§ 12. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge (reduced by a sum, not exceeding £141,960, to be transferred from the Supplies Suspense Account), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for expenditure beyond the sum already granted for the Service of the Royal Ordnance Factories."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I have no doubt that by far the most important question that is at present to the fore in the military-sphere is the progress of the conversations between our Government and the Government of France. In his Estimates speech last week the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said that the conversations up to the present had not led to any final commitments, but it is fairly evident that when a crisis occurs there will be no time for prolonged discussion and the deliberations which are taking place now, I suppose almost certainly, will determine our final policy at that time. I imagine that when we speak of co-operation with France the French Government take a very simple 242 view of the matter. To them co-operation with France means the presence of British troops on the soil of France. That is why I wish to reinforce the warnings that my hon. Friends wish to give that those who speak for us should insist upon our right to elasticity, and should insist that there are other areas of possible conflict, especially in North Western Europe, where very vital British interests are concerned, where, even if we do send troops abroad, the need for assistance would be more urgent than anywhere else.
The special danger is this: When these discussions are taking place, however vital interests elsewhere may be, there is an assumption, perhaps a certainty, that the vital interests of those who are present at the discussions will be more forcibly stated than the interests of those who are not represented. In this case there are vital interests, very important to us, which are undoubtedly in danger, and I think it should be the duty of the British representatives to point out that those interests are British interests, and if they are British interests they are in the long run the interests of France. I have noticed in the last few months a series of articles in one newspaper after another about the position in Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland and the whole of that area of Europe—very disturbing articles indeed, not only about their position but about their environment. These articles are summarised in an article in the "Times" of 7th March, headed "The Shadow of the Swastika." The "Times" pointed out, with regard to the Scandinavian countries:It is widely believed that lists have been compiled by German agents of every independent business man in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, with full details of income, capital, family circumstances, hobbies, political sympathies and Jewish connections, if any. Pressure has been brought to bear upon local business men to discharge Jewish employés.And this appears to be very significant.
The Government sought to intervene.Professor Koht, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, and Mr. Sandier, the Swedish, have urged their business men to resist.The article goes on:All this begets a feeling that there is yet no limit in sight to Nazi German demands, political or economic; that these demands may descend on any country at any time.Then there are the other countries. In Belgium we know of the continuous activity in strengthening the Maginot Line, 243 and in Holland the anxiety is so great that I notice the Prime Minister has asked the people to remain calm. Let me revert to Denmark. I would call attention to the fact that Denmark has a Sudetenland, and although only 25 per cent. of the inhabitants of North Schleswig are German, nevertheless the threats against Denmark have been more menacing than those which were directed against Czecho-Slovakia just before the invasion began. I have here some quotations from the Nazi party Congress in the German part of Schleswig:The Swastika up to the Kongeaa.The principal duty of all party members is to conquer North Schleswig for Nazism, as we have done in Austria in spite of all opposition and trickery. We do not discuss frontiers; we conquer them with the force of our nation.So that I say that there are other countries whose interests are in danger, countries of great importance to us, and that it is the duty of our representatives to regard the care of those countries as their responsibility because those countries are not present at the discussions to which I have referred. From the very nature of the circumstances they cannot be present and yet these discussions are concerned with subjects which will undoubtely determine their fate.
I would like to revert to the Debate that took place last week on an Amendment with regard to the general role of the British Army as compared with the role of other elements in warfare, partly because some of my hon. Friends behind me wish it to be the topic of discussion and partly because from such information as I have it is clear that that kind of conception is behind any negotiations, say, with the French Government, and my information is that as a matter of fact the perspective which French soldiers take upon this topic of the general role of the British Army is not the perspective generally prevailing in this country. I will explain why I say that.
The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office closed the Debate last week with a speech which I thought to be of great importance. I am sorry that he spoke rather late, but it was a speech which was a very valuable statement indeed of what I take to be the general view in the Department which he represents. The central feature of his 244 statement was the emphasis, in modern land warfare, on the great advantage which defence is assuming over attack, an advantage so great that it is now considered as in the ratio of three to one. If that is so, if there has been this change in the situation since the last War, it obviously makes an enormous difference to the prospect of the part we may be called upon to play in France. France has the Maginot Line, the most elaborate defence the world has ever seen. If she is not satisfied she can build more. But there has never been anything like it before, and the general view I believe is that the frontiers are now so powerful that they are almost impregnable except at a cost too much to contemplate. In the Debate last week I said that in the crisis of last September it was generally held that the Siegfried Line, which must be a poor defence compared with the Magniot Line, as it has taken only a few months to build compared with years in the case of the Maginot Line, was almost impregnable.
That leads me to the fact which, I think, should dominate our discussion, and that is that it is quite possible in warfare the two frontiers may be actually locked, and it will not be possible to carry through successful attacks. If that is so, it leads one to conclusions of immense importance, and one of them is this. No war is quite like the last, and it may be that in the next war it will be found that mere land forces will not be able to force a decision. The discussions on the Air Estimates made it clear that if you have air forces of anything like equal strength on the two sides then air forces cannot force a decision. You are, therefore, left with the Navy as your final instrument, with the power of production and finance which can be accumulated behind the shield which the Navy presents. All this was obviously true until the Munich Agreement, because it is clear that under these conditions any conflict of a long duration would be a conflict of economic resources, and that means that the country which has command of the immeasurable raw materials required would have a great advantage in the end. That happens to be the direction in which we have the advantage, and in which Germany of all nations is most singularly weak. Herr Goebbels has complained that of the 18 main raw materials required for war Germany produces only two in 245 her own territories, except by synthetic processes—coal and potash. Therefore, if conflict had broken out in September and the war had been anything but a short one, I do not see how the German Government could have held out for a great many months.
I would like to consider the effect of all this on the Munich Agreement. It was an immense diplomatic victory for Germany. It altered the whole of her outlook, and opened out to her all the potential raw materials of South-Eastern Europe and a part of Russia. I do not believe, however, that this has turned the scale for one or two reasons. The countries in South-Eastern Europe are showing themselves capable of a great deal of resistance, and it is not clear that they are going to be the milch cows for another German war. They may have to be conquered. But there is another fact which has been revealed by the circumstances which accompanied Dr. Schacht's resignation. I understand that although South-Eastern Europe has these raw materials, they are at present buried in the soil; they are not developed. It would require immense masses of capital and a long time before they could be developed and used in the enormous quantities which would be required by Germany in time of war. To develop them would need a vast amount of capital, and one thing which was clear in Dr. Schacht's resignation was that he told the German Government they were expending the maximum capital at present on German rearmament, and that they could not spend any more capital on rearmament without gravely imperilling the whole German economic system. If Dr. Schacht is right, it is clear that Germany has not got great quantities of surplus capital to develop the raw materials of South-Eastern Europe. Therefore, I come back to the original position, that the great advantage of this country, which it would be foolish to sacrifice for anything else, is that with the Navy we can prevent Germany getting raw materials from outside, and that we ourselves can draw them from the whole world provided we maintain the financial strength to bring them to our shores.
That appears to me to be the perspective of the subject, and I think it is much better to concentrate on that which will turn the scale, and not to give way to any demands which would sacrifice 246 this advantage. I emphasise this for this reason. From what I hear, French soldiers do not attach the same importance to the part played by the Navy as we do. That is a most profound difference in perspective. The military writer "Scrutator," whom most people know, pointed out this fact in the "Sunday Times" last Sunday. It is true now, and it was true during the discussions which preceded the War, in 1914—the French paid no attention to the British Navy. I have here the life and diaries of Sir Henry Wilson. He was seeing the French continually in 1913 before the War. He saw Generals Castelnau, Joffre, and Foch. There had been some articles in the "Times" pointing out the important part which might be played by the British Navy, and the view which these French Generals took, according to Sir Henry Wilson, was that Generals Castelnau and Joffre did pot value the British Navy "at one bayonet" and later on he says that General Foch was exactly of the same opinion.
That was the prevailing view before the last War after all the experience of the years before, and I am not surprised to be told that it is the prevailing view today in spite of what happened 18 years ago. For that reason I think it is necessary that we should be perfectly frank in these discussions, and not be pushed off by the purely military view of this subject. There is one further example I may quote from the article in the "Times" to illustrate my point. There is a moving speech by the Minister of Defence for Sweden. One does not often bring Sweden into these discussions, but it will illustrate how great the danger is. He said:Our blood turns cold at the thought that our children will be compelled to speak a foreign tongue and that we ourselves may-have to die so that the Swedish people may-live.Why is that? It is because, in spite of Munich, Germany has no iron ore at her disposal unless she obtains it from Sweden. The only other place from which she can get it is the Ural Mountains, and consequently Sweden is in great danger. Therefore, if British troops are to be used, it will be far better to use them for key positions than to send them anywhere else.
Let me put two questions to the Secretary of State for War about the 247 Territorials. They are now to be part of the same scheme as the Regular Army. The Regular Army will be equipped with all modern weapons by the end of the next financial year. I should like to ask whether the Territorials will be similarly equipped, and whether the right hon. Gentleman can give any indication when they will be ready to support the Regulars —after a reasonable interval of time, say, six months? I desire to deal with only one other subject, but it is one which, I think, is of great importance, and should be brought to the attention of the House now. It is the position of the Expeditionary Force. Under the conditions which now exist, the Expeditionary Force has no Air Arm of its own at all. The problem has been solved as regards the Navy, but it has been left untouched as regards the Army. The Army cannot go abroad unless there are fighter squadrons with it to protect the Army co-operation squadrons.
This is a very terrible dilemma, because those very fighter squadrons are the squadrons that will be required for home defence. I can imagine the feelings of a city which is being bombed if the fighter squadrons are taken away. On the other hand, I can imagine the dismay of the country as a whole if, because there are not fighter squadrons to go abroad, a vital point is being lost while the Army remains unoccupied at home. This will be a very terrible decision to take, and at present, undoubtedly, the presumption will be against the Army. That happened last time, and for that reason a few years ago I made the suggestion, which I thought was a good one, that as soon as possible the Army should be provided with a number of fighter squadrons to correspond with the number of Army cooperation squadrons. That suggestion was taken up, and I have not followed it for two or three years, because I thought something would happen, but up to the present nothing has happened. However, in the last War, when the decision had to be made, the presumption was all against the Army.
There is an account of this subject in Mr. Spaight's "Air Power in the Next War," a book of great authority which Lord Trenchard said we all ought to read, and so I turn to see what Mr. Spaight has to say about that problem and about what happened in the last war. He points 248 out that all the air attacks in the last war killed in this country only 1,500 people. That is very terrible, but it is only about a quarter of what the motor cars kill in one year, and in order to protect the country against that, over 36 squadrons of aeroplanes were kept in this country during the most vital period and when we were nearly being driven from our superiority in the air owing to the new German Albatros fighter. Fighter squadrons were not sent abroad, but were kept at home, and at certain of the most vital periods squadrons were actually taken away from the warfare in France and sent home to protect London. There is a quotation in this book from Group Captain Slessor:The activities of these few German bombers, miles away from the scene of the battle on the ground, had an effect upon the air situation over the decisive front which, though incalculable, must have been enormous; at least they prevented us from obtaining a degree of air superiority that in all probability would have materially shortened the war.That is why I made the suggestion to which I have referred, some two or three years ago, and I thought some steps were being taken in regard to it, but there was a paper read last week or the week before at the Royal United Service Institution by Group Captain A. J. Capel, who discussed this very topic at great length, and he pointed out that no decision had been taken at all and that when the time came it would be left to the Cabinet. That means that the subject has not been dealt with. I have not actually criticised the arrangement by which the proportion of fighters was to be increased. I think one of the purposes to which it might be put is that the Army should have a proportion of these machines, so that there would be elasticity, but the rule which regulates the Army co-operation squadrons should be observed, and they should only be diverted away from the Army by the consent of the Army Council.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House, in conclusion, one broad result which comes more and more powerfully to my mind in all these defence Debates. I find that when we discuss in this House great problems of this kind affecting one Department by itself, something is effected. It may take a year or two years, but something begins to happen. But when we discuss great 249 problems where two or three Departments are concerned, or where wider problems, such as the role of any of the Services, are concerned, I complain once more, as I did last year, that I do not think our discussions are any good; they are not fruitful; Ministers give us practically no guidance; and if you take up a subject and drop it for two or three years, and then come back again to it, you find that meanwhile nothing has happened. This is a very great gap in our whole system. We have discussed a Ministry of Supply, and a Ministry of Defence, and we have established a Ministry for the Co-ordination of Defence, but I come back to the belief that we need a collective brain somewhere, which we have not at present got, for topics of this wider character. I am sure that we shall repeat our last experience unless we do this, because if we do not have that collective brain when the time of trial comes, the problems of war will again be solved by throwing men into mass slaughter, because there is no mechanism as yet for thinking these problems out, as far as they can be thought out, before the men take the field.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
If I do not follow the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), who spoke for the Opposition, into the very wide field which he has traversed, and which at points he has illuminated, it is because I hope that later on in the Session we shall have it discussed in a Debate on the Committee of Imperial Defence, or on the salary of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I presume that that is so. I address myself directly to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It always has been so, but if there is not to be such a Debate—
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
I do not wish to express an opinion on it. These things are generally arranged through the usual channels.
§ Mr. Churchill
On the contrary, I remember three or four occasions when it has been asked in ordinary debate, by ordinary Members, whether there would be an opportunity of debating the three arms combined, on the Committee of Imperial Defence Vote, and I remember that an affirmative answer has nearly always been given in such cases.
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Gentleman would not, I am sure, wish to confine all requests made to him to the usual channels. Members in the House have a perfect right to put questions and to raise points about Votes to be discussed, and I asked, in a passing remark, whether there would not be the usual opportunity given for a general discussion on the three arms combined. At any rate, it is for that reason, because I expect that such an opportunity will be given, that I do not attempt to follow the speaker from the Opposition Front Bench into the very interesting survey which he has made. But there is one point to which I will certainly refer. He spoke of the number of aeroplane squadrons which in the last War were retained in this country at critical times by the fear of air attack, and the great diminution in our effective air force at the front which was entailed thereby. But that is going to happen in every country and over a far larger sphere than has, I think, been realised. The fact that air attack has spread this vast general alarm throughout the whole area of countries is going to mean that the feature of the next war—and, after all, that is the war that, from a military point of view, we must consider, though certainly the War Office is said to be always preparing for the last war—the feature of the next war will be a very vast diminution in the offensive power at the front, because of the enormous abstraction from the resources of the nations which will be frittered away, or dispersed, or in many cases wasted, over a vast area of home defence, against this attack from the sky.
When you recollect that Germany probably has 7,000 anti-aircraft guns, with gunners and batteries, all standing in their places to-day, and that in the late War those 7,000 guns, probably as many as went into action at the beginning of the War, would all have been at the fighting front, it is not only this country and the Air Arm which will be subjected to continual diminution, drain, pulling back from the front, and dispersal, but all countries and all arms; and I entirely agree that you may very easily reach static conditions at the fortified fighting line, and that other stresses and other strains will come into play, out of which the decision of the great struggle may arise. I did not intend to be drawn far 251 into that particular topic, but only to refer to it, as it seemed to me quite a suggestive point that the right hon. Gentleman brought forward.
I would like to compliment the Secretary of State for War upon his speech the other day. It was a very excellent and carefully considered statement, and I am very much in favour of carefully considered statements, however well they are prepared. The better they are prepared, the greater the advantage to the House, because it is far more desirable that we should receive a statement which is the result of weeks of careful thought, although it is clearly in an advanced state of preparation before it is delivered— in fact, I think this one was in print before it was delivered—than that we should be treated to a discourse which, though it may have superior oratorical merits, does not carry with it anything like the same measure of information and of thought to the House. I think my right hon. Friend made a very admirable speech, which will bear careful scrutiny and study in future years and will be looked upon as one of the definite pronouncements on behalf of the War Office upon military policy.
There are a few points, and very few, to which I venture to draw attention this afternoon. They are all concerned purely with the Army; they do not touch any of these other, wider topics. First of all, I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State, and His Majesty's Government, and the Prime Minister—congratulate them all—upon the decision to which they have come to arm the Territorial Force with the same weapons and equipment and on the same scale as the Regular Army. We may recall a shocking sentence in the White Paper of March, 1936, the same month three years ago, in which it was stated:For the present, owing to the demands upon the capacity of industrial output which must necessarily be made in the first instance by the Regular Army, it is not possible simultaneously to recondition the Territorial Army.Immediately, I asked why. These two Forces put together, I said, are only 250,000 men, and we are told that our vast, adaptable British industry would not be capable of providing for these two Forces simultaneously. I called it a very bad sentence, one which ought never to 252 have appeared, and an altogether wrong decision of policy. 'It seemed such a monstrous thing that we should appeal to the youth of our country to come forward and join the Territorial Army—just a few men, a couple of hundred thousand out of all the manhood of the nation—to come forward and take on this extreme obligation of serving anywhere at any time should the emergency occur, perhaps not even in their own units; to come forward and undertake that devoted sacrifice the like of which has been hardly seen in any other sphere of life; and then, when they did that, not even to give them the ordinary weapons which are necessary, and which would put them on equal terms with the contemporary forces they might have to meet. I thought it was a deplorable situation.
I am not blaming my right hon. Friend who was Secretary of State at that time, because I had it out with him in private, and I well know how glad he would have been if the funds and sanctions had been forthcoming which would have enabled that obviously necessary step to be taken. Actually the Minister of a Service Department would always be glad if those provisions were made. I entirely agree with the doctrine that the Minister of a Service Department is under no obligation to resign simply because he does not get this, that or the other thing for which he is asking; any theory that he should do so would make the course of government intolerable. It is only on very grave issues, moral issues or issues affecting the life and safety of the country, that the weapon of resignation should be used. Therefore, in what I say I am not making any aspersions upon my right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War. It was a matter of Cabinet policy, and those who were controlling the policy of the Cabinet in March, 1936, are responsible.
I am not being wise after the event, because I could read arguments which I addressed to the House—I am not going to do so—both in March and November of that year, and in the year following, urging that the equipment of the Territorial Army should be undertaken pari passu with that of the Regular Army. One must regard the decision of policy in that sentence of the White Paper of 1936 as being very short-sighted and altogether wrong, wrong not only from the point of view of judgment, but wrong from the point of view of the spirit in which it was 253 taken. Of course, my arguments made no difference. It was pointed out at the time that the forces behind the administration were perfectly ready to deny the Territorial Army the weapons which it needed at that time, and to stand by while there was that neglect. When I used these arguments—in vain—a few Members said, "Hear, hear!" but the great bulk of the supporters of the Government merely gaped, and went away. [An Hon. Member: "The Labour party voted against you."] The Conservative party has always, or at any rate for 100 years, had the tradition of endeavouring to sustain the defences of the country and the safety of the country. It is only in recent times that we have reached the position where, whatever the Government decide to do or not to do, there is no means of shifting them by Parliamentary debate or by the pressure of party, and in many cases the arguments are not fairly met. I thought at that time that there was no one in the House who did not think that we ought to undertake the rearmament of the Territorial Army at the same time as the Regular Army; but nothing was done and nothing has been done until now—three years later.
The present Secretary of State for War is more fortunate than his predecessor. He functions at a period when the ruling powers in the Government are, I will not say fully instructed, but more fully instructed upon verities than they were in March, 1936. Now we have this declaration which was made last Wednesday which tells this band of devoted men, who join the Territorial Army, who come forward to our aid, that at any rate they will be given the equipment, weapons, tackle, and tools necessary to enable them to do their job. But how are we to excuse the waste of these three years? Three years have gone. If those orders had been given then, we should now have the original 14 divisions of the Territorial Army, or whatever form they would have taken, equipped with modern weapons, whereas, as is perfectly well known to every General Staff in Europe, a long, painful, critical interval lies between us, before we can attain the position which prudent forethought, nay, right thinking and decent thinking would have secured for us easily by now.
The Government, no doubt, will protest that they never thought in 1936 254 things would turn out so rough. Well, they were wrong. If that is what they thought, it is clear that they were wrong; and anyone who accepted it from them was misled. But then there were 1937 and 1938, when things were a great deal worse, when successive warnings occurred, when one event after another began to shake the stability of Europe, when a stream of facts flowed in from every quarter showing the immense preparations that were being made elsewhere and the dangerous ambitions that were, nursed. Still the Territorial Army was denied its weapons, still we were told that its equipment could begin only after the equipment of the Regular Army was completed. I believe that on the original programme it was to be 1940 or 1941 before it could even be begun on a large scale.
I quite recognise that the Prime Minister and his colleagues are perfectly safe and will get away with it. They will get away with it without any difficulty, because there are too many in it, Many powerful forces and interests have been responsible for the decision, and the great mass of a great party has endorsed it, and endorsed the neglect. So, undoubtedly, they will escape. What would have been the fate of any other administration that I have ever seen on that Bench, if faced by anything like an equal Parliamentary opposition, would have been the grave censure of Parliament. That the Government will escape. They will face only such censure as the course of events may inflict upon them in the pages of history. No doubt many will say what very bad taste it is for me to mention that fact. They will say that the Territorial Army is now being armed, that I am getting what I asked for, only three years later than it was asked for. Why look a gift horse in the mouth? Why not accept it in the spirit in which it is made? I will endeavour to do so, and I will conclude this section of my remarks by offering my sincere congratulations to His Majesty's Government upon the decision to which they have come in this matter.
I should also like to praise the Government and the Secretary of State for the declaration that they have made that it is our duty to provide 19 Divisions from this country, apart from our Reserves in India and the Middle East, for general 255 service overseas should the occasion require it. That is a momentous declaration. I have rarely heard anything so important stated in a Service Debate. Anyone can see the explanation. It is the first instalment of the bill for Munich. People say that we are not involved in the affairs of these remote countries, but afterwards it is found that they alter the whole life of the people of this country, their daily habits, their financial position, their trade, everything. This is the first instalment. I wish I could think it was the last instalment of this bill which has come in, but I am afraid that other drafts will be presented month after month and year after year through the greater part of our lifetime. It is a great pity that this statement was not made a year or two years ago. I am not aware that there has been any alteration, except the destruction of Czecho-Slovakia, in the factors at work in the world during these two years. It was clearly visible that a great danger was approaching and that the stronger this country was, the more likely we were to be able to ward it off.
Of course, we shall be told that the public would not have stood it. I think there is something in that. I do not under-rate the effort that would have been required from Ministers if they had made this declaration a year or two years ago. The outcry that would have been directed upon them would have been a very serious one. Yet, when all is said and done, I certainly cannot recall any instance in my lifetime, or in recent times I have read about, when, if Ministers went in faith and confidence to the nation and demanded particular measures, and gave as reasons that the national safety was involved, those measures have not only been voted by Parliament, but even more actively supported by the people at large. Tell me anything for which a Government has asked to defend this country which has been denied. I cannot recall such a case. I remember that before the War there were a great many struggles inside the Government as to the provision that should be made, but the House was overwhelming, divided as it was on party lines, and in the country, fighting as it was for party politics, there was not the slightest hesitation in providing whatever was necessary. And believe me, the Government will have to make more heavy demands upon the country, demands 256 which now seem to them as difficult as it would have been to have asked for 19 Divisions of the Army. The time will come when they will have to make those demands, but if they will face that as a necessity, the people of this island will submit and endorse those steps which are necessary for their safety and freedom and the triumph of world causes with which they believe the life and honour of this country to be inseparably bound up.
At any rate, a year ago, after Austria was subjugated, there was a temper in the land which would have welcomed such a declaration, and if it had been made on top of the decision to equip the Territorial Army earlier, and at the same time as the Regular Army, with modern weapons, then very likely the whole course of history would have flowed by now into much easier channels, and we should not now be the prey to the gnawing anxieties which afflict every thinking man. The more resolute he is to do his duty in these times, the more these anxieties must crowd upon him, and crowd upon him in the morning and in the night.
I must congratulate the Government again on this, and I do so on the basis, better late than never, provided that it is not too late. But these 19 divisions which are spoken of as an oversea expeditionary force involve a very serious obligation. Other people will count upon those divisions, and even though you may not have made any commitments, here or there, undoubtedly the object of this announcement was that reassurance should be given elsewhere. Other people will count upon the delivery of these divisions, wherever, in any common struggle, a real need may arise, and then you will have to produce those divisions. It is not a question of paper schemes or of a declaration in principle. You have to produce and hold available for general service in the common cause, in a war in which we are defending ourselves against aggression, with Allies, 19 divisions from this country alone, for expeditionary service. That is a tremendous declaration, and it is in no wise diminished by saying that they will go in certain echelons, and so on. That is not what will be regarded elsewhere. What will be looked at abroad is the declaration itself. It will be looked at by your friends, who will count upon it, and by your potential enemies, who will probably take counter-measures as 257 far as those are in their power. There-tore, I say that it is a most serious obligation.
I wish to ask, then, what steps are being taken to provide these 19 divisions of the Field Force, as it is called, with the necessary equipment? Hitherto, we have not contemplated anything of the kind. Evidently large new installations must be set up for this purpose. It is not only that equipment will have to be made for a force of this size but that plant must be created, in actuality and potentially for the maintenance of such a force in action. The moment a division goes into action it bums up, not only human life but every form of war material at a prodigious rate. I remember in the early days of the War asking Lord Kitchener why he did not send out one or two Territorial divisions—Kitchener Army divisions—to help our struggling, torn front line. He said, "If they get there what are they going to eat? What are they going to consume? I have not got it." What is being done about this in the present instance? I asked the question the other day before I knew this statement was going to be made. What is to be done to provide the great ammunition supply that will be required when large armies are in the field? Has that been settled yet? It certainly does not exist at present. That we know. We have always been assured that all the programmes of artillery and munitions, machine-guns, anti-tank rifles, grenades and the like have been made upon the approved scale, but what is the scale? I put it to the House that the scale has now been vastly increased. It has been increased to the scale of the units that would be employed in the full blaze of a European war.
Again, I ask, what is going to be done about it? The right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench mentioned a very pregnant fact in this connection. If we contemplate a field army of 19 divisions—and more if we include Egypt and India—how, he asked, do we propose to provide it with the necessary air force, the military co-operation squadrons, the artillery spotting squadrons, and the fighters to protect it? Certainly all that involves a great new expansion of Air Force activities, and we should like to know in good time from the Government that steps are being taken to deal with this matter, because otherwise 258 we run the risk of making a potential threat in the shape of 19 divisions, and of having, when the time comes, no effectual means of making it good. Thus, as I say, you would excite the counter-preparations, but find yourself without your own resources when the time came. I should think that the approved scale of the Expeditionary Force has been at least doubled.
I wish to know: Are you now planning and making factories for the production of the supplies necessary to keep such a force in the field? Are you not only making the weapons to give them at the outset, but are you laying down and preparing factories in the country, which, when these divisions are engaged in action —as they will be as soon as they can be prepared, if we are at war—will enable them to have a continuous supply of ammunition? Practically everything such as rifles and equipment, which is put into the hands of troops engaged in war is destroyed before a year is out and sometimes much more quickly. What is being done to maintain supplies? Whatever might have been said three years ago, surely it is relevant now to ask that we should have from the Government a very clear and precise statement on this subject. I do not say that we should have such a statement to-day, because we shall have other opportunities which will be more suitable, of showing the House the scale—and I am not sure that it is my right hon. Friend who ought to do it— upon which factories are being laid out to meet these new requirements both for the service of the Army itself and for the Air Forces which will be attendant upon the increased Army.
This does not mean, let me say, that everything should be provided by special factories. That, I certainly do not think necessary. You make the factories which you need to produce the required material and equipment, but for the war potential in this class of article, it is a question of the preparation of factories, which will continue to work at civil production, for alternative forms of production to which they can immediately turn over when required. This means that you will mark down a great many factories for cannon production, rifle production, shell production and the like; that all the plans will be made, that the jigs and gauges for the alternative production will be made and held in store at the factories, that the 259 necessary alterations in lay-out of the existing factories will all have been considered, that the re-arrangement of skilled labour will have been gone into carefully, so that in a few days or at most in a week or two, a large number of plants now making for civil purposes can leap into war activity.
There has not been in Germany for three or four years a single factory which has not everything arranged for this kind of alternative production. One hears so many things nowadays that it is very difficult to discriminate between truth and rumour, but I have heard that the actual deliveries of the raw material required for the preparation of the factories for war production, have, over a very large part of Germany, recently been completed. I hope to hear from the Secretary of State, or from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, or his representative, that the industrial arrangements are being made which will enable 19 divisions to be maintained at the front on the same scale as the divisions of other countries which they might have to meet. This is a very considerable effort, and I say, again, that if you expect Lord Chatfield, who has to deal with great questions of strategic coordination, to get a move on with this great expansion in the industrial sphere, without having under him a really responsible Minister in the House of Commons with full executive power, you will only have in the end another failure and another awakening to grim reality.
The Secretary of State for War takes great pains with his work. I have watched his career with much sympathy —except on some occasions—and I should like to remain one of his supporters. He has given us a very broad view of Army problems, but I have always been surprised that we have heard nothing from him, either last year or now, about draft-finding units. I have followed Army Debates in this House for nearly 40 years. I knew the great champions of the Card-well system. I have heard all the discussions in this House about the abolition of the old Militia and the alternative provided, when the Militia was abolished, of the 60 Special Reserve battalions of Lord Haldane. It was always understood that those draft-finding units were an absolutely vital need in the maintenance of divisions at the front—just as much as their ammunition. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has never given 260 any sign, in any speech of his which I have heard, that he is even aware of this problem. It may be that he has a complete plan which he has not had time to mention yet, but I do not remember any explanation being given us of how the function which used to be discharged by the Militia, and was afterwards discharged by the Special Reserve battalions, is discharged at the present time.
Let me put the actual position to the House. Under the linked-battalion system, there is one battalion abroad and one at home. The battalion abroad is at full strength and the battalion at home is raised to full strength on mobilisation by calling up the Reserve. The battalion at home also trains recruits and sends them out to the battalion abroad when they have been properly trained. That is the admirable balance of the Cardwell system. An emergency is declared; the reserves are called up, the regular home battalion is mobilised; it proceeds on active service, it marches out of the barrack gate to the port of embarkation, and what happens then? Remember that the other linked battalion already on foreign service, is also probably in action at the same time, so that there are two battalions to be fed—not one feeding the other, but something else feeding both. How shall we provide for both to be filled from the one depot? In the course of three months' fighting, what with casualties, sickness and other drains upon them, these battalions will require to be reinforced by certainly 30 or 40 per cent., or perhaps more, of their original numbers. Volunteers you will have in plenty of reservists there may even be, for the first few months a surplus but when all these pour into the depot at the deserted barracks, how are they to be handled and trained? Are they merely to be trained in an incoherent body, or are they to be woven into the structure of the military unit? That is a very important matter.
I am sorry to be so technical, but we have to look at these points. There is nothing in this about which we need quarrel. I am sure the Secretary of State will be able to give us a full explanation. I am not at all supposing that this is a matter which has entirely escaped his attention, but it has escaped the attention of many. It was always thought that the Militia battalions or the Special Reserve battalions, which succeeded them, that is to say battalions which already had a 261 recognised existence, would come into these barracks and spring into full life, and grip all these ardent recruits and surplus reservists into the structure of the regiment, and that their training would proceed at an intensified rate within the proper, necessary structure and encadrement, so that drafts could be sent continuously to the front, with a sense of incorporation in the regiment to which they belonged, while at the same time-mark this—these Special Reserve battalions themselves would possess, at every moment, an important intrinsic value for home defence.
Do not let us under-rate that factor. We have been talking about fighter squadrons which might be kept back, and which would be needed with the expeditionary force, but how do you know, when your expeditionary force has gone, when it has disappeared from this country, whether, under new conditions of warfare, you will not have an invasion of forces conveyed by air? If you have no troops at all, or very few, and no arrangements or organisation for large numbers of armed men, who will be there at your command and awaiting your orders, it would be quite possible for an enemy to land 4,000 or 5,000 men by an appropriate arrangement of aeroplanes. It would be perfectly easy to do so. There are tremendous munition centres that might be captured and great ports that might be seized, bat not if the whole population is armed and trained as is the case in Europe. Then a large force can be gathered from any part of the country. If the defensive part of our Territorials is confined to the business of anti-aircraft artillery and the other part has gone away and been earmarked for the expeditionary force, it is indispensable that there should be definite units always in being which are capable of proceeding to any point. There are many cases where even an invading force of 500 men could do immense havoc before they were arrested, and the idea that we should not have a nucleus force of that character at this time is altogether unwise. I was always brought up to believe that the draft-finding units were one of the keys to military organisation. I hope that we may hear from the Secretary of State how he proposes to deal with this subject and what is to be the condition of the depots when the troops have marched away to the front.
262 I have, I think, been critical, but I hope not entirely captious in my criticism. I should like to pay my tribute to the great achievement of the Secretary of State for War in the improvement of recruiting. He took over at a time when it was still fashionable to doubt the possibility of war, and to scoff at ideas that we should ever again send a large expeditionary force overseas. Undoubtedly there has been an enormous improvement, not only in the Regulars, but in the Territorials. It is a strange and, indeed, a sublime quality in human nature that men should come forward and volunteer the more actively as the service likely to be required from them becomes more arduous and dangerous. This faculty is a gift of the gods to nations which have in them the quality of survival. The increase of danger, the probabilities of having to go and fight and die, have been the great recruiting sergeant this year among our youth. But none of this should deprive the Secretary of State for War of a large share of the credit for the improvement in recruiting. He has made the Regular Service attractive in many ingenious material and moral ways. He has made it possible for those who wish to join the Territorials to get a measure of training without upsetting their ordinary lives. He has presided over a marked revival of the British military spirit and he has contributed to it by many well-conceived and notable expedients.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I trust that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will permit me to say that he is not only a master of Parliamentary procedure, but one of its best military tacticians. Many of us thought when he opened his remarks by his references to the Government, the Secretary of State for War and even the Prime Minister, that he was at last going to make full repentance for all the criticisms he has brought to bear on the Government in the past. The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is unwise to unmask one's heavy artillery too early in the battle, and his opening remarks were in the nature of a slight musketry firing preliminary to the real battle which he disclosed later in his remarks. The right hon. Gentleman is still critical of the Government and even of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and I think rightly 263 so, because, as I listened to his remarks, as I have listened to them on numerous occasions before, I thought there was one thing which all Members would concede to him. That is, that he applies his mind to the problems which arise and which the Government themselves have so sadly neglected in the past.
One aspect of the right hon. Gentleman's speech comes rather close to certain things which we on these benches have advocated, although probably for different reasons. I refer to the national control of industry. The right hon. Gentleman voiced the same opinions as those to which we have given expression. The only difference is that the right hon. Gentleman advocates the control and planning of industry when war comes, whereas we advocate it for peace time and for different purposes. The right hon. Gentleman is right when he says that if and when war comes it will be impossible to carry on business as usual, as we said we could do in the last War. If I understood his speech aright, he explained the nature of the complete and total warfare of the future. He referred to the party methods of pre-War days and perhaps he placed his finger on the vital spot of post-War days. I believe that the apathy and lethargy among the forces of the Government which the right hon. Gentleman so strongly criticised is due to the fact that we have got no party warfare at the present time so far as the present Government is concerned. We have a Coalition Government, and probably that is the reason why hon. Gentlemen opposite will not give vent to their feelings and opinions, many of which are similar to those held by the right hon. Gentleman. At any rate, they will not express them on the Floor of the House, although they may exchange them in certain other places.
I would like to refer to two or three points in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. In dealing with the field force, he indicated that there would be five Regular divisions and 14 Territorial divisions, and he informed us thatthe regular part of the field force consists of four infantry divisions and an armoured division, generally known as the mobile division.Further on, he says: 264The present armoured division is based on three brigades of three regiments or battalions, all armed with tanks."—[Official Report, 8th March, 1939; col. 2171, Vol. 344]I take it that the infantry divisions which he mentioned will be complete with their artillery, and also that the artillery will be what we used to know as divisional artillery. In the last War the heavier artillery, from 6–in. howitzers upwards, were under the control of the Corps, and, indeed, sometimes, as in the case of 15–in. guns or howitzers, even under Army control. I would like to ask whether provision has been made so that these four infantry divisions will be complete with the heavier artillery, particularly the 6–in. howitzers, which are now almost as mobile as the lighter artillery. In the last War 6–in. howitzers were effective counter battery weapons, and I take it that they still perform the same function. Another point, which was raised on Tuesday by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), is in regard to the pay and allowances of the younger married soldiers. It is nothing less than a scandal that these married men of under 26, whom the right hon. Gentleman is recruiting to-day, who are ready to give their all in the event of war, should in peace time be forced to allow their wives and families to go to the Poor Law for relief. We all welcome the efforts which the right hon. Gentleman has made in the past to increase the scale of pay for serving soldiers. He has shown courage and foresight in that respect, and I appeal to him to tackle the question of married soldiers under 26 in the same enlightened manner as that in which he has dealt with the scales of pay and other conditions of the serving soldier who may not be married.
I would like to turn to the strategic role of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that we are to be committed to an expeditionary force in the event of war. This is something which I should imagine those who have studied this subject would have realised long ago. For some reason the Government have not indicated as clearly as the right hon. Gentleman did last Wednesday that if war broke out we should have to send an expeditionary force somewhere. Where are we going to send it? The right hon. Gentleman has obviously concentrated on what we used to know as the Western Front. I am led to say that because of a remark which he made in referring to the 265 Prime Minister's guarantee which has been given to France, and which we all welcome. In all probability the Western Front in the next war will assume the same proportions as it did in the last War. Therefore, I suppose we are committed to our expeditionary force going to France.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about 19 divisions going to France according to a time schedule. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping referred to the drafts which will be necessary in order to keep these 19 divisions up to fighting strength. Is it not evident that, if we get another war on the scale which has been envisaged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, we should have to find considerably more than 19 divisions to go to the Western Front. If that be so, what plans have been made for that eventuality, which may be near or may be far away? Although recruiting has made strides during the last year, we have not sufficient numbers for equipping those 19 divisions and keeping them as a fighting force in the field if we sent them across.
There is another point to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer. It must be evident that if we are involved in another war it will not only mean the mobilisation of the Regular Army and a few divisions in the Territorial Army but the complete mobilisation of our people as it took place in the last War. That will mean that we must first convince our people of the righteousness of our cause and the necessity for those huge armies, as occurred in 1914–18. What actually happened in the last War? Calls were made upon the man-power of the country, and the response in the first few months was excellent. I speak as one who joined in August, 1914. What happened? We went in our civilian clothes, and when we got to our depots the conditions there were simply chaotic even to the feeding arrangements; and as for the training facilities, we had no actual training, I believe, until several months had elapsed. That may have been all right in the last War, but if we are faced with an enemy with the power which Germany possesses to-day, as far as field forces are concerned, the 19 divisions which the right hon. Gentleman will be throwing into battle in the early months will be of small effect unless we have a powerful force behind them to back them up.
266 That leads to this conclusion, that if war is a possibility, and everybody knows that it is, we must not only prepare for 19 Divisions but prepare the nation for some greater effort than that, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he is doing regarding it? He has to prepare the minds of the nation as well as their bodies, so that our people may realise what a future war will mean. Too often in speeches made by Members of the Government the minds of the nation, particularly the minds of the young people, have been confused as to the issue and as to the demands which may be made upon them if war should come.
In saying that I do not wish to say that I desire the training of the nation to be on a military footing, because it is the last thing I want. Personally, I had enough of military training in the four or five years of the last War. But although I suppose that I am over-age as far as expeditionary forces are concerned—although I am not quite sure of that—if the necessity should arise then those of us who survived the last War would be ready and willing to give our services in whatever capacity we could.
I was quite surprised by and regretted the reply which the Prime Minister gave to me recently in this House when I asked in what particular capacity Members of Parliament would be expected to serve in the event of war. The Prime Minister merely said that it was for every individual Member to decide for himself. I suggest to the Government that they will have to give a more powerful lead to the country before they can get the forces which they know to be necessary. And what are the Government doing in order to get that unity which alone can give us the man-power, and the material too, which will be necessary in order to fight this totalitarian warfare if and when it should come? In saying this we all hope that it will not come, but we should be fools if we believed that it is not possible, and listening as I do on occasions to the speeches and remarks made by leading members of the Government it seems to me that this catastrophe may not be very far away.
In talking about the large numbers which will be required if war should come I endorse fully the remarks which have been made by my right hon. Friend as to the economy in man-power which should 267 be used in the next war. In the last War man-power was cheap, in spite of the fact that we did not have compulsion until the last months or years of the War. Forces, human lives, were thrown into battle and wasted for objects which we in the trenches never could quite understand. Of course there are those who say that the soldier in the front-line trench does not realise what the plans of the commander-in-chief at headquarters may be, but reading the history of the last War we know that in battles like Passchendaele the flower of the youth of the country was wasted unnecessarily, and therefore, although it will evidently be necessary to mobilise large forces, I think it will also be necessary to economise in the use of those forces for reasons which my right hon. Friend referred to in his speech the other day.
I am not a master of military tactics, and I do not suppose that anybody in this House is, but those of us who study this subject as carefully as we can, reading all the authorities we can, come to the conclusion, I think inevitably, that with the vast land fortifications existing at any rate in the western part of Europe, manoeuvring in the next war will not be so easy, and therefore the main forces of men will be locked in more or lass static warfare. I am not going to say that that position will last indefinitely, because I believe that in order to win a war the infantry must consolidate the ground which has been won either by the artillery or by the Air Force, but, nevertheless, I believe that so far as the western front in particular is concerned we shall approach much nearer to static warfare than we did in the past War.
I will conclude on this note: We all regret the necessity for the Estimates which the right hon. Gentleman has presented to the House, but those of us who are realists know that they are a necessary evil. We may say, as we do say, that it is partly due to the policy which the Government have pursued in the past, and I only wish that the Government were pursuing a policy in foreign affairs which we could whole-heartedly support. We should then, both in the House and in the country, far more willingly support them in their efforts to obtain that man-power which will be necessary perhaps to save our very existence in days to come. But there it is; we 268 are committed to use our armed forces in the case of our Empire, in the case even of Portugal, and there are many of us who are wondering what reciprocal undertakings Portugal is going to give to us in return for sending troops abroad to fight for her integrity.
Apart from all the details which are bound to arise in discussions of this nature I do believe in this general principle, which I believe the Government should put before the country as much as they possibly can—the principle that if we are in a fight it will be a fight not of aggression but of defence. That defence may not be the defence of our own shores alone. Probably it will be defence of France's shores too. Men will always be ready to fight and, if necessary, to die for something they believe in, and it is because I believe there are millions of people in this country who believe intensely in democracy, in freedom, in liberty and all that we mean by it, that I feel we can get by voluntary methods all the men we require if only the Government will give the lead for which the nation is waiting.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Astor
The Secretary of State, in the clear, comprehensive, and.. I might say, brilliant speech in which he presented his Estimates, stimulated thought on all sides of the House on problems of defence from the military angle, and I am specially gratified that he directed our attention to the problems of Imperial defence and the defence of the outlying portions of the Empire where our vital communications and some of our most vulnerable frontiers lie, because it is clear that in our Empire, with increasing self-government must come increasing responsibility for self-defence. We have Dominions, Colonies, allies, and associated States which are willing and eager to play their part in that defence, to be armed by us, to co-operate with us, not to be poor relations depending upon us, but to be partners in defence. It was, therefore, gratifying to hear that in Malta, Cyprus, and other places he is taking steps to recruit local units.
We have allies. Take Egypt, for instance. It was with the peasantry of Egypt mainly that Lord Kitchener conquered the Sudan. It was the peasants of Egypt who, under Saladin, were the force which most successfully 269 opposed the Crusaders. We have there an ally which desires to play its part, and we can have no fear that it will not make a most valuable contribution to the defence of its own frontiers. The same observation applies to Iraq and Portugal. Under the present administration in Portugal there has been a great revival of national efficiency, and I hope that we shall consider those allied and associated States as a most integral part of our defence plan, and I hope also that we shall, while considering those parts of the world as self-defending and self-contained units, afford them the assistance which the great military nations of the Continent are giving to their own frontiers, and that is some permanent form of fortification.
We have in Malta an island which has. very few places at which it is possible to land, and concrete forts and machine guns placed there could make it possible for the island to hold out for an immense-time. Only a sailor knows how sailors hate having to land troops against a defended beach or to use naval guns against land guns. We have the western frontier of Egypt, the land frontier of Honk Kong, all places for which I hope the right hon. Gentleman has the money carefully concealed in his Estimates, in order to enable the local forces to have the maximum aid which fortifications can give in the task assigned to them of holding out.
There is another point to which we might direct our attention, and that is the use of the different terrains on which our Army might operate. It is a question of the relative values of cavalry and mechanised units. During the time when we have been abolishing cavalry Germany has been extending cavalry. The very officers who have been discharged from the British remount depots have had the most tempting offers from Germany to go on with the job of purchasing in England horses for Germany. When the German mechanised divisions advanced into Sudetenland they had with them embussed cavalry, with the horses in lorries and the men following behind in small cars who could move with equal speed to the tanks and do the close reconnaissance in that difficult country. I hope that in regard to the mechanisation of the cavalry the War Office will try to keep in even closer touch with units who are undergoing this difficult conversion 270 process and with the ever-changing results of the lessons of experience. When these mechanised cavalry regiments are placed on a war footing the reservists who will come up will be men who have served in horse regiments. Would it not be better to try to create out of chauffeurs, mechanics, and drivers in civil life a special reserve of men for these mechanised regiments, to take the place of the present reservists who have been trained with horses, and send the horse-trained reservists to those Territorial units which have remained cavalry?
Many conceptions from cavalry days have been taken over. With a troop of cavalry under the old conditions, if a few men were off duty through sickness, say an epidemic of influenza, it did not affect greatly the fighting value of the unit, but now, when everybody is a highly trained man, each doing vital work, the subtraction of a very few men can very quickly put a tank or a section of tanks out of action. Surely if we are to keep a reserve carried on the strength of the regiment, those units can very well do with an embussed reserve, who with mortars could give a close support when on their task of reconnaissance they got into contact with minor points of resistance. The Spanish war has shown that one of the most important things which has affected battles has been artillery. Artillery has still been the winner of battles. I hope that my right hon. Friend will enlarge on what he said in his opening speech about a great expansion of artillery. Most observers would agree that that was one of the lessons of the Spanish war.
I would like to direct the attention of my right hon. Friend to a possible reform which requires equal thought, and that is the reorganisation of the respective functions of civilians and military men within the structure of the War Office. The War Office has suffered very much in the past as compared with the Admiralty in putting its case to the Treasury and this has been universally recognised. If we look in the handbook, in the Army List, in reminiscences and in those books on the different Government offices published in a series, I think we can see the cause. The civilians in the War Office are solely concerned with finance. They act as an outpost of the Treasury to see that as little money as possible is spent. They 271 loyally and efficiently carry out their functions, but it means that the demands of the War Office have to go through the double scrutiny of their own finance branch and the Treasury. The result is that when a civilian gets to the top of the War Office his whole training has not been in making the Army efficient but in saving as much money as possible.
In the Admiralty, largely owing to Lord Fisher, who did not believe in making good seamen into bad clerks, the civil side is concerned with all branches of administration. There is that great paradox called the military branch, staffed by civilians, which actually orders the movements of ships. You have this dualism the whole way up. The administration is done by civilians, which means that from the time the civilian comes into the Admiralty until the time he gets to the top he is as much concerned and interested in the efficiency of the Navy as he is in finance, and instead of being an outpost of the Treasury in the Admiralty he is the spearhead and conductor of the ideas of the Navy vis-a-vis the Treasury. That is the difference in organisation, and you have, as an invaluable result, a cross-fertilisation of ideas. You have a university-trained mind, critical and constructive, in contact with the naval mind, a mind which has not had the tightening effect of Service discipline and whose promotion does not depend upon his pleasing the existing powers that be on naval thought. You have this valuable double flow of minds on naval matters, and I am sure that that has been one of the causes of the efficiency of the Navy. Similarly, in connection with routine work the sailor, when in the Admiralty, may apply himself to staff work and not to mere matters of organisation, which can be done equally well by the civilians.
In a short space I have outlined the difference between the two systems. Hon. Gentlemen can find in the reminiscences of sailors and soldiers that these facts are shown. It is a long time since the War Office was re-organised. Might it not be worth while if my right hon. Friend could appoint a committee to inquire into its internal organisation in order to see that the vast sums which he is now very rightly' getting and the vast numbers of troops who are coming forward are applied in the most 272 efficient way, and so that the trained officer may not have to spend his time on matters which can be done equally well by a civilian? I would close upon an un-controversial note, which is to thank my right hon. Friend for the extraordinarily interesting day—I do not think any one has said this before in the Debate—which he gave to Members of this House at Aldershot some weeks ago. Hon. Members on all sides would like to thank my right hon. Friend for the courtesy and efficiency of the Army generally, and for that most interesting day.
§ 5.51 P.m.
§ Mr. Sanders
I want to refer to the reservations which I made, and the short comment I uttered, after the admirable speech of the Secretary of State for War. I said that so far as the method of the presentation of the matter was concerned, it was all that it was described to be by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Duff Cooper), but I reserved my view with regard to his speech until I had been able to read it in the Official Report. I must saw that when I read it I could not help feeling that it might be described as a statement to the effect that Great Britain never is but always to be armed. All the great events which were mentioned with regard to the rearmament of this country were in the future. There were admirable plans for war to be carried out down to a date, and the years 1940 and 1941, and so on, were mentioned. I wondered what the general staff of Herr Hitler were doing when they read that speech and whether they were chuckling to themselves over the knowledge that Germany is not waiting to be armed until 1940 or 1941 but is on a war footing.
All that I could say on this matter has been far better said, naturally, from his long experience and his eloquence by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Unfortunately, the speeches which are listened to in this House with such interest and respect remind hon. Members of the saying of a distinguished Member a century or two ago. Sir Richard Steele remarked on one occasion that he had heard in the House many speeches which changed their views but he had never heard a speech that changed a vote. Whenever I have listened in recent months to the scathing and devastating attacks of the 273 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, sometimes cheered by Members behind him on the opposite side of the House, I have noticed that there has been no support of the remarks, comments and judgments he had made upon the Government and their policy.
I would repeat the statement that I made last week that while the country can be convinced that there is immediate danger of an attack upon us by the chief enemy that we have—I can use that term "enemy" although I know that the Government dare not use it, and it is not proper that they should—
§ Mr. Sanders
—because that enemy is armed up to the very hilt and there is a danger at any moment that we might be attacked, you will get people willing to give their time and service in the Army and Navy as well as in the Air Force and the many semi-civilian jobs that are being advertised to volunteers at the present moment. If, on the other hand, you give the impression that the tension has relaxed and the danger is over, and that the policy of appeasement, which has just been seen in what has happened in Czecho-Slovakia, is prevailing throughout Europe, your citizen, notoriously occupied with the short view—for which I do not blame him, because if you take long views in this world you are liable to be a pessimist—will go back. You will have a slackening of the desire of the young man, the middle-aged man and the woman to volunteer for the many services for which their help is now desired.
I say that with all the more emphasis because during the week-end a statement was published, inspired apparently by the Government, that there was very shortly to be a conference regarding the present state of armaments of the world, with a view to reducing the expenditure on that branch of expenses. Immediately, denials came from Italy and Germany that there was to be anything of the kind. Germany told us through the mouthpiece of her propaganda Minister that if we wanted peace we must give Germany what she demanded and that her first demands were not only for her colonies back but even for a probably greater share of the wealth of the world than she thought she possessed before 1914. Italy told us that the boasted 274 10,000,000 men who could march for Italy were prepared to march if they could not get what they wanted by discussion over the conference table.
What is the good of the Government trying to play this double game, of believing, or trying to make the people believe, that the Munich policy was a great success from the point of view of peace, when it is denied immediately and when statements like those I mentioned are put out by the two great totalitarian Powers against which—it is no use hiding the fact—we are compelled to arm? You have only to live in Germany, as I have done, to understand the attitude towards us not only of the German people but of many other countries. They say, "Yes, you can be perfectly satisfied with the position you occupy in the world. You are an old and great country; you have a magnificent Empire, so big that you cannot manage it properly and cannot people it; but you will not allow anybody else to come in and help you do the job. And yet you pride yourselves on having so much more virtue than us, because you are in favour of peace. You are in favour of peace because you do not want any war, because you could not maintain any war if you had the desire to secure a further piece of territory." If they only knew it, they could quote the American philosopher who said:When men are old, their sins depart from them, and they egotistically think that they depart from their sins.They would say, "You as a nation are old and great; your desire to use force has departed from you because you are satisfied, and you think that, voluntarily and by greater virtue than the other nations, you have departed from the idea of force." They, on the contrary, still hold, and openly say so, that peace is an unfortunate—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but we are, of course, discussing the Army Estimates, and what he says must be relevant to the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Sanders
Naturally; I bow to your Ruling. I wanted to bring the mind of the House back to the fact that the men and equipment referred to in the statement of the Secretary of State for War are promises that have yet to be performed, and the way to get those promises 275 performed by our people on a voluntary footing is to try to demonstrate to them the danger in which the country is. If I have proceeded too far along that line, I will cease arguing on that issue, and will conclude by referring to some remarks of my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate.
In dealing with the expeditionary force, he referred to the fact that there are several places besides France where our assistance might be required, and he referred particularly to Holland and Norway. I think he might well have added Sweden to the countries that he mentioned, because it is evident, from what Swedish statesmen are saying, that they are in great fear concerning the growing power and the aspirations of the German people. In the last War I was on a Government mission that took me through Sweden, and in those days I talked over the situation with my old friend Branting, who was afterwards Prime Minister. He assured me that the attitude of Sweden towards this country would have been far more favourable if the then Swedish Government had not been terrified by the effect that the favouring of England by Sweden had on the policy of Germany towards Sweden. That feeling is arising again to-day. The same was true in the last War with regard to Holland. I remember coming back with a shipload of Dutch journalists who had been summoned to Berlin, and were then coming over to England to hear British views. They told me how their country had been threatened by Germany with invasion unless Holland took up a less favourable attitude towards this country as one of the belligerents in the Great War. One can see that that feeling is again arising in Holland, and we may be compelled to consider whether we may not have to help Holland, and not Belgium so much, when hostilities break out, if they ever unfortunately do.
I apologise for taking up the time of the House when I know that it wants to get on with other business, but I feel with what I believe to be the same emotion, if I may so call it, that is shared by hon. Members on the other side, that we are face to face with a situation which can only be parelleled by that of the few weeks before August, 1914. It is quite evident that in a very short time the demands of Italy and Germany will be 276 presented to us, not in the form of a wish for consultation, but in the form of a more or less veiled ultimatum, and, unless our Government are prepared to give way to those demands, we shall be face to face again with the necessity of making a decision whether we shall continue to be one of the great Powers of the world, or whether we shall rank with the other unfortunate countries of Europe who have become the vassals of the great totalitarian State of Herr Hitler.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick
The main theme of the Debate to-day has been the statement of the Secretary of State with regard to an expeditionary force. I have found that outside this House, at any rate, there is a great deal of what seems to be misconception on the subject. Many people seem to suppose that the question whether we should or should not make a military effort outside these shores is one that we can examine at our leisure, weigh the pros and cons, and decide accordingly. It seems to me that, if war comes, the issue is more likely to present itself in a very different form from that. It is quite possible that we may not be given time to think things over, but may be forced to improvise a very great effort, either to relieve a dangerous situation that may have arisen here or there, or to ward off an obvious threat to some vital part of our strategical lay-out. Of course, it is merely waste of time to try to forecast the precise course of events if war did come. It is not even necessary to assume that the present grouping of political forces in Europe, and the acute tension that has arisen from it, will necessarily last long. What we have to do is to weigh up the situation as best we can and prepare against possible disaster. If we do that, I do not think anybody will find that, from a purely military point of view, there is any ground for easy optimism.
The obvious comparison that occurs to one is between the present juncture and 1914, and the first reflection that arises when we make that comparison is that by 1915 Italy and Japan were among our allies, whereas now they are members of the Anti-Comintern Triangle. We are familiar enough in this House with the idea that a change from one Lobby to another counts two on a Division. If we assume, as I think we must, that membership of the Anti-Comintern Triangle implies a likelihood of going into the Lobby 277 against us, it appears that we may be four down on a Division; and when one reflects that there are only seven great Powers altogether, and that one of those at least is quite likely to abstain, I think the figure is a pretty formidable one. Hon. Members laugh. Perhaps that is an obvious reflection, but I make it for this reason. We ought to remember that, although we were in some ways in comparatively more favourable circumstances in 1914, we were forced, very early in the War, to undertake great military commitments on land in the Middle East. Assuming for the sake of argument that we have at the moment to substitute Italy for Turkey, I do not think that that gives us any ground for optimism. We cannot assume that we shall not again have to undertake military commitments in the Middle East; and also military commitments of a different kind and a more serious character in the Far East, possibly more serious than any commitments that we had in the Middle East during the last War.
Lastly, we have preoccupations much nearer home. It is often said, and it has been said in this Debate, that the Maginot Line is a line of great strength. No doubt that is the case, but there are other factors which have to be considered. In the first place, there is the factor of numbers. I think it was the Military Correspondent of the "Times" who first popularised the idea that a ratio of three to one is the minimum that is necessary for a successful offensive. That may or may not be so, but, looking to the possible Western Front, it is easy to see circumstances in which the ratio might be exceeded, and in which we and France might be faced by forces greater than three times our own. Moreover, the Maginot Line, like every other line, has two ends. In 1914 we saw the Schliefen Plan in operation, and it is difficult to see why, in the event of another war, a still wider turning movement should not be attempted. If it were, the occupation of Holland, even if it failed in its objective of outflanking France, would still place us in an extremely difficult position; hostile aerodromes on the flat country behind the Dutch dunes would be, to say the least, a grave menace to us.
Summing up the present situation, it seems to be only common prudence that we should prepare for military action out- 278 side these shores, and I think the Secretary of State's brilliant exposition the other day was welcome to the vast majority of Members of the House. But I cannot help asking myself whether the figure of 19 divisions is really adequate to the circumstances. Let us imagine an intervention by us in the West. It is perfectly possible that, after the lapse of the weeks, or even the months, that would be necessary for the training and transport of an expeditionary force, that force of 19 divisions might find itself engaged in a theatre of war where something over 200 divisions were already engaged, and, if that were to happen,' 19 divisions would certainly not be a decisive force. In the Far East, we might find ourselves confronted with a Power—I will mention no names—which might put against us no fewer than 150 divisions.
It is obvious that in a vast defensive programme such as this we have never to lose sight of the question of priority. No one will question that the Government did right in laying stress on the Air Force and the Navy. Clearly, the first thing is to do everything we can to ensure as much security for this country as we can get. But now that aircraft production is increasing and the heavy naval programme is under way, we have to pay more attention to the military side of our defence problem. I believe the Secretary of State is right in giving the Territorial Army the role of providing the main bulk of our new striking force, because we have no other source on which to draw without revolutionising our whole system, and we do not want to swop horses when we are, if not crossing the stream, climbing up a very slippery bank; and secondly, because, as has been already pointed out in the Debate, the Territorial force is so remarkably cheap. It often strikes me that the public of this country do not recognise what they owe to the Territorial force. Other forms of national service get a great deal of publicity—in fact, the manufacture of boot polish is listed as essential to the community—but I think that if the public really recognised the spirit of the Territorial force they would show a great deal more gratitude. Thousands of the young men, most of them after doing a hard day's work at their own occupations, have the public spirit to turn out at night and train, although training in many cases is dull and monotonous.
279 Again, in the case of the Territorial Army there is the question of priority. For just the same reason as the Government have rightly concentrated on the Air Force for the defence of the country, so they have done right in concentrating on the anti-aircraft forces of the Territorial Army, because defence must be the first consideration. These anti-aircraft forces are engaged in the most difficult of all tasks just now—to expand rapidly while remaining efficient; but, so far as my limited information goes, they are being remarkably successful at that. The time will shortly come when the main weight of the Government's attention should go to the other side of the Territorial Army, the field army; but it is no use attempting to expand forces until the equipment is ready, and that I believe is not yet the case. No one in this House will expect a precise and explicit statement from the Government as to their intentions, but it would be a great relief to many of us if they could say that they have kept in mind the necessity for the ultimate expansion of the field force, and that they are not going to lose sight of it.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
I am glad that many of the speeches we have heard this afternoon have dealt with the broader strategical aspects in connection with the tasks of our Army. I do not think we should adopt the attitude that war is inevitable, but it is desirable that we should recognise the danger and not think that, owing to the greater preparedness of this country, we can now afford to rest on our oars, and not continue the effort which has been begun. It is right for us to see that the Army is effective and efficient to the very last degree. In considering this Vote A of the Army Estimates, the House is necessarily concerned with the question of the size of the Army and the purposes for which it will be used. After we have secured that the Territorial Army provides effective anti-aircraft units on our home front, after garrisons have been provided for outlying parts of the Empire and expeditionary forces for places where they may be necessary, it appears, from the Minister's speech last week, that he contemplates placing at the disposal of a Power on the Continent, which is clearly France, 19 divisions of the Regular Army and the Territorial Army. We all agree 280 that some support for France is absolutely necessary, if only in order to give the French Republic that moral support to which she is entitled. The only concern of this House is to see that our military effort shall be commensurate with the cost and effectiveness of that effort.
Speaking as a layman, one who has no special knowledge, but, nevertheless, as an amateur student of history, I think we have to consider the historical role of this country, and whether it is really necessary for us to envisage a similar problem as faced us in the last War. Is the creation of a gigantic Continental army by this country, in addition to the other forces we have to provide, absolutely necessary? Here one's doubt comes in. It is essential that the Army shall be efficient in the highest degree. I understand that the effectiveness of the infantry to-day depends very much on the equipment, particularly in regard to such weapons as Bren guns. I understand that the full complement of Bren guns will be provided for the Regular Army, but I think I am right in saying that, provisionally at any rate, there is no prospect of the Territorial Army getting its full complement of these guns. Is that just because those supplies are not yet forthcoming in sufficient quantity, and does the Minister intend that the Territorial Army shall be equipped with the latest appliances to the same degree as the Regular Army?
It seems to me that it is not size which counts to-day in an Army, but quality There it is that I am inclined to disagree with the speeches of those who last week supported the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Major Rayner) in regard to the size of the Army. It seems to me that the hon. and gallant Member laid too much stress on the question of size. He envisaged the strategical conditions of 1914 to 1918 once more. He doubted the wisdom of a mechanised David meeting a Goliath on the Continent who, he feared, would also be mechanised. It seems to me that, as has been said before in this Debate, and as was said last week, the size of the Army to-day is, I do not say of no importance, but of less importance, provided that that Army is thoroughly well equipped; and it is possible for us to send an effective force over, even though it is not large, which may tilt the balance one way or another. In fact, success is more 281 likely to come to those who conserve their energy in the early stages rather than to those who throw everything into the balance in the first few weeks or months. I am strengthened in that view by articles in the "Times," from their military correspondent, Captain Liddell Hart. In one of his books, "Europe in Arms" he says:The scales of war are inclining not to the side of the big battalions, but to the side which gets there first.Later on he says:Possession is nine-tenths of the war.In fact, it is not so much size as fighting power, and being able to get to your objective immediately, that counts. Of course, we have a very different position from 1914–1918 in France, owing to the construction of the Maginot Line, with its modern fortifications, which have quite altered the situation. It can even be argued that the immense effort of the last War might have been avoided if the French had adopted certain other operations in the beginning of the War. The responsibility for the German invasion of Belgium and Northern France, I think history will show, was due not to the size of the little Expeditionary Force we were able to send to the Continent, which in its way did great work, not to the fact that we did not send a bigger force there, but to the fact that the French general staff were engaged on an offensive in the open, the "offensive a outrance." The French General Staff went in for an invasion of Alsace when they would have done much better to concentrate on preventing a threatened German invasion of Belgium. That, I think history will show, was a mistake on the part of France, and I think the French military experts realised that, because, directly the War was over, they seemed to adopt quite different tactics by strengthening the defences of France by the latest engineering and technical methods which science was able to give them. So they have the Maginot Line. These are considerations which we cannot ignore and which also are a pretty good answer to those who are arguing that it is necessary for us to envisage a large expeditionary force on the Continent similar to that which we had in the last War. We have to consider dispersal of our military efforts in various theatres of war. Various Members speaking this afternoon have referred to the danger threatening the Scandinavian 282 countries. My right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) who opened the Debate, referred to the danger to Scandinavian countries and an hon. Member opposite referred to the danger to Holland. If it had not been for the fact that we were tied up with French strategy during the last War, I do not believe that the terrible effort of four years to oust the Germans from Northern France would have been necessary at all. The whole four years of misery was to a large extent due to the misguided tactics in the early stages of the last War.
We can now return to our old historical task of small expeditionary forces aided by all the new weapons, which are in favour of defence all the time rather than of attack. It has always been our historic role as a nation to adopt those tactics. In the wars against Louis XIV we adopted them, again in the Seven Years War, and in the Napoleonic wars. We sent small forces to various threatened parts of Europe and often further a field. They were not always successful, but many of them were. That, I maintain, will again be our role to-day. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) referred to Egypt, Persia and Turkey who, I agree with him, are friends now and potential allies to whom it may be necessary for us to give assistance. Therefore, it would be wrong tactics for us to waste our efforts on colossal expeditionary forces in France when we have to assist all these possible friends and allies scattered about all the various parts of the Near and Middle East which may have immense and even possibly decisive effect in terminating a war. Since the disaster of Munich it seems as if Central Europe is coming under the domination of the totalitarian regime and it will be very difficult for us to retrieve the position there, but it is not by any means hopeless in dealing with countries further a field providing we maintain a policy of close friendship with Russia, Turkey and Rumania. The indications in those countries are that given sufficient encouragement they will show their teeth to a possible totalitarian invader whatever form or shape he may take.
There is one other point we must not forget. I certainly realised when, thanks to the kind invitation of the War Minister, we went down to Aldershot the other day and saw that magnificent display, and 283 saw coining across the plain all those wonderful engines of war and destruction, what a colossal expense and what a consumer of petrol they are going to be, and also what a tremendous industrial effort it will need to maintain them in working order. Therefore, we have to consider not so much large man-power to be sent to the trenches of the Maginot Line but the sending of small forces abroad to vital points and maintain them. In order to do that we must have our full complement of highly skilled mechanics and engineers working here at home. We must keep our industrial background in this country up to the fullest and best possible standard. That was not done in the last War. It was to a large extent the breakdown of munitions in the second year of the War which indicated how little that had been considered. Let us learn from that fault that the even greater problem of keeping this army to-day with its tremendous mechanism, is going to mean a considerably greater industrial effort in our rear in order to maintain that position. I hope, therefore, the War Minister will not listen to the syren voices of those who, in the Debate last week, not so far in the Debate to-day, have tried to induce him to navigate the dangerous waters of a large expeditionary force, but to remember the historic role of this country and get our army ready to go to any threatened part of the world, efficient and effective to the very last degree.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
Before I say something about the broad strategical argument which the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) has developed, I hope I may be allowed to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the very remarkable statement which he made in introducing his Estimates last Wednesday. That statement included many admirable reforms of detail, which, I think, commended themselves to the House, and I am sure commended themselves to the officers and men concerned. I have no intention of commenting on this, because what interested me most in his speech was the fact that his whole outlook upon the problem of the Army was based upon a clear strategical conception of what the British Army stands for in the peculiar circumstances of our Empire and Defence problems. In some countries the problem of military organisation is in one 284 sense a very simple one. The same organisation covers defence at home and attack upon the enemy alike. Our problem is much more complicated. With us local defence and expeditionary effort, whether to succour some other part of the Empire or to help an ally, are two entirely different things and involve a different organisation and structure.
My right hon. Friend approached that difficulty very clearly when he emphasised the fact that, first of all, the local defence of this country is a matter, apart from the help of the Navy and the Air Force, for a highly specialised branch of the Territorial Army, of a part of our armed forces not really available for operations anywhere else. Similarly, he made it clear that our vitally important naval ports scattered over the world not only required local defence, but that, in the strategical conditions of to-day, required that local defence to be fully ready for war at any moment. He added—and I was delighted to hear him—that he was resolved to make greater use in these naval stations of the admirable local material which already exists. I remember how hard I tried in the old days at the Colonial Office to get the War Office to consider making more use of Malta in that connection, so I was naturally delighted to hear that he is strengthening the Malta artillery by another thousand men. If I understood him rightly, he is also reviving the old habit by which British units stationed in Malta used to take in 'local recruits. In both cases, it is a matter not only of the immediate value of the men secured, but of the fact that in that community you are helping to build up a military spirit and pride in the British Empire. I am delighted to think that he is going on with that work, and the only suggestion that I care to throw out in that connection is whether in some of these places, at any rate, he might not try to develop something in the nature of a territorial system, in addition to enlisting the local elements in regular forces paid for by the War Office. So much for local defence.
The most interesting part of his speech, however, dealt with his conception of the strategical reserves of the Empire, as not necessarily concentrated entirely, or even mainly, in this country. Naturally, he could speak at the moment only of those strategical reserves which are under his own direct control. We hope to hear 285 before long of the part that, as a result of Lord Chatfield's recommendations, India will be able to play in the defence of the Empire in the future. We also know, in fact, that we have military reserves, very formidable if perhaps not very rapidly developed, in the great Dominions, With the two main reserves under his control, that in this country and the one he proposes to build up in the Middle East, obviously there are enormous advantages, especially if there is any danger of naval operations in the Middle East and the Mediterranean making transport of troops and supplies difficult in the early weeks and months of war, of having a substantial reserve in that part of the world which could operate over a very considerable radius, and operate at once.
Nothing but praise is due to the Secretary of State for War for having the courage to come to a decision that we ought to have an important strategical reserve in the Middle East. I gather from what he said that that is to be built up on the two Divisions already there today, and that that reserve will be entirely outside the strategic reserves, the six Regular divisions that are to be completed in this country. We might well consider whether that reserve should not be even more substantial than it is in view of some of the dangers which may threaten us in the Middle East at any moment. I would like him to give really serious consideration to the formation of something in the nature of a formidable Middle Eastern legion of, say, a couple of divisions. There is admirable material to be found in that part of the world itself. We have had no finer auxiliary troops in the world than the Assyrians, and I believe that admirable material, too, may be found in that part of the world among Arabs and Jews, out of all of them it ought to be possible to select the groundwork, admirable troops, which, apart from their own immediate fighting value, would secrete their reserves in that part of the world, so that in the event of war the reserves would be immediately available. I see no reason why in the recruiting of such a Middle Eastern legion we should not fully avail ourselves of some of the very fine military material that exists among the refugees who are coming, or who wish to come, to this country from all over the world. Men of that sort trained for five years or so with 286 the British Forces would make admirable citizens afterwards.
Now I come to the main issue of the strategic reserve in this country and the Expeditionary Force which, according to my right hon. Friend's statement, we are now contemplating—an Expeditionary Force of six Regular and 13 Territorial Divisions. Can we say, frankly, facing the dangers of the situation as they exist to-day, that that force is sufficient? My hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Patrick) gave some very good reasons for suggesting that that force is not adequate to the dangers that may confront us at the very outset of war. We must consider its adequacy not merely from the point of view of numbers, but from the point of view of the time within which it can be brought to bear upon the decisive front at the decisive moment.
The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) emphasised the idea that it is a very good thing to keep our strength in reserve, as we have done in past centuries. I doubt very much whether that is possible to-day. We are confronted with nations in which every ounce of national strength is organised to the supreme point of being able to throw an overwhelming strength into the battle at the very first moment. What led to the initial French disaster and the prolongation of the War was not so much faulty French strategy as the fact that it had never occurred to the French in 1914 that the Germans were going to put all their reserve formations into the front line at the very outset of the War, with the result that they invaded France with an Army something like 50 per cent. larger than any calculation which the French had made. The Germans came very near to winning the War in the first few weeks. In any case, they gained, as a consequence of that overwhelming initial strength, such a hold upon a large part of Northern France that our efforts in the four years that followed were wasted in the costly and ruinous task of trying to drive them out of entrenched positions, instead of being able to hold the French front ourselves and developing our efforts in other directions.
The hon. Member used two arguments which were not entirely consistent with each other. He used an argument about reserving our efforts, which is an argument for having a small force available 287 at the outset. He also used the argument of dispersal, an argument which might be very much to the point. It is quite possible if war breaks out in Europe that our help may be more vitally required possibly in North Africa, possibly in Holland, it may be in Scandinavia, or, possibly, as the hon. Member suggested, in supporting allies that might lift up their heads and be prepared to stand by us in South Eastern Europe. But all that demands considerable forces. That might be a good strategical argument in itself, but it is not an argument for being unprepared with an Army of considerable size, ready to take the field at the outset of war.
The doubt that I feel about my right hon. Friend's scheme is whether, in fact, it is going to give us at the outbreak of war an Army adequate to the task it will have to meet, either in numbers or in training. We know quite well that our preparation in 1914 was not adequate, yet in 1914 we were in some respects better prepared than we are now, or than we are going to be even under my right hon. Friend's scheme. It is true that his Territorial Divisions will be better equipped, but so will the divisions of our opponents, whoever they may be. The total number, at any rate, of men in those divisions is only about half the field force which the Territorial Army, created by Lord Haldane, could have deployed if it had been thought advisable or possible at the outset of the War to have sent troops into action in so untrained a condition.
Let me ask my right hon. Friend some questions about the course that he is contemplating, because it is vital that we should know under his scheme what it is that we have to rely upon and what our allies have to rely upon. He told us that he hoped in the course of this financial year to have all the equipment available for the five Regular Divisions, but not entirely for the additional sixth division. Does that mean that in the course of this year those five divisions could be sent over at once, as fast as the ships could carry them? In 1914 we had six Regular Divisions, which could have gone to the front within a week. If when we mobilised for war the order for the Regular Divisions being given priority over the posting of the Territorials to their war stations had been sanctioned by Mr. Asquith and 288 the Government of the day, the whole of that force could have gone at once. Purely political reasons and the doubts of Lord Kitchener not only held back the Expeditionary Force for some days, but held back the last two divisions for some weeks. Nevertheless, in 1914 we had six divisions absolutely equipped, as well equipped as any Continental Division, and far better trained, available to send overseas in the first few days.
Can my right hon. Friend say how soon his five modern Regular Divisions will be in a position to go over as quickly as that? He has got now a fairly substantial Regular Reserve. In a speech a short time ago I under estimated it by something like 30,000 men. I am glad that I was mistaken. He has begun to build up a supplementary reserve, and I should like to reinforce the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) as to the great importance of having not merely reservists crowded in the depots, but a cadre organisation, preferably built up as units in peace time, in which these men could be trained with Regular units and sent to the front from those units, with the possibility of those units themselves building up cadre organisations, from which men could follow to the front as soon as might be.
Let me turn to the position of the Territorial Force. I think the Territorial Force will appreciate the compliment which has been paid it by the fact that it is now to be an essential part of our main fighting force. It has also been greatly complimented by knowing that it is to be equipped in every way as well as the Regular Army. I should like to repeat a question, though not to elaborate it to the extent that was done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, and that is, when will these Regular Territorial units be in possession of that equipment? At what stage will that Territorial Force be sent to the front? Is there to be a long gap of months, perhaps, before it is available? If so, the issue of the war may well have been decided before they go. There is one further point. The more modern equipment is elaborated and developed, the greater is the need for training. If the Territorial Force is to be equipped with all the paraphernalia of the Regular Army, is it really going to be ready to take the field immediately war breaks out, with no better training 289 than it gets during the fortnight in camp, which the large proportion of them will have undergone, and the various evening drills? It would be little less than massacre to send troops so untrained into the field, however up-to-date their equipment might be. I should have thought that all this modern equipment required a greater period of training, not only in the individual units but collective divisional training before you could send the men to the front.
There is another point in the same connection. Unlike the Regular Army, the Territorial Force has not got its regular reserves. If it were sent to the front at the outbreak of war and casualties began pouring in, as they did in the early part of the Great War, how would that Force be kept up during the months that would be required to raise new forces and train them? When one examines the question of this Expeditionary Force of 19 divisions, we are not, except in the matter of equipment, which has been developed in every country, in a very different situation from that in which we found ourselves in 1914. I should like my right hon. Friend to consider how we can get out of this situation. How are we to provide a force of considerable magnitude—I believe it should be greater even than the 19 divisions—adequately trained for the very moment when war breaks out, instead of having improvised troops training for months after the war has begun, while the whole tide of war may be drifting against us during those months and, perhaps, unlike 1914, drifting irretrievably against us?
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend may think it possible that by some system of one-year service we might create a much larger short service Regular Army. I doubt very much, however, whether the type of men who would come forward for such service would come forward in sufficient numbers for the purpose. Our reservoir of men who are willing to take on professional service in the fighting Forces is being very much drawn upon at the present time, with all the demands for an increased Navy, an increased Air Force and an increased Regular Army. I doubt very much whether by any device of that sort you could get the men required. How are we to get men with the minimum training required to put them in the fighting line at the outset of a war? Surely the only 290 way we can work out this problem, if we wish to be safe, is to ask ourselves first of all what is the minimum amount of training necessary to enable men to hold their own, even in defensive positions, against highly trained adversaries. When you have decided that, you can consider on what lines, voluntary or otherwise, you will raise the men.
No one can hold a higher opinion of the voluntary patriotism of the people of the country than I do. I think that the way in which tens, indeed hundreds of thousands of men are prepared to give up their evenings, when they come back tired from work, to give up their Saturdays and their holidays in order to serve their country and bear the first brunt of danger when it comes is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping said, something that is almost sublime. Only we must face the limit of the kind of sacrifice these men are prepared to make. As long as it is a sacrifice of spare time you will find, at any rate, very large numbers of men who will come forward and give up to their country the time they might otherwise give to rest or sport or to their families, although even so they may be greatly influenced by momentary considerations. An hon. Member suggested that it was dangerous to our whole system of defence to talk of appeasement, because it would at once discourage recruiting. We have heard other speeches which suggest that, as long as a large section of our people disapprove of the foreign policy of the Government, recruiting cannot succeed. But, when you are dealing with something as a permanent system, you cannot base your permanent strength, a strength that has to be prepared years before the crisis comes, on the national view, right or wrong, of a particular Government's policy at a particular moment. It is not a sound foundation.
I have often spoken on behalf of unpopular causes, and I should like most earnestly to put before the House my own conclusion, for what it is worth, that you cannot secure an adequate force available at the outbreak of war—adequate, I mean, either in numbers or in training—unless you have some universal national obligation for training upon all your citizens. I am not advocating the idea that we shall ever again send into the fields of Flanders a force as large as that which we raised in the Great 291 War. Our demands for munitions, and other purposes are relatively going to be much higher, and there are many considerations that come into the picture. All the same, if we have to meet nations which fight on the plane of total effort, we shall have to make our total effort too. You cannot win a war in two elements if you lose it in the third.
I am convinced that we shall have to come to this in peace, and it is far better that it should come in peace than in confusion, too late to be helpful, after war has begun. The principle is accepted by the nation, as far as a major war is concerned, after war has begun. Would it not be far better to accept the principle of training in peace and then consider, according to the scale of the war in which you are involved, whether you should then rely upon the voluntary effort of a trained nation or feel obliged, in view of the magnitude of the war, to call upon the whole resources of the nation? I know I shall be told, "Do not suggest something at this moment which must take time to develop, and therefore interfere with what is being done already." That was the argument used as far back as 1908 by Lord Haldane against Lord Roberts. We all know now that, if Lord Roberts's policy had been accepted, we should have been infinitely better prepared for the Great War than we were. There is no reason why the laying down of a system of regular legal obligation upon the youth of the country need interfere with the great, immediate effort that we may have to make in case danger faces us in the next few weeks or months. It may not. The immediate danger may pass away, but danger in some form of other may face us for many years to come, and the sooner we make the right preparation for it the better.
I shall be asked, If you advocate that, are you prepared to advocate equality of sacrifice in other directions? Certainly. The risk of the sacrifice of life is the same for all. Whatever sacrifice is needed on the part of the wealthy they must make. Certainly I should be the last to suggest that in this matter there can be any distinction of class or any privilege. Another argument that I have heard rather frequently is that, in view of the present differences over foreign policy, such a suggestion would divide the nation, which ought to remain united. Of course we 292 ought to remain united but, if a thing is desirable and necessary on its merits in order to avert disaster, are we justified in remaining disunited about it because we differ on what are, after all, temporary issues? Surely if this is right—I only ask for its consideration on its merits from the point of view of the grave dangers that face us—we are at bottom too patriotic a nation not to be able, by mutual consultation if necessary, even by the formation of some new combined Government, or by agreement, and with the consent of the nation, in some way or other to find a basis of opinion upon which we can carry out measures which, I believe, are essential to our safety, which, I believe, could be carried out with no real injury to our industrial framework, and which would be of immense advantage to the health and happiness of the individuals concerned.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I shall await with interest the reply of the Secretary of State to the right hon. Gentleman's closing remarks, because the appeal that is made to him is to say whether, in the view of the Government, the time has arrived when the voluntary principle should be abandoned, not on any question of mere political expediency but by a long-term view of the military situation of the world. That is a responsibility that the Government must take and must advise the House and the country upon in the light of the considerations advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. He introduced into the concluding sentences of his speech one phrase which, I think, calls for some comment from this side. He suggested that such a measure of compulsory military service might be introduced by a new combined Government. I am bound to say that I can see no hope of any combination between my hon. Friends and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite unless the latter are prepared completely to reverse their foreign policy. I can see no ground for suggesting that, in order to pursue a military policy which we do not want, we should link ourselves up with a Government whose foreign policy we detest. After all, allusion has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and by virtually every one who has spoken from this side of the House, to the disastrous effect that the diplomatic defeat of 293 Munich has had upon the position of this country in the world.
To-day we have been discussing having to go to the aid of countries which we did not regard as being in the slightest jeopardy 12 months ago. Hon. Members on both sides have been discussing the possibility of having to go to the aid of Sweden, Holland, and other countries which did not enter into our consideration a year ago, and I cannot see that there is the slightest ground for suggesting, as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to suggest, that out of all this there is something so very attractive to Members on this side of the House that we should link forces with right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench.
I want to repeat some questions which I put the other day and which the Financial Secretary did not answer. I am not complaining of that because they were rather outside the main line of argument on the Motion then before the House. Last year the right hon. Gentleman announced a new scheme by which men from the ranks will be able to get commissions, and he announced a new scheme for warrant officers, Class 3, as another way—though I could never understand how that was going to work—of increasing the number of men getting commissions, from the ranks. It always appeared to me to be one way of side-tracking men from getting commissions. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how far his scheme has really increased the number of men from the ranks who have gained commissions during the year. I do not want to be told "a big number," and then find that substantially all of them are men who have been made quartermasters. I want the number of men who have managed to get, through the new methods adopted by the right hon. Gentleman, fighting commissions from the ranks. Has he managed to get—I put that question quite definitely—30 men from the ranks with commissions other than quartermasters' commissions and, if not, is he satisfied with the way in which his scheme is working out?
I also want to ask whether he is satisfied that he is getting a sufficient number of men recruited from the municipal secondary schools of the country into commissioned ranks. Is he managing to get the intake into the commissioned ranks of the Army from a wider social sphere than has been the case in the past? Is he able 294 to impose his views on commanding officers of regiments and other persons in authority so as to keep down expenses in the regiments in order that men with limited means can take a commission and make the Army a profession; men with sound military instincts who are not persons with a substantial private income? So far as leadership in the Army is concerned there is a great ground of recruitment of officers in those social classes which have not hitherto been regarded as a likely recruiting ground for officers for the Army. It is a field which has not been effectively tilled by the right hon. Gentleman or his predecessors. The part of his speech last year which impressed me most was that part which he devoted to the question of widening the intake for officers and getting an additional number of commissions from the ranks.
To my mind there have been two significant features of to-day's Debate. The first was the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) in which he asked the House to consider the Army Estimates in relation to the general question of the defences of the country spread over the three Services which now form the fighting Services. I join the right hon. Member for Epping in expressing the hope that at some time during the Session we may have an opportunity of discussing that wider issue in circumstances which will enable the points raised by the right hon. Member for Keighley to be pursued with regard to each of the three Services. The second point which impressed me in the early speeches was the clear statement by the right hon. Member for Epping when he once more put on the clothes of the prophet and suggested that the 19 divisions to go abroad are but the beginning of a policy which during the next year or two, if we are given the time, will be expanded by the right hon. Gentleman or his successors in office.
I ask; is this merely a beginning? Does the right hon. Gentleman envisage having to come here in successive years with greater demands upon the man-power of the nation for an expeditionary force other than the 19 divisions for which he is asking to-day? The right hon. Member for Epping for the last five or six years has been so successful a prophet that one is bound to have the highest regard for anything he says in this sphere. Is this the beginning of the price which the youth 295 of the nation has to pay for the disaster of Munich? Are these 19 the first of the divisions which are to replace the 35 divisions which were thrown away last September, and have we now to contemplate creating or securing from some other sources further divisions not merely to replace those divisions but to give us back something of the position we held in Europe now so enormously deteriorated by Munich and all that has followed it?
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy to reply to the questions I have put about men getting commissions from the ranks. It is truer of the British Army than of any other that it has depended in the past and will depend in the future upon the quality of the men who lead it. I sincerely hope that the ranks who served us so magnificently between the years 1914 and 1918, the non-commissioned officers and warrant officers, who are the backbone of the Army, will be given an opportunity, as their educational opportunities have increased, not merely of getting at a fairly advanced stage of life a commission in the Army but of being brought into the commissioned ranks at an age when they may look forward with reasonable certainty to rising to the highest commands. I am sure that nothing that the right hon. Gentleman can do on the side of man-power will be more effective than to make it possible for these men to enter the commissioned ranks of the Army
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Ross
The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in his rather quaint humour alluded to the disaster of Munich and said that it may lead to the potential slaughter of the youth of this country. If the hon. Member has the intelligence with which I have hitherto credited him he will realise that without Munich the slaughter of the youth of this country would have already have taken place, and on a very much larger scale than that which I think will be possible in the future; and would have taken place when the youth of this country were in a much worse position to defend themselves than they are now.
§ Sir R. Ross
The hon. Member for South Shields does well to excuse himself and hide in the thickets of Epping. It was a most unfortunate observation. I want to refer to two matters—to one very briefly and to the other in a little more detail. In the first place I hope the Secretary of State for War will appreciate that the policy of wholesale mechanisation, which I admit I thought at one time was the appropriate policy, has had considerable doubts thrown upon it by such recent lessons as have occurred in various parts of the world where a state of ill-feeling exists, where cavalry have still been found to fulfil a useful function. We must not forget that in the British campaign in Palestine in the last War the cavalry probably had the greatest success which that arm has ever enjoyed.
I pass to my second point, which is of very great importance. It has already been referred to by the right hon. Member for Epping. It is the provision of draft-finding units. The situation now is considerably altered because the Secretary of State for War has frankly said that the doctrine of war on a limited liability basis is impracticable. If we are committed to war we are committed to war with the whole forces of the Empire. We make no reservations. We are going to put, on whatever field of action is the most appropriate, a force in the first instance of 19 divisions, although it is perfectly clear that it has not been suggested by the Secretary of State for War that these 19 divisions are going en masse in the first weeks of mobilisation, but in a reasonable time.
The question is can we maintain these divisions? I have looked to see what reserves are provided in the Estimates, and I find that the only reserves available for this force of 19 divisions will be the Army Reserve of 144,000 men. We know that a greater part of this Reserve is taken up on mobilisation in filling the ranks of peace establishments up to war strength. In addition to that we have the Supplementary Reserve. Hon. Members will find the details of this Reserve on page 55 of the Estimates, where are the numbers of the various arms given in some detail. They are in three categories, and they are almost all technicians. Where you will find wastage is in the infantry, yet out of 64,542 other ranks of the Supplementary Reserve only 297 17,000 are infantry. Then there is the Army Ordnance Corps. Far be it from me to suggest that this very admirable corps does not fulfil most useful functions. They are half the strength of the infantry, 8,852. Can we suppose that the casualties in the Army Ordnance Corps will be on a similar scale to those of the infantry? That is the only provision of reserves.
There are two considerations; one is to keep the Army going at all costs until the men who join up on mobilisation have been trained. I suggest that the popular idea of those who have not had much acquaintance with the Army, that an infantryman can be trained in a few weeks, is fallacious. Hon. Members opposite who have served in the ranks as infantrymen will support the view that the training of an infantryman is a difficult and technical art, which takes a considerable time. In the last War we had the battalions of the Special Reserve who were draft-finding units, and it was they who kept the British Army in the field during the winter of 1914–15. They had not perhaps a very high technical training but they had an extremely good musketry training. They were taken from the classes from which the Regular Army is generally recruited, and they fitted into the Regular Army very well, although they were rather older men in many cases.
I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the degree of reinforcement which was necessary on that occasion. Up to the end of November we had seven divisions in the field on the Western Front, and by the 30th November they had already suffered casualties greater than the entire infantry establishment of the seven divisions. They had already received reinforcements of 108,310 other ranks, and were already very short of officers, so short that even the adjutants of Territorial battalions were being taken and sent to France, a fact which I think cost the Territorial battalions great losses later on when they had to go into action. That is one aspect of the matter; there will not be trained men to fill up the lag which there must be between a declaration of war and the time when men can be trained.
The other point is one which the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) made when he spoke, and that was when he described going into a new army unit and told how many other people were, 298 like himself, filled with enthusiasm and a desire to.serve and be efficient, but he was merely one of a mob, with no organisation to go into and with no possibility of training for a period of months. That is what the situation will be unless we have provided draft-finding units, not units such as the first-line Territorials, who expect to see service as units and in formations, but units which can perhaps be officered to a considerable degree by retired Regular officers, who would still be quite competent to train men and who could be strengthened by retired Regular non-commissioned officers, who would be quite invaluable for training purposes, although probably of an age past active service. If you had such formations, it would be a much easier thing to absorb the recruits whom you would get on the declaration of hostilities, and I ask my right hon. Friend to tell the House what provision is made for maintaining the supply of men and their equipment in case we are committed, as we now may be, to putting, I do not say all 19 divisions, but a substantial number of divisions, in the field to fight armies equipped on the modern scale. I would humbly suggest to him that to put an Army in the field which you cannot maintain is worse than putting no army in the field at all.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I wish to put a few observations on record for the consideration of the Secretary of State and his Department. The first one is with regard to the mechanised Army. I have already paid a tribute, in this House and outside, to the efficiency of that Army, but I think those who have been responsible for its mechanisation have utilised the services of the men to an extent that has affected the provision that has to be made for those men, and I want to ask the Secretary of State to pay particular attention to this matter, because what I am stating I know is a fact. In deciding how best the services of men can be utilised, I think there has been too great an economy at the expense of the cooking of the food. As far as the quality and the quantity of the food are concerned, I have no complaint to make at all, but in the preparation of the food and in using the modern appliances and cooking utensils which have been provided, I think the number of men at the disposal of those responsible for the cooking 299 is too small. Rather than that any friction should be caused or any inefficiency brought about as a result of that, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay attention to the matter, because I know what many of us had to contend with in France as a result of that sort of thing. Not only was there a shortage in the cookhouses, but there was also a poor quality of food in France, and therefore, speaking for the men in the Army, I hope the Secretary of State will have regard to that point.
The second point that I wish to make is this, and it does not apply only to the Secretary of State for War, but I hope the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty also will take notice of it. One would think that in the armed forces, at any rate in the canteens, when any crockery was purchased it would be purchased in this country. I do not want to labour this question, but merely to place it on record, that, in my view, and in the view of many of my hon. Friends, when any crockery is purchased by any of the officials in charge of the armed forces, that crockery should be British.
§ 7.35 P.m.
§ Lord Apsley
The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) reminded us that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) attempted to learn from the Prime Minister whether there would be a Debate on Defence. That point interested me, because it is not the first time that it has been raised. The right hon. Gentleman said, quite truly, that it was done last year; it was also done the year before and the year before that, and I had a certain amount to do with that, because previous to that, when the Estimates came on there was a general Debate on questions ranging, say, from foreign policy to matters of strategy, and large numbers of hon. Members had no opportunity to put matters of important detail to the Minister until, in the case of the Air Estimates anyhow, the small hours of the morning, when we were all half asleep and nobody was listening. Therefore, when the Ministry for the Co-ordination of Defence was formed, the first thing that was done was to arrange, through the usual channels, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, that there should be a Debate on Defence, in which all those 300 matters of strategical importance, including foreign affairs, could be debated, leaving matters of detail to be discussed on the proper occasion, namely the Service Estimates.
I am not sure even that matters like the role of the Army can properly be discussed on the Army Estimates without bringing in also the roles of the other two Services, and it hardly fair to the Army to expect them to be discussed on the Army Estimates. The role of the Navy is well known; it is the sailors' element. The role of the Air Force is also fairly certain; it is quite a simple manoeuvre. But when you come to the role of the Army, you are treading on very delicate ground, and if I may use an aeronautical metaphor, if any more weight is put on to its tail, it will probably develop into a flat spin. The role of the Army should therefore for the time being left alone.
I should like to join in the chorus of praise for the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in introducing these Army Estimates. He gave us a speech, as usual, carefully worked out and with great Parliamentary effect. He painted us a picture of the Army in which the colours were vivid, and yet so arranged as to harmonise with those of the other Services when their Estimates come on. His technique was careful and well thought out, if perhaps on a slightly surrealist structure. Nevertheless, it was one which we all admired, and the effect has been that he rallied to the side of the Government all those hon. Members who form what I might call the 1914 or Expeditionary-Force-in-France group. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, though he is inclined to be a somewhat insubordinate recruit, has been rallied to the Government, and that is a great achievement on the part of the Secretary of State. Its effect abroad, no doubt, has been to cheer the French and no doubt to frighten the Germans. Perhaps I may paraphrase the Duke of Wellington and say that whatever the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's speech may have been on Hitler, "By God, it has frightened me."
He told us that there are 19, divisions in this expeditionary force, six of them Regular and 13 Territorial. I would like to leave out the armoured divisions for the present and examine first the infantry 301 divisions, which are the important part of every Army. It is the infantry that win the battles. There are four Regular infantry divisions, and I do not think all hon. Members are aware that those four Regular divisions in this country, with those units belonging to the Royal Tank Corps and the Guards, are composed of an instructing cadre and recruits, and until the month of August they are not in a fit condition to take the field. On mobilisation, they are all under strength, and they have to take in a large number of reservists. Those reservists have not had any opportunity or chance up to now—the right hon. Gentleman is giving some of them the chance this year —of learning the very intricate forms which military operations have taken and the working of the many new technical developments, including machinery, that have come into the Army. That is the case with the four Regular divisions. There is no question of their being able to sail straight away, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said the Expeditionary Force did in 1914, armed to the teeth—for South Africa—with two machine guns per battalion, one battery of guns per brigade and no high explosive shells. These divisions will be armed in a more modern way, but they will not, I take it, be ready to sail so promptly relatively as did the Expeditionary Force in 1914.
Then, when we come to the 12 Territorial infantry divisions, they also are much under strength, because we must remember that in making up the numbers of the Territorial Army I think my right hon. Friend has added the new anti-aircraft formations, which, of course, swell the Territorials very considerably, but with a very different type of men, undertaking home service only. Also he has included yeomanry regiments, which in many cases have recruited up to 30 per cent. over strength. They have not got the equipment or the horses or mechanisation or equipment or pay up to 30 per cent. over strength, but they have recruited in most cases up to 30 per cent. over strength. The infantry divisions, however, are still very much under strength, and they have as yet had no opportunity whatever of training with the modern equipment.
The right hon. Member for Epping was quite correct in that respect, but I 302 think he was not quite fair in blaming the Government for that, as though they could by a Cabinet decision at any time suddenly equip the whole Territorial Army. The reason why they are not equipped is because their equipment was not ready. First of all, there was the design, and then trying out pilot models—it was the same story as in the Air Force—and then at last comes production of the various weapons and their issue to the troops. It has not been possible to do it yet, and so one must remember that these 12 infantry divisions in the Territorial Army have got four machine guns per battalion, or two more than they had in 1914. They have had no training with automatic rifles at all, and their whole field training is in a very elementary condition.
As far as materal is concerned, I will not say very much, but we must remember that artillery is the next most important thing to infantry; and is my right hon. Friend content that we have our full quota of artillery per division in comparison with what foreign nations undoubtedly have? I am told that the German Army produces 9-inch guns, not howitzers, to the front line, and the first things you meet when you meet a German army are heavy shells coming down on to the back areas, for they have so increased heavy artillery's mobility that they can keep it right up with the advance guard. As far as machine guns, the next most important thing, are concerned, we have been told that the Bren gun is now being turned out in quantity, that the Regular Army will soon be equipped, and that the Territorials will have a chance of seeing what it looks like in the near future. But let me remind my right hon. Friend that the Bren gun is not a light machine gun, but an automatic rifle, and if he says, "No" to that, I would ask him how many rounds the Bren gun can fire before the barrel has to be changed owing to being hot, and how many rounds it can fire without the lining of the barrel getting worn. When my right hon. Friend tells me the figures, I would remind him that the German light machine gun has the same barrel that they use for the heavy machine gun. It is the same weapon, except that it has a different mounting. It can fire without pause one belt of ammunition automatic fire before the barrel has to be changed, and it takes less 303 time to change the barrel than it does to put in the fresh belt. That is the difference between a light machine gun and an automatic rifle; although I admit that the Bren gun is undoubtedly the best automatic rifle that has been produced.
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) mentioned Army co-operation aircraft. I understand that there are seven Regular and two Auxiliary Army co-operation squadrons. Under the new scheme, they will have to be increased to at least 25, and when I say that I am allowing for reconnaissance alone. There is also the question of artillery conveying craft. There will have to be a far greater number of artillery machines if we are to reach foreign standards, and more fighters to protect them and more medium bombers to implement and supplement the artillery scheme, and all of them will have to be produced. This must be done in co-operation with the Royal Air Force and will mean considerable further expansion of their Estimates.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) was quite right in his conclusion when he said, with regard to the sending of troops to France, that he hoped that the Maginot Line would hold and give us time to know when and where to send an expeditionary force, and in what numbers. I believe that the Maginot Line could hold out. The only thing that could break it would be some new tactics, such as parachute-jumping en masse, a new form of explosive, or some chemical which has not been discovered so far. If Germany or any other nation evolved such a new form of tactics, it would be fatal for us to send an expeditionary force to fight them until we had evolved a similar form of tactics or some counter measures to defeat it. It seems to me further that it would be impossible for us to send an expeditionary force to France until we had got supremacy in the air. Lord Allenby refused to take command in Palestine until he was assured that he would have supremacy in artillery, in the air and in cavalry—cavalry including whatever vehicles one puts the cavalry on, camels, horses, mules, motors or tanks. One must have supremacy in cavalry, in artillery and in the air; otherwise it is useless to put an army into the field, unless one wants it to be defeated or to hang on by the skin of its teeth to a 304 position like Gallipoli that has to be abandoned later.
With regard to the armoured Divisions, I understand that there are two Regular Divisions and that one Territorial Division is to be formed; and that there is one Regular Division also not completed. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend what is their role, because so far that has not been laid down. I have attended the manoeuvres for the last 17 years, and it has seemed to me that as a rule the Royal Tank Corps units career around country which they knew pretty well, then conceal themselves in a wood during the day time, hoping the Air Force will not spot them—generally the Air Force do not, because very few enemy aircraft appear during manoeuvres—and during the night they move up to a strategic position in time to take off for the grand finale, the charge of tanks at some place where the right hon. Gentleman and other notabilities, the Press correspondents and foreign attachésare gathered to witness the final charge, two-pounders banging, machine guns chattering and lots of noise and smoke—all done in very much the same manner as the Kaiser's cavalry charges before the War. It is magnificent but not war. Such gallant shock actions are very nice at manoeuvres, but they are impossible in the field.
Then there are the cavalry tanks, the role of which has always been that of tactical reconnaissance. Usually they are sent on before the troops to find out whether certain river crossings are held, and they always are held; and then the cavalry tanks are put away in a wood and forgotten for the rest of the battle. I have often had sad misgivings about this form of tactical reconnaissance. A troop of light tanks trundles down a track, and presently they meet an anti-tank gun; bang goes the gun, putting out of action one tank, and then the other tanks go back and report that one anti-tank gun was met. It is not safe to move the Mark VI light tank across country. It gets held up by almost any ditch or bog, and its tracks show up very plainly from the air.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend has plenty of information about the use of tanks in the wars that are taking place in the world at the present time. We spend a great deal of money on the 305 Secret Service and we have military attaches, and I am sure that they must be giving the right hon. Gentleman some information. I wonder whether that information goes right to the fountain head, because if it does, I wonder whether it ought not to be reflected in the purchases of the Supply Board. I am certain that my right hon. Friend will say that he gets the information, but can he tell me what is the composition and nature of the units used by General Franco, first, for strategic reconnaissance, and secondly, for tactical reconnaissance? I should like to know what kind of forces are used for those very important cavalry operations. My information, which may be erroneous, is that the independent role of the tanks is finished. There is no more shock actions, none of those glorious manoeuvres that are written up so ably by the military correspondent of the "Times" or by Colonel Fuller. Apparently, they do not even use tanks unsupported against a fleeing enemy. When the enemy's ranks are broken through and the enemy is in full flight they only put light tanks on to pursue the enemy, when they have considerable numbers of cavalry with them. This does not mean that the role of tanks is finished, for there are plenty of things for them to do. I am told that the Italian two-men light tank is used as an armoured machine gun closely supporting the infantry and advancing with it. It gives mobile and protected fire support to infantry. That is the role of the Italian light tank. The heavy tanks many of them captured Russian tanks, are fitted with.75 guns and are used as a mobile and protected artillery, but are always fired, as artillery, from halt. When they are fired on the move, accuracy is not easily attained.
The light German tank has been found to be a failure, except that it has recently been sent along with the cavalry in pursuit of a demoralised and fleeing enemy, or in support of mounted formations on reconnaissance missions. That is my information, and the right hon. Gentleman can tell me whether it is right or wrong. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings comes truth and wisdom sometimes. About two years ago, my boy brought home a good story from school. The German secret service had stolen the drawings of our latest tank, the pet of Farnborough and a hush hush, and had taken them to Herr Hitler. Herr Hitler 306 looked through the drawings and then said, "The English are the people who invented the tanks, they have gone on improving them ever since, and no doubt this is the best tank at the present time." Thereupon, like Lord Swinton, he ordered 1,000 of them off the drawing board. The following year there was a parade at Nuremburg, and the 1,000 tanks marched in beautiful order past the royal box; and Herr Hitler turned round to congratulate the commander of the tank brigade, saying, "Splendid, now let me see them go all out"; and the commander said, "Heil Hitler, they are going all out." Shortly afterwards, a deputation came from General Franco asking for technical assistance, and among other things they asked for a few tanks, say, 150 or 200. They were told, "You can have 1,000, take them." I have since found out that that story was true! The tank was the Mark IV which the War Office tried out, but finding its limitations in speed, the order was immediately stopped; but the contract had to be completed of course, and so this type of tank is now being issued to the Territorial Army. The Haig Statue outside Whitehall appears to me symbolical of the production of many forms of A.F.V.
There is one further thing I would like to say about the Mark VI tank. Tracks made by tanks over virgin soil can be most easily perceived from aircraft. It is very difficult from the air to see troops once they are deployed, and it is difficult to find even transport when they are at the halt, and taking cover, but it is easy to find tanks, even when they are "harboured" in a wood, because the tracks on the virgin soil stand out so clearly. That is one of the reasons why tanks prefer to keep to worn tracks if they can.
With regard to armoured cars, I think that a satisfactory armoured car ought to have been developed by now. I believe that the Indian Government have taken the very satisfactory body of the Rolls armoured car and fitted it on to an American chassis. The Lincoln Zephyr is, I believe, the best motor on the market, but there are others. The important thing is to give a little more room in the armoured car. There must be room for a crew of at least four, and if possible, five. Some of the new armoured cars have room only for a crew of three, and no room for tools, kit, blankets, rations, water, explosives and the many other 307 things that have to be carried by cars out for days on distant missions. One of the crew has to be a wireless operator, which leaves two, and if one of them is knocked out, the crew is only one. There ought to be room for at least four, and if possible, five.
My right hon. Friend has referred to the question of dress. In the case of the four mechanised units, I hope he will do away with the webbing equipment, which so easily becomes covered with oil. In the Tank Corps, they have two sets of webbing equipment for every man, one for use in the tank and one for use on parade. Leather would be much better. With regard to hats, I suggest that, as in the mechanised forces of France, Germany and every other country, all ranks should be allowed to have crash helmets. In the small cars, it is easy for a man to bump his head, and in the new sort of cruiser tank, I imagine he must bump his head every other minute of the day, and unless he has a crash helmet, it is very unpleasant. As to the fore-and-aft hat, it will be interesting to see how it is developed. I ask my right hon. Friend to allow a certain amount of individuality in the different units. If the whole Army is dressed alike, it will simply cause discontent in some portion of it. The Royal Engineers do not like to dress in the same way as the Grenadier Guards, nor Highlanders as cavalry. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might leave to the various units some initiative in the development of their own forms of dress, both as regards uniform and hats, and allow them to decide what is most suited to them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley spoke of the democratisation of the Army—whatever that may be. Let me express the hope that it will start from the top. I would like to see the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State and his two Under-Secretaries going among the troops and mixing freely with them on manoeuvres. Since I have been in the Army I think only one Under-Secretary, or Financial Secretary to the War Office has visited the troops on manoeuvres. That was Lord De La Warr, who used to visit every unit in turn driving his own car. I would suggest that during August and September the right hon. Gentleman himself and the Under-Secretary and the Financial Secretary, should visit units of 308 each arm in turn, both Territorial and Regular units, and become acquainted with Army problems from the inside. It would perhaps be impossible for the right hon. Gentleman himself to do so incognito, because his face is so well-known from photographs in the Press that he would, no doubt, be recognised and when he presented himself the sentry would turn out the guard. But I understand that both the Under-Secretary and the Financial Secretary are Territorials or reservists and could go in uniform. Let them then visit the various units on manoeuvres and see the work of the Army from the inside. They would learn a great deal and the troops would like it immensely. I hope that the seeds which I have endeavoured to sow will not fall on barren ground, and I conclude by once more congratulating the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
I regret that in accordance with the arranged time-table, I must intervene at this stage, and I fear I shall interfere with certain hon. Members opposite who would like to have spoken. I am aware that this is one of the few opportunities which they get of speaking upon matters in which they are vitally interested, and it seems to me that we should have at least a full day for the Report stage of these Estimates. That is all the more necessary at the present time, because of the very important issues which are involved. My right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) put several questions to the Secretary of State upon the wider aspects of these Estimates. I desire to deal with some of the more immediately practical questions which are raised by them. I understand that the Secretary of State has given orders to Army instructors to cut out lectures about mechanism and to teach the recruit how to load, to aim and to fire. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman must have broken the hearts, and probably the spirit, of quite a number of good sergeants by hindering them from doing their stuff, but there are some other matters arising out of these Estimates in which I feel that similar action would be required.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) touched upon the question of the supply of ordnance, munitions and all the rest of it for the 19 divisions. Speaking as a more humble 309 Member of this House, without the right hon. Gentleman's experience of the War Office and other Departments, I must say that question seemed to me to stand out from the Estimates. Is the War Office to-day able to carry out the work of organisation necessary to equip and maintain the force which the right hon. Gentleman has visualised over any period of time? I was all the more struck by that question when I recalled the speech which the Secretary of State made in November last. Many hon. Members have to-day complimented the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not wish to open old sores, but I think it important in relation to the whole question of organisation present and future to look back to what happened. The House will remember that the right hon. Gentleman in November told us that in connection with the events of a short time previously guns were sent from practice camps in some instances separated from their instruments and that some were sent into action without overhaul. He said that some were issued without dials because the makers had failed to supply the dials—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Lawson
I was referring to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in November dealing with lack of organisation in which he said that guns had been issued without dials because the makers had failed to deliver them, and I understand that the War Office, or those responsible, did not know that the company had gone out of action. The right hon. Gentleman also told us on that occasion that some predictors were out of order, that electric storage batteries in some cases had run down and that there were other shortcomings which he laid bare to the House. I think he showed considerable courage in making that statement to the House. Apparently he did it in a "Tell the truth and shame the devil" frame of mind. I do not know what his object was. It may have been to frighten the Supply Board or to stir up the Coordination Department, but the right hon. Gentleman evidently made up his mind to tell the truth, and he did so with the result, as I say, that some very serious shortcomings were disclosed.
That was in connection with the mobilisation of 50,000 Land Forces for 310 defence. Are we sure that the same thing in another form would not happen if we had to mobilise these 19 divisions? I want the right hon. Gentleman to mark the fact, that on that occasion it was not so much a question of material or equipment being short, as of want of organisation. Is he sure that that is not merely one aspect of the kind of thing which may occur again if the War Office continues to deal with the Army itself, and at the same time has to deal with questions of guns, munitions, and so forth? I wonder whether the House realises that in the last two or three years the War Office staff has increased from 3,168 to 3,780, and that there are now no fewer than eight important officers who represent very important branches of that Department. There is a Director-General of Munitions Production, a Director of Army Contracts, a Director of Ordnance Factories, a Director of Industrial Planning, a Director of Scientific Research, a Director of Medical Services, an Inspector of Army Ordnance Services, an Inspector of Artillery, an Inspector of Mechanisation, and so on. This gives an idea of the development which has taken place in the last couple of years. There are no fewer than 12 new Ordnance factories in the country. What is the plan with reference to these factories? Are they based on Woolwich? Has the Director of Industrial Planning any plan for using these factories as the nucleus of an organisation, to be developed if necessary? I know there is a special board of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, but the fact remains that the whole organisation for the supply of munitions, not only for the Army, but for the Air Force and the Navy, is within the four corners of the War Office organisation. They have to deal with tanks as well, and those who were at Aldershot know the tremendous change that has swiftly taken place not only in tanks, but in carriers and other things.
That is only one side of War Office work. The changes that have taken place owing to the mechanisation of the Army are so swift that I venture to say that a soldier who was discharged 12 months ago and came back would not know the Army now. The serving soldier himself is much puzzled by the rapid changes that are taking place, and must necessarily take place. The War Office have to deal with the Army in a time of change 311 and development when new forms of strategy and new problems are being presented to them, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is sure that the War Office as organised to-day can meet the needs of the Army and of the supply side at the same time. I have not spoken on the question of a Ministry of Supply, but one has only to take a casual look at the Estimates and see all the branches of the service of supply in order to see clearly that there is a definite need for some organisation to take a grip of the supply side so as to leave the War Office to do its own job, which is to look after the Army. I am not making any criticism of the War Office as such. I was a Financial Secretary at one time, and I went down now and then to see the other ranks. It was a habit we had of getting about. I know that the War Office is not by any means inside the kind of institution which a good many people outside like to think it is. I had something to do with the various branches of the organisation when I was there, and I was an employer of some 30,000 men. I used to have deputations come to me, and it was an interesting experiense.
I can say that the War Office in normal times is as efficient as a great organisation of that kind could possibly be, but in an abnormal situation such as we have to-day I doubt whether it can carry out both sides of the organisation which is represented in these Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman has talked about giving a refresher course to soldiers to get them more into touch and into practice with the present arms. Is the right hon. Gentleman arranging for refresher courses for his technicians as well, because I am sure that unless they keep themselves refreshed the present organisation of the Army on its arms side will become stereotyped and we shall have a repetition of such a situation as that which developed with regard to tanks about which an hon. Gentleman opposite spoke. If we compare the armoured units with those of a few years ago the latter were as different as was the feudal system from the present day. Anyone can see clearly that unless there is a determined attempt to keep pace, the mechanised army will soon become something worthy of a museum. I take it that that is what the Prime Minister was referring to when he said that the maintenance of the armed forces 312 to-day was heavier than it ever was before.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman about the position of the Territorials. I do not want to make too much of it, but it is necessary that one should ask about it. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that many units of the Territorials wondered why they were not called out when the 50,000 were called out in September, and he said that he would make arrangements for the whole of the Territorials to be called out in future. That means that in future, if unfortunately they should be needed, the whole of the Territorials would be called out before the Regulars. He also said that most of the Territorials had signed on for general service, and he was going to ask the House for power to make that general. Have proper steps been taken to consult with the men concerned on this matter? They ought to know that they are signing on for general service without limit, and that they will be called up first. The right hon. Gentleman might consider some system of making compensation to men who are called up in this way. I understood him to say that the jobs of the men who were called up in September were guaranteed and that there was no trouble about it. Could he consider some system so that not only will the men in the Territorials have their posts guaranteed when they are called up, but that they shall have some some compensation for loss of wages? If there is a crisis which does not develop and Territorials are called up before the Regulars, there should be some consideration in the direction I have indicated.
My last point concerns the cost of the battle dress. The right hon. Gentleman said £400,000 was to be spent on this new dress. How many troops will that expenditure supply with the new dress, and what is the cost per dress. I think he can tell us that, because it will not be giving anything away to the enemy. I ask him more particularly because the War Office abandoned the old Army Clothing Factory. I thought at the time they made a very great mistake, and I think they would now probably say so themselves, in the light of present experience. I should like to know the number of troops to be clothed with this new dress, how much per dress is the cost, and who has the contract. I asked the 313 right hon. Gentleman last week about warlike stores and whether he could tell us anything about them—I do not know— but there is an uncomfortable feeling that some people are making profits and becoming rich out of rearmament.
There is one word written over the whole of these Service Estimates—the Estimates before us, the Air Force Estimates last week and the Naval Estimates. So far I have not raised the question of policy, but it is clear there is a profound difference of policy between the Government and ourselves. The one word written over the whole of these Estimates is "Munich." The Government cannot avoid it. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept that view he has only to look at the speeches made last year by the various Service Ministers and compare them with the speeches which are being made now. The whole defence policy of the Government, its whole outlook, has been altered. I do not wish to spend any time over that, except to say that I believe profoundly that the time has arrived when, if we would defend our own institutions efficiently, if we would render a real service to the world, the offer set forth by President Roosevelt for a world conference should be given serious consideration by this Government. As I said last week, we on this side do not vote against these Estimates. We understand clearly what is at stake. We are under no illusions about it. But we do think that if the Government would save the world from an impending catastrophe, if it would ensure that freedom and liberty which we all desire, it is the business of the Government—and there is no other policy which will satisfy us—to rally the democratic forces of the world and to answer the call of President Roosevelt by entering a world conference.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
It now becomes my duty to sum up the discussion which has ranged over two days, or, at any rate, that part of the discussion which excludes the Debate upon the Amendment which was so ably Moved and Seconded by my hon. and gallant Friends the Member for Totnes (Major Rayner) and the Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby). A great multiplicity of topics has been raised, and I am torn between two conflicting desires, the one to do justice to 314 the weighty utterances, and the other to keep my remarks within that compass which is considered reasonable in one who is addressing the House from this Bench. To give a complete examination to any one of the subjects which have interested the House during these two days would be quite impossible, and if I appear to deal cursorily with the speech of any hon. Member it is not because I under-estimate its merits, but because time places a certain restraint upon me. I will, however, undertake, should I omit to give the full particulars that may be desired in any given case, to do what I did last year, and to send in writing the complete information that has been requested.
No Debate could have illustrated better the good will which is felt towards the Army. That is an encouragement to the Army and a strengthening to the country. It really does seem that we have in regard to the Army a policy which unites the whole House. It was my endeavour in the speech which I made when introducing the Army Estimates last week to put before the House a consistent theme. The first obligation of the Army I stated to be home defence, and I am glad to notice that there is a general feeling that our arrangements in this direction are satisfactorily progressing. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) paid generous testimony to this. He and I were recently considered to be protagonists in a controversy which was a distraction from our main purpose. The course which I took was naturally inspired by a desire to preserve the best interests of my Department and the best interests of the State. His motive, I am sure, was similarly objective. What happened showed that, contrary to the common adage, two rights can sometimes make a wrong. I have been asked however, despite the prevailing view that no criticism is to be made of this branch of our activities, a number of specific questions, some of them by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). He inquired what arrangements were made for target practice, and whether it was true that units had to pay for engaging their own aircraft. It is, of course, not the case that units have to pay for their own aircraft.
§ Mr. Mander
In that case, if my right hon. Friend will be good enough to allow me to bring to his attention certain cases in which complaints of this kind have been made, perhaps he will look into them.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Naturally, by all means; I shall be only too glad to look into any complaint at any time. I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that the Air Ministry arranges by contract with civil firms for sufficient hours of daylight flying to provide adequate preliminary training for all anti-aircraft units and that no charge for so doing will be made, or has been made in the past, upon unit funds. Perhaps my hon. Friend is in possession of particulars of a case in which by some chance payment has been demanded and by some folly the demand has been met. If he will give me particulars I will certainly give them attention.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Yes, I fully appreciated the hon. Gentleman's point and I hoped that I had answered it. The hon. Gentleman also informed the House that certain firms in the Midlands were sceptical as to the existence of the dungaree army, or the man-your-own-works scheme. I must explain to the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he in turn will explain to the firms who have addressed their complaints to him, that the deciding factor in selecting this anti-aircraft protection is not the wish of the firm to protect itself, but the importance of the firm to the nation's war organisation. Furthermore, the premises of many firms are covered by the general defences and against low flying attack by the balloon barrage. I should indeed be sorry if the War Office failed in any way to answer any representation by particular firms for participation in this scheme. We have had a large number of inquiries and we have answered them in all cases.
When I introduced the scheme I appealed to firms to refrain from making these requests, because the selection of firms is made upon a general tactical principle, which might not be understood by the firms but is well understood by the directive at the War Office. The hon. Gentleman will recall that there has 316 already been a camp for this dungaree army and that its existence is quite numerously in evidence. I do not know whether there were any other points which the hon. Gentleman had in mind about anti-aircraft. I see he shakes his head, but I think there was one on the question of the relations between the Air Ministry and the War Office. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that all the way down the hierarchy there is correspondence between the military command and the air command and that it is our desire to work in the closest harmony and co-operation.
The hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat and who has addressed the House twice from a store of knowledge and experience upon these subjects, in which he once participated, made a reference to the calling up of the Territorials last September. I had not intended to refer to this matter, because nobody in the Debate had hitherto done so. I would ask the House to realise, as the matter has now been raised, that a very short time has elapsed since the public satisfied itself as to the importance of ground defence against air attack. In 1935, when my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Duff Cooper) introduced the Army Estimates, he had to complain that the anti-aircraft part of the Territorial Army was little known and the necessity for its existence was little appreciated. Two years ago, when he again introduced the Estimates, in 1937, he had to say that he could not get recruits for the first antiaircraft division which was then in existence and the second which it was desired to form. That was only two years ago. I want to tell the House, because it desires to be just and to put all matters into perspective, that when my right hon. Friend made the first speech from which I have quoted there were only 100 guns, all 3–inch, in this country, 100 searchlights and 3,500 personnel.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I am speaking only of anti-aircraft defence by the Territorials to whom the defence has been entrusted. What I am thinking is that the progress has been rapid and sudden. It was not expected that this country should provide a full defence until the completion of the programme. It is not fair to judge the matter as though anybody was to blame.
317 The British public was not sufficiently interested to provide the recruits at that time, but since then there have been technical developments which have given greater confidence to those who believe in this kind of defence, which was at one time ridiculed in the public Press, and doubted in the Debates in this House and generally. There have been technical developments and there has been an awakening of the public consciousness, but it is all very recent.
The hon. Gentleman referred to a statement which I made as candid. I hope it was candid, because I intended that it should be. The statement has been referred to as containing revelations, but they were not revelations. It was a statement about matters of which the public was fully acquainted. The gist of the whole subject is that the basic equipment of the anti-aircraft units was there and was in order, and that the disorder and disarray, if such a description must be used, occurred in trying to supplement that equipment from sources from which it would not normally be supplied. All those defects, serious and important as they are, must not be minimised, but they were all of a transitory kind. Those are not matters which we are incapable of rectifying. They all arose because the state of the programme did not permit of our making a greater effort. However, we must do everything possible to avoid any repetition of the shortcomings, and I think I have shown the House in the opening speech which I made that we are taking this matter very seriously and have made a very large number of improvements.
§ Mr. Lawson
There is a rather important point connected with this. The right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the question why the War Office did not know that a certain company was not in a position to deliver the goods. It has gone out of action since.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
In his speech the hon. Gentleman said that we did not know that the company making the dials had gone out of business. We did know, just before the crisis, but there was no possibility of remedying the deficiency in the short time at our disposal. I hope that once again history will refrain from repeating itself.
The second principle which I examined in my speech in introducing the Army 318 Estimates concerned ports abroad. I am glad to know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) gives his approval to that policy, which, indeed, as he told us, he has advocated, despite much resistance, for many years past. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. W. Astor), in a well-informed speech, for he knows these localities, made suggestions for the defence of certain garrisons, notably that at Malta, and I am glad to tell him that we are acting on the lines which he has laid down to-night.
The next section of my speech—for I am following the same order as before— related to the allocation of available troops to mobile units, and under this head I referred to the Middle East Reserve. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was anxious to know, because he interrupted me when I was making my speech, whether this Reserve would be provided with stores of food, vehicles, and munitions, and with reserves of men. The answer, of course, is in the affirmative, for it is intended that this force, within the possible limits, should be self-sufficient. As I have referred to the right hon. Gentleman, and shall presently be referring to him again, I would like to inform the House that he told me that he had an engagement which would prevent him from hearing my reply to certain other questions which he addressed to me.
I came then to the field force at home, and I am glad to find that this aspect of our policy also is approved. I should like to say at once how moved I was by the magnanimous references which my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's made to what I had said. He told the House that he felt a pang the acuity of which I should be the first to realise. That is indeed the case, and I would that fate had permitted that we could have changed places, for, if any right hon. Gentleman deserved to make proposals connected with a field force, it was my right hon. Friend, who strove for so long to obtain consent for such a policy. I have described the size of the force; I have described how it will be equipped and trained; and I have told the House that it will be prepared for a European theatre. I have also endeavoured to explain to the House that its departure would be in echelon, and 319 why the necessities connected with shipping impose this method of departure upon us. I have told the House everything that I reasonably can tell it about the field force, and it was natural that my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's should say that he really did not think that the House should ask for more. Nevertheless, some questions have been addressed to me.
For instance, there was a question by the right hon. Gentleman who closed the last Debate and opened this one, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), whose speech was interesting and informative on all the points on which it touched. He wanted to know whether a Territorial contingent would be ready, or whether it was our intention in this plan to make it ready, within, as he put it, say six months. I hope the House is not going to press me to publish, in, as it were, a kind of Bradshaw for the reference of the world, the dates of the possible departure of our field force, but I can, if it would satisfy the right hon. Gentleman, as his question was vague, say that it would be possible within our intentions for a contingent of Territorials to be able to operate within that time. That will indicate to the House that we are taking the matter seriously.
I recognise, no man more, that the essence of our effort depends upon production. The strength of the British Army is not only in Aldershot and on Salisbury Plain; it is in Woolwich and in Nottingham. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping made a powerful speech explaining to the House that, if you were to put more men in the field, you would naturally have to have a greater productive capacity. That is not a conclusion from which I dissent. I would like to say, in passing, that the right hon. Gentleman carries the blunderbuss and the olive branch with equal grace. Sometimes he bears those offerings to his victims simultaneously. I do, however, on this occasion take the olive branch with real gratitude. He wanted to be satisfied that the Government have devoted their attention to this important subject of production. It will, of course, be necessary, in order that our plans may be carried out, to expand our productive capacity quite considerably and to place additional orders
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
That would be a possibility, although movement is generally in the opposite direction. While I am speaking of production, perhaps I may refer to a subject, or rather, an object, which arouses some feeling. The object in this case is the Bren gun. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), who is always stimulating, stimulated me also when he spoke on a previous occasion. I do not want to be so stimulated on this occasion, for I still have a little twig of the olive branch which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping handed to me this afternoon, and I would like to keep it for the hon. and gallant Member. Everyone realises at the War Office that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has an interest in and a knowledge of this matter. He has been in touch with us about it; he has had conversations with a senior officer of my Department; and I am sorry that we have not been able to satisfy him. The Bren gun is not a water-cooled gun, if he will allow me to say so. It is a gun which is cooled by changing the barrel, or rather, in which cooling becomes unnecessary because you can change the barrel; and there is experience of the gun in action outside China—there is experience in Palestine. In the opinion of my advisers, the gun is the best obtainable. I do not want to force that view upon the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because he has spent most of his life in one of the Services, and he understands these matters better than I do; but that is the advice which I received. It so happens that we now have literally thousands of these guns in issue, and, even if we should have been wiser in the past to take the Farquhar gun or some other gun, I do not think that even the hon. and gallant Gentleman would recommend our going back on the decision we have taken, seeing that the gun is now in such great production.
If there is anything in the system at the War Office—and this is an old matter which he very kindly said was before my time—which he thinks could be improved, I am the first person to desire to benefit by his constructive suggestions. We have tried to make improvements by the examination of inventions. In co-operation 321 with the Director of Scientific Research, we try to devote as much care to the examination of what is offered to us as is possible at a time like this, when there is so much invention offered and each invention requires so much examination. But I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be reconciled to the use of this gun, because it would be so difficult to scrap it now. He did see it, I believe, at Aldershot, and while he was not absolutely satisfied, he will no doubt agree that it was efficient.
§ Captain P. Macdonald
There were two Bren guns shown there. There was the Czecho-Slovak Bren gun and the Vickers Bren gun. Which of these two models is in production at the present time?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I do not understand my hon. and gallant Friend. We are producing this gun in our own factory in thousands, and equipping all the Regular battalions completely. This is not a gun which we have imported; it is a gun that we are manufacturing here.
§ Captain Macdonald
We were shown two guns. One is the Vickers gun, improved on in this country, and the other the original model Bren gun.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
It is quite true that the original model did come from Czechoslovakia. It is now produced here. I think I ought to mention my Noble Friend the Member for Central Bristol (Lord Apsley) in connection with machine-guns, because he made his points with so much rapidity that they seemed to be like automatic fire, and I must be pardoned if I did not even have time to note down all of them. I think he understands that, because he said he would exonerate me if I did not answer them this afternoon. However, I am told that we have no information that the Germans are using a 9–inch gun in the front line, and we do not believe it. I am sorry that our intelligence reports conflict with my Noble Friend's information. It is quite possible that he has brought us some valuable information, but we do not believe that that is the case. It is not very easy to take the lessons of Spain and apply them to a major war, but we have the information about Spain which he doubted.
§ Lord Apsley
My right hon. Friend said he would send in writing some of the 322 rather important points. Will he send that information on paper?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I will look at the information before sending it, but I am anxious to give my Noble Friend such information as I can provided it is considered to be reasonably accurate. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) wanted to know whether there was an allotment of medium and field artillery for corps troops and heavy and medium artillery for general headquarters. The answer is in the affirmative.
§ Mr. Bellenger
No, my point was as to whether the regular expeditionary force would be adequately supplied.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
My answer was intended to cover that. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) wanted to know whether all our factories were controlled from Woolwich. They are not. Each has an independent superintendent reporting direct to the Director of Ordnance Factories. I pass from details for a moment to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley, a speech which, in this particular, was subsequently reinforced by that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. Obviously, the use of aircraft in connection with armies is important. The air component of the field force includes a definite allotment of fighter squadrons which has been agreed between the War Office and the Air Ministry. In addition to the protection provided by the fighter squadrons of the air contingent operations of our own air forces outside the field force component and of allied forces, would naturally afford general protection. This, of course, is over and above the army co-operation squadrons which have been allotted to us. I would not like to leave the impression on the mind of the two right hon. Gentlemen that we underestimate in any way the need for the development of air co-operation of every kind, including fighter squadrons with the Army, and I can assure them that the matter will have our continuing attention.
I was asked a number of questions— while we are on the subject of the field force—by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street. He asked me—if I may brush this question aside quickly—whether I was satisfied that the War Office staff was functioning properly, and he was joined 323 in that question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor). We have made a number of changes in War Office organisation which have been announced in the House from time to time, and they are producing satisfactory results. With regard to the division between the civil and military staffs, it was the intention when the Permanent Undersecretary was made a member of the Army Council, to cement ever more closely the civil and the military sides That is the ideal to which we seek to conform, and to which I hope we do conform.
§ Mr. Lawson
Would the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that if, unfortunately, we should get into a conflict the present organisation for the provision of ammunition, ordnance and the rest of it would be easily expanded by the War Office?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
That, of course, is our aim, and towards the end of my speech of last week the hon. Gentleman will find the principle on which we are proceeding. It would naturally be our intention to maintain in the field any troops we sent there. That is the goal at which we aim, and which we are more and more rapidly reaching. I was also asked whether our mechanical organisation was sufficiently flexible, and whether it was not a pity that the horse cavalry regiments had been reduced in number. The question was first asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) who claimed as his title to ask the question that he was an honorary colonel commandant of Marines. We have, in addition, to the two regular horsed cavalry regiments of the line, the Life Guards and Royal Horse Guards. These with the 16 yeomanry regiments provide us with a sufficient proportion of horsed units, and so I hope we are not under-horsed.
In the course of my speech I endeavoured to show that our military system was a balanced one. Nevertheless, suggestions have been made in the course of the Debate from many quarters that it might with advantage be modified or extended in some directions, but all these suggestions would have the effect of interfering with the equilibrium. The essence of our system is that we should have troops here who are interchangeable with 324 troops in garrisons abroad. Our system, it might be said, is comparable with a revolving wheel. If you add another little wheel in the shape of an Imperial gendarmerie, as suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Lieut.-Colonel Macnamara) in the very comprehensive speech he made, which does not drive any other part of the machinery, you are doing something which is not of real benefit to your organisation. And the same applies to a foreign legion. This Imperial gendarmerie would be engaged upon different terms of service. The men would be kept to an older age, I understand, and the problem of marriage would be a further complication. The Regular Army would be deprived of some of its training experience in foreign countries. Of course much depends on where you put the force, but the place generally mentioned is India. You would have to consult the Government of India, which in fact we have done, and the Indian Government rejected this proposal.
A foreign legion raises similar if not greater difficulties. One desires to offer refuge and employment to those whom my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Georges described as unhappy people who have a martial spirit. One would like to do anything one could to utilise their services. It is true, as he said, that since the time of Alcibiades nations have relied in war on troops which were not of their own nationality. That is in war, but where should we use these people in peace? Would you send Spaniards to Gibraltar to hold Gibraltar? Would you send Italians to Malta? These nationals would be within your legion. Would the Indian Government consent to have a mixed body of troops in replacement of the troops which it has now, either from this country or from within its own borders? There are real difficulties which present themselves. You could not run your present Imperial system by the aid of a foreign legion without running grave risks, and you have to remember that the British soldier is an ambassador from this country, who promotes and maintains good relations on behalf of this country with other parts of the Empire, and it is doubtful whether a foreign legion would serve the same purpose. I hope, when I say that, my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Georges will not think that I am unsympathetic, because it would be pleasing to me if I could say, "We could 325 fit it in here or we could fit it in there," but the fact is I do not see where we could place it under our present system.
The same needs which require inter-changeability in our forces also impose upon us the necessity of having a shorter term of service. Naturally it is far more attractive to ask a man to join the Army for two years than it is to ask him to join it for seven, but you could not maintain your foreign drafts if you had only two years' service, because by the time the man had gone abroad he would be due to come home. While these suggestions are most attractive, they are not easy to accept, unless you revise the whole of our military system, which is not a simple matter, particularly in these times. If you could reduce the amount of time the soldier had to spend abroad you could reduce your term of enlistment, and it is with that end in view that the Government approved this year a reduction of service in India to a normal period of four years instead of 5½, as it now is. Any reduction you can make in the service abroad will help you to make a reduction in your term of service, but every time you reduce your term of service you have to have more recruits. If you were to reduce the present seven years with the Colours to five years with the Colours, you would have to enlist each year two-sevenths more recruits than you enlist now. That means 12,000 recruits more per annum would be required if you reduced the present period from seven to five years. I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford and others who made these suggestions will see that the problem is by no means simple in character.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the reduction of the period of service in India to 4½ years will also apply to the Army in other parts of the world, such as the West Indies and Singapore, or does it only apply to India?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
They will not do more than four years anywhere, but India is where they do the longest service. The greater proportion of our forces abroad is there.
Some references were made to the Annual Report on Recruiting, and comment was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) 326 on some omissions which we have made this year as compared with last. In order to make the document more readable and get it out more quickly, so that it is closer to the period to which it refers than formerly, we have left out a number of tables, which were extremely dull except to those with exceptionally inquisitive minds. They can be satisfied if their Members of Parliament will address questions to me, when I will always furnish the additional information, but the smaller document has proved far more popular than the old.
The same hon. Member, I think, approved this contraction of the volume and its better presentation. He said, "You have 40,000 recruits. How many applications did you have?" I can give him that figure. We had in 1938, 61,552 applications to join the Army as compared with 52,147 in the previous year. That is a great increase in the number of applications made, but there is a further increase over and above this which is not disclosed in these figures. We have in the past registered everyone as an applicant who wrote a letter or made an inquiry. We have abandoned that system, and it is only those who actually present themselves in person and are registered in the day-book of the recruiting office who are shown as applicants. That change we made last year, and it has been responsible for reducing the number of registered applications by about 20,000, I am told, so that there would be 80,000 applications under the old system, if you want to obtain a comparative figure. We accepted 63.1 per cent. of those who applied, compared with 50 per cent. in the previous year. This led my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) to imagine that we have reduced the physical standards required of a recruit. It is an error to suppose that. We have made no modification in the requirements of the heart or lungs, which motivate the body, or in the height and weight, which give it stature and poise. What we have done is to assist the recruit to overcome minor defects in his physiological condition. That is a social service that we render. For instance, many recruits are short sighted, but do not realise that they are short sighted. We now provide them, at the national cost, with two pairs of spectacles to improve the acuity of their vision, with a stout case in which to hold 327 the spectacles. This is not a lowering of the physical standard; it is a help to the recruit, who did not know that he needed glasses, to pass the examination.
There was also a strange physiological formula which required the recruit to have not only u sound dental points, as they are called by the faculty, but that those points shall be in a defined juxtaposition one to the other. In looking at our regulations with an endeavour to make them as suitable as possible, I thought that it would be more in the national interest that instead of going through the process of counting the teeth we should give the men dentures at the public expense. That change has been made.
§ Viscountess Astor
Will my right hon. Friend be very careful about this, because there are some dentists who will pull out every tooth, whether sound or not. That is a very serious thing. I hope my right hon. Friend will not give dentures too freely but that he will see that the teeth are filled and kept in the heads of the recruits.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I think my Noble Friend is getting her teeth into a very important matter. I quite agree with her that it would be most regrettable if dentists were allowed to pull out sound teeth just because it was the particular theory at the time to do so. That is not our intention, and I hope that the warning that my Noble Friend has given will deter any dentist from that unjustifiable practice. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe went on to say, I quote his words, "that might be all right, but I do not know how they will tackle bully beef when it comes to war." They will tackle it in exactly the same way as the soldiers tackled it in the last War, but with this difference, that they will now have a free set of artificial teeth. In certain cases where recruits can benefit, we perform slight operations. We straighten a toe or take out tonsils, if such operations will make them fit. None of these measures lowers the physical standard in any way.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
When a recruit receives such medical attention, does he immediately enter as a fit A1 man or is he put in a different category?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
The recruit has to pass the test, even if he has been at the 328 physical training depot, which was started by my right hon. Friend and predecessor, and which I have extended. He has to pass the full test, and if he does not reach the required standard as the result of his operation or his training he is rejected. A number of questions were addressed to me about education by the hon. Member for Romford and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Mr. Ernest Evans). It is true that a larger number of persons failing to reach standard D were passed into the Army last year than in the previous year, but the Army system of education is such that 90 per cent. of the soldiers in the Army to-day have an educational certificate. It is our practice to give the man education from the day he enters the Army to the day he leaves it. The system was praised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street. There is no other profession which does that for a man.
I was asked many questions about the reserve. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping devoted some portion of his speech to this subject. He was speaking in the context of a period which has passed away. He was speaking of the period when we had a Special Reserve. This kind of reserve was abolished after the War as a result of an inquiry that was made. We have since then been building up the Supplementary Reserve, which consists of units of a technical character composed of men whose peace time avocations correspond with what they will be required to do in war. We have now also an infantry Supplementary Reserve, which is growing in numbers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) emphasised, it is necessary to pay great attention to the reserve position.
The right hon. Member for Epping and to some extent other hon. Members may not have seen what I said about this in my speech. I described the whole method that would be employé for the expansion of the Army, and showed how on the outbreak of war there would only be recruitment into one Army. Enlistment indeed would be into the Territorial Army only. In our view our reserves are sufficient to provide our requirements until the post-mobilisation recruits are trained. I do not, however, wish to express too great 329 a measure of confidence on this subject. We showed some earnest of our intention to devote great care to the question of reserves when we announced the scheme for calling them up for extra training, a system which has not heretofore prevailed in this country. I can assure the House that in the course of next year, in conjunction with my advisers, I will look most carefully into the whole question of our reserves.
There are two recruiting reforms which I should like to announce, which have not previously been mentioned. Since the time of Queen Anne a reward has been paid to anyone who brought in a recruit. In the eighteenth century 10s. was paid to a parish constable and 10s. to a justice of the peace for every recruit secured. In 1809 pensioner recruiters were paid upon this basis and their successors, the Army recruiters of to-day, have hitherto been paid partly by means of these rewards and partly by means of salary. We have now decided to consolidate the rewards with the salary and to give to all our Army recruiters a reliable income, and at the same time to redress the inequalities that were caused by the different opportunities of getting recruits that presented themselves in different areas. Any private individual -who brings a recruit may still enjoy his historic right of getting payment. He will get 30s. a head for a household cavalryman and 2s. 9d. for an ordinary cavalryman or an infantryman.
The other reform is that permanent staff instructors with the Territorial Army have hitherto had to do recruiting as well for the Regular Army. Training the Territorial Army is a day's work in itself, and we are now going to engage more recruiters and relieve the permanent staff instructors of this part of their responsibility. The cost of this reform will be £25,000 a year, and that of getting rid of the recruiting reward, £3,500 a year. Another announcement that I have to make is that boys enlisted for general service will in future be paid at men's rates from the age of 17½ instead of 18. That is a reform which will cost £25,000 a year. It will improve the prospects and add to the resources of these young men. It will also enable us to enlist boys frankly and openly at 17½. The Air Ministry and the Navy in some cases enlist their boys at an even younger age. 330 Every year on the Army Annual Bill complaint is made that, while our age of enlistment is nominally 18, we refuse to discharge a boy who turns out to be in fact between 17 and 18; now we shall have 17½ as the age and I will promise to discharge any boy whose parents prove within a reasonable time that he has falsified his true age. That, I think, will meet the request that has been made for many years from the benches opposite.
§ Mr. Lawson
That means that the right hon. Gentleman is compromising the thing at 17½ instead of 18?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
That is so. That is the suggestion that was made to me last year and I hope it will be considered to be just. I was asked about promotion from the ranks by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). My idea of democratising the Army was to throw Woolwich and Sandhurst open to any cadet from whatever school, irrespective of his means, provided he had the necessary qualifications. I preferred that to a system which would make promotion exclusively from the ranks. However, I will answer the hon. Member's questions. There are 2,295 officers who have risen from the ranks, of whom 1,028 are Quarter-masters. Therefore, less than half are Quarter-masters, and 18 per cent. of the whole corpus of officers in the British Army at this moment have risen from the ranks. The hon. Member asked, in a rather sceptical way, whether in the last year 30 men had been promoted from the ranks. I believe the exact number was 29. I intend to make known shortly an improvement of the present system of promotion from the ranks. I hope it will not be necessary in future for those promoted from the ranks to go to Woolwich and Sandhurst. They will have acquired a certain training and the sooner they begin to earn their pay the better. They will instead go through the special course that an officer takes after leaving the cadet colleges and they will count, I hope, half the time they have spent in the ranks as officers, but I should like to defer the announcement of that scheme because it is not completely evolved
I have not said anything about the Territorial Army, on which we had a speech of the utmost interest from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wands-worth (Colonel Nathan). No one in the House knows more about the Territorial 331 Army than he, and no one has done more to stimulate recruiting and we feel extremely indebted to him. He asked a number of questions. He was anxious, as the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street was, to avoid Territorials being employed on air-raid precautions duties. As our Air-Raid Precautions system develops, I hope that that necessity will become less and less. It is not our intention that they should be so employed, although all troops, whether Regular or Territorial, have to aid the civil power and assist the population in the event of emergency. He said that the numbers as between regiments and units were uneven and that, while the total Territorial figure was good, some units were below establishment and some over. That is quite true. We have still many recruits to get into the Territorial Army. He reminded us that our best recruiting agents were certain leaders of foreign countries. When one reflects that we got no fewer than 80,000 recruits in a year, one wonders how this can be kept up year by year. The hon. Member finished with the practical suggestion that we should remove the words "Diet sheet" from the announcement of what the soldier was going to have for his food and substitute "Bill of Fare." I agree that the words "Diet Sheet" have a misleading connotation and we shall adopt the hon. Member's suggestion, and they will select their diet in future from a bill of fare.
The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Tree) made a number of suggestions affecting amenities. We are, in fact, employing more civilians to relieve soldiers of routine employment. He wanted to know if we were pressing on with the barrack building programme. We are. In 1935 a long-term programme of £7.000,000 was decided upon by my predecessor. We are proposing to spend next year £7,000,000 in one year. The programme, therefore, has been considerably increased, although there is much leeway to make up. Many questions were addressed to me about marriage and the unfortunate position of the married soldier who is under 26 years of age. There are two opinions upon this subject. For years the soldier has been supposed to be a misogynic person, a celibate, and some people doubt whether that is in accord entirely with modern conditions. I do 332 not wish to express a view on this subject. I would like to observe that it affects the three Service Departments. We are at present in consultation together and it may be possible—I put it no higher than that—at some later stage to make a proposal which, if it does not meet all that is desired by the most extreme, may ease the position. At last, I hope so, and I know what satisfaction that will give to many Members. I think I have answered nearly all the questions that were put to me. As I have said, I was torn between two desires, one to do justice to the excellent speeches that have been made, and the other to keep myself within a reasonable limit. I do not know whether I am convicted upon both counts, but I apologise for the time I have taken.
§ REPORT [9TH MARCH].
§ Resolutions reported: