HC Deb 21 March 1935 vol 299 cc1432-54

1. "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 152,200, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at Home and abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions (other than Aden), during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936."

2. "That a sum, not exceeding £9,779,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, &c, of His Majesty's Army at Home and abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions (other than Aden), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936."

3. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,730,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Works, Buildings and Lands, including military and civilian staff and other charges in connection therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936'."

4. "That a sum, not exceeding £977,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the-Expense of Miscellaneous Effective Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936."

5. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,558,000, be granted to His Majesty, to-defray the Expense of Rewards, Half-Pay, Retired Pay, Widows' Pensions and other Non-effective Charges for Officers, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936."

6. "That a sum, not exceeding £4,510,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea; of Out-Pensions, Rewards for Distinguished Service, "Widows' Pensions and other Non-effective Charges for Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Men, &c, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936."

7. "That a sum, not exceeding £215,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Civil Superannuation, Compensation and Additional Allowances, Gratuities, Injury Grants, &c, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936."

6.14 p.m.


I beg to move, to leave out "152,200," and to insert instead thereof "149,200."

I do so in order to get some more definite explanation of this Vote than we have had up to the present. On making a closer examination of the items which go to make up the numbers in this Vote I find even greater reason for the criticism which we offer than was apparent when we had the Estimates before us on Monday last. It will be noted that the reduction which I move of 3,000, corresponds almost exactly with the increase which is proposed this year in the total of the various forces and I have been looking into the matter to see how the additional 3,000 are apportioned. I find that there is practically no increase in the infantry. To be exact there is an actual increase of four in the total of infantry including Foot Guards and that branch accounts for something like 78,000 out of the total of 152,000 which is asked for. In the case of the cavalry the numbers are exactly the same as they were last year. We have always said whether we were sitting on this side of the House or on the other side, that whatever differences might exist as to numbers and amounts in these Votes we agreed that the Army should be efficient. The question is what is the standard of efficiency?

One of the main arguments for this increase is that of increased mechanisation. That was the term used repeatedly in Monday's Debate. One would have thought that a second look would have been taken at the numbers of the cavalry, if it were true that the need at present is for increased mechanisation in the Army. I have a good deal of sympathy with those who by sentiment are associated with the Cavalry and horse regiments generally. I have some reason for appreciating that sentiment. When one has been driven round the school by a merciless rough-rider, it is a natural thing to cling to the horse. I have some very tender memories of that experience. I think that the time has really arrived when, if we are to have an efficient Army, and mechanisation is to be the key-word to it, the War Office ought to explain why they retain the numbers of Cavalry at the same point as they did last year, particularly in a year when there was an urge made for increased efficiency. I know, of course, that this is a matter of general policy, and that it will be possible for hon. and gallant Gentlemen to make a good case to their own satisfaction for the use of cavalry in any future war.

As one analyses the Estimates and hears the debates on the other Services, one feels that it is more than ever necessary that the numbers should be debated in relation to the numbers for the other two Services. It is clear that in future the Air Force has simply to increase the efficiency of the various types of machine, and that applies to the Navy as well. As far as the Army is concerned, however, one knows that while shells overwhelmed rifles in the last War, and tanks would seem to be the really effective force in case it should be unfortunately necessary to use such force in future, yet I venture to say that those who are connected with the Army and give it their expert consideration would find it difficult to declare definitely that the tank and other kinds of mechanised forces will be the really effective factor in the next war. I find that in the Tank Corps, where one would have expected an increase of numbers, there is actually a reduction of 27. There is, at the same time, an increase of 15 in the War Office staff. The Financial Secretary should explain why there is this continual increase. The reason always given is that as the Army increases in mechanical efficiency, it is more than ever necessary to have the experts in the various branches at the War Office for purposes of guidance and administration, but I think we should have some further answer upon that point. There is an increase of about 500 in the Army Service Corps and about 1,000 in the Royal Engineers. Whatever may be said about the other two Services, I do not think any of the Services are so problematical as to what we are to get for our money in effective fighting power as the Army.

6.22 p.m.


In rising to support the reduction moved by my hon. Friend, I would like to say that I think the debates on the Service Estimates would be better if we did not have to take the notices of Motion on the Estimates on going into Committee. They break up the trend of the debates, for no one knows when they will come on. I hope that the Government will see that in future a whole day is devoted in Committee to the various Services, and have a separate day for the notices of Motion. I am supporting the reduction, not because I want in any way to detract from the efficiency of the Army, but because I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who brought in the Estimates when he said that an effective army should be up-to-date. We all agree with that, but in dealing with the Army we must have regard to the times through which we are passing. The various forms of the fighting forces assume different shapes as time passes. For instance, the Air Force has sprung up in recent years. Fifty years ago no one thought that it would be the effective part of our fighting services, as it is now. Yet to-day we keep an obsolete part of the Army in being. I refer to the Cavalry, which question I raise every year. We never seem to make any attempt to reduce it. We talk about efficiency, and we are told that attempts are made to examine that side of the Army to see what can be done with it, and yet the figures remain the' same. In 1933 the figure was 8,114; in 1934 it was slightly reduced to 8,102, and this year it remains the same.

I cannot see the need for this number of Cavalry. If we are to have an efficient force, the redundant parts of it should be done away with. The Cavalry is an extremely costly item. The only purpose that it serves is as a kind of show thing in the streets of London, and as a kind of advertisement for recruiting. I shall persist in my advocacy of the plea that it should be done away with until the War Office does something about it. I do not want the War Office to think that because we do not continually press this question forward, that we have forgotten it. We have not, and we hope that some regard will be paid to our claims. In another part of the Estimates there is a figure of £20,000 for the training of horses, but no one will tell me that there is any need for that. We on this side of the House have no desire to reduce the efficiency of the Army. As long as we must have a defence force, we hold that it should be highly efficient and skilled. I believe that the mechanised side of the Army is the most effective. In the Debate the other day my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was accused by hon. Members on the other side of belittling mechanisation. He did nothing of the kind, for he urged that the mechanised part of the Army should be made more effective. While we stand for that, we urge the House to pay attention to other parts of the Estimates where savings can be made. This Vote of £43,000,000 comes from the taxpayers, and we ought to have regard to them. When we are standing for an efficient Army we ought at the same time to have consideration for those who find the money, whom it is our duty to protect. I do not support this reduction because I have any desire to belittle the efficiency of the Army, but to draw attention to the fact that the Estimates can be saved by reducing the 8,000 men who make up the Cavalry and by improving the mechanised part of the Army.

6.28 p.m.


I want to raise the question of the training of the Tank Corps which comes under this Vote. The War Office endeavoured to obtain control two years ago of a number of commons in Surrey for the training of the Tank Corps. Various negotiations took place, the result of which was that the War Office was to use these training grounds for certain periods of the year under certain restrictions. I have never been one of those who believe that the training of the Army should in any way be restricted and that various amenities may not have to go by the board in certain circumstances. There are suggestions, however, that the troops are infringing the agreements that were come to with regard to the administration of these commons, and that the tanks are tearing up the ground—


I do not think that that question comes under this Vote, which relates to the number of men.


I thought that it came under the training of the Tank Corps, which is under Vote 1.


We are now discussing Vote A.

6.30 p.m.

Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN

I should like to say one or two words in answer to my hon. Friends opposite who have so often raised the question of cavalry across the floor of the House. No doubt the references of my hon. Friend on the Front Bench opposite about "clinging to the horse" were prompted by memories of the riding school, in which I can also share. I can perhaps speak more freely on the question of the mechanisation of the cavalry because my old cavalry regiment and another cavalry regiment have for some years now been armoured car regiments, though still on the cavalry strength. I would mention that the expense of a mechanised cavalry regiment is considerably greater than that of a cavalry regiment which retains its horses. I have not heard the Minister say so, but I am told that it is the intention of the authorities to continue the mechanisation of the cavalry—that they have plans for mechanisation on rather different lines which they will be trying out during the year, and have to a certain extent already tried, which will inevitably mean the mechanisation of another brigade of cavalry out of the present establishment.

I should like to know whether we can be told anything of the intentions of the War Office in that matter. In a European war or for home defence cavalry in the old sense are not so useful as they have been in the past, but when we come to consider the defence of the Empire we have quite a different proposition. We must remember India, Egypt, South Africa and many other parts of the Empire to which we might have to send an expeditionary force, and there is no question that in places where it is difficult to get petrol, a horse and man can move and "live on the country" under conditions when that might not be possible in the case of machines—unless we have better plans for furnishing supplies of petrol, perhaps by aeroplane, and spare parts in case of breakdowns.

In Palestine, during the late War, we saw what the cavalry could do in finishing off the Turkish Army, a task which no other troops could have undertaken under the conditions then prevailing. Therefore, cavalry are still very necessary for an expeditionary force, and cavalry regiments have to be kept at home from which to replenish the strength of those which would be serving abroad with such a force. To my mind we are keeping here only the minimum number of cavalry which would enable us to meet the needs of regiments which had gone overseas. I do not criticise the Vote because I agree that as modern inventions are introduced we must keep abreast of them. I am sorry that we cannot go on clinging to the horse, but I hope we shall cling to him as long as we can. I would also point out that generals and staff officers are necessary to an army, and that to enable them to get about and to manoeuvre their troops they must, in many cases, be well mounted—they cannot all go in tanks—and the more people there are in the Army who can ride and so mount a horse in case of necessity the better it is. We are quite justified in keeping a nucleus of cavalry, which is the finest arm in the service for training commanding officers.

6.34 p.m.


I have a question to ask about the organisation of the Tank Corps, seeing that we are now getting into a reminiscent mood. It seems to be constantly subject to reorganisation. It was being reorganised in 1932, again in 1933 and yet again in 1934, and I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could tell us anything about that reorganisation and whether we are getting down to anything definite about the organisation of the Tank Corps at home and abroad.

6.35 p.m.

The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Douglas Hacking)

The main attack, if one can call it an attack, which has been advanced in this discussion upon Vote A has concerned the use of cavalry. I was very glad to hear almost every hon. Member who has addressed us saying quite definitely that the Army ought to be made efficient, because that was the point I tried to make when I introduced the Army Estimates on Monday. "But," it was said, "If you are going to have an efficient Army is it necessary as a condition of that efficiency to retain the cavalry?" The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said the cavalry were used for ceremonial purposes and also, perhaps, with the object of stimulating recruiting. Surely those are not the only purposes of the cavalry. That is not all they were used for during the late War. The cavalry took a very big part in that war; and, as has already been pointed out by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) there are certain countries—he mentioned Egypt and India—in which we have to have forces in which we cannot use tanks and are compelled to use cavalry.

I think we are compelled to retain cavalry if we are to have a complete and efficient expeditionary force. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) said that tanks ought to be taking the place of cavalry, that we were moving towards an age of mechanisation. That is quite true. It is true, also, to say that the cavalry is being mechanised. We have mechanised two cavalry regiments by equipping them with armoured cars, and we are experimenting this year with the mechanisation of a third regiment, and if the experiment is successful it may lead to further developments. The House ought not to run away with the idea that the personnel of all the cavalry under Vote A are on horseback, though I repeat that it is necessary to retain the horses and to retain cavalry as we have known it as cavalry.


When a cavalry regiment is mechanised is it still called a cavalry regiment? That is a point which ought to be made clear to the House. I have not had this knowledge before.


Yes, a cavalry regiment is a cavalry regiment even when it is converted. If there is a complete reorganisation it may be that a fresh description will be applied to the converted regiments, but at the moment we are really experimenting more than anything else. The other items raised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street are dealt with in the pink sheet which accompanies the Estimates. He asked about the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Artillery, and also about the increases in the Royal Army Service Corps, the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The increases there are due, in the main, to increased establishments at home and in Egypt. As I said in my opening speech on Monday, we are compelled to increase these particular services if we are to have mechanised units. I said that we should probably have smaller units to begin with, and that with smaller units it was necessary to have a larger auxiliary personnel.

The hon. Member for Leigh made a reference to the school of equitation, although he said he had no right to mention it, and therefore it may be said that I have no right to reply. He further said that he stood for mechanisation, but argued that we ought to cut down in other directions. I agree that wherever it is possible to cut down we must do so, but, as I said on Monday, we have found it is quite impossible to cut down in the other non-mechanised services, as yet, but we are always watching the position with great care and when it is possible to cut down in any service it will be done. As to the Tank Corps, at the moment the position there is one of flux. We are experimenting with different-sized tanks and in every way are trying to create efficiency with as little expenditure as possible. I hope I shall not be asked to go into details with regard to the establishments. The establishments are being very carefully considered, and I can promise that there, again, there will be no waste of any kind. Wherever it is possible to economise, whether in the cavalry or any other branch, I can promise that it will be done.


Do I understand the position with regard to the Tank Corps to be that the War Office have been experimenting with various forms of organisation and that the organisation is not yet fixed?


Yes, that is so. It is not definitely fixed. It is difficult to say when anything will be definitely fixed, because, as the world advances and inventions appear, we have to try to keep abreast of them.


One point with which the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt is the question of the War Office staff. I drew attention to the fact that there was an increase of 15 in the staff of the War Office, and that there was a reduction of 27 in the Tank Corps. That seems to be a strange contradiction. There is an increase of about 1,500, about a thousand of them being Royal Engineers and 56S in the Royal Army Service Corps, but the increase in the case of the War Office staff is very difficult to understand.


It is not the process of mechanisation which as in the main affected the War Office establishment. The increase is due chiefly to the greater amount of legislation, as well as an increased number of executive decisions from the Government, especially in the domain of social affairs. Some years ago we had not to deal with social affairs to the extent that we have to-day, and we need a staff which is large enough and efficient enough to carry out the work. A new department has been started in recent years, the Air Ministry, and that means a great deal more correspondence. Communications take place between three Service departments instead of two as previously. The Pensions (Increase) Acts have meant additional staff to deal with war pensions. The

Representation of the People Act affects us and so do the Unemployment Insurance Act and the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act. All those mean additional staff to the War Office. Acts which are of a social character have to be dealt with by somebody. Whenever we place an Act upon the Statute Book affecting any department, that almost invariably means an increase in staff to deal with the problem with which the particular department is concerned. I do not think that we can get away from that fact. In the main, our technical establishments at the War Office have not been increased; if there has been an increase due to mechanisation it has not been big. The main increase is due to the social services. I hope the hon. Member will be satisfied with that explanation and will not press his Amendment.

Question put, "That '152,200' stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 196; Noes, 39.

Division No. 116.] AYES. [6.48 p.m.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Croom-Johnson, R. p. Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen, Sir Aylmer
Albery, Irving James Cross, R. H. Hurst, Sir Gerald B.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Dalkeith, Earl of Iveagh, Countess of
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Jennings, Roland
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Denville, Alfred Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Apsley, Lord Doran, Edward Ker, J. Campbell
Aske, Sir Robert William Dunglass, Lord Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)
Assheton, Ralph Eastwood, John Francis Kerr, Hamilton W.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Edmondson, Major Sir James Kirkpatrick, William M.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Elliston, Captain George Sampson Law, Sir Alfred
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Emrys-Evans, P. V. Leech, Dr. J. W.
Bait, Sir Alfred L. Everard, W. Lindsay Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Fox, Sir Gilford Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Blindell, James Fraser, Captain Sir Ian Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-
Borodale, Viscount Fremantle, Sir Francis Llewellin, Major John J.
Boulton, W. W. Ganzoni, Sir John Lloyd, Geoffrey
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Gillett, Sir George Masterman Loder, Captain J. de Vere
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Loftus, Pierce C.
Broadbent, Colonel John Glossop, C. W. H. Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C. MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)
Browne, Captain A. C. Goff, Sir Park MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Goldie, Noel B, Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Burnett, John George Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Macquisten, Frederick Alexander
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Graves, Marjorle Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest
Carver, Major William H. Greene, William P. C. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Grenfell, E. C, (City of London) Martin, Thomas B.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Grimston, R. V, Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Gritten, W. G. Howard Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Clayton, Sir Christopher Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Guy, J. C. Morrison Milne, Charles
Colfox, Major William Philip Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Conant, R. J. E. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres
Cooke, Douglas Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)
Cooper, A. Duff Hornby, Frank Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.
Copeland, Ida Horsbrugh, Florence Munro, Patrick
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Howard, Tom Forrest Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Crooke, J. Smedley Hume, Sir George Hopwood Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) O'Connor, Terence James
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hn. William G. A. Sandys, Edwin Duncan Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Orr Ewing, I. L. Savery, Samuel Servington Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Peaks, Osbert Selley, Harry R. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Pearson, William G. Shaw, Helen B, (Lanark, Bothwell) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Peat, Charles U. Smithers, Sir Waldron Turton, Robert Hugh
Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Somervell, Sir Donald Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n) Soper, Richard Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Hull)
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Potter, John Spencer, Captain Richard A. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Pybus, Sir John Spens, William Patrick Watt, Major George Steven H.
Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour
Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland) Wells, Sydney Richard
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Stones, James Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Ramsden, Sir Eugene Storey, Samuel Wills, Wilfrid D.
Reid, William Allan (Derby) Stourton, Hon. John J. Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Remer, John R. Strauss, Edward A. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Strickland, Captain W. F. Womersley, Sir Walter
Rickards, George William Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F. Worthington, Dr. John V.
Ropner, Colonel L. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Summersby, Charles H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward Sutcliffe, Harold Sir George Penny and Dr. Morris-Jones.
Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Tate, Mavis Constance
Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Taylor. Vice-Admiral E. A.(P'dd'gtn, S.)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Mainwaring, William Henry
Attlee, Clement Richard Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Banfield, John William Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Parkinson, John Allen
Buchanan, George Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cape, Thomas Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cleary, J. J. Hicks, Ernest George Thorne, William James
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jenkins, Sir William Tinker, John Joseph
Daggar, George John, William West, F. R.
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Thomas (York. Don Valley)
Davies, Stephen Owen Lawson, John James Wilmot, John
Dobbie, William Logan, David Gilbert
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Lunn, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Mr. Paling and Mr. Groves.

Third Resolution read a Second time.

6.56 p.m.


I beg to move, to leave out "£3,730,000," and to insert instead thereof "£3,729,900."

I want to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office questions with regard to the large amount of new construction overseas. I see mentioned on page 203 of the Estimates a sum of £16,000 for accommodation for increased garrison in China. I would like information as to that increase. There is also mention of £100, which is said to be for barracks for three British infantry battalions in Hong Kong. I would like particulars about that. Then there is the large sum of £775,800 for the Singapore defences. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would tell us what that covers. On page 204 there is a sum of £155,400 as estimate for adapting defences to modern requirements for various stations abroad. That is a very large sum to be given without any particular explanation, and I should like to know the location of those defences. A lot of money has been thrown away in the past in putting up all kinds of defences in all kinds of odd spots. We ought to have more particulars in regard to it.

I should like also to know about the large expenditure on the Army in Egypt. Item 87 on page 203 refers to £11,000 for accommodation for various units. I always understood that we were clearing out of Egypt sooner or later, and I am rather disturbed to find such a heavy expenditure being contemplated. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell me more about what is proposed for expenditure in the Far East, because it is important expenditure and seems to indicate a new policy. Other items in this section concern to a large extent replacement of barracks, but there is a good deal of construction for tank corps. There is, in fact, quite a lot of important construction of one sort or another. The overseas commitments are very heavy this year, and I should like to have an explanation from the right hon. Gentle man.

7.0 p.m.


I would like to put one question to my right hon. Friend. I believe it is common knowledge that for some time there have been a great many barracks in this country that have been practically unfit for habitation according to modern standards. I believe that my right hon. Friend has given particular attention to this part of his duties. May I ask him whether, in view of the fact that the present financial circumstances do not allow this really big problem to be tackled, he will look into it and see whether some fresh system can be devised of dealing with what are recognised as conditions which would not be tolerated for the civil population. It is a very difficult position for the soldiers. The military engineers responsible may easily report that barracks are unfavourable, but it is very difficult for the authorities to uphold the report, because they are told that there is not enough money to go round. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider financing some scheme for the reconstruction of any barracks which are not really fit for human habitation? When we see Bills, both English and Scottish, before this House laying down standards of housing and decent conditions for the civil population, those of us who have been soldiers, and who have the interests of the soldiers at heart, cannot allow an opportunity such as this to go by without asking that as decent conditions shall be provided for the troops as for the civil population.

7.2 p.m.


I would like to ask my right hon. Friend if he could give a few more particulars about the question of the new accommodation for tanks? There is to be new accommodation for tank battalions at Warminster. There is' to be at Catterick a great deal of development connected with the Royal Tank Corps. I beg my right hon. Friend to consult with his advisers and consider whether they could not slow this down a little. All these items are most expensive, and the tank corps is the most expensive unit we have in the Army. Most thoughtful soldiers are beginning to realise that the tank is of very doubtful use. From experience the Japanese have found and the French in Syria have found that tanks are of no use, and now we are finding on manoeuvres that although tanks can manoeuvre with the greatest ease in their own home, Salisbury Plain, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) or Amanullah go there the tanks put up a most impressive display, as soon as they get out of their usual ground, whether it be hilly country, rivers, forests or really boggy ground, they can hardly move at all. It has now become quite apparent that the only use of tanks are on their own battle ground, careful preparation having been made, surprise established, and a smoke-screen launched. But to get them all over the country, as has been suggested in some military magazines, is impossible. I beg the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the heavy expense of these weapons, to keep them to one strictly experimental brigade, and to disband the other tank battalions altogether. At any rate, we should not go further ahead with extensive new permanent buildings, garages and all the enormous demands which the extension of the tank unit entails.

7.5 p.m.


It is quite clear, not only from what he has said to-day but what he said on Monday, that the Noble Lord does not like tanks. He has said that Japan has discarded them as being of no use. On the other hand, he must realise that other countries, including Russia, have very large numbers of them. If he does not like tanks, clearly he does not like the houses in which tanks have to live.


The new ones.


They must be new on occasion. We have not sufficient old accommodation to house them. His views with regard to tanks are not shared by those who are responsible for the forces in this country. I am not an expert on these matters, and can only be guided by those people who do know something about their job; and I am advised by the military experts that tanks are an essential part of the British Army. If they are, they must be accommodated, and we must have the workshops where repairs can be carried out. I hope that my Noble Friend, however much he may dislike tanks, will appreciate that his views are not shared in every quarter, and that, if these tanks have to be used and have to be part of our equipment, accommodation must be provided for them. We always do our best to provide them with accommodation that is in existence; where that is not possible, we are compelled to spend money on fresh accommodation.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Captain Ramsay) has made an appeal for a speeding-up of the building of barracks. He knows that I have every sympathy with him. I said last Monday that I carried out a personal investigation in this matter. I visited some of the accommodation at present used by the troops, and I say categorically that some of the accommodation is not fit for them to live in. "We are doing our very best in these Estimates under existing financial conditions to make some progress, but that progress is not fast enough for my ambition. The hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested some fresh system of raising money. I do not quite know what he has in mind. Is his idea some sort of loan? How are we going to borrow the money?

Captain RAMSAY

Either by loan or some subsidy such as that for civilian houses.


It would be necessary to expand our Estimates very much more, and we are kept in check by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Our Estimates must be based very largely on the amount of money that we can obtain. We cannot spend money that we have not got, hut we have this year been allotted a larger amount of money. The question of fresh money in order to speed up the new construction is constantly receiving our consideration. I hope that it may be possible by some means to get a larger sum of money.

The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) asked me a number of questions. I wish that he had given me notice of some of them, because it is very difficult on the spur of the moment to reply as fully as he would like. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) did give me notice that he was going to raise the question of the very large expenditure, £2,219,900, in future years on the housing of three British infantry battalions at Hong Kong. On Monday he asked some questions about this matter, and I did not give him the reply which he thought ought to have been forthcoming. I am one of those people who are not good at giving replies unless they know the answers, and as I did not know the answer on that occasion, I refrained from giving the reply.

Since that time I have made further inquiries, and I find the position to be roughly as follows: In the 1934 Estimates there was service included to accommodate three battalions at a total cost of £1,700,000. But I am informed that the site which was then contemplated ceased to be available, and so the whole of that project was put into the melting-pot. We could do nothing more. The explanation which was given in the 1934 Estimates for a token sum of £500 apparently sufficed last year, and it was copied verbatim in the Estimates this year in the hope that as it had been sufficient on the last-occasion it might satisfy the House this time. But, apparently, it has not given satisfaction on this occasion. I agree with the hon. Members for Limehouse and Chester-le-Street that there ought to have been a fuller explanation in connection with this large sum of money, although we are only asking to-day for the token vote of £100. I accept the responsibility and apologise to the House that there was not a fuller explanation. That being the case, let me give the fuller explanation now. The Government long ago provided that the infantry garrison for China should be six battalions, of which five ultimately should be at Hong Kong. The permanent accommodation at Hong Kong housed only two battalions. Of the remaining three at present two of them are accommodated in Hong Kong, in temporary huts, and the third is at Shanghai. The only reason that it is at Shanghai is that there is no accommodation of any kind in which to put this particular battalion at Hong Kong. The Estimate, approximately £2,200,000, is a very rough estimate, arrived at by assessing the cost of the preparation for the new site at £500,000, and using the previous estimate for the previous buildings as being applicable to this new scheme. We had to make allowance for the change in the exchange rate from 1s. 4d. to 1s. 8d., and actually at the present time it is, I think, about 1s. 11½d., so that some further adjustment will be needed there; but admittedly the cost is high. It may be that, in spite of the increase to which I have just referred, we shall, when we get more details, find that the estimate is too high, and that we shall be able to effect economies.

I would ask the House to realise, however, that the cost of providing accommodation in the Far East is a good deal higher than it is in the United Kingdom. In the first place, I am assured that building costs are much greater, and obviously more elaborate accommodation is required for troops serving in a hot climate. For example, as regards air space, whereas in this country 600 cubic feet of air space is allowed per man, in the tropics it is necessary to allow 1,040 cubic feet. That means that the buildings must be of larger size to accommodate the same number of men than would be the case in the United Kingdom. Further, it is necessary to have verandas, fans, and other things which are necessary for ventilation, in order to keep the air as cool as possible, in the interests of the health of the men. The high cost of barracks is also accounted for by the fact that they are not ordinary barracks in the sense of the word as we use it here. At a foreign station it is necessary to have your own supply depot, your own medical reception station, accommodation for stores, recreation grounds, and also your own sewerage, water and electricity systems, and your own roads, the construction of which costs no small amount of money in a country like China. I promise, however, that there shall be a very close scrutiny of the estimates when they are received. We have put down a sum of money which may be found to be too high when that close scrutiny takes place, and the scruitiny will be full and exacting

before any progress takes place in the building of this accommodation.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say why it is that the site costs £500,000?


As I have indicated, a rather large site is necessary, and I am told that that is the approximate cost. I can assure the hon. Member that, if it had been possible to obtain a site at less cost, it would have been obtained. The hon. Gentleman also spoke of Item 105 (Adapting Defences to modern requirements). That deals with the modernisation of coast defences, and, as the details are obviously confidential, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not pres3 for information regarding them.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give approximate information?


I would rather not give any information under that head. With regard to Item 87 (Accommodation for various units at Abbassia), that is, in the main, accommodation for mechanisation. Item 96 (Singapore Defences) merely represents a continuation of the policy which has been approved by the Government for some considerable time; there is nothing new about it. The hon. Gentleman thought that we were talking about clearing out of Egypt, but I have no knowledge of any policy of that kind. It does not, indeed, concern me, and, if the hon. Gentleman wishes for information of that kind, he must address his question to some other Minister than the representative of the War Office.

Question put, "That '£3,730,000' stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 165; Noes, 34.

Division No. 117.] AYES. [7.20 p.m.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)
Albery, Irving James Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, w.) Broadbent, Colonel John Dickle, John P.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C (Berks., Newb'y) Doran, Edward
Apsley, Lord Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Dunglass, Lord
Aske, Sir Robert William Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Eastwood, John Francis
Assheton, Ralph Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Carver, Major William H. Emmott, Charles E. G. C.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Clayton, Sir Christopher Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Colfox, Major William Philip Everard, W. Lindsay
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Conant, R. J. E. Fleming, Edward Lascelles
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Cooke, Douglas Fox, Sir Gifford
Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Cooper, A. Duff Fraser, Captain Sir Ian
Bernays, Robert Crooke, J. Smedley Fremantle, Sir Francis
Blindell, James Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Ganzoni, Sir John
Borodale, Viscount Croom-Johnson, R. P. Gillett, Sir George Masterman
Boulton, W. W. Dalkeith, Earl of Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
Glossop, C. W. H. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Salmon, Sir Isidore
Goff, Sir Park Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Goldie, Noel B. Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Selley, Harry R.
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. O. R. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Martin, Thomas B. Smithers, Sir Waldron
Grimston, R. V. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Somervell, Sir Donald
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Gunston, Captain D. W. Milne, Charles Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Guy, J. C. Morrison Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tfd & Chisw'k) Spens, William Patrick
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Mitcheson, G. G, Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Stones, James
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H, (Denbigh) Storey, Samuel
Hornby, Frank Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univor'ties) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Horsbrugh, Florence Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Strauss, Edward A.
Howard, Tom Forrest Nation, Brigadler-General J. J. H. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) O'Connor, Terence James Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Iveagh, Countess of O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Summersby, Charles H.
Jennings, Roland Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hn. William G. A. Sutcliffe, Harold
Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Orr Swing, I, L, Tate, Mavis Constance
Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Peake, Osbert Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Ker, J. Campbell Pearson, William G. Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Kerr, Hamilton W. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Kirkpatrick, William M. Potter, John Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Law, Sir Alfred Pybus, Sir John Warrender, Sir Victor A G.
Leech, Dr. J. W. Ramsay. Alexander (W. Bromwich) Watt, Major George Steven H.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgsour-
Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Llewellin, Major John J. Ramsden, Sir Eugene Wills, Wilfrid D.
Lloyd, Geoffrey Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Loder, Captain J. de Vere Rickards, George William Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Loftus, Pierce C. Ropner, Colonel L. Womersley, Sir Walter
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Worthington, Dr. John V.
MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Particle) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Rutherford, John (Edmonton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Sir George Penny and Lieut.-Colonel
Sir A. Lambert Ward.
Attlee, Clement Richard Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Milner, Major James
Banfield, John William Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Paling, Wilfred
Buchanan, George Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Parkinson, John Allen
Cape, Thomas Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cleary, J. J. Hicks, Ernest George Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jenkins, Sir William Thorne, William James
Daggar, George Lawson, John James Tinker, John Joseph
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, Stephen Owen Lunn, William Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Dobbie, William Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Wilmot, John
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Mainwaring, William Henry
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Maxton, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mr. John and Mr. Groves.

First Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

7.29 p.m.


I do not propose to take more than a minute or two in putting the point to which I desire to call attention. Two or three years ago, a question was raised with the War Office in connection with the use for training purposes of certain commons in West Surrey. At that time the War Office had decided to take over all these commons for purposes of military training, but accommodation was reached with the local interests, as a result of which it was agreed that the commons should only be used for this purpose at certain times of the year and under limited conditions. It is obvious that a Tank Corps must have proper training, and, in contradistinction to my Noble Friend the Member for Central Bristol (Lord Apsley) who says that tanks are inefficient, we find them to be devastatingly efficient. I believe the plan was that the training should take place in the centre of the area originally agreed upon. It is perhaps natural that in the excitement of a tank attack the drivers wish to get to their objective as quickly as possible and to try out the capabilities of their tanks, and they perhaps destroy rather more of the natural amenities and beauties than is strictly necessary. I raise the matter in no hostile spirit at all, but with a full recognition that the Tank Corps should have field training. These commons are used by a very large number of people on Sundays and holidays and are very valuable open spaces near London, and if my right hon. Friend will look into the various complaints that have been made in connection with this matter we shall be very grateful.

7.31 p.m.


I should like to explain to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Rhys) that it is not a question of whether I think tanks are efficient, nor do I think for a minute that they are inefficient. It is not a question of whether I like or dislike tanks any more than one likes or dislikes machine guns, but there are a great many soldiers now coming to the belief that the Tank Corps are not capable of performing the functions that many people, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), believe that they can perform. On the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, it is most important that there should be found a stretch of country where the Tank Corps could be exercised under natural conditions, including rivers to be bridged and gulleys, up and down, besides Salisbury Plain, which they know by heart and in fact every blade of grass on it. But as soon as they extend the manoeuvres away from that part of the country, the tanks have to go down roads following each other's tails until they get back again to the Plain. If somewhere could be found—I believe Devonshire was mentioned or the hills of Wales—where they would not do so much damage to civilian property; and where it could be seen what they could actually do and how many miles a day the Tank Corps could make across country, it would be a real test. We should then be able to know something about the extensiveness of their work.

7.33 p.m.


I am glad that it is agreed that some place must be found for the training of tanks, but the complaint of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Rhys) is simply that tanks, during their training, travel out of the area provided for them. He realises that the movement of tanks is much more rapid than it was a few years ago, and it may be that when they are just getting up to the boundary they are going so fast as not to be able to be pulled up in time. Seriously, I will look into the complaint, and, if it be found that the area is not large enough, we shall have to extend it. If it be found, on the other hand, that the area is large enough and that tanks are abusing the opportunities presented to them for training, then they will have to fulfil the conditions laid down, and have to train within the area, and not extend beyond the boundary. I will look into the matter and let my hon. Friend know when I have made inquiry.