Member for Leigh, I will not refer to that part of his speech. I should like, however, to endorse what he said at the end of it about co-ordination. I am very glad that this should be a non-party question, and that hon. Members of that party also believe that there should be much more co-ordination between the Forces.
I agree with every point in the excellent speech of the Financial Secretary except one, and that is the point I raised last year on this Debate, the amalgamation of Woolwich and Sandhurst. The hon. Gentleman is a practical person and would not be led away in this matter by any unnecessary sentiment, but I cannot help feeling that the Committee which examined this question and agreed 656 that it was practical and would be economical must have shown very great signs of sentiment indeed to persuade the Financial Secretary to the War Office that it was essential to keep Sandhurst and Woolwich separate. On the score of economy there can be no argument whatever. That vast area at Woolwich is most valuable ground and could be sold for a very large sum indeed, and at the same time there is an enormous amount of ground at Sandhurst where, if necessary, it will be possible to build more accommodation for cadets.
I would go even further, at the risk of being considered heretical among Regular Army officers. I am very doubtful indeed of the necessity of having either Sandhurst or Woolwich. The Financial Secretary mentioned, from the other point of view, the many distinguished generals who came into the Army by different ways—one from Oxford, another from the militia, a third from the ranks. All those generals of the immediate past had, he said, been highly successful without any Sandhurst or Woolwich training at all. In my own experience as a junior officer in the late War, I met an enormous number of civilians who originally knew nothing whatever about Army life and Army training, but who not only did their jobs as platoon and company commanders but rose to be commanders of battalions and brigades, and even became extremely successful as staff officers. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) is a classic example of a man without any military training of any kind before the War, who joined the Grenadier Guards at the beginning of the War as a second-lieutenant and in 2½ years, by sheer merit, was the general staff officer, first grade, of the Guards' Division. He did not go to Sandhurst, Woolwich or the Staff College, but he knew as much about staff work, the training of recruits and the running of a division at the end of the War as all the Staff College graduates and those who had been educated at Sandhurst and Woolwich. The Financial Secretary, whom I first met at the end of the War, was just as good in command of troops in the field as I was, who had been at Sandhurst.
It is not necessary nowadays, when so many ways are open for officers to come into the Army, to keep up these vast establishments at Sandhurst and 657 Woolwich in order to force into the Army many people who after three or four years leave it because they do not like it and go into civilian life. There are at present many ways by which officers can get into the Army. A great many still come in through the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and many through the Supplemental Reserve. I would suggest to the War Office that they should consider the possibility of making all officers join their units for a year or 18 months on probation to learn their job in the regiments to which they will be posted at the end of their supplementary time. The Army will not suffer, and it will be economical to the State and to the parents of the boys now being sent from Woolwich and Sandhurst.
I want to refer to the question of promotion, especially in the higher regimental ranks. I have felt for a long time that a certain number of officers when they reach the rank of senior captain or junior major are known by the commanding officer of their battalion or regiment as not likely to be suitable to become commanding officers in due course. Many people are exceedingly good in the junior ranks but have not the power of commanding large bodies of men. They have not the personality to make successful commanding officers. When they have been second in command for some time they are then forced to retire, as they are not likely to be given command of their units. It might be possible to facilitate promotion if these officers were asked at an earlier date to resign their commissions in order to facilitate the promotion of those who are likely to go to the top. It is not dishonourable to these officers to do so. Then there is the other end, the under-paid lance-corporal. In every battalion there are a number of under-paid lance-corporals wearing a stripe, with all the responsibility of paid corporals, but none of their remuneration. They have to associate with the non-commissioned ranks, they cannot be seen with their old friends in the ranks, and for 18 months they have to do the full work of the non-commissioned ranks without getting one penny extra.
I should like to ask the Financial Secretary whether the War Office have had any complaints on the subject of the Lewis gun. I understand that the Lewis gun, which played such a prominent part in 658 the life and efficiency of an infantry battalion during the War, is not considered reliable or satisfactory by a good many officers. I know that during the War it was liable to stoppages and breakdowns if any mud or dirt got into it, as was frequently the case, and was certainly the case in the years following the War. It was unsatisfactory at manoeuvres and on the range, and I understand that it is causing a great deal of misgivings to units who have been abroad in troublesome places when they have had to guard a road with a Lewis gun against the possibility of a mob attack. They have not had full reliance on the gun. They cannot rely on it altogether, and they are inclined to get a machine gun to cover the Lewis gun. It is a technical point, but I hope the Financial Secretary will look into it. In conclusion, may I again congratulate the Financial Secretary on his magnificent statement as to the condition of the Army of which we are all exceedingly proud, and which under the present regime of Lord Hailsham and his officials is certainly in good hands.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Major LLEWELLIN
There are one or two matters connected with the Territorial Army upon which I want to say a word or two. Let me, first of all, congratulate the Financial Secretary on his brilliant speech this afternoon. I have read the last book he published, and when the next on Lord Haig comes out I shall hasten to buy it, as I know it will read as well as his speech this evening will read in to-morrow's OFFICIAL REPORT. In the memorandum by the Secretary of State for War I read these words:During the year the Regular Army continued to render valuable assistance to the Territorial Army.It is right that a member of the Territorial Army should in this House say how much they appreciate the great assistance that has been given them not only by the staffs of the Regular Army, but also by those who are sent to us as adjutants and permanent staff instructors. At the present moment, the amount of car allowance paid to adjutants and indeed to all the Regular officers who travel, has been severely cut. It hits particularly hard the Territorial adjutant who has to get about a large county from one drill hall to another night after night. The allowance has been severely cut down. I ask 659 the War Office to compare it with the allowance paid to officials of other Departments. If they compare it with the allowances granted to inspectors of schools, they will find that the Regular officer gets about one-third of the allowance that is paid to a school inspector for travelling. It is vitally important that an adjutant should be able to have a car, and you have not in these days in the Army men who have always sufficient means to keep a car and run it unless the allowance is adequate to pay the running expenses. The present car allowance is certainly not adequate.
Let me say a word about the permanent staff instructors. We want the very best men that can be got from the Regular Army. We are getting them now more than we did in the years just after the War, but I am slightly alarmed by the Army Council's instruction, which says that only in exceptional circumstances shall a permanent staff instructor be allowed to carry on at the same unit for a prolonged period. If we get a man who happens to fit in with the people in the area, who can keep his drill hall properly, who can instruct properly, and set an example of soldierly bearing, we want that man much more than the Regular Army. It may delay promotion for a year or two in the Regular Army, but I put in a strong plea for these men to stay on for a year or two despite the Army Council's instruction. I should like to endorse what has been said in regard to the marriage allowance for young soldiers. It is clear that if a young Territorial joins at the age of 18 he is likely by the end of four years to have got married. Then comes the time when he has to decide whether to re-engage or not, and this is often determined toy the fact that he cannot get any marriage allowance if he goes to camp. The man has become useful to us after four years, and the extra amount of money would be very little. I do not know how my hon. and gallant Friend manages to get 17 days' pay for his yeomanry, I can only manage to get 14 days' pay for my brigade, but I do not propose to take up that matter with him at the present moment.
Again, a man in the Territorial Army, who has had a year of embodied service, if he is a qualified gun-layer or 660 range-finder, can get proficiency pay like his Regular comrade, that is, if he has done a year of embodied service. We are getting fewer men in the Territorial Army who have a year of embodied service, and we still have to have our layers and range-takers, and I think that the provision for a year of embodied service might now well be dispensed with, because the particular part of the Territorial Army with which I am concerned is now the first line of defence, and, therefore, we must have good layers, good range-takers, and good signallers in that branch of the Army. It is often found that these men are much better than their Regular companions who come to camp with us. They know they are better, but they cannot get any proficiency pay. I should like the War Office to lay down an establishment of so many layers and range-takers and specialists of different sorts for different units, and that if they are passed out by the Regular instructor of gunnery, or his assistant, they should be able to draw proficiency pay. It is only 6d. a day for 14 days in camp, and it would be only wanted for a limited number of men. I do not ask for an answer now on this point, but I hope the Financial Secretary will consider the question.
We have been deprived through the action of the War Office of what to us was a source of revenue. We have our drill halls. In the old days we were allowed to let them and make a small profit, but someone in the War Office found it out and said that half the profits were to go to the War Office and half to the Territorial Association. Our particular Territorial Association said you need not pay the half to us. Then an auditor from the War Office came down, found that the Association was not receiving its half, and said, "you have to take it." This means that none of our drill halls have since been let for the simple reason that it takes some trouble to arrange the letting for the officers and the permanent staff instructor, and for other men of the unit. Really it is time that this policy was reconsidered. It may be all right in the case of a drill hall which is in the centre of a big town, but it is not worth while in the case of a drill hall situated in a small country district. The abolition of letting took £30 from our lettings in the year, which would have helped 661 the unit to give proficiency pay and also the marriage allowance. It is a source of revenue which by this rather short-sighted policy on the part of the War Office is at present lost.
There is another small point. In my view the conditions as to the payment of the bounty should be altered. At present you cannot pay a man for his training in camp unless he has performed 20 drills and, of course, the result is that if the man knows he is not going to get paid for the camp and has only put in fifteen drills he does not come at all, or, if he does, some arrangement has obviously to be made so that he gets his pay. The result is that you lose the man from camp or you have to make out that he has done his full amount of drills which is a thoroughly bad system. The most useful thing for us is to get the man in camp. Pay the man a shilling a day for each of his drills up to 20, and give him a ten-shilling bonus if he comes to camp. Let him draw his camp pay even if he has not put in any drills if the commanding officer wants to take him. I have occupied the time of the House on one particular subject, but I think it is an important one from the point of view of the efficiency of the Territorial Army, which, after all, is an Army to which a large number of people in this country give a good deal of their time. It is little matters like these which brought in a friendly way to the notice of my hon. Friend, I hope, may receive his attention and that of the War Office, and that something may be done to meet these points and so to strengthen the efficiency and numbers of the Territorial Army.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
I also want to deal with one point, the hardy annual which to my mind is one of the vital points of the defence forces and especially the Army—the medical services. Although I have raised this question at most of the Debates on the Estimates during the 14 years I have been in the House, there is a special reason for doing so this year. Year after year successive Ministers have met the situation in the same way, either by saying nothing about it or by admitting the difficulty, but holding up their hands and saying it is perfectly impossible because medical men would not come forward and 662 serve and, therefore, they must get on without them. This time we have the report of the excellent committee set up the year before last by the then Secretary of State for War. That committee reported last summer. The chairman was Sir Warren Fisher of the Treasury and the report is in our hands. It is a report of the investigation into the medical services of the three fighting forces, and although I can deal only with one this evening it affects the others as well.
As far as the Army medical services are concerned the committee came to a definite conclusion which in general, is a correct one, accepted by the medical profession, including the British Medical Association, as to the reason for the continued lack of recruits in the medical services. The committee brought forward a large series of recommendations, the general upshot of which is that you have to meet the competition of ordinary civil life in appealing to the young men whom you want to attract to the medical services of the Army. You must meet the particular points they think about when they are considering their future career at the age of 26 or thereabouts, when they become qualified medical men. One point obviously concerns the temporal, material prospects of the services which hitherto have been good enough for the young man but become increasingly burdensome in proportion to his commitments, when he is married and has a family, and still more when he retires. In that way the medical services of the Army have never been able properly to rival the various opportunities offered in civil life.
Another point is that of improved professional services. There is no profession which, after a long course of training, sends out men with a stronger desire to devote themselves to their profession, but the committee suggest a certain improvement in this respect, and they say it is possible, without any total increase in expenditure but by an adjustment, to get better prospects for the individuals who go in, by upgrading, so that they may obtain promotion at an earlier stage, and by continuing longer in the services be able to make a career. On the other hand, there should be a short-term service so that those who enter for five years might retire with a grant of £1,000 to enter into civil life and practice. There would then be a great opportunity for 663 getting a sufficient number of recruits for the service.
We have not yet had the decision of His Majesty's Government on the subject. The British Medical Association, which has had the matter in hand all the way through on behalf of the profession, wrote to the three Departments concerned, and as far as the Army is concerned, the other day they received the reply that the Army Council have found it necessary to discuss the recommendations of the Fisher Committee with the India Office, who have had to communicate with the Government of India which, as will be readily appreciated, is closely concerned in the effect of the recommendations. The War Office add:I am to ask you to convey to your Council the assurance that the question is being actively pursued and a reply will be sent at the earliest opportunity.Will the Financial Secretary in his reply give any indication when these matters are to be dealt with? Meanwhile, the difficulty continues. It is not to be treated lightly, though most people naturally treat it as a matter which does not concern them very much. Again and again this country has found itself landed in a war in which the neglect of the medical services has come home to roost in the actual torture and suffering of the men who in the war are deprived of proper services. This is not only a matter of professional concern. If the men in these services are to bring their talent to the point required, it means a very special training, and you cannot improvise it on the spur of the moment. You will always get men from civil practice in time of war, but that is the least that is required by an Army in the field. You have preventive services which cannot be improvised, services for looking after troops in the field in conditions which are not met with in civil practice. You have the liaison services and hospital services, and yet year after year in the 15 years since the end of the War we have gone on with a diminishing number of recruits, a number of the elderly officers assisted by civilians who will not be able to proceed to the higher ranks. Consequently you have the whole service disorganised. You are heading for disaster such as you had at the be ginning of the South African War. Some of us remember what appalling results 664 there were then from the deliberate starvation by the War Office and the indifference of Parliament to the necessities of the case.
I hope we are not going to have that repeated. We are too late now, but it is essential for the War Office to take the matter up. Not only the medical services but the British Dental Association are concerned, and the dental services and nursing are equally essential to the service as a whole. According to the Warren Fisher Report it is not so serious in regard to these two ancillary services. The British Dental Association have a definite scheme. I hope the War Office will make up its mind, with the other departments concerned, during next year, and will get a move on in order to get a campaign of recruitment of the men whom we do want in the medical service.