§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. HACKING
This may be the appropriate occasion to reply to the Amendment which was moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for York (Captain Lumley). I must, first of all, thank him for the most helpful and frank speech which he addressed to the House. Obviously, he has very great knowledge of the subject on which he spoke. I would also thank him for his appreciation of what has been done in these Estimates in connection with the Territorial Army and in connection with the concessions for which I know he would have pressed had we not anticipated some of his desires. I would also reply to some of the detailed statements which have been made by hon. Members who have spoken on the Amendment.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for York spoke about the shortage of recruits. We agree that the shortage is very unsatisfactory. The present rate of recruiting is certainly very much lower than we could hope for, but, now that 916 we have made these concessions and they have been announced, it is hoped that recruiting will once more improve. I know that my hon. and gallant Friend is a little disappointed with some of the concessions; naturally, he hoped that we might do more. Among other expressions of hope he said that he would like us to abolish the age limit for married or separation allowance for all ranks, instead of the smaller concessions which I announced in my speech. The cost, if we had made this concession to all ranks, would have been about £20,000 a year. I suggest that we might try out the present concession for a year so as to see the effect, and that if it be necessary further concessions might be made next year. I must not give too much hope to my hon. and gallant Friend for undoubtedly there are repercussions, as he indicated, and they are important ones. I need not enter into them in detail at this time.
I was asked by my hon. and gallant Friend whether the War Office had arranged with the Unemployment Assistance Board to have the various small allowances which the Territorial soldier gets ignored in the determination of his need, if a soldier happened to be unemployed. Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friends do not know that the bounty is already exempt. It has been exempted since last December. My hon. and gallant Friend hopes that other allowances may in future be exempted, but I have no information to give to the House now, except to say that we will use any influence we have with the Unemployment Assistance Board, because we realise that making this form of concession would result in a larger number of recruits coming forward to join the Army. My hon. and gallant Friend naturally asks for more than we have given him to-day. I would ask the House to appreciate that this year the Territorial Army are getting an increased provision of no less than £499,000, which is a very considerable sum of money and a very great advance over what we have been able to do for some years past.
The hon. and gallant Member for Keighley (Major Watt) drew attention to the fact that the Supplementary Reserve were getting a greater advantage than the Territorials. That is true, but on the other hand their obligations are of a different character, including the 917 fact that a member of the Supplementary Reserve may be sent abroad without an Act of Parliament. He also drew attention to the fact that soldiers in the Supplementary Reserve and in the Territorials were drilling in the same drill hall, and it was a little difficult when one man was getting a bigger bounty than the other. I am afraid, however, that we have no facilities in the way of drill halls for allowing the Supplementary Reserve men to train in different halls from those which are occupied by the Territorial Army.
With reference to the Territorial Army Advisory Committee, which was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Keighley, quite frankly I like the idea. I have always liked the idea of any of these advisory committees. I remember that, when I was at the Department of Overseas Trade, we had a Trade Advisory Committee there, and it was most helpful. I say here and now that that suggestion will not be lost sight of. In fact, it has already been considered, and I hope it will be found possible to have some such advisory committee appointed, which will meet at regular intervals in addition to being called together as occasion might arise. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Birkenhead (Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman Allen) made a comparison between the emoluments of the Territorial Army soldier receiving unemployment benefit and at camp—
§ Mr. HACKING
I am not sure that I have the figures here in connection with public assistance, but I have been challenged with a statement that a Territorial soldier who is receiving unemployment benefit would in fact be better off with his unemployment benefit than he would be in camp. I have taken out one particular case, that of a Territorial private with a wife and three children. He would draw while in camp, as pay, 14s. per week, and he would receive marriage allowance in the form of help for his wife and three children, making up a total of £1 11s. a week. In addition to that, the soldier would be fed and accommodated. The Territorial Army soldier receives, in respect of attendance at camp and the prescribed number of drills, a proficiency grant of £1, and for proficiency 918 in weapon training a further 10s. That is in addition to his pay and his marriage allowance. On the other hand, if that man were unemployed and drawing benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act, his benefit would be 17s., his wife would have 9s., and his three children 6s., or a total of £1 12s., which I admit is 1s. more in hard cash than he would be getting if he wore in camp as a private without any special qualifications to entitle him to proficiency grant or the proficiency in weapon training grant. On the other hand, we must take into account the fact that out of this sum of £l 12s., which is 1s. more in hard cash than he would be getting when in camp, the man has to feed and accommodate himself as well as accommodating and feeding his family; so that on balance undoubtedly the man who is in camp would be better off than the man in receipt of unemployment benefit.
§ Lieut.-Colonel LLEWELLIN
Surely my right hon. Friend is taking into consideration all the money that he gets for all the drills he performs in the year, and is attributing it to the week in camp?
Lieut.-Colonel SANDEMAN ALLEN
May I point out also, that the Territorial soldier has to pay house rent, which the Regular soldier does not have to pay?
§ Mr. HACKING
I realise all those factors, but I think that on further consideration it will be found that the man attending camp is not really worse off than the man in receipt of unemployment benefit. If my hon. and gallant Friends are not satisfied, I will look into the matter again, but these are the facts with which I have been provided on this point. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Birkenhead also expressed regret that the additional pay of an adjutant in the Territorial Army was less than in the Regular Army. I should have thought, myself, that the responsibility and work of the Territorial Army, in connection with a unit which only comes into being as an entire unit for a fortnight a year are not comparable with the responsibility and work in connection with a unit which exists all the year round; but, apart from that, I must tell the House that the cost of raising the Territorial Army adjutant's additional pay to 5s., as against the 2s. 6d. at present received, would be something 919 like £16,000 a year, and at this moment I regret that for financial reasons we could not consider granting that sum of money. My hon. and gallant Friend also referred to the financial handicap as regards assessment for Income Tax. I had not heard of that trouble before, but I will certainly look into the question and write to my hon. and gallant Friend as soon as I can.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead) made a very interesting speech. I was particularly interested in his suggestion as to reserves for the Territorial Army—that the Territorial Army should have reserves, so that, when a man had served his four years, if he did not feel inclined to go on as a full-time Territorial soldier, he should have the opportunity of going into this reserve, where he could just come into the drill hall occasionally, could be kept in touch with his old friends, and would not be so likely to drift away from them altogether—in other words, that he might possibly be induced to come back to them at a later date after his semi-retirement had ceased. I do not know exactly what inducement would have to be offered to the men in the Territorial Army Reserve, but it would have to be something, because otherwise you would not get a large number of men to enter such a reserve. Here again financial considerations are involved, which we shall certainly have to take into account before agreeing that it is a good thing to have such a reserve as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin) asked me for some details in connection with the travelling allowances for drills. I understand that in these travelling allowances all compulsory drills will be included, and half the voluntary drills. My hon. and gallant Friend also spoke of the letting of drill-halls, and indicated that, unless it was made definitely worth while for an officer in charge of a drill-hall, by getting some of the fees for the hall directly for his unit, he would not be so likely to take an interest in the letting of the hall. We have already looked into that matter. I cannot give the House the decision to-day, but personally I have a good deal of sympathy with the idea. I believe, myself, that, if anybody is 920 going to derive a direct benefit by the letting of these halls, then in all probability the halls will be let more frequently, and in the end probably the Treasury, the territorial associations and the War Office would gain. Here again I cannot give any definite reply to my hon. and gallant Friend's demand, but can only say that the matter is being looked into, that it has been under consideration for some time, and that, if we can definitely prove that the War Office would not lose, and the Territorial Association would not lose, I think there is a very good chance of his demand being met. He asked other questions to which perhaps he will allow me to reply by letter. I have replied to a large number of questions which have been put to me, and I hope to reply to any that I have missed out as soon as I get to the office to-morrow. I can assure hon. Members that every line of their speeches will be read, and, finally, may I beg that my hon. and gallant Friend will not press this Amendment to a Division, if only in the recollection that we have done much this year, I might say in advance, to meet his Amendment, and in view of the fact that he and his hon. Friends have congratulated the War Office upon the concessions which they have made. They are really thanking us in anticipation of what they know we are going to do in future years, but on this occasion I ask them to be contented with what we have done, and to give all our suggestions a trial run of perhaps 12 months, and then, if at that time it is discovered that something else should be done in order to help recruiting, which is the main reason why we made this concession, we will not hesitate to make further recommendations to the House.
§ Captain LUMLEY
In view of the sympathetic reply which my right hon. Friend has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. NORTH
I do not think that it would be possible to find a more appropriate occasion for a discussion of the Army Estimates than the present time when, unfortunately, so many countries throughout the world appear to be engaged 921 on building up vast armies. Tonight we are being asked to approve of an expenditure of £43,000,000 upon our Army, Before hon. Members do so they all naturally wish to be convinced, first of all, that the money is being spent to the greatest advantage of the taxpayer, and, secondly, that the allocation of the money between the various branches of the Service is likely to result in producing the most efficient army possible. After the very interesting Debate which has already covered a great many points which hon. Members wished to raise, I have no particular criticism to make about the Estimates as a whole. I realise that hon. Members sitting on those benches would like to see the Estimates lower than they are, and I admit that £43,000,000 is a great deal of money, but that is the price, or some of the price, which we have to pay for the safeguarding of our liberties. If one views it as I personally view it in that respect, then whatever hon. Members over there may say, it is cheap at the price.
When I come to the question of the allocation of the money upon the various branches of the Service, I confess that I am not nearly so easy in my mind. At the present moment I do not think that there is any Member in this House who would wish to deliver a speech which might be described as bellicose, and I certainly have no desire to enlarge upon the possibilities of some future war. At the same time, after the remarks of the Financial Secretary about the duties of our Regular Army—and he told us that one of the principal duties of the Regular Army was that of police work—it is just as well to remember that we keep a Regular Army also for the very good reason that if a future war should arise we want something with which to protect ourselves. Therefore, not only is the Army there for peace time purposes but also in order to give a sense of security should we be unfortunate enough to find ourselves involved in a future war.
The unfortunate part about the present position of the Regular Army is that it is numerically so small that, in the event of such a war, it would be really quite incapable of dealing with the situation alone and unaided. It is not the fault of the Army at all. It is merely that it so happens that in this country for a considerable number of years past we have always maintained 922 a very small standing army, and when trouble has arisen we have always had to fall back upon irregular troops to assist the Regular Army to bring whatever the war might be to a satisfactory conclusion. Therefore, the irregular army is just as important—in fact, perhaps even more important in some respects—as the Regular Army. It was the Financial Secretary who said that the safety of the realm rested upon the Territorial Army. If that be so, then obviously any irregular army we have in this country is a vital consideration. The point I want to make is that when we come to study the Army Estimates we would naturally expect that out of the £43,000,000 we are being asked to approve this evening some comparatively large sum would be allocated to the irregular forces. If hon. Members will look at page 56, Vote 2, they will see that of the £43,000,000, the money to be spent on our irregular army is just under £5,000,000. Does the Financial Secretary really think that it is possible to create an efficient irregular force on the sum of £5,000,000? If he does not, may I ask if it is not possible for the Army Council in future to try and arrange that a larger sum should be spent upon the irregular army, even if it is at the cost of the Regular Army. I do not propose that the Estimate should be increased, but it is a very important matter.
There are one or two important points I want to raise in connection with Vote 2, the Territorial Army Estimates. I believe that the time is rapidly approaching when the whole system and organisation of our irregular forces in this country will have to be revised. At the moment, in view of the position in which the world appears to be, one cannot say that the irregular Army as it exists to-day is entirely satisfactory. Most probably there is room for improvement. What irregular forces have we? We have the Army Reserve and the Supplementary Reserve. Then there is the main plank in the platform, the Territorial Army. Those are the three forces which together make up our irregular army. Of the three, I think that the cheapest, taking into consideration what we get, is the Territorial Army. I think I might say with confidence that the Territorial Army is the cheapest form of irregular force ever introduced by any country. It is not only the cheapest but actually for the money we expend upon it we get a 923 greater result than in the case of the Army Reserve and the Supplementary Reserve. That being so, then, whatever the future policy of the Government may be, if they wish to increase the irregular army they might well consider spending more on the Territorial Army and less on the Army Reserve and the Supplementary Reserve.
I am well aware that there are very strong arguments in favour of the Army Reserve. You can call it up at a moment's notice, you can send the men off to any place you like and can draft them into different units. There are, however, certain arguments against the Army Reserve, and probably the chief argument is that on the Army Reserve we are spending money on men who are already trained, whereas it might be better to spend money on training men who are untrained, because from the point of view of the nation, if you have to mobilise and go to war the more people you have in the country who have even some slight knowledge of military training the easier it is to raise and train the army. Another point against the Army Reserve is that it is clearly obvious that the man who has had five or seven years' training is not going to be made a much better soldier by putting him into the Reserve and giving him training for a fortnight or a month in the year. When he has finished his regular training he is as good a soldier as you are ever likely to turn him into.
Whatever arguments may be advanced in favour of the Army Reserve it seems to me that there is far less argument which can be advanced in favour of the Supplementary Reserve. The Supplementary Reserve consists of all kinds of technicians and experts. It may be necessary to have people of that description, but the fact remains that some of them are being paid for doing nothing. They are being paid solely in order that we may be able to call them up on mobilisation. However necessary it may be to have these people, the Supplementary Reserve is a very costly and wasteful way of doing it. Moreover, if we ever found ourselves involved in another war on anything like the scale of the last War it is obvious that we should have to introduce some form of conscription, and the moment we did that we 924 could get these highly technical people for nothing. We could conscript them. Therefore, it does not seem to be much good paying them in peace time when we could conscript them in war time.
With regard to the officers of the Supplementary Reserve, they are attached to regular regiments and have to do a certain amount of training. There, again, I think it is a very expensive and wasteful way of doing it, and it causes very considerable friction with the Territorial Force. Compare the difference between an officer in the Supplementary Reserve and an officer in the Territorial Army. The officer of the Supplementary Reserve puts in three weeks' training a year at any time of the year that he likes. During that training he receives his full pay and allowances and also a bounty of £25 a year, minus the cut. When he has finished his training he has no social obligations whatever. He has no social obligations towards his regiment. Take the position of the Territorial officer. He has to go to camp for a fortnight in the year and he cannot choose his time. The time is chosen for him. During that fortnight he gets his pay and allowances, but no bounty. When he has been to camp he has by no means finished. He knows that much depends upon the social activities of the officers of the regiment. Whether one can get recruits or whether one's regiment is successful largely depend on their activities. That is one of the social obligations placed upon him, for which he receives no remuneration whatever. Naturally, there is a certain feeling between these two branches of the Service. It seems to me that in the case of the Supplementary Reserve, although it may be necessary to have people who can be drafted into the Regular Army at any moment, this is a very expensive way of doing it.
There are one or two points which I desire to raise in connection with the Territorial Army. When one raises a matter in connection with the Territorial Army one is generally met with the same answer. The reply is: "There may be a good deal in what you say, but, unfortunately, it will cost more money." And that is an end of it. I would ask my right hon. Friend to note the fact that on this occasion I have been to particular trouble and have discovered three points which will not, I think, involve expenditure. 925 Therefore, I put them forward in a hopeful spirit. The first point is in regard to the question of camps. It has always seemed to me a great waste of money to send out an individual territorial unit to a camp by itself. It would be far better for the unit and it would be cheaper if we never had any kind of camp under the strength of a brigade, and whenever possible of a division. The argument against that is that we cannot get units to go to camp at the same time. One unit has to take into consideration agricultural workers and another unit has to consider town workers, and so forth. I believe that if we were to take one unit from the south, one from the north, one from the east and one from the west it would be possible to arrange to hold a brigade camp together. That is if units are prepared to go outside their areas. When it is said, "Why not go to Blackpool," or somewhere else, they say, "Oh, that is outside our area." It seems to me that it is quite wrong. You not only want to train the unit itself, but you want to get it to know something about other branches of the Service, and you will do that far better if other branches of the Service are in the same camp. When you send a unit to camp by itself it generally means they spend their time fighting inter-company battles. A private of one company will suddenly appear waving a flag, and on being asked "Who are you?", the reply generally is, "I am a battalion of the enemy." If you are wise you tell him at once that he is captured, and if he is wise he does not argue the point. But all this is absolutely farcical. It would be much better to have greater numbers in camps.
I also desire to say a word about employers and camps. There are many employers who make no difficulty whatever about their men going to camp, but, on the other hand, there are some who make every difficulty. There are actually some employers who are not keen on employing a man who is in the Territorial force. I hope the Financial Secretary will do everything he can to persuade employers not to put obstacles in the way of any man in the Territorial Army who wishes to go to camp. In my opinion, it is a very unpatriotic action. Incidentally, I would hope that they would not only allow them to go to camp but pay their wages as well. There is also a point in connection with the period of command, 926 the length of time during which an officer should command a battalion or regiment. It is a great mistake to allow continuous extensions. Four years is long enough for any man to command a battalion. I know instances of men who have commanded a battalion for eight years. If you get two such occurrences running you would find a man with 15 years' service still a junior subaltern. It is much better for a unit to have continuous promotion than no promotions for a number of years and then for everyone suddenly to jump up. I know that the question of promotion is a very difficult one, but where you get people staying on a long time it is not to the good of the unit, and I hope that the Financial Secretary will try his best to regulate this position. In conclusion I would like to congratulate the Financial Secretary on the way he has introduced the estimates and also on the concessions he has been good enough to grant to the Territorial Army. Everyone who has had any connection with the Territorial Army will realise how very important the concessions are.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Lord APSLEY
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. North) will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail, but there is one matter, about which evidently he is keen, upon which I might say one word. In dealing with the question of the training of units he might find it an advantage to adopt the three years' system which we have found to be most beneficial in my part of the country. That is to say, for the first year you give them training as a unit in some part of the county; next year you give them training with other units in a larger camp, say at Aldershot, Tidworth or some other place, and for the third year you take them to some seaside or other delectable place, to which you may ask the men where they would like to go, possibly with another unit, for a holiday camp. We have found that system to work very satisfactorily, and I think it is much better than giving them constant training with other units where the men are apt to get sick of continually-being serious soldiers.
§ Mr. NORTH
The point I was trying to make was that if you take them to camp as a single unit it is a great mistake. I agree that it is a good plan to give them training as a unit one year, 927 the next year with other units, and in the third year training at the seaside, provided you give them an opportunity of training with other units.
§ Lord APSLEY
The question of going outside their area is an administrative matter; but almost every county has some pleasant spot where the men would like to go for a holiday camp. There are one or two questions I should like to raise with regard to the Regular Army. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) raised a pertinent point when he said that Lord Hailsham two years ago claimed that we were spending a great deal less on the British Army and yet retaining its efficiency, and that now we are asking for more money and saying that the Army is not so efficient as it was. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) also referred to the depreciation of stores and stocks, which is one of the prime reasons why the Government at the present moment are asking for more money, Stores have depreciated and have to be replaced; but as far as efficiency is concerned that is a more difficult question. While the British Army is efficient as far as its officers and non-commissioned officers at home are concerned, and as far as its equipment and training at home are concerned, and while its officers, noncommissioned officers and men are well trained abroad, I am not so sure that with regard to the latter the same thing can be said when they are at home.
The reason why it may not be possible to mobilise three divisions as an efficient expeditionary force is because the Army at home is occupied in training recruits. It is difficult to do that with the establishment of the Regular Army as it is at the present time. Its establishment is so low that training is rendered exceedingly difficult. The Financial Secretary said that although there was an increase in the cost of the Army it had been done without raising the establishment of the Army. I am not sure, as far as efficiency is concerned, that I would not rather have seen the establishment of units raised. I think you would get more efficiency. At the present moment units are training recruits the whole time, and the establishment is so small that you cannot get efficient units out on service for manoeuvres. It renders manoeuvres 928 almost a farce. Particularly is that the case in those units which should have most training—cavalry and armoured cars. Reconnaissance is most important and a most difficult job to perform. It has been said that it takes three years to make a cavalry soldier. That might be an exaggeration. Nowadays a great deal of the long distance reconnaissance, which used to be done by contact squadrons, is performed by armoured car units and the Air Force. Therefore it is not necessary to have the contact squadrons several miles away, living on the country and detached from the rest of the Army.
This work used to be done by veteran regiments with men possessing at least three or four years' service, and possibly 18 months' to two years' active service. The inaccuracy of the report of one patrol might spoil the whole of an operation. It is one of the most responsible and important jobs that a soldier has to do. Yet training has all to be done by the regiments themselves. They spend a year in training recruits, and by the end of the year they have more or less a semblance of trained men. As soon as these men are trained they go to fill up units overseas, and the regiment starts again at the bottom with more recruits. It is excellent practice for the officers and noncommissioned officers—nothing could be better—but as far as the maintaining an efficient expeditionary force is concerned, with that most important arm, the cavalry and armoured cars, it cannot be pretended that we have in this country the units that can be used straightaway for that purpose. It would take at least three months more to train them for effective use.
In regard to that question, I would ask what exactly is happening to the Third Hussars. I gather that they are to be mechanised. But in what form? Are they to be motorised scouts, like two squadrons of Lovat scouts that were engaged in Palestine during the War, or are they to be mechanised rifles? If the latter, would it not have been better to have given mechanical transport to some of our light infantry, or Highland regiments, than to a cavalry regiment with its very small establishment? The cavalry establishment on manoeuvres is almost absurd. You are lucky if you get 150 men out on parade for any tactical scheme. I would like to make one or two suggestions which might possibly assist. 929 One is that for these reconnaissance units, cavalry and armoured cars, the term of service should be raised by at least two years. The other suggestion, and this applies to all arms, is that in view of the fact that there is a large wastage because of the amount of work done by orderlies and men about barracks or camps, would it not be possible to get some volunteer civilian corps, possibly from the Boy Scouts or other voluntary units, or, may be, volunteers from some of the labour camps, who would assist in doing the domestic duties round camp or barracks? You would then get every man out to do his training as a soldier.
§ Lord APSLEY
That subject would probably come under another Vote at another time, but I gather that there are to be training camps set up in order to keep men fit for other forms of civilian work, and it is just possible that you could get some of them to volunteer. They do not want to join the Territorial Army at present, but they might volunteer for a fortnight under canvas to assist the Army, and having once seen what the Army is they might like to join it afterwards.
§ Lord APSLEY
I quite understand that the hon. Member would be horrified at any such idea. I was only suggesting that volunteers could be asked for from any clubs or camps or training centres where you have men congregated together and living on the charity of the taxpayer, learning to keep themselves fit for other forms of civilian life. They might like a very enjoyable holiday under canvas while assisting the Army. I would keep the whole thing voluntary, of course? I hope the hon. Member understands that. The hon. Member himself, I am sure, would thoroughly enjoy the experience too. With regard to the Third Hussars, I would ask what it is intended to do with these units, and whether, if they are to be mechanised, it would not be better to convert them into an armoured car regiment completely? The importance 930 of armoured car regiments is now fully recognised by the High Command. There are now only two of them. Would it not be better if there were three, one at home, one in Egypt and one in India, so that they could run reliefs, instead of, as now, having four years at home and eight years in Egypt? Further, in India they would be on the squadron system, with squadrons detached in different parts of the country, which is a form of training they should develop, because it is what they would frequently have to do in war.
Another matter to which I would refer is the cost of the tanks. Hon. Members will see from the Estimates that a tank battalion is by a long way the most expensive unit that we have on charge under this Vote. It is more expensive than an infantry battalion, though it has a smaller establishment, for reasons that are obvious. There are other expenses which are not found in this Vote at all, new expenditure on necessary accommodation that must be found, new permanent buildings, garages for the vehicles, and so forth, which do not come into this Vote. There are also the very high costs of the mechanical workshops, both permanent and mobile, for doing running repairs. The maintenance of the vehicles themselves is a great cost, and the petrol and oil is another very heavy item.
Apart from that there is a still greater expense which does not come into any Vote and which it is almost impossible to calculate, namely, the depreciation of the tank itself. When considering the expense of mechanical fighting units it is difficult to write of depreciation for the simple reason that if your adversary, whoever he may be, produces a vehicle which has a higher speed, longer range, greater protection and more effective fire power; then the whole of your tanks become obsolete, and you have to get a new lot. You can use the existing tanks for the training of auxiliary or reserve units, but it is almost impossible to account for the sums due to depreciation and obsolescence. I suggest that in view of the heavy cost which we have incurred in connection with these mechanical units serious attention should be given to this question. The utility of tanks is now becoming doubtful as a result of the experience of the Japanese in China, of the 931 Russians in the Ukraine, of the French in Syria, and of other countries in other parts of Europe and Asia.
There is now considerable doubt as to whether the tank is still the useful tactical weapon which it proved to be for a short time during the War. The late Financial Secretary gave it as his opinion that arms of precision were now definitely gaining over the amount of protection which could be afforded by mechanical vehicles. In view of these possibilities, and of the fact that the Germans and the Japanese take no interest in tanks at all—the Japanese having tried them and found that they were no use against modern weapons owing to the increased velocity and precision of modern artillery—perhaps we ought not to undergo too much expense in this respect. I suggest that one tank brigade would be sufficient to keep at full fighting strength. At present the tank battalions are the only units that are up to strength compared to other units' very reduced esablishment. The tank units are right up to war strength, but I suggest that one brigade, which might be regarded as an experimental brigade, would be sufficient and that the other tank battalions should be disbanded, and a number of the surplus tanks used for replacing broken down or worn out tanks in the service battalions and the rest distributed to those territorial units which are, I understand, to be converted into light tank or heavy tank companies. It is not much use having territorial tank units, if you do not give them the tanks with which to train.
Further, I question whether it is necessary to have eight light tank battalions in India. I should have thought that India was not a very favourable arena for tank work. The climate is hot and tanks cannot be employed on long distance work, I understand that they were formed to replace the former armoured car units. I suggest it is possible that the Indian High Command is a little behindhand in this matter as they have very often been in the past in regard to other modern developments compared with the High Command at home. I know that Sir Philip Chetwode left England before the armoured car had been tried out and its importance discovered in this country. When he himself commanded the Desert Column on active service in Palestine he had armoured cars 932 but he had not the vaguest idea of how they were to be used, and they were practically not used at all. The idea apparently had not entered into his mind of what armoured cars were for, and it is conceivable that he, after his experience in Palestine, and not having heard of the various uses to which armoured cars could be put, notably for reconnaissance purposes, thought they would be no use in India. But I should have thought that a few armoured car units, say three squadrons, would have been invaluable in India. Supposing that a political officer were murdered in some out-of-the-way village and it was necessary to get there quickly, a couple of armoured cars would probably do the whole job. Or, a disturbance might occur in some "ungetatable" place where it was only necessary to show the flag in order to stop it. There again, two armoured cars would probably do the job whereas if you had to send a light tank battalion grinding its way along it is exceedingly doubtful whether it would get there in time to be of any use. Indeed, in connection with civil trouble of any kind, I think it exceedingly doubtful whether tanks are of any use at all for police purposes.
Another question is that mentioned in Vote A, namely, the replacement of the Lewis gun by a light machine gun. I wish to know whether this light machine gun is actually a machine gun or an automatic rifle. The two things are very different. The machine gun is really a form of artillery. In the war it was found advisable to brigade the machine guns and use them as artillery, moving them to tactical points according to the needs of the situation under the command of the brigadier. The automatic rifle on the other hand was a form of armament used by the rifleman himself and there was this difference. It was not advisable to use automatic fire but only repetition. The moment you started automatic fire your ammunition supply was wasted with little effect, but firing repetition with the automatic rifle produced an effect which was at least 30 times that of the ordinary rifle. I would like to know whether this light machine gun is to be a machine gun or IS it to be the automatic rifle which will I believe inevitably replace the ordinary rifle in the firing line and avoid many casualties.
There is a further question which is not mentioned in the Vote at all and that 933 is regarding the use of autogyros and light aircraft on manoeuvres. The autogyro could be used successfully to convey generals and umpires and inspecting officers from place to place, and I think it has been discovered that it is a most useful vehicle. A great many of us thought so for many years. We thought that the autogyro was obviously the artillery observation machine—far better than the balloon kite or the kite which can only be used in certain kinds of weather. The autogyro can do all the artillery observation and reconnaissance and, if attacked by fighting planes, it can sit down on the ground and wait until the fighters have gone away. It is the ideal machine, and I suggest that it might be possible for the artillery arm to acquire a certain number of autogyro machines for experiment in this direction. Has any effort been made in this direction or has any objection been offered by the Air Ministry? I shall not go into that subject, however, because it is one which will be debated to-morrow and in that Debate I hope to take part. But I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell me whether they have acquired any autogyros, and if so, whether the Air Ministry have said "No, that is an aeroplane and belongs to us." That is a most important question, I would go further still and suggest that light aircraft could be very efficiently used for the conveyance of officers and umpires from place to place, and that Army headquarters should have a certain number allotted to them. That would not be interfering in any way with the Air Ministry. The aeroplanes would be used as ordinary conveyances just like motor cars.
Then there is the question of six-wheeler lorries. We have heard an interesting statement on that subject. I must confess that I am a little alarmed in regard to this matter and I hope that some investigation will be made into this subject with the Treasury and possibly with the county authorities. I remember when the subsidy on the six-wheeler lorries was introduced. It was opposed for some time, but in practice it was found to have a valuable effect. As soon as a commercial firm began to develop six-wheeler lorries on a large scale, thanks to the subsidy, there was an effect in one important respect namely as regards corrugation of the roads. The corrugation 934 of the roads had been getting very bad, and it was due almost entirely to heavy lorries plying constantly over the same stretches of road. It was found of course to be much worse in the case of unmetalled roads, but experiments on metalled roads show that according to the volume of traffic you get corrugation if you have four-wheeler vehicles plying constantly over the same stretches of road. As soon as the six-wheeler lorries were introduced that corrugation ceased and I think it was a most valuable asset to the county councils and other rating authorities, and incidentally to the Ministry of Transport. I would suggest that before deciding to abandon the six-wheeler lorry, some experiments might be made running heavy six-wheeler and four-wheeler lorries over different stretches of road to see whether there is corrugation on the one hand and not corrugation on the other. If these experiments prove that the six-wheeler lorry have a very beneficial effect on the road, I suggest that my right hon. Friend should take that up with the Ministry of Transport, and that the subsidy should be brought back again if only for the benefit of the roads.
I would like to ask two questions on Vote 2. One is concerned with the very high cost of the Territorial anti-aircraft service battalion in relation to the rest of the Territorial units. Anti-aircraft searchlight battalion is put at £18,400. I am a little alarmed to find that it is the most expensive unit that is going to be developed, and I confess also that I have some doubt about this question of anti-aircraft defence. I have seen during the War anti-aircraft guns firing somewhat inaccurately, and I think it is most important that this should be gone into. I wonder whether anti-aircraft services should not be run entirely by the Air Ministry? There should be correlation between aircraft and anti-aircraft services. You cannot get your target practice unless you arrange with the nearest air force unit for a flight of aeroplanes to trail targets to shoot at. It is very difficult for ordinary army work to get even one machine to do anything at all. I would like to see this matter gone into to ascertain whether the anti-aircraft services could not be run by the Air Force, both searchlight and guns, and not be put on the Territorial Army, which, with the best will in the world, cannot act 935 efficiently in a very important part of this country's defences. This is a matter which, perhaps, the Committee of Imperial Defence or some other authority should take up with the least possible delay.
The other matter to which I would like to draw the attention of the Committee is the comparatively low cost of the yeomanry regiment or armoured car company compared with other units, and the efficient service you get from these two arms, and to ask whether it would not be a possible solution, instead of converting your infantry battalions into anti-aircraft services, to amalgamate those of low recruiting strength, and so reduce your divisions, if necessary, but keep them as infantry, and at the same time increase the establishment of your existing yeomanry and armoured car units. Most of the yeomanry cavalry regiments are on a ridiculously low establishment; they are so short of men and horses that it is lucky if they can produce 120 men mounted for any regimental exercise. These establishments should be raised to four good squadrons, and then you would have a unit with which you could do some training when you got them into camp. I apologise to the House for having been so long, but there were various questions which I wanted to bring forward.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
There are two or three questions to which I would like to call the attention of the Financial Secretary. The Estimates are sufficiently varied to allow one an opportunity of ranging over a number of subjects. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is able to tell me something in regard to Woolwich Arsenal. For many years past the question of the future of Woolwich Arsenal has been discussed, but lately it has taken on a much more serious turn. Statements have been made in this House and in the Press as to the possibility of removing the Arsenal or part of the Arsenal, which is the oldest and finest in the world, to some other part of Great Britain. The committee, whoever they are, have been considering the matter for a very long time, and whenever any question has been asked, either by a deputation, or in the House, we have been told that the consideration is the vulnerability of Woolwich Arsenal in the event of war. It is one on which I had hoped to be able 936 to have some definite pronouncement. The matter has caused the workpeople in the Arsenal grave anxiety as to what is likely to become of the Arsenal. That anxiety is very natural, and I hope that to-night we shall be able to get some definite answer as to what is proposed shall be done. Many of the men who work in the Arsenal have wives and families, who are rooted in the constituency of Woolwich. The careers of their children are mapped out. Any change would mean a good deal of dislocation.
All will admit, I think, that the question of the vulnerability of the Arsenal in the event of war is very relative, particularly in view of the enormous advance which has been made in aviation and of the speed in which different parts of Britain can be covered. Many of the workers in Woolwich Arsenal have purchased their houses. Very largely the Polytechnic at Woolwich has been built up on training men and boys to that particular class of work which fits them so ably and efficiently for the manufacture of munitions. In the event of any statement being forthcoming as to the probability of the Arsenal being moved, I would like to have an assurance from the Government that it is intended to maintain it as a national factory. I think it would be a very great mistake if any attempt were made to transfer the manufacture of munitions to private persons. We had the experience of the clothing stores in Pimlico some time ago, and when they closed down after being under the control of the War Office they were handed out to private enterprise. I hope the Financial Secretary will be able to make some statement about the future of the Arsenal in order that the anxieties of the men and their families may be to some extent allayed, and also the anxieties of the commercial people of Woolwich, whose livelihood is bound up with the degree of employment in the neighbourhood.
I have associated myself from time to time with deputations to the Financial Secretary, on behalf not only of the workmen, but of the chambers of commerce and the Woolwich Borough Council. The matter has been agitating the minds of our people for so long and so intensely that I have been pressed by my constituents to ask whether there is anything further to communicate which will at 937 any rate give them some satisfaction as to what is likely to be done. In the event of any movement taking place, I hope the Government will give us adequate notice. I cannot conceive that the whole of the Arsenal could be moved for a very long time, if it were decided to move any of it at all. There are some very valuable sites on the river where the Arsenal is now situated, and if we had adequate notice in the event of any portion of it being removed, it would be competent for us to try to attract some commercial venture on to the riverside in its place.
I want now to refer to the question of married quarters. I was very happy to see that in the Memorandum that was published, there was a paragraph on page 8 dealing with the modernisation of the older type of married soldiers' quarters, which fall far short of present-day civilian housing standards and of existing barracks. I have raised this question in the House on more than one occasion, as to the degree with which the improvement of the sanitary standards in these married quarters has been proceeded with, and the last time I asked a question on the subject was on the 26th February, when the Financial Secretary replied:It is the intention to provide separate water-closet accommodation, and eventually separate bathrooms, for all married couples on the married quarters' roll who lire in barracks. This is being done gradually, and these improvements are included in ail new constructions. I could not give the precise number of cases which are outstanding without calling for reports; but I am satisfied that good progress is being made.I should like to make one short comment on that reply. I am credibly informed that the separate lavatory accommodation—that is, for water closets as apart from bathrooms—is very low indeed, so far as the married quarters are concerned, and it seems to me monstrous that, with the means that we have available to-day, both in material and labour, and knowing that this matter is so far behind, it has not been tackled with greater speed. I am not complaining of the present Financial Secretary, because I believe he takes his duties very seriously and has done everything in his power to make progress in this connection, but the question is of very long standing, and I would beg that in this effort that is being made to deal with ordinary sanitary 938 arrangements in the married quarters, everything possible should be done to see that progress is achieved.
There is one other point, and that is the question of hutments. The Financial Secretary, also on the 26th February last, in reply to a question by me, said:Apart from hutments which have been specially reconstructed, there are approximately 12,500 men who axe housed in huts or hutted buildings in stations at home and overseas, excluding India. It is the policy of the War Office to replace these buildings, and more than £700,000 has been expended in the last five years in this connection; but many years must necessarily elapse before all the hutted accommodation can be replaced. I am not aware of any cases of troops living in hutted accommodation which should be condemned as unsuited for habitation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1935; cols. 923–4, Vol. 298.]I do not want to engage in any sharp practice in discussion, but I see on page 195 a reference to Woolwich and to the reconstruction and re-roofing of married soldiers' quarters, and there is the comment on the other side: "The buildings have become unsafe for habitation." I feel that there has not been a sufficient survey as to the backwardness of the buildings and the sanitary arrangements in order that the Financial Secretary should be able to make the comprehensive statement which I am sure he would like to make, and I would beg in this respect also that the matter should be speeded up.
On the question of workmen's compensation, the Royal Commission recommended very definitely that the Royal Ordnance Factory workmen should be eligible to come into a superannuation scheme. They have from time to time sent deputations to the Financial Secretary, and they have always been willing to make a joint contribution towards providing some means of giving them a retiring allowance when they are no longer eligible to work in the factory. On all occasions we have had a very sympathetic reply, to the effect that there has been no objection to the proposal. It has always been stated that they think the men are right in pressing this claim, but that financial considerations have prevented it from materialising. I wonder how long it will be before financial considerations arise which will make it possible for these people in the Ordnance Factory, not confined entirely to Woolwich, 939 but including Enfield also, to contribute jointly towards providing a pension for themselves.
I am not skilled in military matters to deal with the other questions that have been raised, but I would like some answer with regard to the future of Woolwich Arsenal, some speeding up with regard to the sanitary arrangements for married quarters and the dilapidated buildings, many of them over 100 years old and hopelessly out of date from the point of view of providing decent accommodation, and I would also like attention given to those who want to make joint arrangements for some contribution towards assisting themselves on retirement.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I think the House will have been very glad to hear the Labour party taking an interest in the housing of the Army. My experience has been very different. When the Labour Minister of War was in office, in answer to a good many questions from me about housing the Army and about the numbers of married quarters, he replied asking me not to press the matter as it was too expensive a job to get the necessary Estimates through. The question of the Army in relation to the Air Force and the Navy has been raised, as it is possible that the anti-aircraft units might some day be under the Air Force. There is, in my opinion, something to be said for it. After the Boer War the artillery was put under the infantry. If that had not proved to be the case and if they had not had the experience of manoeuvring artillery before the Great War, there would have been considerable confusion. I have had experience with the artillery all my life, both as a Regular and as one who is interested in the Territorials, and especially in anti-aircraft, and I am bound to say that the situation of anti-aircraft artillery should be reviewed, with a view to considering whether the Air Force should not take charge of it. I see one great objection. It is the same objection that the Navy has to taking charge of coast artillery. The Navy say it will make too many shore jobs. In this case the Air Force will say it will make too many land jobs, and that it is better for the Army to run the two. I should like to know whether the liaison between the Army and the Air Force is working satisfactorily, 940 particularly with regard to anti-aircraft units and fighting squadons, because, unless they know each others views, the anti-aircraft units will not be able to enter into an air battle in an efficient way. The question of liaison between the three Services is important and the artillery is really the means by which it can be carried on.
The biggest task with which the War Office is faced is to deal with the question of the shortage of recruits. As far as the Territorials are concerned, there are three reasons for it. The reason given by the Mover of the Amendment is one, but it is not the main reason. One reason is the shortage of equipment. It is difficult to get men interested in anti-aircraft or artillery if they have nothing with which to work. In one instance an important instrument is shared by six batteries. It is hopeless to train in that way, and I am glad that equipment is to be increased. I hope that when the fresh equipment is handed out Territorial officers will be consulted as to the equipment they want with which to interest the men. The second reason is the difficulty with regard to employers. That is mainly a difficulty with Territorial recruiting, but it is also a difficulty with Regular Army recruiting. I suggest that a system should be devised to interest employers. I do not think that it is the task of the War Office, but it may be the task of retired officers who could go round to employers and ascertain their difficulties and get them interested in their local Territorial units. There is no area better for that purpose than London. It is well known how ignorant many employers are that there is a local Territorial unit or that they have any responsibility to it as regards their employés. Some of the big banks and insurance companies have formed units of their own and many other employers have given their help; and I suggest that means might be devised by which ex-Territorial officers should go round to interest other employers in the Territorials.
The third difficulty is one that has scarcely been mentioned. That is the attitude of the Labour party towards recruiting. It is difficult for one who cannot understand their attitude towards recruiting to see how they can hope to safeguard their ideals of freedom and at the same time refuse to let them be defended. 941 It seems so Gilbertian and their attitude seems to show that they live in a world which is not the present world. I fail to see how democracy can carry on if that attitude is persisted in. I cannot see how, when the world is surrounded as it is by dictatorships, they can say that the City of London, employers and trade unions, should be discouraged from allowing men to join a defence force. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will show a practical way of getting over that difficulty. I am not at all sure whether they are satisfied with the statement that armaments mean war. If that be so, what happens to the policy that is behind rearmament? If the Labour party are really living in the present world, do not let them go in for recriminations and the putting of trade unions and employers against recruiting. Let us get together and preserve our freedom, the freedom of religion and the freedom for which this country has fought, the freedom for which our ancestors and some of us personally have fought. I beg the Labour party to review the situation, and if in my small way I can do anything to help, I shall be only too glad.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. HAMILTON KERR
I would like to take up one point which the hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) raised, namely, coordination between the Army and the Air Force; but I would first like to congratulate the Financial Secretary upon the eloquence, precision and lucidity with which he propounded the Army Estimates to the House to-day. The occasion of an Estimates Debate affords hon. Members opportunities to voice their particular points of view. Some hon. Members desire big increases in certain items, while others press for marked decreases. These debates often remind one therefore of the couplet of Walter Savage Landor:Ireland never was contented,Say you so, you are demented.The hon. and gallant Member for Louth stressed the point of co-ordination. Tradition assigns to the Territorial Army a large portion of the onerous obligation of defence of these islands. This obligation divides itself naturally into two parts—coast defence and ground defence against aircraft. Science has so 942 amplified the scope of war that we must, in any future contest, envisage extended operations in the air, on sea and on land. This being the case, co-ordination between the three Services becomes one of the first essentials of training. Since the Territorial Army bears, and will bear, such a large portion in any scheme of national defence, this problem of coordination must be brought to the forefront of its training. I am glad that His Majesty's Government showed themselves alive to this principle at the joint exercises held off the Yorkshire coast last autumn, when opportunity was afforded to try out on an extended scale methods of intercommunication and coordination.
To stress the importance of this factor, let me give an imaginary example. Let us imagine that some hostile Power has decided to attack this island. Surprise will play a large part in any such manoeuvre, and only high efficiency and co-ordination can meet this surprise. Let us imagine, as in the Yorkshire exercises' last September, that a hostile commander under cover of darkness advances his transports, escorted by warships. The night before he has probably sent forward submarines to take bearings of the appointed landing beaches. These, having taken their bearings, sink overnight to the sea floor. At dawn they rise and show hidden lights out to sea. In a few moments transports and lighters, laden with troops of the invading army, are speeding towards their destination. Of these movements the defending commander, in this case perhaps commanding Territorial troops, knows nothing, because the invading commander has probably chosen desolate and unfrequented beaches. From these, by some sharp, decisive, surprise attack he will attempt to take possession of some harbour, because the lessons of modern war teach that an army cannot land such heavy equipment as tanks and ammunition lorries on beaches exposed to the action of the open sea. The defending commander only obtains information of the enemy's movements from his outposts. It was not until 24 hours after the first landing at the Dardanelles that General Lyman von Sanders, the German Generalissimo, decided which were the main attacks and which were the feints. It is, therefore, upon the efficiency and 943 high degree of co-operation between his observation posts that the defending general must decide on his first movement. When dawn comes he can send up aeroplanes to observe the dispositions of the enemy. There again the question of co-ordination between the land and air forces comes into play.
These factors are of prime importance, and I am glad that His Majesty's Government realised their fundamental necessity by the exercises off the Yorkshire coast last autumn. The same principle applies to an even greater degree in air attack. Let us say that hostile bombing planes have crossed the South Coast. Observation posts, scattered at various intervals and armed with sound-detecting instruments, attempt to gauge the course and position of the raiders. This information they pass on to two branches of the defence, to the ground units, manned by Territorials of the anti-aircraft brigades, and to the interceptor fighters at specific aerodromes under the jurisdiction of the Air Ministry. History records as one of the precepts of the great Napoleon, "I may have lost battles but I have never lost a minute," and in warfare speed is one of the first essentials of success. This news of the approaching raiders is, as I have said, flashed to the ground organisation. The Territorial commander has his groups of searchlights some 2,500 yards apart, behind these again he has his bunches of guns at some 3,500 yards apart. The moment the searchlights find their targets the guns open their barrage.
On the other hand, the Air Force commander has before him on his table a map marked in squares, and has under his command a certain number of fighters each allocated to a particular square. Last summer I had the interesting experience of flying over London in a Virginia night bomber during the exercises, and this fact particularly struck me. Unless the searchlights are able to catch a raiding plane in their beams, an interceptor fighter, however fast and however modern in construction, has little chance of sighting it. Only a hundred to one chance exists of the fighter in the darkness passing sufficiently close to the raider to be able to see the blue flame from its exhausts. Therefore, co-operation between ground and air defence 944 forms such an important item in the work of these forces.
I saw with interest in the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State with the Estimates that various officers and organisations of the Territorial Army had been in consultation with high officials from the War Office at Camberley. Since the question of co-operation between the Services is so important, would it be possible for representatives of the Territorial Army to have similar meetings and discussions with highly placed officers both of the Air Force and of the Navy? The late Lord Dewar, in one of his well-known epigrams, said, "America is the place where they try everything once except the criminals." Unfortunately, in war it is the unexpected eventualities which prove the most dangerous. I would, therefore, in closing, press again for extension in the start already made in co-operation between the two fighting services of this country, and I am glad, as I have said, that His Majesty's Government are so alive to this fundamental principle.
§ 10.2 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir ARNOLD WILSON
A vote in Supply is a legitimate occasion for raising grievances of a particular Service, and I therefore draw the attention of the Financial Sercretary to the absence of any provision at present for men invalided out of the Service as a consequence of accidental injuries not arising out of their employment. There are 300 or 400 men annually thus invalided out—something like 200 out of India alone—through accidents occurring on shooting furlough or on the football field. Sometimes they are completely disabled, but, because the injury did not arise out of their employment, the men are not entitled to any form of compensation. They come back to be thrown upon public assistance. I have no doubt that the effect upon recruiting is bad. I do not suggest that such cases are properly a charge on Government funds, but I beg the War Office to consider whether a voluntary scheme of insurance to cover accidents of that sort could not be put forward. I believe it would cost something like one halfpenny per head per week to provide for ordinary accidents of that sort, and I believe the introduction of such a system would have a substantial effect upon recruiting.
945 The Financial Secretary said something about housing and barracks, but I doubt whether what he said sufficed to make the House realise the deplorable state of many of our barracks abroad. May I read a few extracts from the Report on the Health of the Army for 1932. It is certain that nothing has been done since then:In Egypt, Gibraltar, China and Malta the soldier still suffers from bugs in various barrack rooms. Practically all the barracks in Egypt are infested, the degree of infestation being largely in proportion to the age of the building.It goes on to say that nothing can be done about it but they are a source of great irritation, particularly to newly arrived young soldiers. I suppose we older men have got used to bugs, but not young soldiers with good blood in their veins. It ought to be impossible for troops to be housed abroad in barracks officially stated to be permanently, incurably infested, with the foulest of all vermin, which, I know from personal experience, men fear far more than the more dangerous and disabling malarial mosquito. The report goes on to deal with water supplies. At Alder-shot it is "still giving rise to anxiety." One supply is contaminated. At another place a feeling of insecurity exists owing again to pollution and absorption of chemical waters containing arsenic from a pit only 400 yards from the main supply. On almost every page "financial stringency" is writ large.
There is great need for further mother and child welfare among the soldiers' wives and children. Dental care, especially in foreign places, lags behind that available in civil life. There has been practically no anti-malarial work done in certain stations owing to financial stringency, with the result that all the good work done in previous years is of no avail. In the absence of an adequate supply of Army dentists the teeth of the troops show no improvement. In India I see that we are spending about 11½d. a head on anti-malarial work as compared with £1 15s. 4d. a head in the Panama Canal zone. The result is that malaria for 1933 is much worse than before, and in spite of many other efforts to improve the health of the Army, malaria remains the principal scourge.
As the position in India develops, it will be increasingly difficult to obtain 946 funds for work of this sort. We should take every step open to us to improve the condition of the Army abroad in matters of sanitation and general hygiene. It is intolerable that troops should be housed in barracks that were considered fit for Turkish troops 150 years ago, and are now being used without any structural alterations whatever. That is particularly the case in Cairo. There are troops still in huts in Shanghai which ought long ago to have been abandoned in favour of more permanent barracks and in huts amidst foul marshes in Tientsin. Though the Army Medical Service are to be congratulated on the work they have done since the War, much remains to be done. I hope the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) who showed such interest in married quarters in this country will not restrict his interest to them, but will see what is being done abroad.
I turn to a more general matter—the adequacy of these Estimates to our military needs. We heard from the Lord President a few days ago how much smaller the Army is to-day than before the War, and certainly it was inadequate then. I have witnessed, with my own eyes, the agony and misery that fall upon the private soldier when he is made the victim of unpreparedness, the result of the policies adopted in this House. I was the witness of unimaginable human suffering and misery, the inevitable consequence of our unpreparedness in the matter of medical care and equipment in Mesopotamia in 1915. When speaking in this House on the subject of that Debate, Mr. Balfour said:When this war is over, in a very few years, you will find that what I think the Commission called 'an atmosphere of economy' again creeping over us, and they (the Opposition) will be equally unable to imagine that a new catastrophe will require as great efforts from them and the taxpayers they represent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1917; col. 2265; Vol. 95.]It is the private soldier as well as the officer who suffers untold misery if the medical and mechanical equipment is not the best we can give. Far better to have a small army which is efficient than a large army which is only partially mechanised and partially provided with essential weapons and services. I would not remind the nation to-day of the sufferings that our soldiers underwent during the War, but it is right to remember that 947 they were, in large measure, due to a lack of preparedness on our part, the responsibility for which lay with Parliament. I will conclude with a reference in Napier's "History of the Peninsula War" to this responsibility. After describing the agonies and miseries of the troops after Badajos he said—in Book XVI, Chapter VII:And why was all this striving in blood against insurmountable difficulties? Why were men sent thus to slaughter when the application of a just science would have rendered the operation comparatively easy? Because the English Ministers, so ready to plunge into war, were quite ignorant of its exigencies; because the English people are warlike without being military, and under the pretence of maintaining a liberty which they do not possess, oppose in peace all useful martial establishments. Expatiating in their schools and colleges upon Roman discipline and Roman valour, they are heedless of Roman institutions; they desire, like that ancient republic, to be free at home and conquerors abroad, but start at perfecting their military system as a thing incompatible with a constitution, which they yet suffer to be violated … In the beginning of each war, England has to seek in blood for the knowledge necessary to insure success, and like the fiends progress towards Eden, her conquering course is through chaos followed by death!Let it not be said of us, of the National Government, that whatever its electoral difficulties, that it was false to its trust to protect not only the nation but those who are prepared voluntarily to fight the nation's battles.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
I am envious of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down as I am, indeed, of every hon. and gallant Member in the course of this Debate, because of the assurance with which they have spoken. I thought that they probably would find in discussion this afternoon the same degree of confusion that exists in my own mind, but they are to be congratulated on having been able to bring to bear upon the matter a self-assurance that I do not feel, because I thought that particularly on this occasion it would be extremely difficult to talk upon these Estimates. I find it impossible to divorce the consideration of these Estimates from general considerations of policy. As to whether the Estimate is adequate or not depends entirely upon what it is proposed to do with it. It depends entirely upon the sort of policy you are going to carry 948 out. Therefore, hon. Members have the advantage of me because they have obviously a policy that is unchanged, and thus the bigger the Estimate the better—no matter what the policy may be, always increase the Army. I have listened to speech after speech to-day devoted exclusively to urging the Government to increase the number of Territorials, to add to the Regular Army, and to lavish more expenditure upon this and that, as though everybody had agreed to the proposition that the Army was too small and quite inefficient and ought to be made bigger, whereas it is just that proposition which has not been established, and which cannot be established until one knows the Government's foreign policy.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I make no complaint about that, but the foreign policy of our Government must bear a relationship to the foreign policy of other Governments. The negotiations which are about to proceed between His Majesty's Government and Germany, and which no doubt will be followed by further conversations with France, make it utterly impossible to form a just estimate of whether these Estimates are adequate until we have some idea of what our permanent foreign relationships are to be. I do not propose therefore to speak about the Estimates in relation to our policy. Hon. Members ought to be reticent until they learn what are likely to be the facts of the situation.
I hope that the Financial Secretary to the War Office will not take the advice of the Noble Lord and associate the members of training camps with military establishments. The country will take the strongest exception to young men being compelled to go to training camps—losing their allowances if they refuse—and being lured to training camps, being used for military or semi-military purposes. That is extremely repugnant to the British people. If you want conscription in Great Britain, bring it forward in a straightforward manner and everybody will understand it. I am sure that His Majesty's Government will not be so foolish as to take advice like that. It is one of the dangers of the establishment 949 of camps of this description that they lend themselves to exploitation, and that is one of the reasons why, when the proposal to establish them was before the House, we opposed them. We knew that, although it might not be the Government's intention to use the camps in that way, their existence nevertheless might lead reactionary minds to suggest means to which they might be put. I do not think that the Government will take any notice of that advice.
I find it difficult to understand the language used by the Financial Secretary. I thought he was proposing to take the advice of the Lord President of the Council and talk quite frankly about these matters, but he talked all the time about our Army being simply a police force, and an inadequate police force at that. If it is merely a police force, why are these proposals before the House? They are not necessary to police the Empire; they are for entirely different purposes. You do not require highly organised tank brigades to police the Empire; you require them for use overseas and for use, as an hon. Member said, if anything more serious and urgent is required.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I do not know whether the Financial Secretary desires to have camps in India, or poison gas in India, Jamaica or South Africa. I should have thought that an army so highly mechanised as that was entirely unnecessary as a police force for the Empire. Really, hon. Members ought to cease making statements of that sort. Obviously it is not intended to be a police force for the Empire at all: it is intended to be a part of the general defence forces of the country, and it ought to be examined primarily from the point of view that it may be used, in the language of the Memorandum, for any sudden emergency overseas—and "overseas" does not mean the Empire, but outside the Empire, Really the Government should "vet" their White Papers. The last one was admittedly a disaster, but the one issued by the War Office is almost as bad. I do not know whether, when the Foreign Secretary goes to Berlin, he will go in the character of pointing out one paragraph, in which it is stated that: 950In the deliberate judgment of the Government the time has now arrived when action should be taken to bring our military preparations more up to date, and provision is included in these Estimates for expenditure on matériel and for some increase in numbers as an instalment of a programme which will necessarily spread over a series of years.So the Government expect that their foreign policy will be as unsuccessful in the future as it has been in the past, and they are entering upon these conversations with other countries with their tongues in their cheeks—they do not expect anything to come of it, and are now laying down the basis of a programme which is to be a progressively expanding one. I do not speak as an export on these matters, but, in the present position of our foreign policy, the Army is not half as big as it ought to be; we should want one several times larger, and, therefore, very much more expensive. I suggest to the Lord President of the Council that in future, when these memoranda and White Papers are being issued, they should first of all be handed over to the propaganda chief of the Government, the Postmaster-General, before they are put in the Vote Office, so that he may be able to guard the Government against these verbal indiscretions which are continually creeping into their publications.
The Debate has been so over-shadowed by considerations of general policy that very little useful purpose can be served by extending it at the present time, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone), speaking on behalf of the independent section of the Liberal party, drew the attention of the Financial Secretary to one fact which I should like to emphasise. Indeed, it has been cropping up throughout the whole of this discussion. Hon. Members have argued on the assumption that the Army is frightfully inefficient. They have said also that the Army is small; it is not merely inefficient because it is small, but it is of itself inefficient, and this increase in expenditure is necessary in order to bring it up to a reasonable standard of efficiency. The hon. Member for South Shields pointed out that in 1933 Lord Hailsham stated that the Army was highly efficient and was one of the best mechanised armies in the world at an expenditure of 951 £38,000,000. The Estimate now involves the expenditure of £43,000,000. Are we having, in less than two years, a more inefficient, unmechanised Army for £43,000,000 than we had for £38,000,000, or are we not getting the truth? Which is the truer of those two statements? Was Lord Hailsam telling an untruth in 1933, or are the Government telling an untruth to-day?
What actually has happened is that the Government are engaged in the most objectionable sort of scaremongering. Everybody who speaks with authority upon these matters knows that the British Army is a highly efficient mechanised Army. It is not carrying out the injunction of the Lord President of the Council to falsify the position in order to frighten the people of this country into doing something. It may be that in some respects the money being spent on the Army is not yielding the best results. I have in my hand a quotation from the "News Chronicle" of a speech made by Field-Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode, Commander-in-Chief in India. He says with regard to officers:I do not think, as a class, officers have improved in general education or military instinct and leadership since the War. Many officers to-day cannot even express themselves clearly in the simplest language, let alone with any style or distinction. I am horrified at the number I find who have allowed themselves to sink into a state of complete brain slackness.This is by a gallant Gentleman who, obviously, knows what he speaks about. Being a civilian, I never expected members of His Majesty's Army to rise to the same standard of intelligence as the civilian population, but it is hard lines that a Commander-in-Chief should be able to bring an indictment of this sort against the officers of the British Army. Probably that is the reason why educational expenditure in the Estimates is being increased. I notice that the expenditure is being increased by £79,000. On Vote 4 there is an increase in the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, of officers of companies from 20 to 33, and it is obvious that the Government have taken the strictures of the gallant Gentleman to heart and have increased the number of education officers from 10 to 13. All I hope is that as a consequence of this increased expenditure upon education the officers 952 of the British Army will be able to show signs of additional intelligence in a few years' time.
§ Mr. BEVAN
If the hon. Member will bring fully to my notice the strictures of Lord Snowden I promise that I will give them meticulous study.
I should like to ask the Financial Secretary to explain an item on page 187 with respect to the cost of gun ammunition. There is an increase from £680,000 last year to £1,767,000. I should like to know whether proper care is taken that we are not paying too much for the ammunition. One notes that the shares of the armament firms have been going up by leaps and bounds on account of the encouragement they have received from the Government, and I hope we are not making too excessive a contribution to that result. I should also like to ask whether there has been excessive expenditure upon barracks at Hong Kong which represents a total amount of £2,220,000. Not a word has been said about that, although it is a very large item of expenditure. We are entitled to have some explanation of it. We have had no inkling from the right hon. Gentleman as to how the money has been spent. There is a further item, on page 204, of £155,400 for adapting defences to modern requirements. I should like some explanation of that.
We should also like to know why it is necessary to spend so much money on military establishments in Egypt. There is a very large estimated expenditure there and at Singapore. There is an increased expenditure of £775,000 at Singapore. I thought there was no need to spend all that money there. Over and over again it has been decided that we were not going to proceed with the defences at Singapore. I admit that the present Government have reversed the policy of the previous Government, but I thought that the Foreign Secretary had established such friendly terms with Japan when he became their advocate at Geneva that it was not necessary to spend so much in the Pacific. We shall go into the Lobby against these Estimates as a protest against the policy which is being carried out by His 953 Majesty's Government. We realise that had the policy adopted been a more enlightened one not only should we not have been asked to vote for increased Estimates but the right hon. Gentleman would have been able to reduce the Estimates.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
I do not wish to keep the House for any length of time at this hour, but I should like to say a few words in relation to what my right hon. Friend said when introducing the Estimates on the subject of reorganising the entrants for the Army Medical Corps. This is a question which has perturbed me very much. I have brought it to the notice of the House for the past 15 years ever since I made my maiden speech on it in 1919. From that time I have had very little encouragement and the country has been going down the slippery slope, with the result that the country at the beginning of every war has been left in a wretched and hapless condition and the Army has suffered preventable hardships. This neglect overtook us after the last war in the personnel of medical officers in the Army, Navy and Air Force. The position seemed to be hopeless. Each Secretary of State tried his hand without any effect, and the personnel gradually wont down and down until the position became serious.
In May, 1931, the late Government appointed the Warren-Fisher Committee to inquire into the recruitment of medical officers for the three Defence Services. They had to consider the shortage of officers and nurses in the melical and dental branches of the Services. They took a long time to make their report, which was produced in July, 1933. Last year we were told that this report was under consideration, now we are able to congratulate the Government on having put into force many of their recommendations. Their main recommendation was that as it was almost impossible to get young medical officers to enter these services for life after leaving their hospital training, the proper thing to do was to begin a series of short service commissions for five years, and that at the end of the five years those who had done best should be selected for permanent commissions, and those not selected should be retired with a gratuity of £1,000. That has been 954 put into force, and the result is that since June of last year 40 new medical' men have been taken into the Army Medical Service, the largest number since the War. That seems satisfactory, but we have to consider the effect on the cadres of the higher ranks.
The difficulty was how to get permanent promotion carried through. The recommendation was to make promotions to the higher branches of the service, and these have been increased to 25 in one case and 21 in another, while special' posts, and the most important, have been increased from 113 to 155. These are matters which give employment in professional work and have attracted men into the Service, but at the same time the total number of men employed is fewer and the actual expenditure reduced. I presume that this has been done by a better distribution of duties. The reduction is considerable. The actual number of men has been reduced from 539 last year to 479 this year. It means a retirement in the senior grades, and so we have a reduction of 69 in the total number of medical officers. That seems to me to be serious, and I hope the Financial Secretary will deal with it in his reply. While congratulating the Financial Secretary on these reforms, may I point out that nothing has been done to implement the recommendation of the committee so far as nurses and dental officers are concerned. I understand that the officers of the dental profession are very seriously perturbed by the fact that their position has not been taken in hand and that their grievances have not been dealt with.
There are one or two other grievances with which I shall deal very shortly. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will pay attention to the fact that the senior officers in the corps who have served well have not been touched by these promotions and changes. They are badly hit and they feel a great injustice. I refer especially to officers of 22 years' service, who do not come under the reforms. The opinion of those who know best is that the short-service commission arrangement is of doubtful value. We shall see how it works out. The senior officers naturally do not like the idea of young officers coming in for five years only, and they are opposed to it. It is significant to note the opinion 955 in the Air Force, where the same system has been adopted. I understand that in that case there has been such a brilliant entry of young medical officers that when the end of the short period of the commission is reached it will be difficult to choose who is to remain in the Force because all are so good. Those in the Air Force consider that in the Army the same thing will happen. Let us hope that it is so and that we shall get a fine permanent cadre to choose from at the end.
I would like to give my own personal and very strong endorsement of what is proposed to be done to the married quarters. This reform has been required for a long time, and I hope it is only the beginning of a general clear-up right through the garrisons of the Empire. Lastly, I would draw attention to the fact that the Territorial Army medical service has not been considered as yet. Here we have a very serious impairment of strength. If we compare strength with establishment we find that there is a great shortage of something like one-fourth of the establishment, and a shortage still more of units. I have made this point before. A division when it goes to war has three field ambulances for its 12 battalions. That number is cut down in the Territorial Army to one field ambulance. Anyone who knows the organisation of a division knows that one field ambulance goes to a brigade. Therefore in the Territorial organisation you have two of the brigades being trained in peace time without any field ambulance at all. You cannot suddenly create a field ambulance. I hope that there will be at any rate a nucleus of a field ambulance in each brigade of a Territorial division.
My last point relates to another shortage which has had a serious effect. One of the artillery brigades last year had to do its firing under the new arrangements deprived of a medical officer. The rules rightly lay down that no shooting with service ammunition should be allowed without a medical officer being present. The brigade had to scour the country for a civilian to come while they did their shooting. A civilian cannot always be found, and when found is as expensive as to keep on a regimental medical officer. The regimental medical officer had been there but had been turned off because the establishment was cut down. He wished to continue but was not allowed 956 to continue because of this economy on the part of the War Office. It would seem that in the case of an artillery brigade where they require the special services of a medical officer, they ought to be allowed to have a medical officer. I hope that that particular incident has been brought to the notice of the War Office and that it will receive further attention. On the whole, I think that for the first time some light is being shown in regard to this matter and that an advance is being made in the medical service.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Mr. HACKING
In replying to a long Debate which has ranged over many subjects I am sure the House at this hour will not desire from me specific answers to every one of the hundreds of questions which have been fired at me. I propose, therefore, only to deal with some of the questions of major importance which have been raised, and I hope that in so doing I shall not offend any other hon. Members, whose suggestions and questions I will certainly reply to by some other method. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), and also, I think, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), asked about the Hong Kong barracks for the three British infantry battalions. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street referred to page 203 and said we were going to spend £2,250,000.
§ Mr. HACKING
That is the total of the estimated expenditure, but I do not think the hon. Member realised, or if he did, he might have drawn attention to the fact, that this expenditure is to be in future years and the present Vote is a token Vote of £100. He said that this item was pushed away in a corner and that no attempt had been made to explain it. I do not know whether it is necessary to give a long explanation of a token Vote of £100, but there is in fact a short explanation on the opposite page.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
But surely when you are having a new service you must consider the whole plan? This is the inception of a plan for spending £2,250,000, ostensibly 957 to provide accommodation for three battalions. You are making a beginning this year and we want to know what the scheme can be, which is so costly.
§ Mr. HACKING
I am aware of the fact that unless there had been some intention in connection with this matter, it would not have been mentioned in the Estimates but I assure the hon. Member that no definite decision has been reached yet and there will be plenty of opportunities of discussing this item when the larger amount appears in the Estimates, as it will have to appear in future years if this question is proceeded with.
§ Mr. HACKING
The House is not committed to any expenditure by the mere fact that a token vote is put in the Estimates. The most the House is commited to by this Vote is £100 and nothing more than that. That is simply to carry out an investigation.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
How can the right hon. Gentleman explain an expenditure of £2,250,000 by saying that the Government are providing accommodation for three battalions? That is obviously an insufficient explanation.
§ Mr. HACKING
I do not think I am called upon to give an explanation of that to-night except to say broadly that at the present moment there is temporary accommodation there, and the idea would be to replace it with permanent accommodation, but no definite decision has been reached, and it may even be that we would not proceed—
§ Mr. LAWSON
This is rather an important matter. Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House a guarantee that when the War Office asks in the next Estimate for this £2,250,000 it will be put in such a form as to give the House an opportunity of discussing it and getting a full explanation?
§ Mr. HACKING
Certainly. When the larger amount of money is involved the House will have an opportunity of seeing it and they will have an opportunity moreover of voting against it, if they think it is a wrong expenditure. The only object of putting this item in these Estimates is simply to draw attention to 958 this part of our building programme, although it does not necessarily follow that we shall proceed with it. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street and other Members suggested that we should spend a larger amount of money on the housing of our troops, especially at home. I agree, absolutely, that we must do something—as I indicated in my original statement—to bring the existing level of housing in the Army nearer to the level which exists in civil life. In fact, I think it ought to be every bit as good as the accommodation we would expect to be enjoyed by civilians living under ordinary conditions in the towns and villages of this country.
Having said that, I must in fairness state that we are spending more in these Estimates than was spent during the time that the Labour Government were in office, in 1930 and 1931, when they prepared their Army Estimates. In the six years between 1928 and 1933 £1,500,000 has been spent on the modernisation of the Army's living accommodation. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street inferred that we were not getting value for the amount of money we are spending. I believe we are as economical in our building costs as any other organisation. But the fact is that we are not spending enough, and special investigations are being carried out at this moment, and have been carried out for some little time past, with the object of carrying out a very great and a more rapid improvement in the accommodation in which our troops have to live. That also applies, of course, to their families.
The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) asked how we accounted for the increases in Vote 9, as given by me in my speech earlier this afternoon. I said, I think, that £1,500,000 was being spent on coast defences. Then I gave other items, which I think the hon. Member added to that £1,500,000, so making a much bigger total than appears in the Estimates. The fact is that there are other items contained in that £1,500,000 for coastal defences and those items are not additional. Of that £1,500,000, £420,000 is being spent on armaments and the rest is for works, personnel and miscellaneous expenses. Then the hon. Member asked what the remainder of the cost would be, and what proportion the instalment contained in these Estimates would bear to the whole expenditure to 959 make the Army efficiently up-to-date. I cannot forecast future Estimates, but I do say quite categorically that this is only an instalment; it is not sufficient to put the Army into the condition in which it should be; and in future years, if we have the opportunity of doing so and financial conditions allow, we shall certainly spend much more money than is allocated in these particular Estimates. The hon. Member also referred to the increase in cost, and said we were not getting such good value as we did in pre-War days. That is the same sort of argument that was used by the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) in his speech on the Navy Estimates.
§ Mr. H. JOHNSTONE
That is on the assumption stated by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) that we were now quite incapable of putting even three divisions into an expeditionary force without prolonged delay.
§ Mr. HACKING
I am coming to that point in a moment, but with regard to the question of extra cost, the pay is up 100 per cent. from what it was in 1914, and the pensions of officers and other ranks are up by 200 per cent. I have got calculations made out as nearly correct as we could get them, and I believe that if the 1914 Estimates were converted to the present-day standards and prices, they would stand at a figure of approximately £48,000,000 to-day, which is a higher figure than the Estimates which we are asking the House to sanction. The hon. Member also asked how many divisions we could send overseas in a given time, and it was here, I think, that he quoted from a speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). I can only say to him that it is not in the public interest to give such information. Obviously, we cannot go into the details of mobilisation, but I can say this, that at the present moment the process would take longer than was the case in 1914.
The hon. Member, as other hon. Members, quoted a speech from a memorandum prepared by the Secretary of State for War in 1933, but what my right hon. Friend said in that year was, I understand, very qualified and was in relation 960 to the late Chief of the Imperial General, Staff's tenure of office. This was said in relation to training and military efficiency of that kind, but not as regards equipment and material for coast defence, air defence, and other forms of defence. The right hon. Member for Tonbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay) dealt more or less with the same subject and regretted that I had used the words that our force was not efficient. The efficiency of a force does not depend upon men alone. If it did, we should be completely efficient, but it largely depends on equipment of every kind. However excellent our men may be—and they are excellent—their efficiency cannot be complete without proper, up-to-date, modem equipment.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Hicks) and also the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street asked whether any decision had been reached in respect of the removal of the Arsenal from Woolwich. No, a decision has not yet been reached. As the hon. Member knows, the matter has been under very close investigation at the War Office, but no final decision has been reached, and I cannot anticipate that it will be reached for some considerable time yet. I can assure the hon. Member that there will be no sudden dislocation on account of any final decision that may be reached by the Government. The Arsenal is not going to be moved from such a place as Woolwich in a night. It would take a very long period of time, and ample notice would be given so that there need be no such dislocation as the hon. Member fears.
In connection with Woolwich, I was asked about the research department. This department does work for all the three Services, and not for the Army alone. I was asked whether we were in close touch with the General Post Office and other departments in the matter of research and other kindred questions. The reply is that there is close and frequent co-ordination; there is, in fact, an inter-departmental standing committee which is always dealing with all these problems so far as they affect all the services of the State. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) brought up once more the question of ex-ranker officers. I am sure that neither he nor the House would desire me to go into the details of that 961 question to-night. There was held upstairs two months ago a meeting of the Army Committee at which any hon. Member could have been present, and all the details were gone into then. There was a full discussion of the whole problem. In addition there have been many questions put in the House—
§ Mr. HACKING
I am not sure whether the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds would be considered a member of the Opposition, but, if he is, then it was certainly open to him, because he attended.
§ Major MILNER
As far as I was concerned, it was a meeting of the Army Committee, and I and representatives of the ex-ranker officers were invited. I was not aware that other Members were invited or that it was possible for them to be present.
§ Mr. HACKING
I do not know whether there was a general invitation. Probably the hon. and gallant Member is right. Nevertheless, there was a discussion and anybody would have been welcomed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] As far as I am concerned, anyone would have been welcomed.
§ Mr. HACKING
I am now telling the hon. and gallant Member about the discussions that have been held. In addition, many questions have been put across the Floor of the House which I have done my best to answer. The fact is that the ex-ranker officers have never claimed that they have any legal right to the pension that has been obtained by officers who have held commissions. I am sorry I cannot hold out any hopes for still another committee of investigation which the hon. and gallant Member suggested should be set up. Surely the consideration has been full and complete. This question has been debated three times in the House of Commons. It was referred to a committee to which reference was made by the hon. and gallant Member. It has been considered by successive Governments—Conservative, Labour, 962 Coalition and National—and it has been investigated by every Financial Secretary and by every Secretary of State for War of every political complexion every year since 1920. The claims have been turned down on every occasion without even an expression of doubt—
§ Mr. HACKING
I said that this question has been brought to the notice of every Government. It may be that it has only been brought to the notice of the Secretary of State, but he is a Member of the Cabinet with responsibility, but on every occasion it has been turned down. I would like to ask the House: Is no decision to be considered to be final? It is quite impossible to open up this question in every Parliament for ever, and I do hope it will not be pressed on this Parliament, because I think it is a little unfair any longer to hold out hope to these men. I believe the money which is being spent on propaganda and in other ways to keep this matter alive would be better spent in the interests of the ex-ranker officers themselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. North) regretted that only £5,000,000 is being spent on what he described as the irregular army, namely, the Territorial Army. He obtained his figures from page 66 of the Estimates, Vote 2. If he will look at that page again he will find that only £3,000,000 is being spent on the Territorial Army. He arrived at his figure by adding the figures of the Army Reserve and the Supplemental Reserve to the figures of the Territorial Army, and, as he knows, the Army Reserve is a branch of the regular Army. If he will turn to page 65 of the Estimates he will see that the total effective cost of the Territorial Army in 1935 is £4,250,000, this including the issues from Army stocks. I know from his speech that he would call this a small proportion of the total Army expenditure of £43,500,000, but I think he ought to deduct from that total £8,500,000 for non-effective services such as pensions, retired 963 pay and similar charges; so the proportion would not be £4,250,000 to £43,500,000, but £4,250,000 to £35,000,000. That does make the position better, possibly, than he imagined. Then he put forward several suggestions which he prefaced with the remark that they would cost nothing and hoped they would be favourably received. I can assure him we will always welcome any proposals which will not add to our financial burdens.
The hon. Member for Central Bristol (Lord Apsley) asked me several questions. He asked whether the new machine gun to replace the Lewis gun was a machine gun or an automatic rifle. The answer is that the light machine gun which is to replace the Lewis gun is definitely a machine gun and not an automatic rifle. He spoke of the heavy cost of the tank battalions and said the Japanese were not placing great faith in this weapon. At the present time there are only five tank battalions. Four of them, that is one light battalionand three medium battalions, constitute a tank brigade, which must be regarded as part of the mobile troops of any field force. The remaining battalion, at Catterick, has been reorganised on a provisional basis as an Army tank battalion intended for close co-operation with infantry divisions. In spite of the Japanese experience and after very careful consideration it has been decided by the Army Council that for modern warfare Army tank battalions should be provided on the scale of one battalion per infantry division. He then spoke of the tank battalions in India. I am informed that there are not eight light tank battalions but eight armoured car companies, which will probably in due course be converted on to a light tank basis. I can only say that I have no doubt that the Government of India have thoroughly investigated the necessity for this number of armoured units, and it would be out of place for me to comment on that.
With regard to the Third Hussars, at the present time we possess one cavalry division and one independent tank brigade. The cavalry division as at present organised on a horse basis is unsuitable, owing to lack of speed and range, for co-operation with the tank brigade. Consideration is being given to the practicability of the formation of 964 a mobile division combining armoured car units, a brigade of cavalry, a tank brigade and mechanised supporting arms and services. Such a force would be capable of a wide range of action.
§ Mr. HACKING
I think that I must have notice of a technical question like that. I will certainly let my hon. Friend know that in the course of a day or so. It is intended this year to carry out the trials with one squadron and one scout troop of the Third Hussars temporarily organised on a mechanised basis. Light cars will be provided for reconnaissance work. I would merely like to emphasise the fact that this is purely an experiment, and that the Third Hussars have volunteered to take part in that experiment. Until it has been tested, we are not in a position to say whether the proposal is one that could be carried out permanently. With regard to the autogyro, in conjunction with the Air Ministry experiments have been carried out with aeroplanes of the autogyro type. These experiments will be continued during the present year and the Army Council feel that there may be a future for these machines in connection with intercommunication and especially with regard to observation.
May I say that I was sorry I was not present when the hon. Member for Woolwich made his speech? It was the first time that I had left the House for several hours. I am sorry that I was not here, because I understand that he paid me something that was very rare, and that was a compliment for the way in which I was attending to my duties at the War Office. His main concern was in regard to Woolwich Arsenal. I have already replied to the questions he asked. He asked also whether it was the intention to continue with a national factory. I think that I can safely say that there is no present intention to part from the retention of the Government control of the factory in so far as the munitions which are at present manufactured at Woolwich are concerned. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale expressed the hope that we were not paying too much for our gun ammunition. If it be any consolation for him to know I would tell him that practically all this gun ammunition will be made at the Government factory 965 at Woolwich. Such being the case, I think that he will agree that it would be quite impossible for us to be overcharged. He asked also why there were more instructors employed at the Military Academy. The answer is a quite simple one: there are more cadets.
I know that I have not covered a great many questions that have been asked. I have covered many of the main subjects which have been raised in the Debate, and I am sure that the House has had enough of the Army Estimates for one day. Before I sit down, may I repeat that the OFFICIAL REPORT will be read
§ very thoroughly at the War Office during the next few days? Answers will be sent to hon. Members where necessary, and the advice, so freely given during the Debate and so valuable to the War Office, will be given the most careful consideration. I hope, in your interests, Mr. Speaker, as well as in mine, that the House will now give you permission to leave the Chair.
§ Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 211; Noes, 55.967
|Division No. 108.]||AYES.||[11.17 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Alnsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Albery, Irving James||Dickie, John P.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Doran, Edward||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Apsley Lord||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Duggan, Hubert John||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Assheton, Ralph||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Eastwood, John Francis||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Balniel, Lord||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Magnay, Thomas|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Fermoy, Lord||Margsston, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Bateman, A. L.||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Ganzoni, Sir John||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Blindell, James||Gllmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Bower, Commander Robert Tatton||Goff, Sir Park||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Goldie, Noel B.||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Gower, Sir Robert||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Greene, William P. C.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Grimston, R. V.||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Munro, Patrick|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wllfrid|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)||North, Edward T.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Nunn, William|
|Buchan, John||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Burghley, Lord||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslle||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hornby, Frank||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Peake, Osbert|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Howard, Tom Forrest||Pearson, William G.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen, Sir Aylmer||Petherick, M.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n)|
|Christle, James Archibald||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Jamleson, Douglas||Potter, John|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Ker, J. Campbell||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Remer, John R.|
|Copeland, Ida||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Leckle, J. A.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Llewellin, Major John J.||Salmon, Sir Isldore|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Sandys, Edwin Duncan|
|Cross, R. H.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Sutcliffe, Harold||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dlne, C.)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Tree, Ronald||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Stones, James||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Storey, Samuel||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Strauss, Edward A.||Ward, Irens Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Sir George Penny and Sir Walter Womersley.|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W).||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Parkinson, John Alien|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Sir Percy||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hicks, Ernest George||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Jenkins, Sir William||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Buchanan, George||John, William||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Cape, Thomas||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cleary, J. J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||West, F. R.|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||White, Henry Graham|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leonard, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Dobbie, William||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Wilmot, John|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mainwaring, William Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Paling and Mr. Groves.|
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]