HC Deb 25 July 1939 vol 350 cc1404-7

Considered in Committee.

[Colonel CLIFTON BROWN in the Chair.]


Mr. Ammon

I take it that this is Vote A providing for an additional number for the Navy. If an opportunity is given to raise this matter on Report I shall take advantage of it, but notice has been given to the Admiralty.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)

The hon. Member may make his remarks on the Report stage.

Mr. Ammon

I have not the slightest objection to making my remarks on the Report stage if an opportunity is to be afforded, but the Parliamentary Secretary discussed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) and myself the point which we wished to raise as to the calling up of certain people and he undertook to meet it.

10.44 p.m

Mr. Garro Jones

May I, with great respect, Colonel Clifton Brown, draw attention to the fact that we have just passed the Report stage of certain Supplementary Estimates, and no doubt hon. Members thought they had been adequately discussed on the Committee stage. We are now on the Committee stage of certain further Supplementary Estimates.

The Deputy-Chairman

There is no Motion before the Committee at the moment, and the conversations that are going on are quite informal.

Captain Margesson

I do not move.

The Deputy-Chairman

Therefore, we cannot discuss that matter.



Motion made, and Question proposed,

" That an additional number of Land Forces, not exceeding 89,300, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at Home and abroad, exclusive of India and Burma, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, beyond the number already provided in the Army Estimates for the year."
Mr. Garro Jones

Will the Financial Secretary to the War Office give us a brief summary of the objects of this Supplementary Estimate?

10.45 P.m.

The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Sir Vector Warrender)

The Supplementary Estimate asks for an addition, under Vote A, of 89,000 men of all ranks to the 185,000 of all ranks provided for in the original Estimate, which will give us a total on Vote A of 275,000 men. The Estimate covers a variety of increases, with which I think the Committee will be familiar, which are connected with certain steps taken in recent months to add to the strength of the Army. For instance, we have called up, as hon. Members will recollect, members of the Reserve, including officers of the Regular Army Reserve and the Supplementary Reserve under the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act. We require these Reservists to take the place of certain Regulars who have been withdrawn from their Regular units mainly for the purpose of training the Militia. Further, under Vote A the numbers have been added to by reason of the embodiment of the anti-aircraft personnel of the Territorial Army. These men, as the Committee will realise, are to-day manning our anti-aircraft defences during the interval when we shall train the Militia, who will take over the permanent manning of these defences. I think that explains why we have to ask for these increases under Vote A. I do not think the Committee will wish me to go into any great detail, but if there are any questions which hon. Members desire to ask, I shall try to answer them.

10.47 p.m

Mr. Bellenger

Are we to understand that this Vote is for the Regular Army only, or does it include the Territorial Force? If it does include the latter Force, will the hon. Member tell us something about the numbers that have been recruited towards the doubling of the Territorial Force, which we were told some little time ago was the policy of the Government. The hon. Member has mentioned something about the Reservists. I should like to know from the Secretary of State or from the hon. Gentleman what is the policy followed in calling up Reservists. Is there any policy of calling up first those Reservists who have been some considerable time away from the Colours, or are the Reservists called up indiscriminately regardless of the time that they have been placed upon the Reserve, because it has been brought to my attention that in one particular camp—I have written to the Secretary of State about the matter, privately— Reservists have been called up who have not been long away from the Colours. There should be some policy followed in calling up these Reservists. It is desirable to call up, first, those Reservists who have been away from the Colours some time, because they probably need polishing up in their knowledge and training in weapons with which they are not familiar, in preference to those Reservists who have only recently left the Colours and been placed on the Reserve. The hon. Member might have been a little more informative as to the numbers that have been recruited in the Territorial Force. I hope that he will give us that information now.

10.49 p.m

Sir V. Warrender

I have not the exact figures, but I may say that we have recruited 200,000 men for the Territorial Army in the last three months. I am sorry that, without notice, I cannot give the exact figures.

Mr. Bellenger

Could the hon. Gentleman tell us how far short he is of the double strength of the Territorial Force which was asked for some time ago?

Sir V. Warrender

It is something in the nature of 30,000 or 40,000 men we still require. With regard to the question as to the reservists, we have deliberately called up those reservists who had most recently left the Colours because we required their services to help in the training. They would be the most useful. There are some who have not seen the most recent weapons and in that respect they are as out of date as the men who had left the Colours previous to them. It was because they were regarded as the most useful men to be used as instructors and trainers that we called them up in the first place.

Mr. Bellenger

Can we have an assurance that those reservists who have been called up for training are actually being trained in the use of these new weapons and not being put on fatigue duties and routine duties of that nature, because many of the men who have left good substantial jobs for their service feel that their service time should not be wasted, and they want to have adequate training in the time while they are called up and not be put on routine matters which in their view are a waste of time.

Sir V. Warrender

It is our deliberate policy that these men should be brought up to date as quickly as possible and trained in the use of all modern equipment. Some of them are being used to take the place of regular instructors who have left their units to train Territorials and militiamen, while others are being trained directly as instructors. I can assure the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) that we are not wasting a day of the reservists' service. It is essential from the Army point of view that when they leave their service they should be thoroughly familiar with the new weapons and equipment.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

I should like to ask a question about the 30,000 men whom the hon. Gentleman has told us we are short of for this doubling of the Territorial Army. For how long have we been short of them and what are the prospects of being able to recruit them? Has recruitment been impaired by the calling up of the militiamen?

Sir V. Warrender

No, Sir. I think one of the most remarkable things about the passage of the Military Training Act was the way in which recruiting was stimulated almost concurrently. Recruiting both for the Regular Army and the Territorial Army is constantly breaking records, and I have no doubt that if we continue in the way we have been going the shortage will very speedily be made up. Not only are we getting a magnificent response, but we are getting a magnificent type of man. That is a thing which I am sure the House will gladly note, as indeed does the whole country. Far from having a prejudicial effect recent innovations have had exactly the opposite effect.

Question put, and agreed to.