§ 3.30 p.m.
I beg to move,That this House urges His Majesty's Government to take every possible step to secure the necessary voluntary recruits for His Majesty's Defence Forces, in particular to carry out any necessary improvements in the conditions of these Forces, and to ensure that the Regular Forces offer opportunities for careers, both during service and afterwards, comparable with the opportunities in civil life, and agrees that the appeal to the country for such recruits merits the support of all parties.I make no apology to the House for raising this topic here this afternoon, for it seems to me that it is a very suitable topic in all the circumstances at present existing. I should like to make it clear to the House at once that I am not an expert in military matters, for I have never belonged to one of His Majesty's Defence Services, nor am I a member of the Territorial Army. I think there is, perhaps, some significance in the fact that a lay Member is raising this subject this afternoon and I should like to make clear my intention at once. I simply want to try to draw a general picture of the difficulties as I see them and to indicate some general lines of solution, but I hope very much that hon. Members who are much better qualified than I am to make contributions will assess at their right valuation these difficulties, and will put forward at the same time practical suggestions for their 'solution. If that be so, I think we shall be able to feel that we have taken a useful step this afternoon towards the solution of this most important problem.
The urgency and importance of the problem become only too obvious when we compare some aspects of the recruiting figures with the state of the world to-day, which is necessitating the rearmament programme of the Government. I say "some aspects" of the recruiting figures, but not all aspects. For example, I understand that in the Navy there is no deficiency of recruits, except as regards one small section of skilled men, and that is rather a separate problem. Equally, I understand that in the Air Force the position is that the number of vacancies has been over-applied for, both as regards pilots and as regards airmen and boys. Since May, when the extension of the Air Force was commenced, 2,500 pilots have been accepted, but there were 12,000 applicants for those places; and 2002 as regards airmen and boys, 21,000 have been accepted out of 60,000 applicants for those places. And so, although we want to be sure that in future the numbers and the quality of those applying to join the Air Force and accepted remain as they are at present, we can feel a certain satisfaction with the position as it is now.
When we come to the Army, both the Territorial Army and the Regular Army, we find quite a different picture. It is clear that if ever this country were at war with an enemy who was within flying distance of our shores there would be no more inviting objective than London, and, that being so, every aspect of the anti-aircraft defence of London has to be brought to the highest possible pitch of efficiency. One aspect of anti-aircraft defence has been entrusted to two divisions of the Territorial Army. That responsibility means not only that those two divisions should be brought to the highest pitch of readiness as soon as possible, but it also means increasing the numbers required for bringing them up to establishment. understand that the increased number required for that purpose is about 14,000 men, and that altogether what is required is some 86,000 new recruits for the Territorial Army, that of that 86,000 the War Office does not have hope of obtaining during this year more than about 40,000, which would leave a deficiency of some 46,000. Although the conditions as regards the Territorials is said to be improving—
§ Captain DOWER
Can the hon. Member give the House what percentage of the full strength—if the Government have their way—the Territorial air defence section will be?
I am afraid I cannot answer that question, as I have not the exact figures, but perhaps the Secretary of State may be able to give the information later. When we come to the Regular Army we find that there is not an improvement which is even comparable with that in the Territorial Army. I understand the position to be, that whereas in the current year there are required 35,300 recruits to make up the wastage of those who are leaving, it is not expected that more than 21,500 will be obtained. In other words, the deficiency in the Regular Army, instead of being made up, is actually increasing. 2003 We know that a, recent effort to start an Infantry Supplementary Reserve has not met with any but disappointing results. That being so, it seems that we must examine the reasons for this deficiency and try to find some remedies.
I would like to suggest to the House that we must look in two directions for the reasons. First, we must inquire whether there are any conditions which are special to the Army but which do not apply to the Navy and the Air Force, and, secondly, whether there are any conditions which apply to recruiting generally. As regards general conditions relating to the Army, the conditions for the Territorials are clearly not comparable with those for the Regular Army. There are many Members who have expert firsthand knowledge of the Territorial Army, and I hope they will put forward their views on this subject, but I should like to suggest, briefly, one or two ideas. First, there is the question of the appeal made for Territorials; but I should like to deal with that later when I speak of appeals in general for recruits. In addition to that there are the questions of finance, of holidays and equipment, each of which might be considered from this point of view. I understand, for example, that Territorial officers, many of whom have only small incomes, find that they have to bear a disproportionate charge for belonging to the Territorial Army out of the incomes they receive. Again, are we not possibly asking too much in the way of technical training from people who get very little material reward for it? It is well known, of course, that great sacrifices in the matter of holidays are often necessary on the part of anyone who wishes to belong to the Territorials.
Lastly, I think that a lack of equipment for the Territorials produces a sense of unreality, and damps enthusiasm. It produces the feeling that they are not properly cared for, and that harms recruiting. That same factor applies also to the Regular Army. For example, you have instances of it with regard to various items of equipment in field training service, and things of that kind. The only remedy for that is to make the equipment available. I am thankful that the Government are making every possible effort to get the equipment for the Regular and Territorial Armies. Apart from 2004 the intrinsic value of the equipment, the action will contribute towards a solution of the recruiting problem.
Let me now pass from the Territorial Army to the Regular Army. It is natural for people to make comparisons between the prestige and the glamour of service in the Navy or the Air Force with service in the Army. There may be something in that. There is a widespread belief that the taste of young people for speed, machinery and adventure is better catered for in the Navy and Air Force than in the Army, and that to serve in the Army is, as it were, to be the unskilled labourer of the Defence Services. Surely the mechanisation of the Army may be changing that. It may very well be that the Army is more and more acquiring a higher type of man who can undergo the skilled training necessary to deal with the increasing mechanisation of the Army. If that be so, and if the Army is opening up opportunities to people with a taste for speed and machinery, that factor should be more widely known and better advertised among those who might take advantage of it.
It is not by comparing the Army with the Navy and the Air Force that we shall get to the root of the problem. If we are to understand the problem properly, we must make the true comparison, which is between the Army and civil life. If anyone is thinking about a career, the first thing he considers is which of the available alternatives, including unemployment, offers him the best pay. Anybody who considers the Army is liable to under-estimate the value of what he gets free of charge. That is only one aspect of the problem. I understand that a new recruit is very apt to find that there is a difference between his pay and his pocket money. He finds there are certain initial expenses which he was not anticipating. I suggest that it is worth considering whether there might not be some sort of enlistment grant, which would enable the new recruit, who is making a new start in a fresh kind of life, to do so without suffering any unexpected reduction of his pocket money. I would like that principle to be rigidly observed in later stages, too, to make sure that there is no element of disappointment as regards pocket money at any stage of a soldier's career. In addition to that, it might 2005 be worth while considering whether there should not be better prospects for rises in pay with increases of efficiency, and also whether some reward should not be given for field service, and, still more, for danger service.
Apart from questions of pay, it is natural that anybody who is contemplating a career and possibly joining the Army should take into account other conditions as to comfort, food and leisure. In the Army, a man gets opportunities for keeping himself physically fit, for playing games, for life in the open air, and for experience of the world, which he would not get otherwise, but if those opportunities are to outweigh the disadvantages of hard living and of discipline, it is essential that there should not be too great a difference between the standard of life to be found in the Army and that which would be his if he stayed at home. We must recognise that housing conditions, food, opportunities for amusement, the use of leisure and so forth, are improving. If we are to have people viewing the Army as a possible career, it is clear that the Army is faced with increasing the standard of life to compete with the rising civil standard of life.
Other matters must be taken into account, such as whether or not it is desirable to shorten foreign service, and whether some improvement might be made in the medical services of the Army. I do not want to be thought to advocate too soft a life for the soldier. Quite clearly we must have discipline, but there are two kinds of discipline. There is the discipline rightly obtained by those who are fit to exercise responsibility, and the discipline wrongly imposed by those who are not so fit. Again, with regard to conditions of living, it is clear that we must have a certain amount of hardness, because a soldier's business may be to take part in war conditions, when it would obviously be essential that he should be accustomed to living at a level which is not altogether that of home life.
I would suggest that it is a matter for serious consideration whether the time' is not now ripe for some form of inquiry into Army conditions. I believe that if conditions are right, the opportunities given by the Army will be considered 2006 more valuable than they are now, on one further condition, and that is that they lead to employment after service. If the Navy and the Air Force are compared with the Army in this respect, it will be found that more men come out of those two Services highly skilled and fitted to take a skilled job in civil life than there are out of the Army at present. I know that the Army's vocational training centres now give a certain amount of training, and that various views are held as to whether or not the question of employment after service is important.
Some people say that young men joining the Army do not look very far ahead. My answer to that is that the Army wants the kind of man who does look far ahead. In any case, people who think they might join the Army, whether they look far ahead on their own account or not, probably come into contact with those who have come out of the Army, and see them having to make a fresh start in life. There are people who hold that the question of employment after service is a key point, and that it would make a great difference to recruiting. We must bear in mind that one of the aims of the Government is to give increased security of employment to those who are in the most exposed conditions. If that be so, it is only just that the Government should try to give increased security to those who have served in His Majesty's Forces.
Various methods may be suggested for this purpose, for example, an extension of the system of vocational training, an attempt to get more people employed in Government services after they come out of the Army and the provision of some kind of inducement to employers. I admit that I have not made a detailed study of the possibilities of this question, and I hope that hon. Members who may have done so will give their suggestions this afternoon. But I would particularly, if I may respectfully do so, ask the Secretary of State if he would be good enough to examine this question, which everybody recognises is a very formidable and difficult one but which deserves consideration in any case, and might well prove a valuable line of policy from the recruiting point of view. I understand that the Government have recently been increasing their expenditure in order to make improvements in conditions in the Army, but I think that this House ought not to 2007 be satisfied, and ought, if necessary, to be prepared to undertake an increased, and a permanently increased, expenditure until conditions in the Army are brought up to the standards which are genuinely comparable with the rising standards of civil life. To-day we advertise the Army as the finest job in the world. Clearly, that is the right basis for an appeal for recruits, and it is the basis that we ought to be able to take in appealing for recruits; but, before we take it as our basis, we want to be quite sure that it is a basis which we can say truthfully exists. We have to be sure that the Army is the finest job in the world before we make an appeal for recruits on that basis, which is the only firm basis on which to make that appeal.
I would like to say something about the question of appeal. To my mind the appeal for recruits has so far been made to individuals. When we consider what tremendous opportunities for publicity are offered by the great publicity mediums of this country, when we consider how great commercial enterprises advertise, how even the National Government is able to make its record widely known, although recruiting is in a different sort of category from these matters, nevertheless, the fact that publicity can be so successfully used for any particular purpose is one of great importance in this connection. I do not feel satisfied that publicity so far has ever made the nation aware, as it might be aware, of the necessity for Army and Territorial recruits, or that it has made the people who might be recruits sufficiently aware of their opportunities in this matter. I want to see every kind of method brought into play. I should like to see the assistance of the wireless, of posters, and of the Press enlisted for this purpose, and also the cinema, at which, I understand, the attendance per week in this country is upwards of 18,000,000 people. It might be that some special publicity committee should be set up for this purpose, but in any case it is certain that publicity, to be really effective, must be managed by those technical professional experts who alone can make full use of this method.
Apart from the extent of the appeal, we must also consider another aspect of the appeal for recruits. I do not, myself, think that it is a helpful method to appeal 2008 to fear. You cannot frighten people into the Army; they will only join the Army if they want to join it. You must, therefore, appeal on the basis that it is a first-class job to belong to the Army, but you must be sure, when you make that appeal, that it is a first-class job; and you must also be able to appeal on the ground that it leads to another job afterwards, provided, of course, that the service has been good. To that material basis you can add the appeal to adventure, the appeal to a sense of service and patriotism; but the aim of the appeal is not that the Army may compete with the Navy and Air Force, but to increase the total volume of recruits available for all Services.
Lastly, I want to examine the question whether or not there are any checks on recruiting as a whole. Sometimes we hear it said that pacifism is a check on recruiting, but I am not much impressed by that. I do not think there are many genuine doctrinaire pacifists in this country, and I think that to advance that as a check on recruiting is merely misleading foreign countries, who do not very well understand our peculiar national temperament. But if we are not a pacifist nation—and we are not—we are a very peaceful nation, with a quite proper loathing for war, and that loathing for war is shared among all parties in this House and outside. We on this side have been forced to the conclusion that, in the present state of the world, it is necessary and indispensable that we should go in for a programme of extensive re-armament, and I am glad to think that hon. Members opposite are coming to be of that view too. I know that they are in a difficult position in this matter, that they blame the Government's foreign policy for having landed us in the state of affairs in which we are now. This is not the occasion to argue that question, but, whatever may be the reason, surely it is indispensable to recognise what the present state of affairs is. Therefore, I would ask hon. Members opposite whether they really can accept the very grave responsibility of not supporting the measures necessary for the protection of the lives and homes of those people who elected them to this House for that special purpose. Surely such a responsibility is too great for any hon. Member of this House to bear.
2009 If I may sum up my argument, I ask that conditions in the Army should be sufficiently improved to be comparable with conditions in civil life; I ask for an intensive appeal which really has that solid basis behind it; and I ask for the support of that appeal by all parties in this House. For myself, I believe that these proposals are not unseasonable, and that, if they are carried out, this great and urgent problem is capable of solution. In that belief I ask the House to give unanimous support to my Motion this afternoon.
§ 3.58 p. m.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I beg to second the Motion.
I think that the House would like me to express our gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Palmer) for choosing this important subject for to-day's Debate, and to say that we appreciate the very thoughtful speech in which he has introduced the Motion. For my part, I am not inclined to regard the recruiting position with undue pessimism. Broadly speaking, the Air Force and the Navy are all right, and it is mainly in the regular Forces of the Army that the position is serious. I do not think it ought to be very difficult to overcome that, because the reasons are so obvious. The position was very well set out in a leading article in the "Times" about a week ago. It may be summarised under three main headings. First, you have the conditions of service; then you have the conditions in the Service; and then you have the conditions after service. To put it from the point of view of the man who is thinking of joining up, in the first place he wants to know how long he is letting himself in for; then he wants to know what he is letting himself in for; and then he wants to know what chance he has of getting a job after he has finished.
The present position is that we are inviting young men to sign on irrevocably for service in the Army for a period of seven years, six or more of which may be spent abroad; to sign on in this profession about which they really know very little, as they have never had a taste of it; to sign on in this profession where there is no home life, where a man is taken away from home and put into a barrack-room with a lot of other men whom he has never seen before; to sign 2010 on in a profession in which he cannot marry until he is 26; to sign on in a profession in which, although he knows that discipline is strict and that it may not suit his temperament, he has yet got no chance of getting out of the job once he has put himself into it. Granted, he may purchase himself out, but few can afford to do that. Short of purchasing the only way is through prison and no reasonable man is going to risk sacrificing his whole life for that.
We are asking young men of our own stock to do this. We are a prudent people; we like to look before we leap. We are asking young men who are home-loving by nature to do this, for the working classes of this country generally stay at home until they are grown up. Granted that those who go to public schools leave their parents at the age of nine and go away to school for three years, and then to a public school for another five years, but the great bulk of people do not. They go to the local school and they spend their nights at home within touch of their parents. That does not stop at just children. Even when they grow up they are home-loving too, as anyone who has anything to do with transference schemes from the distressed areas has good cause to know. You ask these people to leave home and to take up a profession which, even if it is successful, is not guaranteed to provide them with a permanent job for life.
When I consider the facts frankly I am not surprised that men do not join up. These things are not asked of men in other occupations. The miner does not have to consider them; the bricklayer does not have to consider them; the agricultural worker does not have to consider them. All of them can stay at home, and they can get out of their jobs if they wish to and they have a chance, good or bad according to the times and according to which Government is in office, of taking up other jobs when they leave. But the soldier cannot do so. Obviously, under these conditions only the most enterprising type of man will think of joining the Army. What about the most enterprising? Are they not going to be attracted by the chances of making big money in civil life? If not attracted by that, are they not going to be attracted by the superior or equal attractions of the other two Forces, the Air Force and the Navy I believe that they are, and for this 2011 reason: Both the Air Force and the Navy train a man to be an expert service man and also give him first-class training to be an expert in some branch of work when he leaves the Force. The ex-Air Service man is an expert mechanic; he is completely qualified for civil life in a way that no ex-soldier can be qualified, however many vocational courses he may attend.
It seems to me that the answer to that problem, the only answer, is to shorten the period of service. In saying that I am thinking of the Brigade of Guards, who never have any difficulty in getting recruits, in spite of the fact that their height standard is 5 feet 10, or 5 feet 11, which rules out the enormous majority of recruits who go to recruiting stations. The Guards do not have difficulty. What is the reason? It may be that the full dress makes a difference. It may be that their general reputation for excellence, which I as a Guardsman would be the last to minimise, makes a difference. But I do not think people will deny that it is largely due to the fact that they are enlisted for only four years instead of seven, and the fact that they will go abroad for only one or two years or very likely will not go abroad at all. I think that that is a very large contribution to their good recruiting.
I have suggested that short service is necessary. I do not want to argue with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War whether his best plan would be to shorten the service of all regiments or to follow Mr. Forster's plan and have some regiments with short service and others with longer service, for I think that if there is one thing that the private Member is wise in not doing it is the making of detailed suggestions to a Government Department, because if he does that the Department just revels in picking holes in the details of the suggestion and the real idea of the scheme is lost in the welter of details that are destroyed. But, if I might, I would answer two broad criticisms that are likely to be put against this scheme. First, that short service men have not time to be properly trained. I do not think that that point needs emphasising after our experience in the War. Secondly, there is the criticism that it would cost so much more in sending drafts to and from India. I do not deny 2012 the expense, but the money that would be spent would not be lost, and if the money so spent was helping British ships as a sort of subsidy, there are certainly worse ways of spending money. What the War Office needs more than anything else is a large reserve of trained men who have had experience of foreign service. It would give them that.
Another point relates to the conditions —not the length of service, but the conditions in the service. Oddly enough I believe that that point is the least important, because most people are prepared to take a chance of what happens to them, provided it is for a short enough time and provided that they are to get a good job at the end of it. I do not think that the conditions in the service are nearly as important as the length of service or the chance of a good job at the end of it.
On the question of conditions in the service, the obvious point to shout about is that pay should be increased. If money is going there are worse things to do with it than that, but I am not convinced that it is really necessary, provided that the man gets what he bargains for. That is the fundamental thing. When a man joins he bargains not only for his pay, which is small enough, but also for free clothing and free food. I am afraid that the pi (sent position is that a man has to supplement his food out of his pay, and sometimes he is called upon to supplement his clothing out of his pay. I know the answer is that there is a clothing allowance and that in view of that it is only reasonable that a man should be prepared to meet the expense of clothing out of the allowance given to him for the purpose. But I put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this point: If you give a man 12s, and then deduct 10s, the impression he has is that he is losing 10s, and not gaining 2s. Therefore, I believe my right hon. Friend would be well advised to consider having the clothing allowance issued not to individuals, but to units.
That would prevent the recurrence of the very unfortunate happening when men were sent to Palestine recently from Aldershot and had to pay out of their clothing allowance Ss. each for sun helmets. That matter has since been made right by my hon. Friend, I know 2013 Certainly it was a hardship, because clothing allowance was meant to cover only normal expenses and this was a totally abnormal expense that no man would have expected to have to face; and he had not only to go to Palestine when he wanted to stay at home, but had to lose 8s. of his own for the pleasure of having a sun helmet. That case is by no means unique. I remember a similar case about 10 years ago when a battalion was ordered to Shanghai at a week's notice and the men had to make good a certain added expense which would not normally have been incurred and which they did not think it was fair for them to be asked to pay. If the Secretary for War would pay the clothing money to units and not to individuals all that sort of thing would end. The War Office would be advised of any hardship of that sort before it got as far as the troops and no damage would be done.
The question of barracks, I believe, is being taken in hand, and I will say nothing further about it. But the question of leave passes is important. I congratulate the War Office on the concession that they have made. I think it was high time that responsible men of the rank of sergeant and, over were allowed, when their duty was completed, to go out and not to report for duty again until they had some definite work to perform, and that they should not necessarily have a leave pass and be obliged to go into barracks. Equally with the other ranks, I think it is excellent that they should be allowed, when their duty is finished, to go out till one o'clock in the morning without passes. I ask whether this concession extends to young soldiers. I am a little afraid that it does not. If it, does not, I say that half the force of that concession, half the recruiting force of any concession such as issuing blue walking-out uniforms for soldiers, loses its effect because of the trouble of the military police.
Here I know I am treading on dangerous military ground and that lots of people disagree with me. But I believe that the old system of military policemen marching about and stopping soldiers who are walking out in uniform and asking them for their passes has done as much as anything else to sicken soldiers of their service. One has often seen a young soldier walking out with his best girl, as smart as anything, and 2014 two military policemen pull him up and ask for his leave pass. He gets rather hot and bothered and the girl does not think much of him being stopped by a couple of other men. Then he starts fumbling about for his pass. He does not know where it is and the policeman says, "Wake up, man, wake up."
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
Perhaps my hon. Friend has several best girls, but I was thinking of the soldier who has only one. My point is that when the military policeman pulls up the young soldier and perhaps addresses to him some such expression as "Wake up, we cannot stop here all night," in the tone of the barrack square, and that is done in front of a man's best girl, it is extremely offensive, and it makes that young soldier swear an oath, first, that he will never walk out in uniform if he can wear plain clothes, and, secondly, that he will never recommend his best friend to join the Army. I do not want to make too much of that point. I am not suggesting that all military policemen are tactless, but one tactless man can do more harm than 20 good men can do good. I believe my right hon. Friend has a way out of the difficulty by extending the system of allowing soldiers to go out till one o'clock without a leave pass at all, even young soldiers just after they have joined.
There are lots of other points one would like to raise about conditions in the Forces, but it is more than six years since I left the Army, and I was then only in a very junior rank, so I will pass on to my third big point, which is the prospect of a soldier getting a job at the end of his time. I believe it is impossible to over-rate the importance of this point. What one wants to aim at is to awaken in the public mind appreciation of the fact that the best channel to a good job for life is a period of service in the Forces. To a certain extent that is so. I know that, when I was soldiering, if you asked half a dozen recruits at the Guards Depot what they were going to do after they had finished their time, apart from those who were going to follow their fathers 2015 and uncles in a profession, three out of four would give the answer, "Try the police." "Try the Metropolitan police." "Try the county police." They would try for the police every time. I believe that their motive in joining the Army was largely that they wanted to be sure of getting into the police at the end. If we could get further towards having the Forces recognised as the best channel for a good job, it would be doing more than anything else to recruit not only the type of man who cannot get work elsewhere but the very best type of man. The status of the Army now is not as high as I should like to see it. I think it should be raised and that is the best way to raise it. When you see soldiers walking along you think, first of all, how smart they are—and they are smart, too. Then you think, in a couple of years' time what is the betting that those fellows are going to be scrambling for a job in civil life, perhaps with a worse chance of getting it than their contemporary who has not served his country at all. Instead of rather envying the soldier, one's thoughts turn much more to pity.
I feel that the Government must overcome that. I think the answer is to guarantee men of very good or exemplary character 'a job. If it is possible, nothing short of a guarantee should do. It is all very well to talk about the satisfactory results of the training centres, and I should be the last to minimise them, but a prudent man would much rather have a definite guarantee than any number of assurances. I think I know how it could be done. I do not think the War Office can do it alone, but certainly it is in the power of the Government to do it. They can do it in two ways. The first is to make even more certain than they do now that all possible Government jobs go to ex-service men. I should like them to go so far in. making it certain that ex-service men get Government jobs as to make it a sine qua non for any candidate for a suitable job, in the same way that a candidate for 'a post as higher grade teacher has to have an M.A. degree. When a candidate comes forward, the first question is, "Have you got your degree? Only people with a degree can get this job." In the same way I should like applicants to be asked, "Are you an ex-service man?" and to be told, if they are not, "You are 2016 wasting your time here. This job is for ex-service men." The Government could go perhaps a little further than they do. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) asked the other day:whether there is any reason why the 1,615 vacancies for postmen and porters filled by the appointment of Post Office servants, mainly boy messengers, in 1935 should not in future years be filled by ex-service men of good character?Major TRYON: The Post Office undertakes to provide a permanent career for boy messengers, and it also allocates 50 per cent. of the vacancies for postmen and porters to ex-service men. This is a long-standing arrangement, and I could not contemplate a system of blind-alley employment for boys, which would be involved by allocating all the postmen and porter vacancies to ex- service men."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1936; col. 859, Vol. 318.]I am not asking that a blind-alley system should be opened up to boys in the postal service, but I would ask the Postmaster-General whether he could not recruit boys into the Post Office on the definite understanding that they will break their service in the Post Office for a period of service in the Army and thereafter be guaranteed permanent service in the Post Office. The Post Office is one of the Departments that will be least inconvenienced in time of emergency by its reservists being called up, because there are so many jobs in the Department which could be filled by women or old men. I am not suggesting that the Government themselves should provide jobs for the whole of the 17,000 men who leave the service annually. Something more must be done. An appeal could be made to employers. I think it is a mistake just to appeal to the patriotism of employers. If you do that, and if there is, as in the case of Territorials, a good deal of inconvenience, and indeed financial loss sometimes, in allowing men to go to camp, it means that the patriotic firms are losing and non-patriotic firms are gaining. The appeal ought to carry with it some reward for the action of the employers.
My suggestion is to extend the system of the King's Roll. I think that well over 20,000 firms are on the King's Roll, and they undertake to employ not less than 5 per cent. of disabled ex-service men. In return, the Government undertake to give them preference, other things being 2017 equal—and the preference is very considerable—in all Government contracts. I wonder if it will be possible to extend that system and have 10 per cent., not only of disabled but of all kinds of ex-service men, including Territorials. I leave the figure to those who are qualified to judge but something like 10 per cent. might, with the enormous quantities of Government orders that there are at present, go a long way to providing jobs for ex-Regulars when they leave the Army. If local authorities could be persuaded or encouraged to adopt the King's Roll system, that should carry us very much further, too. I am not satisfied that that reward alone would be sufficient for employers of Territorials. I think a further incentive is required. Nor am I quite satisfied that the concessions made to Territorials in the last Army Estimates, welcome as they were, were in themselves a quite sufficient incentive to recruits.
My last suggestion is that the War Office should undertake to frank the National Health Insurance cards, on behalf of employers and employes, of every man who serves in the Territorial Force. I believe the cost would be £4 Cs. 8d. per head and the benefit to the employer would be roughly £which is about equivalent to the week's wages that we expect the employer to pay his man when he is not getting service from him. I put forward these suggestions for what they are worth. I do not think this is a matter that the War Office alone can solve. I think the whole Government has to contribute. I hope I am right in believing that it will have the support of most Members in every part of the House. After all, I think most of us want our country to be properly defended and want the voluntary system of recruiting to be preserved.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. GIBBINS
I do not want to see a lack of recruits, but what has surprised me for many years is that so many join the Army under existing conditions. My experience, living in a working-class district, is that the man who took the shilling in the old days was the man who lost his job. Most men who join the Army do so because there is nothing else to do. Most of them have been driven to serve, not because they desired to do so, but because they felt 2018 that there was the chance of a job with food, clothes, and a home.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir MERVYN MANNINGHAM-BULLER
If that is the case, how does the hon. Member explain the large number of cases in which generations have served in the ranks—grandfathers, their sons, and their sons again, in the same regiment?
§ Mr. GIBBINS
I know cases of that kind, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not argue that that represents anything but a small proportion of the men who actually join the Army. No one can dispute that the first thing a young fellow thinks of when he has lost his job is to join the Army. I am not in any way disparaging the Army as a career, but we do not want to make it a last resort. We want to ensure that at the end of his service a man stands at least an equal chance in competing with other industries. Take my own case. I had to serve six or seven years apprenticeship as a boilermaker, and I received only a handful of coppers for doing so. There are groups of men to-day serving apprenticeships who would be willing to do that time in the Army if the prospects while serving and when they came out of the Army were reasonable. At least, that has been my experience. Why should the soldier, the man upon whom we shall have to depend in the end, be the loser and be included among the lowest-paid workers? The conditions are better now and are improving, but even with these improvements by far the largest number of men who join the Army to-day do so because of economic conditions. If men were given the same opportunities in the Army as in private life many men would join the Army. If you could make life in the Army well paid and well looked after, men would not want to come out of it it under any conditions. Owing to the handful of coppers they receive, men leave the Forces after serving for seven or 12 years with very little to live upon, and have very often to take the lowest-paid jobs. It is to be wondered at that men are not willing to spend a considerable period-of their lives in the Army and become trained as soldiers when at the end of their service they find that they have wasted their time and lost the opportunity of getting on in life to the same extent that others have who have stopped at home?
2019 Another point which the Secretary for War should keep in mind—and it was mentioned by the hon. Member opposite —is that relating to the young soldier who gets married. I have raised this question in the House in the past. A soldier meets a girl and they marry, and he often has to serve knowing that his wife has to go to the parish to be maintained. Surely you cannot ask men to join the Army under those conditions. As chairman of a relief committee, I have had this position brought to my attention over and over again. A woman of 21 or 22 with her baby is left behind by the husband and we have to make an allowance out of public funds to keep the wife and child while the man is giving his time—and, if need be he will give his life—in the service of his country. I know that concessions have been made in regard to marriage allowances, but there are numbers of cases where young fellows have to carry on until they finish their seven years' service, and all the time their wives are receiving perhaps 10s, or 15s, from the parish. If you want men to join the Army, do you expect them to receive such treatment? I would not advise them to fill up the gaps in recruitment when they are likely to meet with that fate.
We have also to consider the necessity of treating a man somewhat in the way he is treated in the workshop. I have come across many cases in my brief experience of men who have been injured in the service, some of them permanently injured. What do you give them? A few pounds. They come out of the Service, and they cannot even compete in healthy work. Do you think that is an encouragement for men to join the Services? Take the position of parents who encourage their sons to join. I had the case brought to my notice recently of a young fellow who went to India with the Forces. He was sent home and died here, and his parents did not get a penny. If such a thing happened in industrial life there would have been compensation and legal obligations to be met, but in the case of the soldier, "No." You must give to the man who says, "I think that this is a career I would like," the obligations and privileges enjoyed in every other walk of life. I do not think it is too much 2020 to ask that when a man joins the Army he should get not the lowest possible pay, but at least the pay received by semiskilled labourers. You only give him a few coppers to-day. It robs a man of his manhood when he becomes a soldier under such conditions.
It may be said that a man ought to join the Army rather than suffer unemployment. Why should he? At least he has freedom and liberty and as much money as he would have in the Army. You want men to enter the Army and become disciplined, smart and well trained, but they have to go about with a few shillings in their pockets, most of them waiting for the day when they can get out of the Army. I suggest that the Army can be made an attractive profession, and that there are many men who would like the life. I have had some service, and I know that it affords opportunity for enterprise and adventure for young fellows, and I believe there are many who would say that they would like the job, if when they joined they would be able to retain the privileges and safeguards they had enjoyed outside in many ways. if they felt that they would be properly looked after in case of accident and sickness, and realised that when the end of their service came they would at least have something to which to look forward. It is not too soon that consideration of the lives of these men should be taken into account. They are good fellows, even when they join because they cannot get a job. We should not compel men to join the Army merely because they want food, shelter and clothing. Men ought to join because they feel it to be an honourable profession. If it is an honourable profession, then they ought to be honourably paid and provided for.
§ 4.37 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel R. CLARKE
As a newcomer speaking for the first time in this House, I ask the indulgence of hon. Members. One branch of recruiting, namely, that for the Territorial Army, is a matter with which I have been in close contact for a good many years, and I venture humbly to set forward, as a small contribution to this Debate, certain views which have been formed by my experience. It appears to me that its success depends primarily upon four things—the 2021 benevolent assistance of the War Office, the activity of County Territorial Associations, the co-operation of employers, and lastly, the work done by serving officers and men, which, I think, is definitely the most important and the most productive of results. With regard to the War Office, I feel that there have been many indications in recent months that the Territorial Army is receiving a great deal of help. The restoration of bounties has helped recruiting very much, and the promise of increased and more modern equipment is heartening everybody. In this connection it is realised that the needs of the Regular Army must come first, but even an instalment of that equipment given at the present time would be greatly welcomed by all ranks.
The County Territorial Associations under Territorial Regulations are, of course, the authorities responsible for recruiting aided by the adjutants and permanent staff of the units concerned, but the expenses to which they are put, for which they receive no special grants, are often such that they cannot do as much as they ought to do. I feel that a special recruiting grant, in addition to the general funds they receive at present, would be of very considerable value. I earnestly hope that the 2½per cent. cut made in the economy years off all grants to associations will be restored as soon as it is possible to do so. To-day most employers are helpful, and in my experience when approached in the right way and when as much notice as possible of the dates of camp has been given to them, they have proved helpful in the past. It must be realised that many of them, particularly small employers, have real difficulty in letting men go. At the same time, I do not think that this applies in the case of public bodies. Public bodies should release men for the full period of camp without withholding their pay or infringing upon their normal holiday. I say that with some hesitation now after the answer which was given to a question. I do not know about service in the Treasury, but certainly in the humbler spheres of public bodies, the county councils and bodies of that sort, there is really no reason why men should not be spared. Another thing that should be remembered is the conditions on mobilisation. To married men particularly the question of what will 2022 happen to their wives is of very definite interest and importance. I know of one county council which has already resolved that on embodiment any of its servants that are serving in the Territorial Army will have their pay and allowances made up to what they are receiving in civil life. That is a good example, and I wish that this practice could become general.
In addition to the four factors which I have mentioned, the response of the individual ought to be considered. In the past it has not been an unusual question asked by those who saw men of the Territorial Army giving up their Sundays, holidays and evenings to training, "Why are they doing it?" I think that the reasons are various. In the first place, quite a number join because they like soldiering. They are not fire-eaters, but the life of a soldier really appeals to them. Many of them would, if circumstances permitted, probably become regular soldiers. These men, who have a natural inclination towards soldiering, form a very valuable if not the most valuable source of recruits of the Territorial Army. From among them as a rule spring those key individuals who in the Territorial Army, as in any voluntary organisation, form the pivots or nuclei round which the whole organisation revolves. The best method of encouraging men of this sort to join is by keeping contact between the Regular Army and the Territorial Army as close as possible, and by providing really modern equipment. I would like to render a great tribute to the Regular Army for all the sympathy, understanding and help that they give to their younger brothers of the Territorial' Army.
The matter of equipment is, I feel, of paramount importance. Incidentally, I believe that recruiting for the Territorial Army could be a good deal helped if there were more machine gun, trench mortar and anti-tank sections and detachments. Rightly or wrongly—I think probably wrongly—young men to-day are apt to look upon the rifle and bayonet as somewhat primitive weapons. For the same reason, a degree of mechanisation, with its inducement of being taught to drive, is definitely attractive. Another large group of men—perhaps the largest, at any rate, in ordinary times—who have 2023 joined the Territorial Army are those who have been attracted by what for want of a better term I call "the club spirit." Actual clubs are run in connection with many, in fact, most Territorial units, but what I refer to is the spirit of comradeship and the team spirit which exists among the voluntary units, particularly during annual training. Men at no cost to themselves, or a very small one, get an opportunity of doing something which gives them a complete change from the ordinary routine of their lives, and of doing it among men of their own age. From my own experience I know that many life-long friendships and interests which continue long after their service is ended are started in this way in Territorial units.
There is a wider educative value too, in such service in the Territorial Force which I have heard spoken of appreciatively by employers. To give further encouragement to this spirit several things are necessary, and I am afraid that most of them will cost money. A great many drill halls to-day are out-of-date. This is a most important matter, because in our large towns particularly there are a tremendous lot of rival attractions. We want a good deal more facilities for gymnastic exercises and opportunities for indoor sport. Apart from drill halls a good deal could be done by fostering the esprit de corps or, as I have loosely termed it, the club spirit. The preservation of distinctive uniforms where such exist, the avoidance as far as possible of the transference of men from one unit to another, or even the possibility of transfer, and the encouragement of kindred organisations, like Old Comrades' Associations, all greatly assist. A really good unit, like a really good club, seldom lacks members.
There are also a large number of men who join because they want to do something for their country. When war is a possibility this source of recruits usually increases, but I am afraid that to-day, considering the state of Europe, it is not nearly as strong as one would like to see it. It doe's appear that as the obligations of the State to the individual increase, there is a paradoxical tendency for the individual to consider himself as less and less responsible to the State. Although the atmosphere towards joining 2024 the Territorial Army has materially improved, it is not as good as one would like to see it. Something does definitely hold young men back. I know of a good many instances where firms have given every facility and offered every inducement to their employes to join, but the response has been very disappointing. How can we get a better atmosphere? Other speakers have suggested ways.
One hesitates to recommend those forms of propaganda which are used by some continental countries, for fear of being considered a Fascist, but there is one method which I should like to put forward, because I do not think that it has ever been tried. Have the great women's organisations in this country ever been approached on the subject? Has their help ever been asked for? We know that men of recruitable age are very much influenced by their womenfolk. We must never forget that women have to make considerable sacrifices themselves when their men folk join the Territorial Army. Holidays and evenings are curtailed, wages may be lost and time has to be spent alone. All the same, I have reason to suppose that if they were approached and a clear statement of the needs of the country was put to them, the response would be good.
To sum up, I know that recruiting for the Territorial Army has been considerably better in the last few months, but the Force is still considerably short of establishment, and that establishment is rather a meagre one compared with war strength. To-day the Territorial force is receiving much help from the Government, from the War Office, from employers, and from the general public, and a little more effort on the lines that have been suggested to-night would definitely and very quickly bring it up to strength. I should like to say a few words to those who hesitate to join the Territorial Army to-day but who in the event of war would enlist at once. They can joint any unit to-day, in company with their friends. They will receive equipment and uniform forthwith, and, in the event of war and the consequent expansion of the Forces, they would probably get accelerated rate of promotion, whereas if they wait until the last moment they will have to be drafted to where men are most needed at the moment, they will go there by themselves, or in company with strangers, and they may have to wait some considerable 2025 time before they get arms, equipment or even accommodation.
I would conclude by quoting a few lines from a recruiting effort made rather more than 2,000 years ago, which has just as much point to-day as then. Demosthenes, urging his country to mobilise against Philip of Macedon, said:Victory is certain if the rich will be ready to contribute and the young to take the field; in one word, if you will be yourselves, and banish those hopes winch every single person entertains, that the active part of public business may lie upon others, and he remain at ease.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. R. ACLAND
Any hon. Member speaking for the first time, and particularly making a speech such as we have just heard, is entitled to receive the congratulations of some senior Member of the House. I feel it almost an impertinence on my part to offer congratulations to an hon. and gallant Member who has the actual seniority or juniority of myself but who, solely by reason of the fact that lie belongs to a party which is temporarily rather larger than the one to which I belong, has not had as many opportunities of addressing the House as I have. But I feel certain that any hon. Member who followed the hon. and gallant Member, whether junior or senior, would have congratulated him very sincerely on a speech full of practical suggestions and based upon experience.
No one can fail to notice—and attention was drawn to it by the Mover of the Motion—the difference in recruiting for the Army compared with the Navy and the Air Force. It was rightly suggested by the Mover that some reason for this difference may be attributable to the excitement of the two latter Services as compared with the Army, and the facilities they give for training. There is another reason. Throughout the country there is a tendency to believe that in the Navy and the Air Force in the event of a major war a man has a chance of survival in not too uncomfortable surroundings. There is also a feeling, based upon the appalling experiences of the last War, although it may not be based on statistics, that the life of the private soldier in the Army is nasty, brutish and, above all, extraordinarily short, and that in joining the Army if there is another war men are undertaking to face appalling risks.
2026 I agree with the speeches that have been made about the advantage to be derived from improved conditions in the Army, and I wish that our Amendment, which is not to be called, had been framed so as to attach itself to the Motion at the same point at which the Opposition Amendment can be attached. I admit that we have made a mistake in that regard. While we agree with all that has been said about the importance of improving conditions, there is a bigger issue to-day to which I would call attention, and that is that we believe that the people of this country will not face the rather dull life and discipline of the Army and, above all, the risks of death, unless they are able to feel that they are facing those risks for a really worth while purpose. I hope that the Minister and the House will be patient with me in the expression of this view, because there is a tendency on the Government side and in the Government Press to regard all those who do not wholeheartedly support the Government recruiting campaign as party politicians, working for party purposes. I want to give an assurance that that is not so.
We feel a genuine difficulty about the last line of the Motion, but we have given guarantees of our bona-fides on these benches, because we have throughout, reluctantly but consistently, voted for every arms Estimate which has been presented to the House. We have done that in spite of very serious adverse criticism from the perfectly sincere and thoroughly patriotic citizens by whose votes I and my friends were sent to this House. We have voted for the Army Estimates, although we believe that the appalling risks against which we are now arming could have been avoided if the Government had had the courage to face a very much smaller risk in December, 1935. We appreciate that those risks in 1935 included the risk of war, and we seriously wonder, seeing that the Government refused to risk a ship in the interests of collective security in that case, what are the circumstances in which they would risk a ship in the interests of collective security? We shall be told that assurances have been given in the most explicit terms that the recruits will never be used except for the purpose of national or Imperial defence, and for collective security.
You do not create a system by using a name, and if we cut out the name and 2027 come to the fact, it does appear that if Danzig were attacked we should apply the principle of collective security and do nothing unless everybody else cooperated. If Czechoslovakia were attacked, we should have to keep in step with the slowest, in the name of collective security. If Poland were attacked, we should be told that in the name of collective security we could not do anything alone. If Rumania were attacked, we should be told that in the name of collective security we should have to wait for the unanimous decision of the League. But if Belgium were attacked the cry would be: "Collective security. Come in. Take up your arms. Lay down your lives for collective security. Never mind that one or two nations who ought to be coming in are not corning in. Pay no attention to the fact that many who ought to be coming in on our side are, unfortunately, not coming in on our side. In the name of collective security, come in and fight for Belgium."
Surely the hon. Member is in favour of a purely international military force with an obligation on the part of everyone?
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am going to make that point clear. I fear that what I have said is, in fact, what would happen. That is not collective security. It does not give us a chance of securing peace or hold out to the potential recruit a cause for which it is worth enduring discipline and death, and we still hope that the Government will adopt the policy which was clearly stated in this House by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in the Debate on foreign affairs on 5th November. I want to warn the Government and the Secretary of State for War that these apprehensions about the purpose of the Government cannot be dismissed by barking at them in a parade ground or barrack square style. They must be treated seriously, because they are sincerely held not by a few but by many. Many who now support the Government's recruiting campaign, or who are neutral, will be bound to change their views adversely if they find that within the next few months their hopes are disappointed, and that the Government are making no serious effort to bind together all the peaceful nations of Europe in a carefully pre-arranged 2028 scheme by which the forces, military and economic, of all shall co-operate in the event of aggression against anyone.
We do not say that plans should be drawn up by which the military forces of all shall be brought into immediate operation in the event of aggression, but that plans should be drawn up in advance by all the peaceful nations to decide in the event of aggression which nations shall render military assistance and which economic assistance, and that these plans should show a real prospect of being strong enough to avoid aggression. If such plans were drawn up, if it were known that the Government were drawing up such plans, I think that the greater part of the difficulties about recruiting, at any rate the difficult atmosphere which now surrounds the problem, would quickly disappear. If it does not become clear that efforts on these lines are being made I fear that no improvement in conditions will be sufficient to overcome the difficult atmosphere in which we now find ourselves.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I should like to have the pleasure of adding to the words of congratulation of the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) in regard to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Lieut.-Colonel Clarke). The hon. and gallant Member will find one thing in this House. It does not matter whether the speaker is nervous or not, he will always find that the House will pay respect to one who is addressing it on a subject of which he shows himself to be a master, which was the nature of the speech which the hon. and gallant Member addressed to the House this afternoon. The Debate has been very refreshing, because no speech has been delivered which has not contained quite a number of concrete suggestions for improving the lot of the soldier and, therefore, the prospects of recruiting.
Before entering on the rather wider aspect of the subject, I should like to add two or three suggestions of my own. I can never understand why the beds in barracks should not have little cubicles around them so that the soldier should at least have the privacy which a public school thinks is the right of a boy of 14. I cannot understand why if the Royal Marines can have an evening meal pro- 2029 vided for them, it should not be provided for the soldier in the Army. Again, I cannot understand why in the Army a soldier is only recruited at 18 years of age, whereas in the Royal Marines they recruit them at 17, and are able to obtain a larger number than they would at the older age.
I am glad to notice a certain change in the note of the speeches of the Secretary of State for War in the last few weeks, and I have no doubt it will be continued this afternoon. He certainly was not happy in the manner he dealt with this subject during the early part of his tenure of office. He managed to get involved in a series of rather highly strung recriminations with bishops and canons and pacifists, and members of the Labour party, whereas the real difficulty which confronts him is due to the fact that the young men of this country are on strike against the utterly callous attitude which the Army takes towards them. In fact, they are regarded as cannon-fodder, and in their after-careers there has always been complete indifference. In the long run this refusal to recruit in these circumstances will ultimately be to the general good, because this strike on the part of the young men has already led to many of the reforms which have been mentioned this afternoon, such as free passes and the right to go out in mufti. Had it not been for this difficulty in recruiting we should not have had many of the refreshing suggestions which have been put before the House this afternoon. The central problem is to provide the soldier with a career after leaving the Army. It does not seem to be an insoluble problem fo provide 12,000 jobs each year for men leaving the Army.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Duff Cooper)
Seventeen thousand leave the Army, and 5,000 get jobs.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I am not going into the narrower aspect of that problem, but, personally, I think that this difficulty of recruiting will not be finally met until the larger issues behind it have been seriously thought out and a conclusion 2030 reached by the War Office. Behind this issue of recruiting is the whole question of the continuance of the Cardwell system, which was established mainly to provide a force for the Indian Frontier, and then by a kind of by-product to provide an expeditionary force for European warfare. The Cardwell system was created 60 years ago when there was no idea in anyone's mind that we should be confronted with a war of the type we had 18 years ago, and the question whether it is suitable to modern problems must be thoroughly examined. Incidentally, the Cardwell system sacrifices the recruit to its own requirements, and for that reason the alternative suggestions which have been mentioned this afternoon might be examined—a long service Army, with a career, mainly for the purposes of the Indian Frontier, and a short service Army recruited as a European army which would not interfere seriously with the soldiers' prospects on return to civilian life.
The Secretary of State stated in the last Debate that an inquiry was being made into the Cardwell system. I was surprised that such a far-reaching statement as that should have been thrown across the Table of the House as an interjection of about eight words in the middle of a speech, and I am doubtful from what was subsequently said whether the inquiry is of the kind which the importance of the subject requires. I gather that the inquiry is to be conducted purely by Service officers. I am sure that an issue of this kind, which involves no purely technical considerations but in which great questions of policy are involved—the role of the Army in a European war—you will not get the right decision until you call in the service of the civilian mind. I can predict in advance that if the right hon. Gentleman leaves this inquiry purely to senior officers of the Service, so far as any fundamental change in the system is concerned, the reply will be in the negative. The Cardwell system was the product of the civilian mind, one of a series of reforms which Mr. Cardwell carried through in the teeth of the opposition of the senior officers of the Army in his day. The right hon. Gentleman referred to an article in the "Royal Engineers Journal" in a speech he made about a year ago. On his advice I have read the 2031 article, and I find that it ends up with a peroration in which the writer points out that he has made many rather novel suggestions and predicts that they will be all turned down if the verdict is to be given upon them by the general Service mind.
In addition to that suggestion with regard to an inquiry, I would like to deal with another proposal involved in the Motion which I do not think any speaker has yet developed. It is the proposal that there should be careers, not only after the service, but during the service of the soldiers. I think the Mover said a few words with regard to that suggestion, but I noticed that other speakers who followed him with fundamental proposals avoided that particular suggestion. I would like to deal with the question of promotion from the ranks. In my view, there are few professions in the country in which class distinctions, and what is really class snobbery, have so long survived as in the British Army. When I was a boy, I used to ask officers why it was that officers all seemed to come from one class and soldiers from another, and I always got the same reply, "My boy, the British soldier prefers to be led by a gentleman rather than by one of his own class." I venture to say that that is the prevailing opinion in any ordinary officers' mess to-day.
§ Sir ARNOLD WILSON
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall how many generals and field-marshals have been drawn direct from the ranks during the last 10 years?
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I know some have, but I know also that it is an absolutely insignificant proportion when compared with the number which has come from the wealthy public schools. I will enter into this question more fully and substantiate my arguments. I do not believe any officer will deny that the sentiment I have quoted is the prevailing doctrine in any officers' mess to-day, and I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) will deny it.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman will get a majority of the ex-officers in this House to share his 2032 opinion. The whole system presumes that it is so. The Officers' Training Corps is based on the presumption that officers will come from the public schools and soldiers from the elementary schools, and obviously that is the doctrine which prevails everywhere. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to consider the position. If a boy comes from a public school, he may become an officer in the Army and have the lives of men dependent upon his wisdom, if he is intellectually capable of obtaining a school certificate. If he is not intellectually capable of obtaining a school certificate, he may still become an officer in the Army by nomination from the War Office, provided he conies from a certain group of public schools. Therefore, the position is that men can become officers in the Army, even though they would not be accepted in subordinate positions in Harrods Stores and the Gas Light and Coke Company, which will not take boys who have not passed the school certificate examination.
What is the position of a soldier who tries to rise from the ranks? He has to pass the first-class Army certificate examination, the standard of which is far above the school certificate standard—it is the matriculation standard. The man who goes into the Army and tries to rise from the ranks has to have higher qualifications than the boy from the public school, in addition to having shown by the promotion he has received—for he has no chance of taking the examination unless he is a sergeant—that he has the necessary military qualifications as well. I may say that even when he has passed his examination and has been promoted to sergeant, he has very little chance of being selected to be a commissioned officer. In fact, the whole system of promotion from the ranks is now largely used, not to promote the genuine, able soldier who has come from the poorer families, but to provide a kind of second back door for the public school boy who has failed to get in by any other means. I notice that no ex-officer who speaks ever raises this question, however enlightened he is on other issues of Army reform. Even the hon. and gallant Gentleman who made a most refreshing speech in seconding the Motion did not deal with that part of the Motion.
The objection that has been raised—that the Army must be a class instru- 2033 ment if it is to succeed—is exactly the same type of objection as was raised when the system of purchasing commissions in the Army was abolished. The old officers said at that time that if the system by which men could purchase their commissions and even their promotion was abolished, the type of officers would be changed and the Army would go to the dogs. That view of the general service mind which tried to prevent that reform is the prevailing view with regard to making a career in the Army open to the talents of the whole of the people to-day. I do not believe this class distinction can long survive the new type of soldier now being called into existence. At the end of last year, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of. State for War announced schemes for the mechanisation of the cavalry and the infantry which are certainly the largest changes in the Army since the close of the War. Those schemes for mechanisation involve a revolution in the type of soldier required, and one cannot conceive that soldiers of the Rudyard Kipling variety could possibly carry out the duties of soldiers in the mechanised Army. Soldiers of the Rudyard Kipling variety would almost have the appearance of primitive men.
Let hon. Members consider what the right hon. Gentleman is asking. In five years the infantry soldier will have to be an expert with the rifle—which is nowadays a most delicate instrument—heavy machine guns, Lewis guns, mortars, anti-tank guns, Bren guns, armoured cars, and so on. He will have to be familiar with all those things. The soldier will now be required to be a highly-skilled mechanician, and it is fantastic to say that to-day one could not get all the officers required from that class of men for the modern, scientific, competent army which we are now establishing. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will now set up a committee to inquire into this issue, and that on that committee he will include a number of men who come from civilian occupations.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Sir A. WILSON
I would like to begin by dealing very briefly with the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland), who observed that the present foreign policy of the 2034 Government does not hold out to potential recruits a cause for which it is worth while to endure discipline. I listened to those words with amazement. Is not the defence of Great Britain, is not the defence of the British Empire, is not the defence of democracy in Europe—if we believe in it—a cause for which it is worth while to endure discipline? I listened to the hon. Member's words with amazement, and I heard nothing in what he said afterwards which in any way bore out those remarks.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) made great play on the extraordinarily high qualifications required for a first-class certificate of education. I missed a portion of his speech because I went to the Vote Office to obtain the last available report, and I find that last year there were some 18,000 men, or 10 per cent. of the whole, who were in possession of a first-class certificate of education, and rather more than 1,000 who were in possession of a special certificate of education, whatever that may be. If those figures are accurate and we are speaking of the same thing, there is clearly a very large number of men who have found it possible to get this first-class certificate of education. I am in no way prepared to admit that the officers' mess of the right hon. Gentleman's imagination takes a jaundiced view of men who have come from the ranks. On the contrary, my impression—which goes back as far as 1902—is that there were very few, if any, officers' messes which did not take considerable care and make every effort to make life as easy and as attractive as possible for men who came from the ranks. They were dealt with in every way with greater consideration than young men who came direct from the public schools.
Perhaps the Secretary of State for War will tell us how many men have taken commissions through the ranks during the past few years. I am given to understand that the number becomes larger every year. I know myself of three men who have entered the Army with the specific object of getting commissions in due course, and nothing they have told me during the last three years has given me any reason to think that they will not achieve their desire. They do not think the way is closed, and that, 2035 as far as I can gather from numerous conversations with soldiers, is certainly the general belief. The way is open, although there are many—and I am one of them—who would like it opened rather more widely.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley spoke of the speeches of the Secretary of State having changed for the better during the past few months. I can only say that speeches from the Opposition benches also have changed for the better during the past few months. I believe the Secretary of State for War was right when he deprecated the speeches that were being made in certain quarters with regard to recruiting, but I am the first to welcome the type of speeches we have had from the Opposition benches to-day. They have been most helpful, and indeed, in the case of the first hon. Member who spoke from those benches, I have seldom listened to a series of more instructive suggestions. I support the Motion before the House, but I wish it referred to the Fighting Forces instead of the Defence Forces. It is really essential, if we are to get men to fight, that we should tell them that they have got to fight, and not hide ourselves behind the word "Defence." The essence of defence is to be ready to fight. Let us speak of the Fighting Forces as we always did, and not the Defence Forces. The best form of defence—the only form of defence for most purposes—is attack. The sooner we recognise it and say it honestly, the better.
The highway into the Army, Navy or Air Force is through the recruiting office. I was in a large city a few weeks ago and I visited three recruiting offices there, one for each of the Forces. They were situated in obscure streets, and were by no means easy to find. Two policemen from whom I sought directions did not know the way to more than one of them. I found them on first floors and not on ground floors. They were blowsy and dirty, the posters displayed were inherently unsuitable, as well as grimy, and the whole atmosphere was as discouraging to the potential recruit—and I had one with me—as it well could be. I would urge on the Government the desirability of establishing one recruiting office in each city for the three services. Let each office be situated in a 2036 main street and made to look attractive. I also suggest that the hours during which recruits can be examined ought to be extended until well after the ordinary working hours. At present, most recruiting offices shut down just about the time when men come out of work.
So far from it being true that the Army is the refuge of the unemployed man who does not know what to do, 80 per cent. of those who join the Army come out of direct employment. They are men of the adventurous type. They are tired of and "fed-up" with the routine and drudgery of the factory. They want a new and a more adventurous life, and accordingly they go from their employment into the Army. But it is not made easy for them to do so, when the recruiting offices are closed, as I gather they are, at five or six o'clock in the evening and men cannot be medically examined after three or four o'clock. That is not right. We want, as I say, a, single recruiting office for all three Services with a medical staff at each office.
That brings me to my next point. The present medical tests ought to be reconsidered in view of the real needs of the Services. There ought not to be a uniform standard for every unit and every part of every unit. A large number, possibly from 5 to 10 per cent. of the men in every unit, must always be employed on what may be called menial duties such as the carrying of coal, and so forth. The cleaning of barracks and the general routine of barrack life involve the employment of a considerable number of men as cooks and in other capacities. Is it not worth while considering a special medical standard for them? I think the majority of those rejected in the past 12 months have been rejected on the ground that they had defective teeth. That is really a reflection upon Army diet which is wholly unjustified. Army diet is not what it used to be. Even in the field to-day soldiers do not get what used to be called "hardtack" unless in exceptional circumstances. I submit that the requirement in regard to teeth is out of date. I have known half a score of men who were rejected as recruits on health grounds, and who have been engaged in hard and continuous physical labour ever since with never a day's illness—men of whom any army would be proud.
2037 I endeavoured a few weeks ago to get a man into the Navy. He was a born fishermen, physically a magnificent specimen and he wished to become a stoker, but he was rejected on the ground that he was colour-blind. I found that he was able to distinguish ordinary colours as easily as I could, but he failed to pass the very difficult test with lights to which he was submitted. That test may be necessary in the case of signallers or able seamen, but is it equally necessary in the case of a stoker? I am not so sure. I only submit that as a point for consideration. A number of the other tests seem to me very drastic and not very intelligent, and I suggest that there should be a comprehensive civil inquiry into the whole working of these tests to ascertain how far, if at all, they should be made rigid. There ought to be some elasticity in the case of a man who, physically fit in every other respect, has one defect. Surely the Army or the Navy could find room for such men somewhere.
So far from the voluntary system having failed, there are still three man applying for admission, to the Army for every one who is accepted. The voluntary system has not failed, but when a man has got through all the barriers I have described and has got into the Army, what does he find when he wants to go on leave? Three-quarters of the Army are now located in one quarter of England, and that is the quarter from which the fewest recruits are drawn, and in practice soldiers are normally paying anything from 10s. to 20s. each for their return tickets home when they go on leave. That is a very heavy drain on their pockets. The best recruiting areas are the North-East and North-West, but the great majority of men from those areas are in barracks in the South-Eastern command. There are literally thousands of men from Northumberland, Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire in Tidworth. They have to pay half the cost of their return tickets to the North when they go on leave, and it is a very heavy tax upon them.
The state of the barracks both abroad and at home has long been a source of criticism in reports on the health of the Army. Half-a-dozen cases have been reported officially of barracks which are positively verminous. The year before last the barracks in Cairo were said to be verminous and verminous they still are.
2038 One of the best results of the movement of troops to near Ismailia is that we shall be able to vacate those barracks which are 100 years old. That is by no means the only case. There are barracks in India which, are 50, 60 or 70 years old and which are really only dormitories for the men, because there is seldom any place in them where men can sit and read or play games. The only place to which a man can go in his leisure time is to the canteen or to his own dormitory The dormitories themselves are indeed light and airy, but they are only dormitories, and I think it would be better if the men had to sleep in rather more close quarters and if they had places well lighted and well aired in which they could sit and read.
As regards the barracks at home, what is the allowance of coal per head per day? It is 10 lbs. I submit that that is inadequate, remembering that if men come into barracks wet there is only one place at which they can dry their clothes, and that is in front of the fire. The lighting is often inadequate for reading purposes, Two of my friends already mentioned who hope to get their commissions and who are by no means given to grumbling, are serving in barracks in the South of England. They tell me that what they suffer most is the absence of any place where they can have light to read. They have to go out of barracks to a village half a mile away in order to find a place where they can read books and they want to study.
These are practical considerations, and I am bound to say that I doubt whether anything short of the civilian mind, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, will tackle some of these practical and. not expensive remedies for the present situation. I went last week to Hounslow to look over the vocational centre there. It is admirable in every respect. It is, I understand, one of three, and I believe that at the present moment one out of, every eight men leaving the Army pass through those Centres. I have seen every Ministry of Labour training centre and I regard these vocational centres as equal to any Ministry of Labour centre, so far as the staff is concerned. Incidentally I wish the Secretary of State would call them "training centres" and not "vocational centres." That is the jargon of the Board of Education which he need not use in this. connection. But 2039 when I turned to inspect the machinery in this Army training centre I was struck by the fact that it was not the modern machinery which is to be found at the Ministry of Labour training centres. Suppose that there are two lads from a distressed area. One of them joins the Army, does his six years and then goes through a training centre. He will be taught on out-of-date machinery which is inadequate to his requirements. His fellow who refuses to join the Army will get six months free in a Ministry of Labour training centre working on far better machinery although he will not be better instructed. The Army training centres have been starved for lack of funds.
I should like the Government as a whole to regard these centres as part of the social services of the nation. l should like to see the cost of them borne not on the Army Vote but on the Ministry of Labour Vote as part of the method adopted by the Government, deliberately, for training men and fitting them for employment. I should like to see the cost of the Army Educational Corps borne upon the Board of Education Vote, and I may say that if the Board of Education got anything like as good value for money as the Army Educational Corps does, we should be a very well educated nation. We ought not to starve the social services of the Army. They are vital for recruiting and they are vital to the national welfare. There is one grave difficulty in connection with trade training centres at this moment. It is practically impossible for any man who is serving abroad to take advantage of them. Admission is virtually restricted to those who are serving at home. Men are being kept abroad for the full seven years—" twisted "as they say for the seventh year, because they have always hoped against hope that the Government would not demand the seventh year. They are kept to the last moment in India, for example, and hardly ever can get into trade training centres. It is the men who have served in India who need the training most, because they have been longest out of touch with civilian employment and will find it most difficult to get jobs.
I support the suggestion of the Seconder of the Motion that the Postmaster-General should insist upon boys 2040 breaking their service, doing their period in the Army and then going back to the Post Office. It would be good for the Post Office and good for the Army. I should like hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House to regard the Army, Navy and Air Force as part of the social services of the nation. They provide means whereby men can learn discipline, can consort with each other, can obtain good food, good clothing and a better education than they could get in any other occupation. The number of men who go from the fourth class to the first class of education during their time in the Army is notable. I doubt whether any other service can show anything like the same record of educational progress. There are many disabilities, however, connected with foreign service. I do not think anyone has yet given the Secretary of State for War a full report on the nature of those disabilities. I only know of them by accident, as they exist here and there.
For instance, the number of men disabled by accidents not arising in the course of their duty and sent home maimed for life is large. I believe there are 2,000 or 3,000 such cases every year from the three Services. I know of one case in my own village of a. man who while on foreign service went out shooting with his fellow-soldiers. The men were encouraged by their commanding officer to go out shooting as a break in the deadly routine of barrack life. This man was accidentally shot in the leg by one of his comrades. His leg is now withered and useless, but he can get no pension from the War Office because the accident did not arise out of or in the course of his duty, and he is not covered by any form of insurance. I suggest that men serving abroad should be covered by a comprehensive insurance policy, towards which they might contribute from a quarter to a half, to meet cases of that kind. The friends of a man in that position do not consider the question of whether the accident did or did not arise in the course of his duty. They simply say that he served in the Army and was turned out with a withered leg and no pension, and that does not encourage recruiting.
The real reason why men are not joining in the numbers which ought to be forthcoming, is that they are not 2041 encouraged to do so either by serving soldiers or by ex-soldiers. The proof of that is that although the Air service is getting all the recruits it wants, the Tank Corps is not and yet the Tank Corps is as technical as the Royal Air Force. I venture to say that there is not a man who has served in the Tank Corps who will not have at least as good a chance of getting employment, owing to his practical, expert knowledge, as any man who has served in the Royal Air Force. Men of the Tank Corps tell me that one of the reasons is that there are too many of them on fatigues and not enough of them doing their job. They would like to see another class of man doing the fatigues, and the experts, these fine, keen young men who are anxious to learn all they can about a tank, not have to do the fatigues, such as carrying coal and the like.
I believe we must reconsider the attitude of this House, of the Public Accounts Committee, and of the War Office towards married soldiers. Milton said:Honest liberty is the greatest foe to dishonest licence.An increase in the number of men who are allowed to marry on the strength would, I believe, in the long run be of great assistance to the country on the broadest possible view as well as to the Army itself. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I want to see more promotion from the ranks, and I believe it is possible, but the difficulty will not lie in the officers' mess. The difficulty will lie rather with the Treasury and the fact that many, if not most, of these men who will come from the ranks will have family ties, and will expect to be able to contribute something, however little, to the homes from which they were drawn, but the pay of a Second Lieutenant or a Lieutenant in the Army is so small that they will barely be able to live on it, much less contribute from it towards dependants. I would willingly see special allowances given in such cases, for I believe we should encourage recruitment from the ranks, and I believe that the officers' messes would welcome it.
The right to a job is a matter which roust be so frequently in the mind of the Secretary of State for War that I do not propose to say more than a word 2042 about it, but it must be a job and not merely a promise of a job. It would be well if the right hon. Gentleman could make closer arrangements with the Postmaster-General for jobs in the telephone engineering department. I believe the Postmaster-General could provide him with at least another 500 vacancies in skilled trades, quite apart from the relatively unskilled and low-paid trades. Every year we pass in this House Bill after Bill conferring on some great public authority a monopoly for doing something or other, and I should like to see an automatic obligation on these public authorities to employ ex-service men. I believe they would willingly do it. Whether it be the beet sugar factories, or the London Passenger Transport Board, whose record, I believe, is excellent, or the railway companies, or the Water Board, or whatever body it might be, if they are going to have rights given them by the State, let us impose upon them this obligation, which they will soon find to be very slight, of employing a proportion of men who have served with the Colours.
As to conditions of service, I will here read parts of a letter written by a serving officer who has first-hand knowledge of his subject. It is as follows:The obvious answer to, Why are there not sufficient recruits? ' is because the serving soldier does not bring them in. He could if he would. A man makes about 63s. 9d. a month net, but out of this he must make every sort of payment—tailor (all his uniform has to be altered at his expense and kept clean and in repair) 4s., shoemaker 5s., laundry 5s., barber 6d., regimental funds, sports, civilian orderlies in the mess room and sweepers, squadron funds, and a cup of tea in the morning 3s., total 17s. 6d.The letter continues:From this you can see that a man makes about 46s. a month, but from this amount he must buy every sort of thing for cleaning his clothes, saddlery, and himself, saddlery, soap, boot polish, knife, fork, and spoon, razor, comb, mug, and so on, ad infinitum, 5s. A man here draws in cash 5s. a week, unless he wants more, so at the end of the month he may have saved £1. I asked a number of men what they did with the 5s. Supper on Wednesday and Saturday accounts for 2s., cinema with a friend 1s. 6d., and the remaining 1s. 6d. was spent in a variety of ways.…People talk about the Army being well fed. They get three meals a day—seven a.m., one o'clock, and five o'clock. Nine p.m. supper, if they want it, and they should, must be bought out of their 5s. I can live on three meals a day, but I have never been starved 2043 or underfed. I am 23 and fully developed. They are 18 to 20 and still growing. Surely they need more food.The voluntary system has not broken down. There are, I believe, as many men to-day as there were in 1913 and in 1898 ready and anxious to join the Colours, but some of them are held back by a feeling that they will be unable to contribute anything to their homes if they join the Army, others by the feeling that they can do so much better elsewhere that it is not worth the sacrifice, in spite of the life of adventure, while others again are kept back by the bitter feeling that they are being taken out of civil life at the most formative period of their lives and that when they return it will be to the less skilled and lower grades of employment and to those grades which on the average are most likely to suffer from unemployment. If the Secretary of State can remedy that, he will deserve well of this country and of the Army, and I have no doubt, from what I have seen at Hounslow and elsewhere, that he has made a good beginning.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. COOPER
I have welcomed this Debate, and I do not think I have ever sat and listened to a Debate in which I have heard less with which I have disagreed. Every speaker who has contributed to the Debate has contributed to the cause which every speaker has had at heart, namely, improving recruiting for the Army. I should like to add my congratulations to those that have already been uttered to the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Lieut.-Colonel Clarke), who made his maiden speech to-day. It is satisfactory to think that at least we have obtained one very satisfactory recruit for the House of Commons. I do not pretend that the conditions in the Army to-day are satisfactory, but I do hope to be able to make them so, and I therefore welcome suggestions from all quarters of the House as to how that aim may best be accomplished. We all know, or we all should know, why this situation exists to-day and why conditions in the Army have, I think, fallen behind the improvements that have gradually taken place in the conditions of people in civil life. We have, since the War and up to a very recent date, seen 2044 successive Governments pledged to a policy of disarmament, and while we were carrying out that policy it was almost the first necessity of those successive Governments to present in every succeeding year diminished defence Estimates. When we remember what the feeling was, not only in the House of Commons, but also in the country, it would have been almost impossible to justify an increase in arms expenditure. We know that political controversy is not always meticulously fair, and it would have served but little to have pointed to the fact that the increased expenditure was not due to any increase in weapons of war but was being spent on improvements in the social life of the soldier, that new barracks were a big item, that better conditions counted for much of it, and carrying out the kind of suggestions that have been made to-day, nearly all of which, of course, would have necessitated the Army Estimates being slightly larger than in the year before. That explanation would have availed us little. They would have said, "It is only a mask behind which there is an endeavour to improve recruiting, to increase the Forces, and to show to the world that we are not taking disarmament seriously. How can we be, if we are spending more money on armaments every year?"
During the period when the military members of the Army Council and the naval members of the Board of Admiralty were faced with the necessity of reducing expenditure, they naturally went for the things that they thought were essential to the safety of the country and allowed those other things, which were important for the comfort of the men and the conditions in which the men lived to go by the board. Therefore, to-day, when we are faced with a great and rapid advance in the re-equipment of the fighting Services, we are faced simultaneously with the necessity of rapid and great improvement in the conditions under which the men live. I think there has been hardly a suggestion put forward this evening with which I have not had great sympathy. With the majority of them I have been entirely in agreement, and if I am asked why these things have not been done or why they are not being done, I can only reply that while the number of the suggestions made to-day— and, alas, they do not represent all the suggestions that I have received and that 2045 I have considered—is almost unlimited, the amount of money that we have to spend upon them is not unlimited, and therefore it is necessary to sort them out and carefully to consider which should come first and which should come last, which is the more important, and which is the best way of spending the money that is at our disposal. On that, we are busily engaged at the present time. A Cabinet Committee is sitting upon it, and I hope in the very near future we shall be able to make a report as to how we believe conditions in the Army may best be improved; and this Debate will certainly be of assistance in bringing forward the views of the Members of the House of Commons on this important subject.
I have been so much in agreement with what has been said that I shall find very little to say now. The Debate was admirably opened and seconded in speeches on a very high level, which has not been departed from since. If my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Palmer) meant that he was putting forward certain suggestions with regard to the abolition of any cut in the pay which recruits receive, that recruits should not be expected to pay out of their own money for objects which they are compelled to obtain—if that was all that he meant, I have great sympathy with his suggestion, but if he suggests that he would favour also something in the nature of a bonus to the recruit on first joining—
§ Mr. COOPER
If he meant that a man on joining the Army should be presented with a certain sum of money, a sort of enlistment bonus, that, I think, is not a desirable proposal. It is rather in the nature of a bribe, and if a young man of 18 years of age should have a larger sum of money than he has ever been in possession of before, just when he is beginning his career, and when he is surrounded, possibly, by older men who have different ideas as to how that money should be spent, it would perhaps not be a wise thing, either from the point of 'view of the recruit or from the point of view of the Army. The great question to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite and other hon. Members referred was that of shortening the period of service, a question which is hound up with a re- 2046 consideration of the Cardwell system. It is a question of fundamental importance, and although it needs review and is being reviewed and will be frequently reviewed, it cannot affect our immediate problem, which is to obtain men during the next two or three months. Those are the men on whom we shall have to rely during the next two or three years, for it is during that period that we have to solve the problem of re-equipping our Forces.
The Cardwell system, which has been in existence for 60 years, is the basis of the whole of our Army system, and to change it would involve a radical change. I think, too, that it must necessarily involve increased expenditure, a large proportion of which would fall upon the Government of India. Hon. Members will readily understand the great difficulty of making any proposals at the present time, just when the new Constitution is coming into operation in India, whereby the proportion of their Budget which they spend on defence would be increased. In the central Budget a large percentage, something over 41 per cent., is already devoted to defence. In these conditions, we cannot readily ask India to shoulder a greater share of the burden of expenditure. Therefore, while I agree that the subject is one that deserves careful inquiry, I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me on reflection that a solution of it is not likely to be obtained in a few weeks or few months.
A committee of the General Staff have been considering it and a preliminary survey has been undertaken to see whether, in the meanwhile, without a complete alteration of the whole system, it might not be possible to shorten the tour of duty in India and send a man for say, four years, instead of six. We are considering that, however, as a separate question, without taking into account the whole question with all its ramifications and effects. I hope that something may possibly be achieved in that direction, because I agree that this long tour of duty is one of the main causes which make men hesitate to join the Army. It will certainly be a far better prospect to put before men if we can offer them so many years at home, a few years in India, and then perhaps —what I should like best—a term of duty again at home before they finally leave 2047 the Service, during which period they can get in touch again with their friends, of whom they may have lost sight while they were abroad, and prepare their way to some extent for reabsorption into civil life.
With regard to Army vocational training centres, I should like to see every man pass through one. The centres would, of course, have to be increased, and I am inclined to share the views of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) that it would, on the face of it, be a reasonable proposition that such training centres should be run by the same Department. I am glad that the hon. Member inspected our centre at Hounslow, and I am sure that he would find those at Chisledon and Aldershot equally efficient, although they are not so well equipped because they have not the same funds at their disposal as those that are run by the Ministry of Labour.
§ Sir A. WILSON
I should be sorry to see them run by the Ministry of Labour. They should be run as military establishments under the War Office.
§ Mr. COOPER
Does the hon. Member mean that they should be paid for by the Ministry of Labour and run by the War Office?
§ Mr. COOPER
I am not sure that that proposition would be acceptable. The hon. Member for Winchester said that we should do more than we have done in the way of publicity. There again, publicity costs money, and when you have a limited sum at your disposal it is not possible to devote a great deal to advertising. I feel strongly that the best advertisement is not of very great use unless the article it is advertising is as reliable as the advertisement states. While I fully realise the importance of publicity, I think that the importance of improving conditions comes first. When conditions are improved publicity will be of greater effect, because I hope then that the article we have to sell will be really worth selling and one that we can advertise without fear of falling into the fault which some advertisers occasionally make of over-stating the value of the object.
The admirable speech of the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Mr. 2048 Anstruther-Gray) put forward many suggestions, which I can assure him will receive the attention of the War Office. He said that one of the things that made men hesitate to join the Army was that in doing so they thought they were taking an irrevocable step, and that if they did not like it they could not after a short experiment retire as they could in civil life. That is true, but I would remind the hon. Member, and other hon. Members who may not be aware of the fact—because this is one of the reforms that has recently been introduced and not perhaps sufficiently advertised—that we have during the last four months started a special reserve of the Infantry which any man can join. A man joins for six months at a depot, does six months' training, and at the end of the period passes into the Reserve and comes up for a fortnight's training a year. There is an opportunity of testing the Army for any man who is prepared to risk six months. It is not a very long period, and if he likes it and is satisfied with the conditions, he can sign on and become a regular soldier in the ordinary way. I am not sure that that scheme has been sufficiently advertised throughout the country. If it had been, I think that the numbers obtained would have been larger. I should have thought that any unemployed man would be prepared to say, "I will give it a trial for six months however, bad it is, I can stick it for that period, and if I like it I can carry on for another period." We have only 1,100 men under this scheme, but, as it has been in existence for only three months, the figures are not sufficient to make one despair. I think that if it were more widely known more advantage would be taken of it. I am glad to be able to inform the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire, that it is the case that, with the approval of the commanding officer, the leave until 1 a.m. without a pass applies to recruits, in fact to everyone except boys.
The suggestion was made for something in the nature of a King's Roll for employers who encourage their men to join the Territorial Army. We have been considering it for some time. There is a great deal to be said for it, and there are some arguments that have been put forward against it, but I do not think that they are very powerful. On the whole, I am inclined to believe that it 2049 might do some good and I cannot see that it would do much harm. I have found employers up and down the country most willing and eager to co-operate in this business, and I do not think that they are looking forward for reward. I have felt all through this campaign that neither employers nor men want large rewards. The men want justice and fair conditions and the employers want assistance and sympathy. It is much more difficult for some employers than others, especially for small employers in particular kinds of work from which it would be difficult to release men for short periods. It is hard for such employers to encourage their staffs to join the Territorial Army, realising that they may all be called away from the factory for a fortnight at the same time. We have tried to meet that difficulty by a recent decision of the Army Council that in certain cases men will be allowed, instead of attending the ordinary camp, to do their fortnight's training at a depot with a regular unit whenever it may be convenient, and that fortnight's training will count in the same way as if they had been to camp.
The question has also been raised by the hon. Member for West Toxteth (Mr. Gibbins) about the extension of the marriage allowance to all men over 21 who are married. That, again, would involve very large expenditure, and I am not as convinced as the hon. Member for Hitchin that it is a wise policy to encourage men at the beginning of their careers in the Army, or of any other careers, to undertake the obligations and responsibilities of marriage. The age of 26 does not seem to me to be too old to enter upon all those responsibilities. When I reflect on the large sum of money involved and the doubts that must exist as to the wisdom of such a policy, especially for men who have to travel abroad and find themselves for five or six years in a different climate, I think that there are good grounds for hesitating before making that one of the chief items on which we could incur vast Government expenditure.
§ Earl WINTERTON
In the course of the investigations, has any questionnaire been put to commanding officers to ascertain whether it is a fact that this is a deterrent to recruiting, because the information which reaches me is rather 2050 the opposite to what my right hon. Friend has stated?
Will the right hon. Gentleman also tell us whether the large expenditure which he says would be involved is based on the actual number of men below 25 who are married? If not, on what is it based, because how can he say how many would marry if there were an allowance?
§ Mr. COOPER
It is based on the number of men under 25 who are married, and we have to make allowance for a much larger expenditure which might possibly occur if those who are not married were encouraged to do so by an allowance. In reply to the Noble Lord, I believe that it is a deterrent to recruiting, but among many deterrents I do not think that it is one of the principal. The hon. Member for West Toxteth and the hon. Member for Hitchin spoke of cases within their knowledge where men had suffered while in the Service and had not received any compensation for their injuries. One of those hon. Members spoke of the disability which those men had incurred, being regarded as not attributable to Service conditions, and it was implied that in civil life those men would have been compensated. But, of course, it is no more the case in civil life than in the Army that a man is compensated for injuries received when he is on his holidays or when he is amusing himself in his own way, and there, again, it would be a very great obligation to undertake to say that while a soldier was serving abroad we should be entirely responsible for anything that happened to him. However, the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hitchin that some insurance system should be worked out under which a man would be insured against all eventualities while in the Service is a suggestion which well deserves consideration.
The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) can hardly expect me to reply at any length to his speech, as it was concerned practically with foreign affairs. I would only say that I doubt very much whether a young man standing outside a recruiting office and hesitating whether or not to join the Army, does take gravely into consideration how far he can give his full approval to the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. I would also say that, so far as the hon. Member can define that policy, or so far as he has 2051 chosen to define the foreign policy outlined by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, I should have thought that our foreign policy was based entirely, as it is, on the support of the League of Nations. [HON. MEMBERS "Question"] If he says that he has not full confidence in the Government carrying out that policy in the way it should, I reply "Of course he has not. I hope he would not be sitting there if he had." I do not suppose there has ever been a period in English history when the Opposition had complete confidence in the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. That situation is as old as Parliamentary Government. What is new is the theory "So long as we have not complete confidence in your foreign policy you can hardly expect us to do anything to encourage the defence of the country." Surely that is a, very extraordinary view. Could one go so far as to say, "We have not confidence in your home policy, no confidence in the Home Secretary, and, therefore, do you expect us to do anything to maintain the rule of law and order at home, or to assist the police in carrying out their duties"? I am sure hon. Members opposite would say, "When we are in office we shall certainly expect you to do all you can to assist in keeping up those Services which maintain law and order in the country and undertake the defence of the country from attack. They should have the support of all sections of the community whether they believe in the Government or not."
The right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) put forward one or two suggestions. He referred to the importance of privacy in barracks and of the necessity for giving soldiers cubicles. As he will probably have found out from his experience of administration, it is very difficult, in matters of taste, to arrive always at the right solution. Not very long ago one of my colleagues, speaking from his own experience as a soldier, said the lack of privacy was the thing he had minded most. I happened to mention it to a distinguished officer with whom I was lunching the following day. He said, "It is funny that you should mention that subject. The day before yesterday I was at a certain barracks, where I found that cubicles, which had previously been installed, had been 2052 taken away. I asked why they had been removed and the reply was, ' We prefer all muddling in together.' "That really was the opinion of the men in that particular unit; and a noble Friend behind me remarks," That is true." It shows how difficult it is to find out what it is that men really prefer.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked, and many other Members referred to the matter, that the men in the Army should receive as many meals a day as in the Navy. I can assure him that that is also the view of the Army Council, and is a reform which I hope we may be able to introduce in the near future. There are some units in which arrangements are made whereby the men do obtain their suppers, out of regimental funds or in some other way; and I gather from the letter which was read by the hon. Member for Hitchin that that is the case in the unit to which the writer was referring—that suppers were issued to those who wished for them. He seemed to suggest that in this respect the officers were better treated than the men, but that, of course, is not the case. Their rations are exactly the same as the men's, but a little more of them is devoted to the later evening mealdinner—instead of to the earlier evening meal—tea—of the private soldier. No difference is made in the Government expenditure on the rations given to the private soldier and to the officer.
§ Mr. COOPER
The hon. Member also spoke of the medical tests. There has recently been an inquiry into them by the War Office, and we have rearranged the men into four categories, with a lower medical test for those who are not required to carry out the harder tasks. I hope that will prove to be a step in the right direction and will enable us to obtain many recruits who might otherwise be rejected. I can assure the hon. Member also that in the barracks we are now building we are doing everything we can to improve the lighting and the general comfort conditions. One thing I am most anxious to see is that the men should have, outside the barrack room, a sitting room where they will be able—20 or 30 of them—to go without dressing up, as they have to do if they go out to the canteen or the 2053 institute, and where they can sit in a comfortable chair and read the paper, probably listen to the wireless and have ordinary amenities such as officers enjoy.
The right hon. Member for Keighley said he had noticed an improvement in the tone of my speeches at recent meetings. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) reproached me during the Debate on the Address with the tone of my speeches, of which he did not entirely approve, and I hope he feels that I have taken his advice and profited by his counsel. But I would say that of recent weeks there has also been a change, both in this House and outside, in the tone of the speeches of hon. Members opposite and of their supporters. It is significant that in this Debate to-day and in the Debate on Defence which we had recently not one Member suggested that we are spending too much upon defence, that we are wasting money and ought to be reducing that expenditure. My right hon. Friend will know as well as I that that would not have been the case two or three years ago, and I am not sure whether it would have been the case last year.
I rejoice at the change of tone, and hope that I can rely upon hon. Members opposite not to restrict that tone to the Floor of the House. Last year I appealed to them to assist me in the task of recruiting for the Army. I am unable to keep in touch with all their activities, or to read all their speeches, and I do not now to what extent they have responded to that appeal. I cannot say that I have had many good recruiting speeches made in the country by hon. Members opposite brought to my notice, but I do hope that they, realising as they must what is in danger at the present time, and feeling as anxious, as I am sure they do, that things worth defending must be defended, will give me more assistance in the months and years which lie ahead, on my assurance that everything will be done in the very near future that possibly can be done to improve the conditions of the men serving in the Army and their prospects on leaving the Army. On that assurance I hope that they will share their part of the burden of helping us to obtain the recruits we need.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
Will the right hon. Gentleman say something about promotion from the ranks and the possibility of increasing the facilities for it?
§ Mr. COOPER
I am sorry that I omitted to do so. The hon. Member for Hitchin asked me how many men from the ranks had received commissions. The figure is 132.
§ Mr. COOPER
No, in the last five years. I am not myself convinced that there is any great feeling in the Army that promotion from the ranks is insufficient. A steady flow goes on; the figure is about the same every year. As the right hon. Gentleman is well aware, there are a great many men who could obtain commissions, who, it is suggested, should apply for them, and they prefer not to do so. One quite understands the reasons that make them hesitate. I fully agree with him that the Army, and, indeed, all the Services, should live up to the idea that they offer a career open to talent. An inquiry was held into whether a new system of promotion from the ranks should be introduced, and the decision of the tribunal which went into the matter was that the present system was satisfactory. That committee was set up in 1931, when Mr. Shaw was Secretary of State for War.
§ Mr. COOPER
I do not know who served on the tribunal, but it took place under the aegis of Mr. Tom Shaw.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander FLETCHER
I beg to move, in line 5, to leave out from "and," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:is of opinion that the Government's failure to take these steps hitherto render their complaints regarding the lack of recruits unjustifiable.I feel that I am showing a certain temerity in venturing into the subject of Army recruiting, especially as in doing so I shall become involved in criticism of a Minister who has shown himself rather intolerant of criticism, especially on the part of bishops. The right hon. Gentleman's reply just now was, however, so fair and so courteous in reference to the points raised that I feel that, perhaps, I may be allowed to embark for a short cruise in rather unfamiliar waters. I should like to refer to the speech of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence on 10th November, when he admitted that 2055 the position of the Army as regards recruiting was not as good as that of the Navy and the Air Force. He said:There has been no clear call to youth since the War,but the Minister said he was proposing to sound the call, when all, apparently, would be well. I do not know when that call is going to be sounded by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, nor am I sure that his personal charms and persuasiveness are such as will necessarily appeal to the youth of this nation. In the same speech, the Minister admitted, in regard to recruiting, that an "adjustment of conditions" was required, and that those conditions were receiving thorough investigation. Is there any progress to report as regards that examination of the conditions? Is the inquiry being expedited, and is it possible yet to give any indication of the lines on which it is proceeding?
It seems to be evident, although those responsible for recruiting have done everything possible by normal methods of appeal and publicity, that those methods are failing, because the shortage is increasing. If that be so, it is surely evident that completely new methods will have to be tried. What can the Secretary of State say to show that new methods are being tried, of a character which will attract men of the higher type, whom it is absolutely necessary to attract, in order to meet the requirements of a mechanised Army? It is no use blaming the pacifists or peace propaganda, for the shortage of recruits. It would be far more profitable to look at the differences between Army conditions and those in civilian employment. Those differences are so marked already, that, if employment improves, recruiting will correspondingly deteriorate. To stimulate recruiting, the conditions of Army life must be improved. In that connection, I should like to consider for a moment the recruiting posters and recruiting literature which are issued by the War Office, and to ask whether they contain a perfectly straightforward account of conditions prevailing in the Army.
I notice, incidentally, that these posters appear to borrow very largely indeed from Labour party policy. The very things which Conservatives tell us can never be done because of 2056 economic laws which Mr. Montagu Norman alone understands, are promised to the would-be recruit, if he will undertake to lay down his life in the defence of Capitalism. Let me call attention to the leaflets. First of all, I have here an extremely attractive leaflet, from which it appears that life in the Army is one long, sweet song and nothing but games, and there is no mention of anything so low or vulgar as soldiering. It has a page devoted entirely to games and to eating. In the centre, is an extremely jolly-looking soldier, holding in his arms a pig, and the pig is wearing a military cap. I do not know on what grounds that is put forward to stimulate recruiting. Then there is another pamphlet, entitled, "The Army; the finest job in the world." It begins very happily indeed with a photograph of several soldiers shaking hands with the King—I suppose as an indication of what daily life in the Army is like. Then it goes on to say—once again, there is no mention, at first, of anything so low or vulgar as soldiering:Soldiering in the Army offers exceptional advantages in the way of physical training, education, foreign travel, sport and many other facilities, so that there is little or no prospect of a monotonous or irksome time.It says:The Army offers a unique opportunity of seeing something of the world.I think it falls a little bit flat, in the way of offering a career because it says:It is no uncommon occurrence for a really first-rate man to reach the rank of sergeant in five years.It features a very important point of Labour party policy, namely, holidays on full pay, but whereas we are putting forward only a very modest suggestion of eight days a year on full pay, the Army overbids us by offering a month a year on full pay. Then comes a passage which really might be extracted from the prospectus of some boarding house at the seaside:Special dining halls, where meals, cooked on latest principles, are well served. Billiards and bagatelle tables; baths with hot and cold water always available.If, I suppose, the recruit has any time for it. Then it says:Theatres, concerts, entertainments; nowhere in civil life does sport play such an important part as in the Army.That is the final recommendation.
2057 How are those promises kept This pamphlet reminds me of the story of a sailor who was telling another sailor what had led him to join the Navy. He said that the recruiting chief petty officer had shown him a coloured picture of an admiral in full dress uniform, and that underneath was written: "This is what you are going to be." The sailor added: "But he was keeping his thumb on the ' not '." There is a good deal of the "not" about the promises held out in this pamphlet. The recruit is promised 14s. per week, food and clothes. In fact he finds he has to pay for all manner of things himself, such as the buttons on his overcoat. I think it is the height of meanness that he has to pay for his uniform to be pressed when it is issued to him. There are stoppages for things like library and rifle clubs, and his 14s, becomes whittled down to 10s. or 11s. a week. Why not tell the would-be recruit the exact facts of the conditions of service which await him? I can remember perfectly well, from my experience in the Navy, that nothing rankles more with a sailor than coming up against some condition of service which has not been properly explained to him. I am sure that the same thing applies to a soldier.
The broad rule surely should be that whatever a soldier needs in order to be a soldier should be provided free. If die scheme of training laid down by the War Office necessitates certain equipment and expenses, why should the soldier defray those expenses? In any case, I am sure that the pay offered is not enough to attract skilled men, and that inducements in the way of extra pay as a reward for exceptional skill and efficiency are required. The inducements at the present moment are very small. A fully-trained man, after four years' service, is drawing one shilling a day more than the recruit. On the question of food I will not say much, because we all grumble about food. Whether in this House, at home or at the club, we always grumble about the food, but why is it that some regiments can and do give the soldier his supper free, while in other regiments he has to pay for it? Why not decide once and for all to give the soldier his supper?
In the Debate on 12th March the Secretary of State urged, in effect, that unemployment should be used as a recruit- 2058 ing sergeant and that the unemployed ma-n should join the Army, wherethey would be well cared for and well nourished.Earlier in the same speech, however, the Secretary of State said:The housing of the troops…is still terribly behind what it ought to be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1936; cols. 2356 and 2354, Vol. 309.]After that, and what I have mentioned about the soldier having to pay for his supper, this claim that the unemployed man will be well cared for and well nourished, does not appear to be completely substantiated.
The Secretary of State has admitted that the general standard of living has advanced far beyond that prevailing in the Army. What is he going to do to bring it up to that standard? I have visited barracks which are inconceivably depressing, with cold rooms badly lit, iron cots with bolsters filled with wood shavings on which the soldier sleeps in his shirt, and a complete lack of privacy. What kind of conditions are those for the higher type of skilled man whom the Army needs so much? Barrack life still involves many vexatious and unnecessary regulations. Conditions seem to depend very much upon the commanding officer. When there is a good commanding officer, things may not be so bad, but why should the views of a reactionary commanding officer who has not kept himself abreast of new ideas as to freedom still be allowed to prevail? Why not lay down a general standard, and have it adhered to in all regiments?
I hope it will not be thought that I am levelling any general charge of harshness or bullying, but I venture to stress the importance of officers getting down to the lives of their men and checking anything in the nature of personal abuse, bad language, or bullying on the part of non-commissioned officers. In the Navy officers have to live in close contact with their men, and one of the first things impressed upon me was that it was, to say the least, improper to abuse or to swear at a man who would be severely punished for insubordination if he replied in kind. Remembering the type of man who is now wanted in the Army, I suggest that anything in the nature of personal abuse, bad language or bullying should be most severely suppressed.
2059 There seems to be a rather gloomy atmosphere in the Army of rigid class distinction which has, to a great extent, been modified in the Navy. The recruit is also impressed with the overwhelming necessity for blind obedience and action without thought. Every glimmer of individualism or initiative is stamped out. My right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) touched upon the question of class distinction. I would remind hon. Members that in a letter which he wrote to Lord Haldane, Lord Esher said:The Army is officered by a caste with caste prejudices.Let the Secretary of State try to lift us out of that caste system, and give us an Army more in tune with modern Democracy. If he does so, I venture to phophesy that he will not be in such trouble about recruiting. The Home Secretary went to Perth not so long ago in order to deliver a speech about the blessings of Democracy and the defence of Democracy, but the Secretary of State tells us, in answer to a question, that, during the past three years, only 15 per cent. of new officers have come from the ranks. Let us have a real, and not a sham, system of promotion from the ranks; then a good type of man will be attracted, because the Army will offer such men a career.
One other point is in regard to foreign service. This practically cast-iron service of holding a man for an extra year seems undesirable. It is also undesirable that men should be brought home from foreign service and discharged almost at once, so that they are stranded and in some cases penniless. Also, is it really impossible to break foreign service with spells of home leave with assisted passages? Many soldiers spend nearly the whole of their Army service in India without a break. The monotony must be very great. The officer in India has many distractions in the shape of games and sport and gets from two to three months' leave a year, on full pay. He can go home on leave. The soldier in India has ten days' leave per annum, if he can be spared, and he can go home on leave only after six years' service. His pay is not sufficient to allow him to enjoy any very great distractions, and he cannot meet any women from his 2060 own class. The discrepancy between the officer's life and the soldier's life in India is far too great. The leave arrangements were made when transport home was slow and difficult. Modern transport facilities should make it possible to give home leave to the troops in India.
I think that the means of attracting recruits is a perfectly straightforward statement of the conditions of service, and not the sort of "bunk"—I can call it nothing else—that appears in the pamphlet from which I have read extracts this afternoon. There should be a n improvement in pay, an absence of vexatious stoppages, a far higher standard of living in barracks, discipline which combines firmness with a complete absence of bullying, home leave during foreign service, training for a job on return to civil life, and the practical certainty of getting one. If you are to attract the better type of man that the mechanised Army now requires, these improvements in conditions seem to me to be absolutely essential. The Government do not appear to have realised this, and have failed in their duty accordingly.
Over and above all these considerations as to conditions of service lies the deterrent that men are reluctant to enlist so long as they think the Army will be used as it was between 1914 and 1918—that they will be sent abroad to take part in a war of masses, with the masses rotting in the trenches or engulfed in the mud. If the War Office is not thinking in terms of the last War and of vast masses of men, why is there any talk of conscription in the air? So long as this conception of war with masses of men dominates the War Office, so long will recruits be reluctant to come forward. Young men have no intention of being used up in a war of that description. What the Secretary of State has to tell us is what he proposes to do to meet this and other criticisms. Existing methods are failing to produce recruits; is he going to try new methods, and try them quickly, or is he playing with the idea of conscription? If he is playing with the idea of conscription, then he is going to file a petition of bankruptcy of ideas. The speeches from all quarters of the House to-day show that the terms of the Amendment are fully justified; indeed, the speech of 2061 the Secretary of State himself is an admission that the terms of the Amendment are justified, and I therefore beg to move it.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. BELLENGER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am not going to attempt to continue the process of "de-bunking"—I apologise for using the word—the pamphlet from which my hon. and gallant Friend has read, but 1 would just like to add something that he omitted from his speech, and that is that, in referring to the holiday of one month which the Army promises in this pamphlet, the word "month" is put in inverted commas. What that really means I do not know; it may suggest that the month cannot be guaranteed; but, in case the right hon. Gentleman would like to look into this pamphlet, and perhaps revise it, I would tell him that it is Army Form B. 2557.
We on this side of the House are grateful in one way to the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Palmer), who has put this Motion on the Paper. In itself the Motion is somewhat of a criticism of the Government for their failure to obtain the number of recruits which they desire and which they say is necessary. I wish to substantiate that statement by referring to the right hon. Gentleman's speech itself. The right hon. Gentleman told us in his reply that the neglect to improve the conditions of the Forces was due to the fact that in the last 10 or 15 years this nation has been disarming. I think that that rather endorses what Rudyard Kipling said in immortal words, and what has been said by the soldier himself in his inevitable "grouse"—that the soldier is forgotten in peace-time, and is only remembered in war-time.
The right hon. Gentleman has admitted to-day that many of the suggestions which have been made to him from these benches, and from his own supporters, are urgently necessary. He tells us that in the past he has been unable to accomplish them because either he has not had the money or he has not had the courage to tell the House of Commons that these things were necessary. He has also remarked that the Cardwell system, which I believe is an integral part of our Army training, should be revised. But he has told us that it would cost money to do so. Of 2062 course it would; we are not denying that; but is not rearmament costing us a lot of money? Surely the test should be whether the Cardwell system is out of date and whether it should be brought up to date. And if it is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that it would not take weeks or months to accomplish this reform, surely the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) should be started on straight away, so that in time we can get the most desirable system for training the Army.
The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that he does not think it is the appropriate time to have better recruiting offices or better recruiting systems, because, as he says, it is not a good plan to advertise an inferior article. Surely that is an admission. If Army occupation is an inferior article, should not the right hon. Gentleman produce some better article? I am glad to know that many of the suggestions which have been made to-day will receive his attention. I can assure him—and I made this statement in a previous speech to which he has referred this afternoon—I can assure him that I personally have never been in the slightest doubt as to the desirability of recruiting and of bringing the Army establishment up to its proper requirements. When the right hon. Gentleman says that he has noticed the change in the tone of speeches from hon. Members on this side of the House in the last two or three months, might he not reflect that, if his colleague the Prime Minister had taken the opportunity to inform the nation two or three years ago of the necessity for recruiting and for expansion of the defence forces, it might have been possible for hon. Members on these benches to go to their constituencies and say that the danger was so urgent that it was necessary that men and women in this country should play their part in defending their country, if need be, against aggression? The right hon. Gentleman has remarked that he has not noticed many speeches of this nature in the Press. Perhaps it may interest him to know that, as a result of the speech which I made in this House, and which was published in the local newspaper in my own constituency, I have already received some criticism—criticism which came from a friend of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher).
§ Mr. BELLENGER
It leaves me absolutely cold when members of the Communist party take me to task for doing what I consider to be my duty. It is interesting to hear from the right hon. Gentleman now that soldiers can obtain leave until one o'clock in the morning without the necessity of a pass. I only wish that that had been the case in the days when I was in the Army, but I rather think that then the time by which we had to be back in barracks was 11 o'clock. I am very glad to know that the 11 o'clock rule, if I may so call it, has been suspended permanently.
§ Mr. BELLENGER
One final word on the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He remarked that he thought that 26 should be the earliest age at which a soldier should marry. I do not think he limited it even to a soldier. But I am not so sure of that myself. Although I personally married one year later than that, nevertheless I realise that there are many young men who find it desirable for various reasons to marry at an earlier age than 26, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not lay down a new "age of consent."
Does not this whole question of recruiting divide itself into two parts? There is the question of providing adequate defence forces in human material against what may be a great danger which will necessitate a big expansion of the defence forces of this country; and in that category I place the Territorial Force. I am certain that, if only the country were told the truth—which it has not been told, except in asides from the Prime Minister when he speaks with "appalling frankness"—if the country were told the truth, I am certain that young men would realise where their duty lies. As regards what I may call the police military forces, their numbers are limited, and I cannot see that they will be expanded for the duties they have to perform, which consist merely in policing the Empire. The largest portion of those forces, I believe, is kept in India. If a man knows that in joining the Army he has got to be sent out to India for six or seven years, he hesitates before he 2064 enlists. If he is told, and if he believes, that in joining the Army he is preparing himself for a profession or a trade later on when he leaves the Army, and if he is given suitable conditions as to pay, hours and so on while he is in the Army, and is enabled to learn a trade during those early years—the best years, I may say—of his life, then I am certain that you will get as many recruits as you desire. I do not ask for molly-coddling of recruits or soldiers. I have served during a time of danger—and I am speaking seriously here—in the last War. Life then was not easy; there are many improvements that can be made; but nevertheless we do not ask for molly-coddling. A certain amount of discipline is necessary in every walk of life. But the right hon. Gentleman has been informed to-day from all parts of the House how necessary it is that the soldier should have some of the amenities of civilisation, just as the civilian himself has.
My concluding word is this: I speak as one who rose from the ranks during the last War. I rose to commissioned rank by active service in the field. On the first occasion in this country when I presented myself for a commission, I was refused. I was refused because I had not those educational qualifications which the Army thought in those days, in 1915, were desirable for an officer. Later on I went to the Western Front, and I was then accepted as an officer, when the Army was needing more officers than it required in 1915. I have nothing to say against that period during which I was an officer; you will require officers under whatever system you have; but I know as a fact that in those days—democratic days, I may call them—there was a distinction made between the officer who had had a public school education and the officer who had not had that education. The only opportunity for a private rising to commissioned rank was to be made a lieutenant-quartermaster, and always that position was looked upon in the officers' mess with a certain sense of superiority towards the person who was the quartermaster. It was considered the lowest domestic job in the commissioned ranks.
I cannot urge too strongly or too seriously on the right hon. Gentleman that if he wants to make the Army something desirable from the point of view of 2065 the rank and file, if he wants to obtain recruits in the numbers which he says are necessary, he cannot do better than discard the leaflets we have heard about and say to the recruits that there is opportunity for promotion in the Army to the highest possible rank. The dictum of Napoleon that every private soldier carries a field marshal's baton in his haversack is not true, but surely those of us who start in a humble position in life and look forward to the days when we can marry and make our own homes, and when our salaries or wages will be better than when we started, have a desirable ambition. You cannot deny to the soldier what you do not deny to the private civilian. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay more attention to the appeal for better opportunities for promotion that has been made from these benches.
§ 7.3 p.m.
I would like to ask my right hon. Friend to examine the machinery at present in operation at the War Office for the granting of pensions to men serving with the Forces who suffer an injury. I must apologise for using one personal example, but I feel this so strongly that I consider it my duty to do so. A private playing in a battalion football match received a kick, and subsequently was discharged from the Army. For more than a year he has been going about on crutches. He attempted to get a pension from the War Office, but it was not granted. He then applied to me, and I wrote to the War Office about his case. The pension was again turned down, as I understand it, without examination. I thought for some time of the position of this boy, who apparently for the rest of his life was going to be incapacitated, and I decided that the only chance I had of fighting his case with the War Office was to have him examined by a first-class specialist whose name would receive consideration at the War Office. This I did. The specialist gave a report favourable to the pressing of the claim. I forwarded this to the War Office, and a short time afterwards they granted him a reasonable pension for a period, and subject to examination from time to time, which is as it should be I then asked whether the War Office would consider granting him a pension from 2066 the time of the accident. This they refused to do.
It is difficult for a civilian to fight a case with the War Office, but I am always rather persistent, and I thought the War Office might at least consider granting the pension from the time that I raised the case. Not being experienced in these matters it had taken me some months to think of an adequate way of presenting this man's case to the War Office. The letters I have received point out that it is the duty of an ex-private to keep the War Office informed of his condition of health. If that be so, what chance does my right hon. Friend think that an ex-private has of fighting his case, when the War Office did not even trouble to have this boy examined when I, as his Parliamentary representative, brought the case to their notice? I am sorry to speak so strongly, but I feel this matter very deeply. I have fought the case many times, and I cannot get any further than the grant of a pension from the date of the specialist's certificate. I wrote to the specialist, telling him what was the position, and asked him if he could give me a further certificate saying that if the case had been brought to his notice earlier he would have given me the same type of certificate as I had submitted. His reply was that if the pension was granted at the date of the original certificate, it was obvious that the pension should have been granted from the date when the man received the injury.
I put forward a claim for consideration from that date. I think it was most inconsiderate that the War Office did not even grant the pension from the date of the specialist's certificate, but from the date of my letter enclosing the certificate. If they take that date the least they can do is to grant the pension from the date when I raised the matter. I suggest that when you have in ley part of the world—where you are anxious to attract young men to the Forces—the spectacle of a young man going about on crutches and suffering from an injury which a specialist said should be considered for a pension, yet whose claim has been rejected with scant consideration, it is not a good recruiting advertisement. I have rarely been so annoyed at an injustice in my life. There is room for serious examina- 2067 tion of the whole problem. It is not always that one suddenly thinks of a way of getting justice for an individual, and I know from conversations with people who have knowledge of Army matters that there are a large number of people who have been refused pensions and who might reasonably have had consideration from the War Office. I should like my right hon. Friend to give an assurance that this kind of thing will not happen in the future, and that he will ask his officials to consider the whole matter carefully and see whether the War Office is acting fairly and in the best interests of those who join the Service.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. G. GRIFFITHS
I have two complaints to make. They have not gained the success which that of the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) seems to have had. Since I have been in the House I have put two cases to the War Office, and I find the Department very hard-hearted. One case was that of a widow in my division. Her son, only 17, enlisted without his mother knowing. The boy had moved to the south, and she did not know he was in the Army for a time. When he got tired of the Service, before he was 18, he wrote and told her everything. The mother asked for the boy to be released. It then transpired that if the boy was to come out of the Army the mother would have to find £35. She borrowed the money and paid for the lad to come out. I saw the Under-Secretary for War and asked whether the Department could not consider giving her at least some of this money back, even if they could not give her all of it. The War Office said "No. We can give you nothing at all." When cases like that occur in a colliery village everybody in the village knows about it, and the effect is to prevent the right hon. Gentleman getting the recruits he wants.
The other case is that of a lad who died at Aldershot. His parents desired that he should be buried in Yorkshire. The lad had £10 to his credit, but after he had been buried in Yorkshire, and when his father came to square up accounts, the £10 was taken from his credit and the father had to find £3 or £4 towards the burial. There have been no recruits from that village since. The father was a prominent trade union 2068 official. Everbody in the village got to know that in burying his lad at home the father, who was only working two or three days a week, had to help to meet the cost. Cases like that do not help recruiting in the mining villages. There is poison in the soul of the Reservist when he is paid his £3 6s. pension and half of it is taken into account when he draws unemployment assistance. If he is a single man, he draws 10s. a week. He has to go without for three weeks altogether, and in the fourth week he gets only 7s. Do you think a thing like that will help you with recruiting in industrial areas? I ask you to talk to the Minister of Labour and get that out of the road, because you will not get soldiers that way.
There is another point that I should like to raise. For some considerable time I have been asking that the rank and file should have butter instead of margarine. I know hon. Members smile about it, but the lads who are eating it do not smile. The boys that the Under-Secretary for Air is getting between 16 and 18 are generally secondary school boys. A considerable percentage of them come from the upper working or middle class, and they have not been used to margarine at breakfast, tea, dinner and supper. Is it good for lads of that age to be stuffed with margarine instead of having butter? You want to build up their physique. The War Secretary stated in answer to a question that it would cost £195,000 to change from margarine to butter for the Army, Navy and Air Force, but, if you make the change, would you not be helping the farmers who are squealing that they are in bad circumstances? I make the plea especially on account of the type of recruit that the Secretary of State for Air is getting. The Secretary of State for War thinks that butter will help to build up people who are deficient when they come to the recruiting office, because on 13th October last he went to Aldershot to examine 33 weedy looking, pallid-faced, flat-chested youths who are being carefully nursed by the Army authorities up to the regulation physical standard.
He said, "These lads must have a different diet from those who are already in the Army," and this is the diet that he gave them: Breakfast: tea, bread and butter, porridge, sausage and mash, 2069 marmalade; dinner: sea pie (Irish stew with a crust), potatoes, butter, beans, rice pudding and stewed prunes; tea: tea, bread and butter, and salmon paste; supper: cocoa, liver and bacon. That is a very good diet, a better diet than I would trust myself to have. You know the reason for that. If the War Secretary felt that a diet of this kind was necessary to make under-nourished recruits fit, I want to ask that those who are over the line should be treated in the same way. What is £195,000 if you are going to make the lads contented? I went home on Friday with a lad who was going back to my town for a holiday. I said, "How is your diet?" He said, "It is not amiss now, but when we first went it was rough stuff." I said, "How do you like margarine?" He said, "I turn my nose up at it, but when we get so long in, the diet is lifted a bit." If you give them a good diet before they get in to make them fit, I Am asking you to give them a good diet when they are in to keep them fit.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I have heard some extraordinary things said in this Debate. The speech of the hon. Member on my right flank was of a most peculiar character. He said, if the Prime Minister would only tell the truth, he would go with him All the way. Not all the efforts that I and my hon. Friends make will keep him from doing his duty. Let him do his duty. Get the Prime Minister to tell the truth and let him go with the Prime Minister. I will not try to stop him. In view of the sensational pronouncements that have been made about the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bristol, East (Sir S. Cripps), I wonder what is going to be said about such a pronouncement as has been made on this occasion by a gentleman who desires just that the Prime Minister should tell the truth so that he can follow him heart and soul.
I should like to draw attention to the retort of the War Minister to the hon. Member who spoke from my left flank about foreign policy. How do you expect to understand or deal with the problem if that is how you face up to it? The young people in the youths' organizations—the Christian Youth Organisation or the Young Men's Christian Association—are all engaged in discussing the ques- 2070 tion of the League of Nations and collective security, and you will find, if you look at the reports of the discussions that take place, that they all, with scarcely an exception, condemn the Imperialist policy of the Nationalist Government. As a consequence of that, you get an atmosphere which is against the foreign policy of the Government. If hon. Members opposite will go among them and talk to them they will get discussions of foreign policy which will probably be a revelation to them.
Another question to which I want to draw attention is that of caste in the Army. It is not going to be solved by admitting a greater number from the ranks into the officer class. An hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that, when they come in from the ranks, the officers' mess welcomes them. The officers' mess welcomes them provided they are prepared to act as gentlemen would act, provided, not that they are capable military officers but that they cut off all associations with their former associates and become gentlemen. I have always wondered what was the matter with my hon. Friend on my right flank. I do not know how many military men are present, and I do not know of any particular representative of the Forces, but can you imagine a private coming along the Strand, meeting his colonel, and saying, "Hallo, Johnny. Come and have a drink "? Where would discipline be? We could never stand for that. Caste is there and a private coming along the street must understand that, if he meets an officer and a gentleman, he meets a superior being. As soon as a man comes from the ranks into the officers' mess, they start the process of corrupting him from being a real man to being a gentleman. That is one thing that has got to be finished if you want an Army that is concerned with the defence of the people of any country. You can never get an army while you have the caste system that exists to-day.
There is a question that I want to ask. Is it not the case that, if there is a young man in the Army—I will give the Minister proof if he wants it—who is physically fit and interested in his work, but the authorities find out that he is associated with the Communist movement, out he goes? There are politics in the Army, and the Army is for a particular political policy. Is it 2071 the case that, if a young man writes home for Communist literature, he gets gently and quietly slipped out of the Army? If it is true there are lots of young fellows in the Army who want to come out and they will know what to do—write home and ask for Communist
§ literature. The young man who joins the Army will thus be able to resign just as readily as officers do.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 146; Noes, 112.2073
|Division No. 40.]||AYES.||[7.30 p.m.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Grimston, R. V.||Orr-EwIng, I. L.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Penny, Sir G.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Guy, J. C. M.||Pilkington, R.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Hannah, I. C.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Radford, E. A.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H.(Isle of Thanet)||Harbord, A.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hepworth, J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Holdsworth, H.||Rowlands, G.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Holmes, J. S.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. 0. J.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hopkinson, A.||Salt. E. W.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hulbert, N. J.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn, Sir A. (Br.W.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Somerset, T.|
|Channon, H.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Colville, Lt-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff(W'st'r S.G'gs)||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Cooper, Rt.Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.)||Leckle, J. A.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Courthope, Cot. Sir G. L.||Levy, T.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Storey, S.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Loftus, P. C.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Cross, R. H.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Srauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|De Chair, S. S.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Denman. Hon. R. D.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Denville. Alfred||Magnay, T.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Doland, G. F.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Train, Sir J.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Markham, S. F.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Maxwell, S. A.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Emery, J. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Morgan, R. H.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Everard, W. L.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'str)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Muirhead, Lt-Cal. A. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lleut.-Colonel G.|
|Furness, S. N.||Munro, P.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Granville, E. L.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Mr. Palmer and Mr. AnstrutherGray.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Cocks, F. S.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Cove, W. G.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Daggar, G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Anderson. F. (Whitehaven)||Dalton, H.||Grenfell. D. R.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Barr, J.||Davies, S. 0. (Merthyr)||Groves, T. E.|
|Benson, G.||Dobbie, W.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Bromfield, W.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Ede, J. C.||Hardie, G. D.|
|Buchanan, G.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Burke. W. A.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hayday, A.|
|Cassells, T.||Gallacher, W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Chater, D.||Gibbins, J.||Hollins, A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Jagger, J.|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees. (K'ly)|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (heath)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Stephen, C.|
|John, W.||Oliver, G. H.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-sp'ng)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Owen, Major G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Parker, J.||Thorne, W.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Parkinson, J. A.||Thurtle. E.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Tinker, J, J.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Potts, J.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Lathan, G.||Price, M P.||Walker, J.|
|Lawson, J. J.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Watkins. F. C.|
|Leonard, W.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Logan, D. G.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Lunn, W.||Rlley, B.||Westwood, J.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Ridley, G.||White, H. Graham|
|MacLaren, A.||Ritson, J.||Whiteley, W.|
|Maclean, N.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Mander, G. le M.||Rowson, G.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Marshall, F.||Sanders, W. S.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Mathers, G.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Maxton, J.||Sexton, T. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Montague, F.||Short, A.||Commander Fletcher and Mr. Bellenger.|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Muff, G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. LOGAN rose—
§ It being after Half-past Seven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.