§ ARMY ESTIMATES 1946
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
Amendment proposed, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House is of opinion that the postwar conditions of service detailed in Command Papers 6715 and 6750 fail to offer sufficient inducement to attract adequate numbers into the Army by voluntary enlistment, and regrets the failure of His Majesty's Government to state how the strength of the Army is to be made up as between voluntary and compulsory intake, to state the liability of men for service in the reserve and to define the future composition of the Territorial Army within this framework."—[Lieut.-Colonel Corbett.]
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Corbett
I was coming on to rather dangerous ground in trying to quote some figures. We know that in January, 1947—I assume for the whole of 1947—we shall require some 600,000 men. That figure will be made up of those in the Regular Army and those who are serving under the National Service Acts. In future years this number may decrease. Let us suppose that each age group could produce 200,000. Let us suppose the Government make up their minds to have a Regular Army of 200,000 strong. Then they could say to the young men in this country that while the numbers remain as high as 600,000 or 500,000 those men must serve for two years, or one and a half years. It may be that the numbers found by voluntary enlistment, comprising the Regular Forces, would be less, in which case the term of compulsory service would be lengthened accordingly. I see no reason why the Government cannot make up some sort of sliding scale showing how these figures and the total numbers will be arrived at and will be reduced. Then the young men would know what liability they are likely to have.
It may be the Government cannot make up their minds to face the continuation 2379 of compulsory service. On this subject a great deal was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) during the Debate on defence on 4th March, and I do not want to labour the point now. But I would say that it seems most probable that we shall have compulsory service with us for some time to come. I, personally, consider that it has more good features than had, and that we should gain greatly by adopting it as a permanent measure. It is, however, extremely difficult to look far into the future. What I should like the Government to make up their minds about is the fact that we must have compulsory service for, at least, five years, and that they should make clear what the conditions and terms during that time are likely to be. Furthermore, I ask them to try to make a success of this Measure, and to give it the best opportunity of becoming popular, in case we decide, or they decide—and I expect it will be "we "—to adopt it as a permanent Measure. It has been in existence for some time in France. I do not know how popular or unpopular it was in that country, or how beneficial, but there is no doubt that there is much to be gained from compulsory national service provided it is treated sensibly, as a measure of further training of the youth of the country, when they leave school or complete their apprenticeship or university training.
It would give an opportunity for service overseas, which would really amount to foreign travel, and I feel there are few young men who would turn aside that offer if it were put to them in a reasonable manner. They would be unwise if they did. I would suggest that compulsory service, if adopted, should not be for less than 1½ or, possibly, two years. I would place 1½ years as the lowest limit, because there must be a period of elementary training and a period of training in this country. The rest of the period could be put in overseas, but if you have compulsory service for a shorter term, say for only one year, it would not be worth while sending men overseas. I would ask the Government whether they would say something about Service exemptions. While we have compulsory service, I can see no reason why we should institute Service exemptions, and I am more than surprised, in view of the announcement made today, 2380 that that statement has not been coupled with some decision upon this subject.
I will now say one or two words about the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army does not know whether it is dead or alive. The regiment I had the good fortune to command for some time during the war is in a state of suspended animation. There is no doubt that while we have compulsory service the Territorial Army cannot exist as it did before the war. It is quite impossible. I hope that the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who is to reply to the Debate will clarify the position of this important body. It has always been looked upon as the great body for voluntary service It is possible that there are uses for the Territorial Army while compulsory service is in existence. I suggest that it can be used for recruiting and for elementary training. It could be used for reserve training for men who have done a short term of compulsory service. It might possibly be used as an alternative means of training by men who are exempted from compulsory service. There are men exempted on industrial grounds, educational grounds and, perhaps, other grounds.
I implore the Government, if they choose compulsory service, to limit the number of exemptions. Industry can adjust itself, and any exemption from compulsory service must inevitably make jealous those who have to undergo compulsory service. The Territorial Army does, I believe, look after the cadet forces. The cadet forces and other auxiliary units might be strengthened, and through the T.A. they might easily be given extra assistance in training and by the provision of more officers. There are at the moment many men who have been Territorial soldiers who are prepared to continue serving in the Territorial Army, but, I understand, the Territorial Army is powerless to reenlist them, and that is a matter to which the Government must attend urgently, or these men will get "fed-up" and let the opportunity pass.
The Reserve is also referred to in my Amendment, because I seek for information. Before the war the Army was made up of men serving with the colours, and with the Reserve. Possibly, in years to come, that state of affairs will return, but what is the situation at the moment? For the last six years or more the whole intake into the Army has been under the National 2381 Service Acts, and when men are demobilised, I understand that they are at present liable to recall. Therefore, the present Reserve must be very extensive. But these men will naturally wish to know what is their future liability for recall. The emergency cannot be protracted for ever, so I feel that the Government should make some announcement on this matter. If all demobilised men were freed at this moment, then, as the Army Reserve must have dwindled during the last six or seven years, I feel we should have left little or no Reserve at all.
I have said little about the Regular Army, and I do not propose to say anything further than this: that I hope that in future the Government will maintain on an active basis the ancillary units, and not allow them to be serviced from civilian sources, for the ancillary units are most important when war breaks out. We have many obligations to fulfil; they were outlined under eight headings in the Defence White Paper. They all require men. At the moment, I feel, numbers are more important than fire power or bombs or atomic energy. We must face the fact, that we must have numbers; and we are entitled to know how the Government intend to provide those numbers and meet their commitments. I wish the Secretary of State and the War Office every success in their recruiting campaign. I hope that as many men as they wish will come forward to join the Forces voluntarily. They have great traditions to follow. Our British Army has been the spearhead of our Empire Forces in two great major wars, and our men have fought and died all over the world. They have gone out to fight those wars for no special gain, only for the principles for which this country has always stood. I feel that everybody in the world must realise, as they see the graves of British soldiers scattered all over the world—in the desert, in Burma, in Europe, and about the Mediterranean's shores—that those men died, not as conquerors, but as men who went out to fight for and to save others. I hope our people will be ready to join the Colours and follow tradition on which hangs the future of our great Army.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Thorp (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I beg to second the Amendment.
2382 I wish to put some criticisms, some advice, and some questions to the Financial Secretary to the War Office. I should like to divide them into four headings. My first heading is the Regular Army. The Regular or professional Army is, I consider, the background and backbone of the Army, on which have to be fitted all the other component parts. If that is so, then we must have a really contented Regular Army; it must be well trained, and it must have the right and the best type of man in command, in fact, the best officers in every rank. What have the Government done to try to produce this contented, first class Regular Army? They issued certain White Papers on pay. They issued them with a great flourish, and they said that this was a tremendous improvement on prewar pay. I have gone into these White Papers carefully, and I cannot see this tremendous improvement. There is an improvement. There is no doubt about that. There are certain improvements, particularly for the junior ranks, and very rightly so. But at the same time senior N.C.O.s and officers have not been well treated. In fact, in some cases they are worse off. To my mind that is a wrong principle, because although everybody has to start as a junior—as a private—eventually he must look ahead and work for what he is going to get, and if there is no prize at the end he will not be interested in his Army life.
The next criticism I have of these White Papers is that the Government have endeavoured to compare the new rates of pay with those of the civilian rates. I say that that is a complete fallacy, because the civilian can, if he wants to, work overtime and can thus earn more money; and, more important, he is not under any sort of discipline after he leaves work and goes home; whereas the soldier is always under discipline. Moreover, the soldier very often has to serve in unpleasant and unhealthy climates, and has to be prepared to move his family quite often during his military career, and is often on active service. I do not see that the soldier's pay and the civilian's pay of the same amount are, therefore, really comparable.
The next point I want to raise is about allowances. It has been decided that allowances will be taxed. I am not against that in principle, but what I should like to point out is that allow- 2383 ances were and are granted as an extra amount to make up for certain expenses incurred. Therefore, if these allowances are to be taxed, I have two alternative suggestions to make. One is to gross up the allowances so that after taxation has been taken off they are sufficient to meet the expenses incurred. That is one possibility. The second alternative is to allow men to claim exemption on their allowances for expenses incurred and proved, in the same way as exemptions are claimed by people in businesses. If the Government do this, it will be perfectly fair to tax allowances. Another small point connected with the White Papers, which has already been mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett), is the lowering of the age for marriage. This, I think, will be welcomed in most quarters, but I want to know what the Government are doing, and what the War Office are doing, to provide accommodation for these young married people, either at home or overseas.
Retired pay is another matter of importance. I maintain that the Government have broken a pledge given to serving officers who were commissioned between the ages of 18 and 21, because they have now come along and told these men that they cannot count towards retired pay commissioned service before the age of 21. That is breaking a pledge, and it is surely not a good thing for the Government to start off by breaking a pledge when they are trying to get volunteers for the Regular Army. In regard to pay codes, I compare them with a phoney prospectus, having one advantage over the phoney prospectus, that if you look at them you can soon find out the flaws; but not many people will be taken in by them. All I can say is, if this is the only way in which the Government are trying to get the necessary volunteers for the Regular Army, I do not think very much of it.
I pass now to compulsory service. The Government stated in the White Paper on Defence that the period of compulsory service must depend on commitments and upon the number of volunteers for the Regular Army. That may be true, but if the Government decide now what the permanent strength of the Army is to be, and what numbers are required in the Regular or profess- 2384 sional Army, I am sure, if these White Papers are as marvellous as they say, that they will have no difficulty in getting the numbers they want, but will have queues. They should know from the figures available the numbers coming forward each year in an age group, and they can then decide, as it could have been decided long ago, how long the period of compulsory service will have to be. I am not going to argue on the length of compulsory service, but it must be long enough for men to be properly trained, and they must take their share in overseas service, otherwise the burden once again will be thrown on the Regular Army, which, as I have said before in this House, will become a foreign legion, which again will not be good for recruiting.
Army reserves are a small but very important part of the Army. Owing to the war and compulsory service, I think I am correct in saying, there are no men on long service regular enlistments except those who joined between 1934 and 1939. This is a number which is very quickly dwindling. In the White Paper it has been announced that the new service conditions will be five years with the Regular Forces and seven years with the Reserve, which means that out first reservists will not appear until 1951. In the meantime we have a small dwindling number of reservists with nothing to take their place. The only men who could take their place are those released from the Forces who are still on compulsory engagement until the emergency is declared over. I should like a statement from the Government as to how it is proposed to build up these reserves, and whether the Government have any idea whether the men to be called up in the future are to do their period of compulsory service and then go on the Reserve. Something has to be done in the matter. It is all very well to face the future, but we must face the near future.
Finally, I should like to refer to the Territorial Army. I have served with the Territorial Army, and as a Regular I had the honour in peacetime to be with a very famous regiment, the Northumberland Hussars, as Adjutant. An hon. and gallant Friend in the House has also had the same honour. I served with the Territorial Army for most of the early part of the war, and I cannot say too much about what they have done for 2385 the country, both during peace and war. It has been announced, and I was delighted to hear it, that the first-line units of the Territorial Army are to be preserved. I would be extremely grateful if the Government would tell us what has happened since that very gratifying announcement, because so far as I can see nothing further has taken place. The Territorial Associations have been told nothing. Perhaps the Government will tell us from where the men are to come. Are they to be old soldiers from this war who will volunteer, or will they be men who have done a period of conscripted service and then go into the Territorial Army?
As regards officers, my hon. and gallant Friend has mentioned a short term period, and that seems to me to be a reasonable suggestion. On the other hand, is it required that men should serve two years in the ranks before they have a commission in the Territorial Army? I must point out these things, because there seems to me to be no initiative—one hears absolutely nothing. I have a right to say these things, because we were never satisfied with conditions in the old days in the Territorial Army. [Interruption.] I might point out to hon. Members who are laughing that we did have regard in spending public money, which apparently is not the case with this Government. As a Member of the Opposition, perhaps I have given more advice than I should—indeed, I have almost solved the problems of the Government—but I will give one more piece of advice. A very famous commander said that he would rather have men who did something quickly, although it might not be perfect, than have men who waited and delayed because they were frightened of doing wrong, and that applies just as much here as anywhere else. I say to the right hon. Gentleman, put a finish to this gutless apathy, and let us have a sound workable programme for the future of the Army.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Colonel Wigg (Dudley):
I would like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) on putting this Amendment on the Order Paper. I also congratulate him on the very able way he dealt with the subject. I do not think that the hon. and gallant 2386 Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Lieut.-Colonel Thorp) helped the cause of getting an efficient and contented Army by his use of extravagant language. To compare the White Paper with a "phoney company prospectus" was very unfair indeed. A great deal of work and time must have gone into the preparation of the White Paper, and if hon. Members opposite claim some of the credit for the suggestions made in it, they must also bear some of the responsibility. I readily agree that the final responsibility must rest on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War.
The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed made great play with the words "gutless apathy." But what happened at the end of the last war? The Royal Warrants which introduced improvements of pay and conditions for officers and men, Nos. 324 and 325 of 1919, were introduced on 13th September, 1919–10 months after the Armistice in 1918. On the basis of the time spent in the preparation of the two "tidying up" jobs—because that is what they are—I think my right hon. Friend has every reason to be proud of his achievement in producing these White Papers in so short a time. There is no doubt that at the end of this war, as at the end of the last, pay and allowances in all the Armed Forces got into an unholy mess. I believe that it is true that a private soldier, before the introduction of this White Paper, could receive any one of something like 148 different rates of pay. There is a very difficult "tidying up" job to be done.
Having said that, and rebutted, I hope, some of the more tendentious statements of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, perhaps I may turn to the conditions themselves. I am not altogether satisfied with the rates of pay. I think that there is plenty of room for improvement, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, having taken this step forward, will not do what Ministers did a generation ago. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), as Secretary of State for War, signed the Army Orders, to which I have referred, in September, 1919. What happened? What he gave as Secretary of State for War in 1919, he took away in 1925, when Chancellor of the Exchequer. Again, in 1931, at a time when the right hon. Gentleman the 2387 Member for Woodford was following a very intelligent line about the international situation and was, therefore, excluded from the counsels of the party opposite, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that time, a Member of the party opposite, cut the pay of the Armed Forces. [HON. MEMBERS: Philip Snowden."] Whoever it was, he was implementing the policy of the Conservative Party, but I do not want to make a debating point. I should not have spent the last five minutes making these points had it not been for the tendentious and provocative line taken by the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. I am much more concerned about seeing the Army develop on sound lines and on getting a square deal for all ranks. I am interested in the pensions awarded to other ranks, but I must declare a personal financial interest, because as a result of my 26 years' service I get 3s. 0½d. a day. I would like to see the pensions reassessed for the other ranks who returned as officers to the Army during the war.
One omission which really astonishes me in the White Paper is that no reference whatever is made to rates of pay for boys. I think that the boys who came into the Army between the two wars provided a very fruitful ground from which were found senior N.C.Os., warrant officers and commissioned officers. I would like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman why boys have been excluded from the White Paper. Is it to be the policy of the Government in future that no one is to serve in the Armed Forces until he has reached the age of 18, or are the rates of pay for boys still under consideration?
I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the bounty system announced after Questions today. This is a reversion to a practice which existed after the end of the last war. In 1919, there were two Army Orders which granted bounties to other ranks to encourage them to enlist, for a short period, into the Regular Army, during the period of transition. At the same time, bounties were given to encourage men to undertake service in the Reserves. I hope that the announcement made today to grant bounties for a period of four years will re supplemented by an announcement that the Government are anxious to enlist not only men or full time service but also those who will undertake to serve in the Army Reserve. I made this point in a 2388 previous Debate, but I did not get an answer, and I hope that I shall get one today. On almost every occasion between the two wars when the Reserves were needed, it was the Class A Reserve that was called and, therefore, there is some evidence, from our past experience, of the need of a Class A Reserve to form a striking force.
One of the proposals which I welcome most in the White Paper is that which limits foreign service. I hope that the good intention expressed of returning men to this country after a period of three years abroad will not be forgotten as the years go on. One of the most iniquitous practices between the two wars was to enlist men for seven years with the Colours and five years with the Reserve, and then, when a man was thinking of returning to civilian life, he found himself posted overseas, and was kept there to the expiration of his seven years' service and perhaps into his eighth year of service. In fact, what should have been an exceptional power of holding a man after the expiration of his Colour service became, in fact, a normal practice. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say that five years with the Colours means five years and that three years overseas means three years.
I am one of those who think that the question of pay is not the most important matter when considering recruiting for the Regular Army. I do not think that the majority of young men who make up their minds to go into the Army sit down and work out the different rates of pay they are going to get. What they do is to think of the prospects, and of what the prospects will be when they settle down and become N.C.Os. and make soldiering their life career. These young men will also think what their prospects will be when it comes to leaving the Army and resettling in civilian life. Although I make no claim to speak for the commissioned ranks, for my service there was very brief, I believe that is abundantly true of the officers as well. In all ranks of the Army, particularly when the time draws near to leave, there is great concern as to what the future holds.
I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will have a look at the prospects of the men or the officers, as the case may be, in the Regular Army, and 2389 consider what their prospects are to be at the expiration of their service. There must be fields in Government service where the special training and qualifications gained over the years should be useful It is little short of a scandal that men just over 40 years of age and with 20 years or more good work in them should be turned away and left to fend for themselves. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will give earnest consideration to building a contented Army. The best recruiting sergeant one can get is a contented soldier. The Army are much better without a discontented soldier or a discontented officer.
The White Paper is good and had in parts. It certainly can be improved and I believe the right hon. Gentleman will take an early opportunity of effecting improvements. If we are to adopt conscription we must see that the prospects in a citizen Army over the years are not less than the prospects for a young man who has entered the ranks of industry.
§ 5.3 P.m.
Colonel Stoddart-Seott (Pudsey and Otley)
May I crave the indulgence of the House whilst I make my initial effort in this ancient Assembly? I shall not delay the House long, as I have no intention of inflicting upon this House those agonies which I am about to endure. I wish to support the Amendment moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett), and I add my voice to his in drawing to the notice of the Government their duty and their failure to tell the people of this country the sacrifices which they are called upon to make in order that we may have an adequate defence. Six hundred years before Christ, the Chinese philosopher Confucius said there were three essentials of good government. The first was that a government ought to provide enough food for the people; the second, that the government should supply enough soldiers to preserve the State; and the third, that the government should secure and maintain the confidence of the people. I know that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would rule out of Order any remarks of mine upon the Government's failure to provide enough food for the people, but may I say that with regard to the second factor of good government, it is incumbent upon the 2390 Government to tell us how they intend to provide sufficient soldiers for the preservation of the State. We cannot go on much longer with this indefinite period of mobilisation. We cannot go on keeping in the Forces those who have more than made their contribution to the common effort. There seems to be no way to spread the burden upon all classes and all families other than to have some limited period of conscription, about which, I hope, before the day is out, the Minister will tell us some details
The country is wishful to hear what is expected of it, and I think we are right in this House in demanding that we should hear it today. Much nonsense was talked in the past about militarism, great armaments and pacifism. Much has been said in this House and still more in the country but surely this Government must now believe that armaments in the hands of a peaceful people can ensure peace. Field-Marshal Smuts when in this country hi 1944 said that peace unbacked by power remained a dream, and I hope the Secretary of State for War will see that a powerful Britain does not remain only a dream which haunts the slumber of his Cabinet colleagues. I hope that when he considers the reorganisation of the Regular Army, he will not confine himself to the reorganisation of the big battalions and the gun regiments only, but that, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ludlow suggested, the ancillary services shall also be considered. The war has proved how important they are and how impotent any striking force must be if there are no good ancillary services. In prewar days one saw in the Regular Army a force not based upon divisional formation, a force which actually went to war completely devoid of some of those ancillary services. Only a year before the war there was no such thing as a field ambulance in the whole of our Regular Army, and many of our units were still relying upon civilian organisations for some of these essential services. It was the custom in prewar days to look upon these ancillary services as a necessary evil, but the war has shown us what a vital necessity those services were and are.
I wish to speak for a few moments about the work of one of those ancillary services, the Royal Army Medical Corps. It would be inappropriate for me to speak 2391 of its achievements, as I have been a member of that corps for 20 years, but I should like to refer to a few of its shortcomings. It is a corps composed largely of officers, a corps which is divided into e mass of professional men and a mass of administrators. One curious factor is that if an officer becomes an administrator in the R.A.M.C. he must give up his clinical and professional activity. I hope that, in the future, when that great corps is being reorganised it will be possible for promotion on the clinical and the administration sides to go along parallel lines. It is a great disadvantage to the Service that a good surgeon or physician has to give up his clinical work in order to get promotion and if a good surgeon off physician becomes an administrator, it does not necessarily mean he will be a good administrator. Secondly, I think that it is the one technical service which is not able to provide the highest ranks in the Army. It is impossible for a medical officer or for an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps to rise above the rank of Director-General of that corps. Until there is a system which will make it possible for officers to become commanders of armies or even field-marshals the Government will not attract to the Royal Army Medical Corps such men as Moynihan, Horder, Moran and Lister. Field-Marshal Robertson once said that a field marshal's baton was in the haversack of every soldier. But that does not hold good so far as the Medical Corps is concerned. No field marshal's baton has yet been found either in a surgical haversack, or at the bottom of an Otway pit.
In the reorganisation of the Army it is important that we should know exactly the length of time which men will be called upon to serve in future, and to ensure that there should be equality in the different branches of His Majesty's Service. The age plus length of service scheme for demobilisation is not one which provides equality. For instance, in the case of twins who joined the Army and the Navy on the same day one, in the Navy, was demobilised two years before the other. I, therefore, hope that when conditions in the Army, Navy, or Air Force are decided those inequalities will not stand. There are still some soldiers who were in the Territorial Army, and gave much of their spare time in prewar days, and who were called up in 2392 September, 1939, still serving in the Forces. They do not yet know the date of their release.
The demobilisation scheme for the British Army is the only one of all the demobilisation schemes of the Allied Armies which has failed to take into consideration the married family man. There is no other demobilisation scheme in existence which has not given certain facilities to married men with families. When we are trying to build up family life in this country and to improve the present trend in population, it seems regrettable that the White Paper should add to those injustices by seeing that a financial bar is placed on married other ranks under the age of 21 and married officers under the age of 25. Indeed, under the new terms of service, the married soldier with three children is financially worse off now than he was under the old conditions of service.
If the Government will be bold in their planning of the postwar Army, and improve some of the features of the new pay code, and make service more attractive in the Regular and Territorial Armies, and in the Cadet movement, they can maintain, in peace, a happy and efficient British Army. If this Government wish to see both liberty and peace extend throughout the world they should cherish and foster an efficient and well-armed Britain.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
It falls to my agreeable lot to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey and Otley (Colonel Stoddart-Scott) on his very interesting and knowledgeable speech. It is but a short time since I myself crossed the Rubicon—I being one of the fools who rushed in where angels feared to tread—and I fear that any remarks I make on this theme today will appear patronising, pompous, and out of place. But I have always been told that this House respects contributions which are based on knowledge, experience and sincerity, although that does not prevent many of us from talking on subjects which we know nothing whatever about. The speech we have just heard from the hon. and gallant Member was certainly knowledgeable and sincere, and I am sure I am expressing the feeling of the whole House when I give him my humble congratulations upon it.
2393 We have been invited today, by the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett), to consider an Amendment which is extremely wide in its terms. It criticises the Government for their failure to formulate a policy which deals with postwar conditions of service, for their failure to say how the strength of the Army is to be made up as between voluntary and compulsory intake, to state the liability of men for service in the Reserve, and to define the future composition of the Territorial Army within "this framework." Now, this Government is a very good one, with very able men in it, but it seems an unmerited tribute, on the part of the Opposition, to invite the Government to solve problems before it is possible to know what those problems are. It is impossible to find a solution until the problem is known. How will the peace treaties affect our commitments? What sort of international force will the United Nations organisation, the Security Council, and the Military Staffs Committee create? Those questions are fundamental, and until we know the answers to them we do not know what "this framework" will be. It is like making bricks without straw. We are now in a period of transition, and all that it is fair to ask the Government to do at the moment is to legislate for that transition. In my submission, the main theme of the Amendment is entirely misconceived, misplaced and premature.
When we come to the suggestion that the rates of pay offered in the White Paper fail to offer sufficient inducement to attract adequate numbers by voluntary enlistment, the same criticism, to a large extent, must apply. Until we know how many people we want how can we possibly know what adequate numbers are? In those circumstances, all it is possible to do is to do what the Government have done—lay down certain standards below which the rates should not fall. Those rates are, for the lowest ranks, similar to those paid to semi-skilled labour in Government industrial establishments. The figures in the appendices to the White Paper show a whole range of improvement after improvement. There have been two grounds of criticism of these rates. One is that they provide insufficient incentive to warrant and non-commissioned ranks, 2394 because of the insufficient disparity between the pay of a private soldier and those of warrant or non-commissioned rank. There are several answers to that criticism, but the first is that we do not believe in having a great disparity. We believe that the disparity has been too great in the past, and that we should raise the level of the lowest ranks, which has been done by the Government. When we come to the question of incentives it is quite wrong to argue as if the sole incentive to a man to rise from the lowest rank was the extra pay he would receive. Everybody knows that the amenities of life are, rightly, very much greater for those who obtain non-commissioned rank and, stile more, warrant rank. To argue this mater purely on financial grounds shows, I think, little sense of reality.
When Members analyse the figures, and argue that people will be worse off under the present scheme, it will be found that in almost every case completely wrong assumptions have been made. First, they assume that Income Tax is at the rate of 10s. in the £, whereas it has now gone down to 9s. in the £; secondly, they assume that the whole of the reliefs which have been granted by the October Budget and the present Budget, and which we hope will be increased by future Budgets, are non-existent; and thirdly, they ignore the fact that on 1st August this year, precisely one month after the new rates of pay come into force, family allowances will begin to be paid. Those who argue that the people with three or four children will be worse off simply because Income Tax has to be paid on their allowances ignore the payment of the family allowances.
I deprecate the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow that we ought to encourage junior officers under 25, who may be ordered to go to any part of the world, to enter into marriage. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was wrong in saying that provision was not made for the man who is promoted from the ranks and finds himself with marriage obligations at the time of promotion. I need only refer to Command Paper 6750, page 9. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will see that arrangements have been made. I suggest that it is right and proper that a certain age should be fixed. The age fixed by previous Governments was 30, and that fixed by this 2395 Government is 25. I think that is a clear improvement, and that the fixing of that age is right and proper in the interests of the young officers and their families. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley that it is very easy to overstress the importance, great though it is, of pay alone, separated from the whole field of conditions of service. I quite agree that the conditions must be brought up to decent civilian standards and that if those civilian standards, as a result of a continuous succession of Labour Governments, are gradually improved, the conditions in the Armed Forces must also be raised; but I believe it would be wrong to make of the Armed Forces a privileged class. It is true that in many cases married quarters are deplorable at present, but unfortunately, it is equally true that the circumstances in which many married people outside the Services have to bring up children are deplorable. That is well known to hon. Members on both sides, as the causes are known to hon. Members on this side. The two evils of drabness of living conditions and excessive dependence on the whims of individual superiors must gradually be eliminated from the Services.
I wish to deal briefly with two other topics. First, I hope that the Secretary of State will retain in the peacetime organisation of the Army the welfare organisation which was built up during the war. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will agree that the responsibility of the officer for his men is one of the great glories of the British Army, and one of the ways in which the Army has possibly led the way in comparison with the other Services. The organisation of welfare in large units is a specialised task. In this connection, I would like to pay a tribute to one who conceived the whole idea of the welfare organisation in the Army and through whose efforts, which have gone completely unrewarded and unsung, this great work was done. I refer to Lieut.-General Sir John Brown. I am very glad that the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) is in his place; he did very much to help, and I am sure that he and the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Medlicott) will endorse what I have said. One cannot hope for justice in this world, but I do not think that it would be proper that 2396 this Debate should pass, as have all the Honours Lists produced by successive Governments without any reference to that very wise and original military thinker. I ask the Secretary of State to consider without any preconceived prejudices about commissars, whether there is not a case for a non-commissioned welfare officer who is accessible to all ranks and who has access to all ranks. I have always believed that it was one of the strengths of the Navy that chaplains were not commissioned officers. I hope that consideration will be given to the point I have made.
The last topic I wish to raise concerns the Territorial Army. In the Defence Debate, the Secretary of State said that Territorial Army units are to be retained and that great responsibilities are to be placed upon the shoulders of the Territorial Army associations. I endorse what has been said by hon. Members opposite to the effect that any view that the Territorial Army did not face up to its responsibilities in the past is completely misconceived. There is no need for me to recapitulate the great services which it has rendered, but there was a failure, to which attention has not been drawn, on the part of the Regular Army before the war, although it was not altogether the fault of the military, to provide proper Regular instructors for Territorial Army units. I believe that, however our Forces are constituted, there must be a place for voluntary service, and I believe that the Territorial Army associations, with their contacts with people in the country, should be the organisations to administer that service. I hope that vigorous action will be taken to make the Territorial Army associations as democratic in fact as they have always been in principle, and to enlist the support for Territorial Army associations of all classes of the community, and particularly the trade unions. We on this side of the House are most anxious that the Territorial Army, if reconstituted, should be a really democratic force. In this, as in other spheres, we do not ask for democratisation on any theoretical grounds, because we like the word; nor do we intend to sacrifice efficiency to democracy; we want democratisation because we believe that in these times we can only use all the talents of all the people in the country by a progressive and vigorous policy of democratisation.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Brigadier Peto (Barnstaple)
I have three points to raise concerning Command Paper No. 6750. The first concerns the case of the man who has to wait until he attains the age of 21 years before counting his service towards pension. On page 30, paragraphs 1 to 6, reference is made to the full standard rate dependent on the minimum number of years' service after the age of 21. On page 31, in paragraph 12, we are told how service is reckoned. Subparagraph (a) says:Full pay service on the active list subsequent to the date of appointment to a commission will count.That seems to make it clear that from the date of commission, whether the man is 18 or 21 when he receives his commission, he is entitled to count that period of service towards a pension. In the next subparagraph (b), however, that is contradicted because it is stated thatonly service ••subsequent to the date of attaining the age of 21 will reckonI have tried to discover whether these two subparagraphs (a) and (b) of paragraph 12 on page 31 are, in fact, contradictory, and I have not so far been able to find out. In my humble opinion it is manifestly unjust that a man who joined during the previous war and had three years' active service during the war should not count any of that period towards his pension because he was not 21 years of age. I should say that exactly the same case of injustice could be made out for many of the Battle of Britain pilots in the last war, many of whom were not 21 when they went up and fought so gallantly. Why should they not count those years of service towards their pension? That is my first point and I ask the hon. Gentleman or the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply to give me an answer.
The warrant officer may count his service as warrant officer, class I, from the age of 18. Below that rank a man is entitled to count half the service before the age of 21. None of these things seems to me to be very logical. The criticism that has already been levelled at the rates of pay concern mainly the senior ranks of major and lieut.-colonel commanding. It is quite evident that the new rates of pay, minus the allowances of the past are, in some cases, not as good as they were before the war. A lieut.-colonel commanding does not get as much pay and 2398 allowances as he did before, by quite a large sum. I suggest that the one ambition of many who join the Army—and I should think any other Service—is to be commissioned, and to rise to command the unit he joins. For a commanding officer to suffer a disability under the new rates, when that is a man's ambition, is, I think, a little unjust. I urge very strongly that some form of command allowance or command pay shall be reinserted. Exactly the same argument can be used for the appointment of adjutant which is, after that of the commanding officer, the most important in any unit. The man who is picked as adjutant is generally the best young officer with the most promise in his unit. In the old days 5s. a day was paid for the enormous amount of extra work this young officer is expected to do. He works far longer hours than any other officer in the unit, and has far greater responsibilities than is normal for his rank and age. It is erroneous to assume that the young captain would always be chosen as adjutant, or that the senior subaltern would be chosen and promoted to captain. It may or may not be so, but what is evident is that, whoever is doing that job should receive some extra recompense.
My third point has already been mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg) when he referred to the cuts of the Regular Army reserve officers in 1931, which have never so far been restored. It is to the question of Regular Army reserve officers that I would direct the attention of the Financial Secretary to the War Office. In the recent war very many of the Regular Army reserve officers not only rejoined and fought but lost their lives. They did an enormous job particularly during the difficult times of 1939 and 1940, and under the new rates of pay and retired pay I do not think they score anything at all. They served during the war and they are told they may go now that the war is over. They go on the old terms of pension that they had when they left, perhaps four or five years before the war, many of them not having qualified for the maximum pension of their rank when they left. I would most earnestly ask the Government to consider giving the Regular Army reserve officer, who has served sufficiently long, after being recalled to the Forces, the right to qualify by that service for maximum pension of their rank. It 2399 seems a small thing and the least one could ask for these gallant officers. That completes my criticism of Cmd. Paper 6750.
My next point was also mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley. I am uncertain what the future holds for the warrant officer and the quartermaster. I can speak with experience. I know that those people have had a rotten deal in the past in regard to pensions. It explains why, with so little in the future for them, they are often tempted, and comparatively frequently fall down, in a job of that sort, by being dishonest. That is often caused by the knowledge that they have nothing put by against the time when they will have to leave the Army. I urgently ask the Government to be generous in their terms for warrant officers and quartermasters who retire.
§ The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Bellenger)
I take that to be something of an aspersion upon a very worthy body of officers and non-commissioned officers. I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will make it clear that the number of cases in which defalcations arise is infinitesimally small, compared with the number of those officers.
§ Brigadier Peto
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for calling my attention to that point. What he says is absolutely true. The number who fall by the wayside through dishonesty is infinitesimal; but I think I am right in saying that the temptation is there. The temptation remains there through the knowledge that their future is not secured by adequate pension, or by having any private means put by. It has frequently been my experience that warrant officers and quartermasters have on occasions found it extremely difficult to resist that form of temptation.
The hon. and gallant Member for Dudley said that there was no assured future for men who leave the Army after faithful service. I endorse that observation very strongly, and I ask whether the Civil Service can reserve some percentage of the available positions in favour of men who have been in the Services, who leave with exemplary characters, and who would be quite adequate as postmen or policemen. The police force is, at present, reserved for those below the age of 30. I am certain that there are 2400 many N.C.Os. and men who would be most suitable in that force, after their period of service in the Regular Army. I, therefore, ask the Government to see whether they can extend Civil Service openings for those who have completed a period of regular service.
My last word is about the future of the Territorial Army and the Regular Army. However they are to be constituted, the Territorial Army should be linked very closely with the Regular Army. In my experience with the Territorial Army I have found enormous benefit from close liaison with Regular regiments. I am sure that, whatever terms of service are given by the Government for Territorial officers and other ranks, and whatever the terms of service are for conscription, the future wellbeing of the armies will be found by integrating the Territorial Army and the Regular Army as closely as possible, as has been done in this war. If and when an emergency comes, the Territorial soldier does not then feel that he has much leeway to make up, he feels that he can take his place, in the most difficult circumstances, in conditions of actual warfare. We should link them together, making the Regular Army take responsibility for training and encouraging the Territorial Army.
§ 5.47 P.m.
§ Lieutenant Herbert Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Barnstaple (Brigadier Peto) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments in detail. On one point, in particular, I disagree with him. We feel that a great step taken by the White Paper is that it simplifies a very complicated system of pay. We would not advocate, as he does, special rates of pay, such as command pay and all the rest that he put forward. The great step taken is that the new system is clearer and simpler than its predecessors. Hon. Members opposite find themselves in a difficulty. They are in a position similar to that of a slum property owner looking at a fine new house and trying to criticise it in detail. They are criticising rates of pay and conditions which are far better than they were prepared to give when they were responsible. They naturally find it difficult to substantiate the sweeping remarks that are made in their Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick - upon - Tweed (Lieut. - Colonel 2401 Thorp) pointed out how careful his party were about the spending of public money. It is curious that they pay such attention to the subject when they are in Opposition, yet when they are in power they spend a great deal of it, but in such a way that the conditions and pay of men in the Forces before the war were nothing short of a national scandal and a disgrace.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
Did the hon. and gallant Member's party do anything to increase rates of pay in 1924 and 1929?
§ Lieutenant Hughes
I would like to refer—[HON. MEMBERS: Answer "]. Perhaps hon. Members opposite will allow me to get the words out of my mouth—I would refer them to the efforts made by the present Minister to improve the conditions of men in the Services. I would also point out that, now we are in power, we are making a very substantial contribution not in words but in deeds. This matter is greater than a question of rates of pay. The recruitment and conditions of the soldier depend also upon the status of the individual who is in uniform. I am hoping that other White Papers will be issued giving the comparable progress in conditions of service as well as in rates of pay. We have to go forward to a system in which the private soldier feels that he has the rights of a citizen. I remember an old Yorkshire-man in my unit saying to me: "We will put up with any hardship, sir, but we won't be tret as kids."
One of the troubles in the Army in the past has been the attitude which has treated the private soldier as a cross between a child and a criminal. Great strides have been made during the war to get away from that, but we have still a great way to go. On this side of the House, we believe that a great deal can be done without in any way weakening basic military discipline. We believe that there can be greater distinction than in the past between the rights and behaviour of a private soldier on parade and off parade. We believe that barrack conditions of the future must be such that the private soldier can have a reasonable degree of privacy and quiet and opportunities of improving himself. We believe that the private soldier of the future must, after his day's work is done and after the needs of discipline parades and opera- 2402 tional parades are completed, have the right to spend his free time as he wishes. I would like to see in peace time the private soldier on a basis of something like 5½ days a week, to which we are accustomed in civilian life. I believe that would not be impracticable.
We took one step forward a week ago when we recognised that the private soldier, as an adult individual, should decide for himself whether or not he should go to church. That is an example of how we hope the private soldier will be treated in the future. We believe, also, that the private soldier must be given a much fuller say than he has had in the past in welfare in his own unit. As the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) said, the regimental officer must be responsible for his men's welfare. It would also be an advantage if the padre or welfare officer were relieved of his commissioned rank and placed in the same position as a Military Government Officer who can talk with equal freedom from embarrassment to a brigadier or private soldier. We believe, also, it would be possible, without affecting military discipline, to formulate some machinery in which collective grievances of the men in a unit could be expressed to the commanding officer without it being regarded as a state tantamount to mutiny. There are always a number of things in a unit which are felt as grievances by the men involved. They can approach their commanding office: as individuals, but they cannot formulate their grievances as collective grievances. There has been some form of collective machinery in the form of messing committees. I would not say their constitution has been satisfactory, but we believe it would be possible with a little careful thought to devise some machinery on a broader basis which could deal with the myriad little points in units—leave rotas, the arrangements of men in barrack rooms and, most important of all, the disposal and accounting of regimental funds.
A fourth way of improving the adult citizenship of the soldier is through Army education. What is to happen to those splendid formation colleges which are working at the present time? Are they to go forward in the Regular Army or are they to be disbanded? The Army Bureau of Current Affairs is now a civilian organisation. It is dependent entirely on private 2403 funds. Is it in future to have the same status with the Army as in the past? Will it be given a part in Regular Army training?
I want to draw special attention to the paragraphs of the White Paper dealing with the recruitment of officers. It will obviously be of great importance for recruitment for the future Army that men should know what opportunities they have of promotion to commissioned rank. We welcome strongly the paragraph stating that as a general rule officers in the postwar Regular Army will be provided from candidates who have served for a period in the ranks, but how democratic that system will prove still remains to be seen. What tests of character and personality will be called for? Will they be on the lines of the wartime selection board, or of the prewar selections, which were of a much less democratic character? What proportion of officers in future are to come from direct entry from the universities? Will that be confined to the specialist services or will it not?
Then there are the Auxiliary Forces. Whit proportion of the commissioned officers of the future will come from those? What length of service in the ranks will be required for potential officers? Will that service be in a normal unit or in specially, selected training units of the kind we knew during the war? When an officer is commissioned, will the regulations governing his life be such that he will be able to live on his Army pay without feeling any sense of social embarrassment or inferiority? We know of units in the prewar Army where a man who wished to go in for a commission, if he were to carry out the social life of the regiment, needed a private income of as much as £400 a year. If that is to be the case in the future, it is clear that no man without a private income will look to the Army as a career which he can afford to undertake.
Turning to the future of conscription, we recognise the difficulties the Government have in declaring their ultimate target. Hon. Members opposite are very wedded to the idea of theoretical targets, whether or not the conditions are there to make them possible. The hon. Member for Walsall talked about the role of the Military Staffs Committee of the United Nations. They obviously have to be consulted. The Commonwealth Gov- 2404 ernments have to be consulted. The strategy of an age of atomic warfare is also a very revelant factor. It is quite obvious to anybody who gives serious attention to the point that the Government are in a real difficulty in declaring a fixed figure for the future. Failing the declaration of that fixed figure, it is extraordinarily difficult for them to fix the period of compulsory service.
We are as anxious as Members opposite that the young men of 18 should know what their future is to be. At the moment, the careers of many young men of 18 are being seriously interfered with, and not only that, but the supplies of trained men for the professions is also being seriously hindered. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman who is going to reply whether he will look ahead and see if in the reasonably near future it will be possible to clear up this position. I would like to make one suggestion to him. To overcome the difficulties of the young men of 18, would it not be possible, say by next October, to work out a scheme by which young men who are training either for the professions or industries, either as university students or as apprentices, should be allowed to opt whether they will do their compulsory military service immediately or when they have completed their training? At the moment, I believe, they get up to nine months' extension, which may allow them to complete the next stage of their course. They then go into the Services, leaving their course half completed, a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. We feel it should now be possible to give them at least the option of either proceeding straight into military service and continuing their training later, or staying on and completing their course before doing their period of compulsory service.
§ Brigadier Peto
Is the hon. Gentleman also referring to the completion of an apprenticeship before joining? That is most important.
§ Lieutenant Hughes
I am referring both to completing an apprenticeship and to completing a recognised university or diploma course. I would make it wide enough to cover all the normal training for a career in which young men of 18 are likely to be engaged, whether in industry or in a university.
I wish to back up what my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall said with regard 2405 to the Territorial Army. He pointed out that we on this side of the House are very keen that the Territorial Army of the future shall be representative of the whole of our democracy. I have looked into this matter a little and have discovered that in the model rules for the Territorial Army there is a provision for coopting members on to the county associations who would be representative of both the employers and the workmen. There are in addition, of course, military members and representatives of the county councils and the universities. If those model rules were operated, they would go a good way to giving the county associations a real link not only with the local authorities and the educational bodies, but also with the trade union movement and with the employers associations. Would my hon. Friend look into this and find out in how many counties before the war these model rules were, in fact, being implemented to the extent of giving the trade unions some representation on them? We want to go forward in the future to a Territorial Army and a Regular Army which will be a real people's Army of which our democracy can be proud.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Marshall (Sutton and Cheam)
I wish to take up one of the points made by the hon. and gallant Member for West Wolverhampton (Lieutenant Hughes), particularly in regard to the period of compulsory service which we have to envisage. Ironical as it may appear, I think it will be the duty of this Government to bring in a measure of compulsory service. Undoubtedly what is giving a great deal of thought to young men and to educational authorities today is the age at which the period of compulsory service is to begin and end. On both sides of the House, without any question, we desire that it should be as effective but as short as possible. The difficulty is to define the age at which it should start. Some have said that the best period is 18 years of age; others have said it should be the period at which a man is either completing his finals at the university, or has completed his university training, and that he should be allowed to opt. Having considered this question for very many years, and observed that we should one day be faced with compulsory service in this country, I have come to the conclusion that the right 2406 age is about 18. I know that when the 1944 Education Act is implemented, as we hope it will be in the next few years, the school leaving age will be raised to 18. After that we hope, in the course of time, to have the county colleges in being, which will again take a boy or girl up to the age of 18. Obviously, therefore, 18 is the age at which a lad should do any compulsory service.
In previous discussions of the Estimates for the Navy, Army and Air Force the question of training of youths has been raised. What has impressed me particularly during the war, from close observation, has been the tremendous success achieved by the Air Training Corps. We have taken boys at the age of 16, not merely from secondary schools, but boys who left school when they were 14 and, by that syllabus of training, we have produced very efficient airmen and have handed on to the Royal Air Force lads who have been very efficiently trained—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. Gentleman is referring to the Air Training Corps, which does not come into the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Marshall
I stand corrected, Sir, but what I have to say applies equally to the two other Services and to the Army Cadet Corps in particular. I say that because I am convinced that in the years ahead, all three Services will be correlated instead of being divided as they have been in the years gone by. It is because of that, perhaps, that I inadvertently brought in the other Service. I feel that the training we give our youth in the postwar years will not be so divided as it has been, and that there will be a closer relationship between one Service and another. When the Secretary of State for War and his colleagues consider a scheme for the training of cadets for the postwar Army, I hope they will bear in mind that in our experience the voluntary organisations in every case—the Army Cadet Corps and the Air Training Corps—have done valuable work. If a boy knows that in the years to come, he will have to serve some compulsory period he will not be very keen to join any of the junior organisations until he reaches his period of compulsory training. It can be arranged, I think, to adopt some common syllabus and curriculum for the boys, whether they are going into the Navy, Army or Air Force, and the boy who gives voluntary 2407 service between the ages of 16 and 18, if he passes a certain standard, as the Army cadet does today, should receive recognition of the work he has done, by some remission of the period of compulsory service. This is not a new idea; it has been in force on the Continent in the past. I believe it would be a very great incentive to boys between the ages of 16 and 18 to join the Army Cadet Corps, for instance.
I hope that other youth organisations may eventually be included, such as the Boy Scouts and the Boys Brigade, though I have not consulted or talked with them, and that any curriculum of training for the Army Cadets and the other Services might well be considered on the basis I have mentioned. Those boys could be brought in voluntarily to do that period of service between the ages of 16 and 18 and reach a certain standard, which could easily be laid down as it is laid down in the other Services. They should then be able to obtain some remission of the compulsory period which they may be eventually called upon to serve. This is a small point, but I hope it is an idea which will permeate the Services and eventually become a great incentive to boys to volunteer between the ages of i6 and 18.
§ 6. 11 p.m.
§ Mr. Swingler (Stafford)
I find myself in somewhat the same position as the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall) in not knowing exactly what is in Order and what is not in Order on this Amendment, because it is framed to include such a large number of points and such a wide field. If we are effectively to discuss the problem of conscription, it is important that there should be a representative of the Ministry of Labour present, as that is the chief Government Department concerned. The reason why His Majesty's Government are not able to satisfy the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett), who moved this Amendment, is because the question of the voluntary and compulsory intake into the Army is not a question which can be dealt with by itself, but one that raises the whole manpower position and the whole question of defence for the future. As this question was brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment and by others I hope I will he in Order to say something on the problem.
2408 It is perfectly clear that the Government cannot give a long-term decision on the future of compulsory service until we see far more clearly the implications of the international position and the demands which are to be made on this country, in the first place, in respect of the international police force to be developed under the United Nations organisation and, in the second place, in regard to such questions as the atomic bomb and the Commission which is inquiring into it. Until those matters have developed a further stage, the long-term future of compulsory service in this country cannot be decided. At the same time, as several hon. Members have mentioned, there is going on all the time the call-up of young men. We are reaching a very serious stage in regard to the compulsory intake into the Forces, because the individuals concerned do not know their future, and industry does not know their future and the Forces and authorities do not know their future, and from the national point of view there may he a disastrous neglect of skill and craftsmanship as a consequence, Although I recognise that it cannot be decided on a long-term basis, I believe there is a case for some form of Governmental decision on conscription for a short period if only because of the number of apprentices who are being called before completing their apprenticeship and who do not know what their period of service will be, and their firms do not know. The consequence is a loss of craftsmanship.
Only this last week I had a case of an engineering apprentice in my constituency who is about to be called up for the Army. He has had a considerable period of deferment in order to continue his apprenticeship and now he is to be called up in a matter of months before completion of that apprenticeship and before becoming a skilled engineer. I am wondering whether he will become a skilled engineer when he comes out of the Forces. Otherwise, the nation has lost another skilled craftsman. The serious effect of the interruption of professional studies and of apprenticeship training requires some temporary decision about compulsory service, if that can possibly be given.
Some time ago I put down a Question to the Secretary of State for War concerning 2409 the number of men still not demobilised in the Army who have done a long period of service. We noted the, fact that by 30th June this year the Army demobilisation group 32 will have been reached. When we have reached the demobilisation age and service group 4o there will still be 32,000 men in the Army who have completed more than four years' service. That is an important fact which should be taken into account in discussions on the compulsory intake for the Forces and the future of conscription. It will be some way towards the end of the year when the Army reaches age and service group 4o and there will still be 30,000 who have done over four years' service. That, so far as those men are concerned is a very grim fact. It is important in considering the question of deferment of men from call-up and the size of the compulsory intake for the Forces, to bear in mind all the time the number of comparatively long-service men still awaiting demobilisation.
The greater part of this Debate has ranged round the White Papers on the question of pay. Much criticism can undoubtedly be brought to bear on the new pay code and the small anomalies which exist and will continue to exist when the code comes into operation. The case which hon. Members opposite have brought forward is that there is actually a decrease from the prewar rates of pay and there is the case of general decreases in pay when men come down from the wartime rates, particularly in regard to the loss of war service increments which brings large numbers down. However, I think the Secretary of State for War can generally be satisfied with the points which have been made in this Debate, that a considerable step forward has been taken in the simplification of the pay code outlined in those two White Papers and that the pay of the soldier is related directly to the pay of civilian workers, that is, the general rate of pay of the factory workers. I believe that point is the outstanding and most important one in the White Papers.
We on this side of the House recognise and welcome the pressure from the Benches opposite for increases in the wages laid down, particularly for the other ranks of the Services. But we have to bear in mind that only last week there 2410 was talk from hon. Members opposite about the prime importance of economy, and when they were asked where economy was to be practised, so far as governmental expenditure was concerned, they pointed to the Service Departments. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Civil Service."] Some hon. Members on the opposite Benches certainly referred to the Service Departments in that Debate, and said that economies could be effected in the expenditure of those Departments. In this Debate points have been put forward, which we on these Benches welcome, to the effect that the rates of pay now being given are not altogether satisfactory, and that there is considerable room for increases. That point is agreed, but hon. Members opposite must also grant that a good start has been made in the reform of the pay code, and in the rates that have been laid down, and that they are, despite what was said by one hon. and gallant Member, related to pay in civil life, though there are obviously considerable differences between the life of the civilian worker and that of the soldier. That is a satisfactory step forward, and from it we hope to see future increases.
A very important question brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) was that of the future of the Territorial Army. I hope that my right hon. Friend will explain further his remarks on this subject in the previous Debate, when he said that he would be guided by the spirit of the Territorial Army in the past. He did not say anything definite concerning his ideas about the future constitution of the Territorial Army. I would like to direct attention to that section of the Territorial Army regulations which lays down, in Appendix 2, a model scheme for county associations. I hope that my right hon. Friend and his hon. Friend have been considering this point, and will have some proposals to make and some reforms to suggest regarding that model scheme and its implementation.
The point about which I am particularly concerned is that in that model scheme provision was made, in the constitution of the county associations, for a certain number of what were called representative members of the association to be appointed by the Army Council, and a certain number of co-opted members. It is suggested in the model scheme that among the co- 2411 opted members should be persons representative of the interests of employers of workmen in the country, and that there should also be representatives of the universities. There is considerable room for radical reform, in order that a thoroughly democratic auxiliary force may be formed.
The Secretary of State for War has a tremendous opportunity, because of the period of compulsory service, because of the large numbers of men and women who have been trained in the Army during the war. With the process of demobilisation there is an enormous reservoir of men and women who have had training under arms, and who can be recruited into an auxiliary force, into a Territorial Force, and who will be prepared voluntarily to give of their time, skill and experience, in order to maintain that force and its spirit. I believe that they will only respond to the call if the force is, in a thorough way, democratically organised, and has the right leadership. It is of the highest importance that the trade unions, for example, that local authorities and other educational bodies, besides the universities, should play their part in these bodies. With democratic reorganisation of that force I believe that we can get an immense auxiliary force, which will play an important part in the Army and the country.
It has been said by other Members on this side of the House that the suggestion put forward to stimulate the voluntary recruitment of men into the Army on the offer of certain rates of pay was an entirely wrong approach. I believe it to be wrong to emphasise, or over-emphasise, as has been done, the aspect of pay in the recruitment of men into the Army There are many other aspects of the Army that are of great importance. What is of importance is what might be called the overall attraction of the Army to the man, the general picture of the Army that is presented to him, the general prospects which he, as an individual, has in it, and the general spirit in the Army. The Secretary of State has made a good beginning and has laid one solid foundation in the simplification of the pay code and the rates of pay, and in putting them on a par with those of the civilian workman. I hope that is a beginning of tackling, in the same way, other questions in the Army, in particular the organisation of education and welfare.
2412 I recognise that on these aspects of Army life, the Secretary of State cannot announce definite decisions, but I hope that what I say may attract something later from my right hon. Friend, particularly in relation to providing educational opportunities and facilities in the Army of the future, and that great steps forward are to be made in that sphere. There are many sides to that question. There is the question of technical education, which can offer great attractions in persuading young men to join the Army. There is the question of education of a general character, and the relation of the educational system in the Army to the civil education world. There is, not least important, the question of the continuation of what one might call resettlement education for the regular soldier. The Army has made great strides with education for those who are being demobilised. I hope that in the Army of the future some sort of educational provision will be made for the professional soldier, so that he may have facilities, when he comes out of the Army after 20 years, or whatever the period may be, for educating himself for a civilian job and for refitting himself for civil life.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in the time-honoured manner of this House, has been good enough to inform me that he is unable to be present until a later stage of the Debate. Hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House, as, I am sure, on the other side, quite accept that intimation. Before I go on to ask some questions, which I fear the House may find rather dull, because they are rather intricate and technical, I want to make one or two comments on the very interesting Debate we have had. I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) who opened this very important discussion. He criticised very thoroughly the new pay conditions. I very much hope we shall have an answer to these criticisms from the Financial Secretary later today. There was also a very good speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Lieut.-Colonel Thorp), who seconded the Amendment.
I wish before proceeding to the main part of my speech to say a word or two in reply to the hon. Member for Stafford 2413 (Mr. Swingler). I thank him for what he said. His speech was very largely on the lines of what I intend to say about the serious state which has been reached in our national affairs, so far as young men are concerned, owing to the failure of the Government to lay down the conditions for national service. But I must controvert two things which he said. He seemed to think we on this side of the House ought to be satisfied with the existing pay and allowances for officers and men, because, as he alleges, somebody the other day, gave the impression, that we want to save on the Service Estimates. What my hon. Friends on this side of the House wanted was not a reduction of pay: we wanted to know why enormous sums of money were being spent by some of the Service Departments on producing munitions, many of which we believe to be obsolescent. I cannot go into that now but I suggest that the hon. Gentleman entirely misunderstood the attitude taken up by hon. Members on this side.
The hon. Member for Stafford and other hon. Members made references to Territorial Associations. I am in what is perhaps the honourable position of being the oldest member of a county association in this House. I have been a member of the Territorial Association of Sussex since 1908 when it was formed. I joined the Territorial Army in 1902. I want at once to controvert the impression which has been given that the Territorial Army is an undemocratic organisation. It is nothing of the sort. It consists of reprtsentatives of employers and employed, and of a number of other institutions. Above everything else, it represents the people who fight in the wars. Practically without exception, in the case of the Territorial Association to which I belong, the members have been Territorials who fought in the wars. It is right that these associations should be mainly composed of people who have done military service for their country, to whatever class they belong. I hope that the hon. Gentleman who replies to the Debate will deny anything which could be taken as an attack upon the Territorial Association. There is another matter on which I wish to touch before coming to the specific questions I propose to ask. While I make no great complaint on the matter, I think it is a little unfortunate, 2414 in view of the fact that everybody knew this Debate was to take place, that we should only have had the statement made today, about the conditions of volunteering for the Regular Army. Why were we not informed of that a week or so ago? It is difficult, on the spur of the moment, to consider whether or not the proposals are adequate.
I have, as I say, one or two specific questions which I wish to put to the Financial Secretary. I have no wish to repeat questions which have already been asked, but I will refer to some important points. I take it—no doubt the Financial Secretary will tell me if I am wrong—that the flat rate for a married couple with three children on the old code was 98s. 9d. per week and under the new code it will be 87s. per week. If that is really so, it seems to me that it is not at all a satisfactory state of affairs. I would also like to make what I think is a fair criticism of allowances being taxed. There are other questions which arise in reference to this proposed postwar code of pay, allowances, retired pay and Service gratuities for commissioned officers of the British Army, Cmd. Paper 6750. Let me quote Section 9. It will be seen under this Section that entrants will be unable to choose, prior to joining the Army College course, the arm of Service in which they wish to serve. Thus it will be impossible for, say, a boy whose interest and associations may be with the Gunners to know for certain that he will eventually be commissioned in the Royal Artillery.
That is an old grievance with the Territorials. I think it is most important, now that we are trying to build up a new Army, that people should be given a reasonable opportunity to join the unit in which they wish to serve. Nobody who has had any experience in the Army could possibly deny that that is right. Then Section 69—which I must say seems to be a very strange Section—states:… the rates will be subject to review from time to time, though changes will not be made except in the event of a marked alteration in conditions.It goes on to say:Any such changes in rates which may be made in proper time will apply without exception to all officers then serving, and there will be no arrangements for granting reserved rights on a permanent basis to individuals to whom the rates and conditions at the time may be more favourable.2415 No doubt the Financial Secretary will correct this if it is wrong. It states that in previous pay revisions, where the new rate was less favourable than the old, officers already drawing the old rates maintained that rate until promoted. This Subsection appears to contradict this principle, and the War Office reserves the right to make cuts, as well as increases, in officers pay and allowances.
The last point I want to make is largely in answer to the general attitude taken up by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I could find in their speeches no support—no vehement support, at any rate—for the idea that a man who is prepared to risk his life serving his country is, at least, entitled to conditions as good as those enjoyed by men in civilian employment. I put this question directly to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Do they admit that, especially in these times, any man who is employed by this country to protect it, is entitled to have pay and conditions as good, and if possible, better than—[An HON. MEMBER: Who gave them the had conditions?"] The hon. Gentleman, whatever his position, is not yet a Member of the Government, and it is to them that I am directing my question.
§ Earl Winterton
I understand that the estimated cost of the new rates in the Army Estimates shows an increase of 36 per cent. over that obtaining in 1938. As I make it out, this is a somewhat false picture, because the figures I have given show that, although the sum total of pay and allowances is higher than 1938, a great deal is taken off in the form of Income Tax. I gather, from these figures, that the cost of living has increased 31 per cent., but the overall pay of officers under this new scheme has increased by only 14 per cent. I do not know whether this is so or not. But I think I shall have the sympathy of the hon. Gentleman, and all other hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who served in the recent war or the previous war, when I say that, in these days, when every one, quite properly, has to go through the ranks, we should make the position of the officers comparable in pay with that of similar positions in private life, carrying similar responsibilities, having regard to the fact 2416 that an officer, necessarily, has to undergo much greater danger.
I turn to one or two matters of more general interest. The only reason used by hon. Gentlemen opposite to excuse the Government's delay in making any really substantial announcement of policy regarding the postwar Army—whether national service is to continue and what is to be the position of the Territorials—the only substantial reason, and I do not think it is very substantial, was that it was impossible yet to say, until U.N.O. had decided, what form of Army we should want or what the numbers should be. Yet the Government must know privately, and have sufficient information, to say roughly what numbers will be required to carry out the immense commitments which we shall have in the world. I must say that it is an extraordinary Parliamentary situation. We have a Government of a Party which, in the past, consisted very largely of people who did not like war and who were properly known as pacifists, and today nearly a year after the end of the German war and eight months after the end of that with Japan, the country has no information on how that Government propose to carry out their obligations in respect of the defence of this country and its obligations to U.N.O., in the military sense, in the next five years. Indeed, there has been no declaration of policy on the future of the Territorial Army and the auxiliary forces of the country and the duration of service in them.
We hear a great deal of talk at times about the "sweets" of office. Having experienced them for over 10 years I would say that they are often more apparent than real, but I would suggest that there are such things as the "acids" of office, and one of the "acids" of office is to came to a decision which the Government know will be unpopular, but which, nevertheless, has to be swallowed. I do not think it will be denied by any hon. Member that the Government have to make up their minds on the duration of the period of individual military service. Only the Government are in a position to say what that length of service should be. Why do they not give us their definition? I think it is a disgraceful state of affairs that, in times of peace, young men should be conscripted without any knowledge of the length of their service. The hon. 2417 Member for Stafford put the matter very strongly indeed, and he knows that there is the utmost indignation among a lot of people in the country that no idea has been given of the period of service. I think the situation is really fantastic.
I do not want to attack the war records of Ministers of the Crown—including the Leader of the House—in the 1914–18 war. Those records were the result of the opinions they held. Here, we have this fantastic situation, of which I hope everyone will take notice, in which Ministers who were conscientious objectors in the 1914–18 war, are now quite cheerfully sharing the responsibility for calling up young men for indeterminate military service, in time of peace. I invite the Leader of the House, on the next occasion when he makes one of those well-known broadcasts, which are so popular and do so much to make the general position better, to deal with this particular matter. I say, on behalf of my hon. Friends on this side, and, I believe I express the inner thoughts of a good many hon. Gentlemen opposite, that we demand that the Government, next week or, at any rate, very soon, shall say what is to be the duration of national service and what is the term for each individual. I make that demand most strongly, and I very much hope that it will be answered.
It is not necessary for me to say, as an old Territorial myself, that, from the period of the creation of the Territorial Army by Lord Haldane—and may I look back and say that many of us were not altogether fair to Lord Haldane when talking about the Territorials in the House in those days—it has been of immense benefit to this country in two wars. I remember my own experiences. The coastal area defence duties in 1914 were carried out by the Territorials, until the War Office took away their rifles with which to arm the new army. The Egyptian expeditionary force under Allenby was, without exception, composed of Territorials in its earlier days. It is really necessary that we should be told very soon what the future of this force is to be. The association to which I belong is not political; it has members of all parties in it, but it will be impossible for it to carry on its work unless some indication is given soon of the Government's policy. Men are eager and willing 2418 to join that Army now, but we can get no information from the Government at all. I take full responsibility for saying that high military authorities are seriously disturbed at the failure of their Ministerial superiors to issue any orders on this matter. I feel bound to say that this is not due to mere incompetence, but to fear of upsetting the strong pacifist element which has always distinguished the Socialist Party. I shall be very glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman whether I am right.
I ask the hon. Gentleman this specific question, and I entertain the greatest hope of getting a direct answer. The Financial Secretary to the War Office, like myself, in the last Parliament, talked with the utmost knowledge of every subject under the sun, and was fond of telling the House what the Government should do. He has now a splendid opportunity of making constitutional history by getting up and saying, "I agree with the noble Lord that we must have a statement at once on these all-important matters. As the well-known soldier's friend ' "—I think that is the way the hon. Gentleman used to describe himself—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Voice of the Services '."] I beg his pardon; "I have told the Secretary of State and the Cabinet so. I have been successful and, as a result of my action, here is our policy." I would like the hon. Gentleman to say that. But I am sorry to have to inform the "Voice of the Services ", if I may so describe him, that if he is unable to accept my friendly and cordial invitation to speak on those lines, I shall have to advise my hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Bellenger)
The Noble Lord has certainly trailed his coat tails tonight, but I cannot take advantage of all the opportunities he has given me to reply in detail to every point he has made. I have to cover a very wide field and, if possible, to give some sort of answer to other hon. Gentlemen who have been good enough to take part in this Debate and to make suggestions to the Government. But, before I deal with the main subject, I would like to disabuse the noble Lord of something which he said in his closing remarks. I did not describe myself as the "Voice of the Services "; that was an appellation given to me by those who thought I was. I hope that 2419 when I have finished my speech tonight the House will think that I still retain that happy position At any rate, I shall do my best.
For six years we have had token Estimates and our Debates have been somewhat limited because of the war. On several occasions, as the noble Lord has said, I have endeavoured to elicit from the Government of the day what their policy was in a certain direction and, on occasions, I have brought pressure to bear on that Government with, I think, somewhat successful and happy results as far as the pay and welfare of the soldiers were concerned. Therefore, I do not object to the tone of the Debate this afternoon or to the points that have been put, some of them very forcibly, about what is alleged to be the lack of Government policy. I would remind the House that we are not yet a year away from the end of the German war. I think that the Government's record in Service matters and others bears a very favourable comparison with what happened within less than a year after the end of the last war.
When we consider the first part of the Amendment which is before the House, that the new pay codes are insufficient to attract sufficient volunteers, I feel I must remind the House that, generally speaking, both in the Press and in the Services, the new codes for other ranks and officers as announced in the two White Papers have, on the whole, met with fairly general acceptance. I know, and other Members who read "The Times" know, that there are certain cases where the new pay rates are, perhaps, not always in the same proportion, as far as increases are concerned; but, generally speaking, those rates, as some of my hon. Friends have said, bear favourable comparison with the only possible standard which the Government could fairly put before new entrants into the Regular Army, namely, the rates of pay enjoyed by those who do not choose to enlist or who, in wartime, were not called up. Let me deal straight away with one point in that connection, which has been raised in "The Times" and which has given cause for some misapprehension in "The Times," that of wives of officers of lieut.-colonel rank. I have seen only two letters on that subject in "The Times," although I think one hon. Member referred to several. It has been alleged that the new 2420 rates of pay for lieut.-colonels, taking into account the incidence of taxation, will mean a loss of E£15o a year. That is not true, and the Director of Public Relations put that matter in its correct perspective in the columns of "The Times" this morning.
It is true that the new rate of pay will be only slightly more for lieut.-colonels in command than it was under the old terms of pay, taking into account rates of taxation, but the reason for that is that the lieut.-colonel rank under the old code was out of gear, as it were, with the other ranks. For example, on promotion from major to lieut.-colonel—from the highest rate of pay of a major—the lieut.-colonel received an increase of 19s. 6d plus tax on 5s., with the anomaly that when the lieut.-colonel left his command and was promoted to colonel he actually received a slight loss in pay. That was under the old code, and we have attempted to put the lieut.-colonel's position right in relation to the other ranks, both below and above him. Unfortunately, it has resulted in his not getting as large an increase in pay as certain of the junior officers. What is being offered today to other ranks, in particular, and to officers is something more, as one of my hon. Friends has said, than rates of pay, although I admit that they are very important. They are being offered a secure job in a world which has become very competitive.
It is the endeavour of His Majesty's Government to provide for full employment, but it will be easier to provide for it in the Services at satisfactory rates of pay than in the unsheltered industries in a very competitive world. Moreover, one cannot ignore something else besides the actual daily rate of pay drawn by the officer or other rank. There are many other benefits which the Services offer to those who enlist or who are given their commissions. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) referred to welfare facilities. He expressed the hope that they will be continued in the postwar Army at the same high level which they undoubtedly attained during the war. I fully endorse what my hon. Friend said about the remarkable efforts of Sir John Brown, who might be called the "father" of the welfare system in the Army. Since those early days, when he grafted it on to what one may call an old Army growing into a new Army, 2421 with the militia being called up—when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and I went to Italy we saw what welfare meant—the Army can be justly proud of the welfare system which has grown to such proportions. Some credit must be given to Sir John Brown for the foundation which he laid on the welfare side of the Army, and which I can assure the House will continue in the new Army.
One other thing which is offered in the new Army, and which was never a part of the old Army to any large extent, is education. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton (Lieutenant Hughes) asked what is to happen to the Army formation colleges which are doing such remarkable work among a large proportion of the Army which is now in the process of disappearing. I hope it will be possible to continue those facilities, although it may not be necessary to continue them on such a wide scale as we are doing at present, for those who are leaving the Army and returning to civil life. One of those colleges is situate in my own constituency at Welbeck, where the surroundings offered by those most palatial premises form an ideal background for the education which is being given to all ranks of both sexes.
The House ought in fairness to consider the difference in the basic rate of pay which we are offering to other ranks, namely 4s. a day on entry, as compared with the rates which prevailed at the beginning of this war. I do not say that the only comparison is between what happened a few years ago and what we are doing now, but, nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the rate of pay on entry at the beginning of this war was 2s. a day, and we have doubled that in the new pay code to 4s. a day. As I have a wide field, to cover, I want to give a few illustrations in regard to officers. I challenge hon. Members in all quarters of the House to deny the accuracy of what I am about to say. I think the pay rates which we are offering to junior officers will compare most favourably for many years with the comparable salaries which can be drawn by young men of the same age in civil industry. Let us never forget that officers, with very few exceptions, will have to serve a period in the ranks, and on first com- 2422 missioning, at approximately 21 years of age, a 2nd-lieutenant will receive a salary of £237 5s. a year. I happen to know something about young men of 21 years of age in industry, and I think that figure will compare most favourably with many of the professions in civil life at that age. But let us go a little further up the scale and come to still a young age, 27, when by the process of time promotion, which goes up to the rank of major, a young man will be a captain. He will then be drawing £420 a year as salary, and if he is married an extra £228 per annum, making a total of £648 a year. Hon. Members opposite have a good deal of experience of salaries paid in civil life. I think those rates, two of which I have mentioned, will compare very fairly with the same age salaries in civil life.
I do not think the House should ignore one other substantial factor when they are criticising the alleged inadequacy of the new pay codes. At the end of a comparatively short working life in the Army, there is a substantial pension for officers who do not survive the testing time which they will have to face when they wish to rise from the rank of major to that of lieutenant-colonel, which will be by selection. If they do not get through the sieve and obtain promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, they will retire at an early stage in their lives on a substantial pension. I would like to give a few figures. They are in the White Paper, but I do not think they can be emphasised too much in view of the criticism which has been made this afternoon. At the minimum age of 43, at which age a man is still young and still has a position open to him in civil life, a major will receive a pension of £475 a year. A lieutenant-colonel at 45 years of age will receive a pension of £625 a year, and a colonel at the age of 47 will receive a pension of £825 per year. The House cannot ignore those figures which are part and parcel of the new pay codes, and 1 go so far as to say that such figures cannot be achieved in civil life without a great deal of effort and considerable luck.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
If I may interrupt, I would like to know if the hon. Gentleman can mention any single profession outside the Services where it is normal for a man to be retired at the age of 45.
§ Mr. Bellenger
That may very well be, but it is because we want an efficient and a comparatively young Army to face the future that we are bound to retire officers, if they cannot pass the selection board and rise in the promotion scale. Recognising that fact, we are doing our best to cushion that displacement from a salary basis to a pension basis.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will permit me to proceed, otherwise I shall leave unsaid something that I ought to say. The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-upon Tweed (Lieut.-Colonel Thorp) referred to a class of officers with whom I have a great deal of sympathy. In the new scale of pay and conditions service before 21 years of age is not allowed to count towards pension but there is no doubt that there are still serving in the Army a small but, nevertheless, very deserving and gallant body of officers who were commissioned in the first world war before they were 21. I am happy to announce that we have been able to come to a conclusion—the Noble Lord will be glad to hear that we have, at least, come to one conclusion—by which we can ease their position. As a special concession, and to meet the exceptional circumstances, it has been decided that commissioned service before the age of 21 given during the great war, up to and including Armistice Day, 11th November, 1918, shall be allowed to count towards the standard periods of service required to qualify for the full rates of retired pay. Most of these officers, who, I imagine, are now fairly senior officers, will benefit substantially by that concession.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
Is an officer—and I know of such a case—who was commissioned when under 21, has been wounded and mentioned in despatches for gallantry during this war, to be precluded from counting his cornmissioned service? What is the justification for drawing this distinction between men serving in the last war and this?
§ Mr. Bellenger
If so, he would have accepted the old rates of promotion. We 2424 are accelerating promotion under the new rate. He would have accepted, and only been entitled to, the old rates of promotion, the old rates of pay and the old rates of pension. We are now putting him on a substantially better rate of pay and pension, and accelerating his promotion. Therefore, I think it is only fair to draw the line somewhere. We have to do that at the time we think the majority of new officers will be first commissioned, namely, at 21 years of age. I should imagine—although it is rash to prophesy in this House, or indeed anywhere—that the time will not be far distant when we shall have a queue or a waiting list of young men wanting to make a career in the commissioned ranks of His Majesty's Army. If I may be allowed to intrude a personal note at this stage, as the House knows, I have several boys, and I have to try to assist them for their future. My eldest son is serving in the Army. He does not want to make the Army his career. My second boy, who will be eligible for call-up by the end of this year, may possibly be a suitable candidate for a commission. I am doing my best to induce him to look at the White Paper, read it carefully, and see whether what we are offering to young men may not be suitable for him, because so far he has not made up his mind what career he wants to follow. I am quite certain these new pay rates and pension rates will appeal to many parents besides myself, and perhaps parents in this House. I feel confident that the time is not far distant when, with the free education and training we shall give at the new college at Sandhurst, many more will want to get commissions than will be able to receive them.
Several hon. Members have referred to the tour of overseas service. In that respect the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) remarked on the unfairness of classifying B.A.O.R. as home service. I am afraid that for some considerable time a large portion of. the Army will be stationed in Germany as an army of occupation. We shall endeavour, as far as we possibly can, to equate the service of officers and men there with home service conditions. We hope it will be possible at some future date—I hope a not very distant date—for wives to join their husbands in the B.A.O.R. The House probably knows that already plans, which cannot for various reasons be put into operation yet. 2425 are on foot to facilitate the passage of wives to join their husbands in the B.A.O.R. Certainly in relation to periods of leave to the home country, especially for those families that are separated and do not wish to live together in Germany, I hope it will be possible to grant very generous periods of leave to men serving in the B.A.O.R. so that they can return to this country from time to time.
The hon. and gallant Member to' Ludlow, supported by one or two other hon. Members, referred to the position of those officers who were drawing pensions, who came forward and served in this last war and who, during the war, received their current rate of pay plus 25 per cent. Today I am able to say something about the reassessment of service retirement pay. What I am going to say applies to all three Services, the Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Army. It will provide additions to existing awards to the pensioners concerned, which will be, in many cases, substantial, the amount of the addition depending o the length of war service given and the rank attained. It may be difficult for hon. Members to follow what I am saying in detail, but I am sure that when they read it in HANSARD tomorrow they will be satisfied. It will apply not only to those who have retired or been pensioned during or at the end of the war, but also to those who had already left before the war commenced and rejoined for further war service. Under the scheme the officer who served on the active list for five and a half years or more of the war period—for instance from the outbreak of war until March 1945—will get full reassessment to the new postwar terms; while the retired officer who was re-employed for a similar period, drawing a bonus on his pay, will get half the difference between his present retired pay and the new terms. The arrangements for other ranks also provide for a reassessment, based on the new terms for those who were still earning pensions during the war, and for a modified Reassessment for those who were already pensioners, or who continued to serve after the granting of the pension, receiving their pensions during their further service. Reassessment of the existing pension will also be allowed to those other rank pensioners who were granted commissions, special rates of rank element 2426 being provided for the commissioned service.
I hope that will, in some part if not entirely, meet the points which have been raised today, and on other occasions, notably by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys). My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has today announced the terms of the offer for short service engagements for other ranks. The Noble Lord who felt we ought to have given a little more time to the House to assimilate this before we embarked on this Debate, will, I think, agree with me that it is the duty of the Government, as soon as they come to decisions—and these decisions do not rest entirely with the Minister, but with the official side, which has to go very carefully into matters of detail—to announce those decisions. This decision has only just been reached, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took the opportunity of acquainting the House and the country with those terms this afternoon. He did not inform the House of the position as it relates to officers. We want a substantial number of short service officers. This evening I am able to tell the House briefly what we have in mind. An Army Council instruction is now in draft, and I hope it will be issued very soon.
This, roughly, is the plan we have in mind for recruiting the large number of officers for short service commissions. The Army Council have decided to introduce a scheme for the granting of short service commissions to tide over the period until the Army is fully reorganised on a permanent peacetime basis These commissions will be granted to officers holding non regular commissions for service with the various arms of the service, and will include officers to fill technical appointments under the Ministry of Supply. The scheme is open to officers who are now serving on non-regular engagements, and to those who have already been released. Officers who take their releases after the production of the relevant A.C.I.—which is now in draft—will not be eligible. The final selection of officers will be by the War Office. No particular age limits are laid down, and though officers will normally have to be category "A" those in lower medical categories will, in certain circumstances, be accepted. The commissions will be granted in the substantive rank and 2427 seniority equivalent to the war substantive rank held by the applicant. That is a very useful provision.
§ Mr. Bellenger
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will wait I will try to satisfy him. In fact, that is the whole purpose of my announcement this evening. Higher paid acting or temporary rank may be held until such time as we revert to the peacetime promotion code. The length of the commission will be for eight years, of which three, four or five will be spent on the active list and the balance on the reserve. The gratuities payable on completion of satisfactory service will be: for three years' service, £337 los.; four years' service £ 450, and five years' service £ 562 los. Officers who have not been released will be granted generous leave. I hope the House will agree with me that that ought to be an inducement to many ex-officers or still serving officers to respond to the call which the country is once again making.
§ Captain Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
The hon. Gentleman referred to officers already retired. A great many officers were asked to appear before a board last year. They volunteered for four or five years and were accepted. They were informed that they would be told later what were the conditions of service, and whether they had been accepted or not. Meantime, they have been demobilised and absorbed in civilian life. Many of these officers would like to go back into the Service. Are they going to be accepted as they were a year ago, or have they got to go through the mill again and go through the War Office? Their demobilisation group arrived and they were thrown on to the Employment Exchange in London. Are they to be allowed to go back under their previous conditions, or have they to start all over again?
§ Mr. Bellenger
All I can say in answer to that question is that they will certainly be eligible. No doubt many of them will have found positions in civilian life by now, and they may not want to go back on the short service engagement. Those who do want to should certainly apply, and their applications will be considered by the War Office.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
Could the hon. Gentleman say what is the target —the number of officers required?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am not in a position to announce the target figure this evening. I can tell the House that it will be a substantial one. I now turn to the second part of the Amendment which, I am sure, the Noble Lord will agree, is really the more substantial part, at any rate, from the point of view of the Government. The Noble Lord has taken his part as indeed, we all have done, in criticising the Government of the day. I think it is a very good thing that the Government should be kept on their toes by what the present Leader of the Opposition called "constructive criticism," but I think that today there has crept into one or two speeches from the Opposition benches criticism which is not really justified. Let the House consider for a moment that we are engaged in the process of demobilising immense forces, something like 5,000,000. That was the size of the Armed Forces, roughly, at the end of the war. We are constantly being pressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite to demobilise ever more speedily, and we are doing our best. But we have to take into account the world situation as it exists today and as it may exist in the future. Therefore, it is not to be wondered at that it has not been found easy to reach a decision on the new term for national service, what period is to be served by those young men who are being called up today.
I do not think the situation is fantastic as the Noble Lord says it is. Before the Government make a decision and announce it to the country—and it may be a very unpalatable one, I do not know, but I should think it would be to those who do not believe in conscription or do not want to give any period of national service—before the Government come to that decision they have to take into account a variety of factors, some of which it is not possible for me to mention to the House this evening. But the House can readily understand that all these questions of the composition of the future Army, the form that the new Territorial Army is to take, are really abstract questions, until the issue of the period of national service has been decided. I am not in a position this evening—and, indeed, I do not think the House would expect me, a junior Minister, to be in the 2429 position—what the decision will be in relation to national service. I should imagine that when that decision is made, it will be announced to the House, probably by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask one question? Can the hon. Gentleman give no reason why this unprecedented state of affairs exists that, after all these months of peace, this Government—and this remark would apply to any other Government—are still unable to make up their minds on how long the period shall be? When shall we have a decision?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not think it is as unprecedented as the Noble Lord suggests. I have been reading newspapers published in America. The American Government are finding considerable difficulty in making up their mind on national service and the length of time young men are to be, as they call it, inducted into the Army. But a situation has never before existed in Britain, in which we have had to decide in peace time whether to continue conscription or national service for our young men. Therefore, I do not think it necessary for me to apologise for the fact that the Government today are not able to announce to the House their decision. I can say this, and I am authorised to say this to the House, that His Majesty's Government are actively engaged in considering this matter in all its aspects and a decision—[Interruption.]-—I repeat, in all its aspects—[Interruption.]—some of which hon. Members opposite know as well as I do—and a decision will not long be deferred.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that last May, nearly a year ago, he asked a Question which seems to show that he has changed his mind recently? He asked the then Joint Under-Secretary of State for Air:Now that the war with Germany is ended, does not my hon. Friend think it is high time that the R.A.F."—and presumably the hon. Gentleman included the Army alsomade up its mind as to the size of force it wants for our postwar commitments, so that the Minister can come to this House and ask the House to approve of a standing Royal Air Force and thus do away with the possibility of compulsion? ''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1945; Vol. 410, c. 1888.]
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has mentioned that. I have never disguised from this House or from the public outside that I do not like conscription at all. But "needs must when the devil drives," and the devil has been driving very hard these last six years. That is one reason why I have consistently, since the first Measure was introduced into this House, not opposed conscription, although it is against my principles. I think that conscription will have to go on, that national service will have to go on, at any rate, for some period. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) must not, think that the Service Departments, particularly the Department which I represent, have not been giving very close consideration to these matters. The General Staff have put up their proposals from time to time, and the Camberley conferences of the Commanders-in-Chief have been discussing these and cognate matters. But it is easy neither for the General Staff nor for the Government, in very rapidly changing circumstances, to come to a quick decision on this matter nor, indeed, ought they to. When they come to a decision it must be a clear one, which the Government can present to the country and upon which they will stand. At any rate, I can only tell the Noble Lord, and I hope he will accept it from me, that this decision will not be long deferred.
Reference has been made in the Amendment to the Reserve, and although I am afraid I have left it too late in my speech to give details of the Reserves—indeed, I could not do so for the new Army, because the composition of the new Army has not yet been decided—nevertheless, I can tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman this: that sections A and B of the Army Reserve consist of regular soldiers who, having completed their Colour Service engagement, spend the remainder of their normal engagement of 12 years with the Army Reserve. I should imagine that most of these have disappeared with the effluxion of time. But with regard to that large Reserve to which all men are relegated on release from the Army under Class A, namely, Class Z Reserve, they have a certain liability, only, I think, it is more notional than real in present circumstances. They are liable to be recalled to the colours in the event of a national emergency, but they are not under any obligation or liability 2431 for training or drill as Reservists. In other words, they have been demobilised, but technically not so, until the end of the emergency, which does not only affect the Army, is declared.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
May I interrupt? Will the hon. Gentleman say whether that state of affairs has been made clear to every man leaving the colours?
§ Mr. Bellenger
If it has not, I hope that what I have said this evening will be given considerable prominence and that those who have been relegated to Class Z Reserve will know now what their position is. The Noble Lord and others raised the question of the Territorial Army, and those of us who have been colleagues of his in this House for some years now, know the keen interest he has taken in this and other matters and his immense knowledge based on practical experience of the excellent work the Territorial Army was able to accomplish from the time of its inception. Here again, the position of the Territorial Army is bound up with the position of the whole of the auxiliary forces of the new Army, and until we decide on the period of conscription we cannot say in precise terms of what the Territorial Army will consist. But, at least, we can say that we recognise their claims for consideration, because we know the excellent work they have done in the past, and in so far as it is possible to recruit a Territorial Army it will be recruited as nearly as possible on a territorial basis. But the noble lord knows as well as I do that the old Territorial Army had many defects of organisation before the war. The Territorial Army units before the war were literally starved of regular instructors, and the Government do not wish to see that state of affairs continued in any postwar Territorial Army. The organisation of the Territorial Army, both in 1914, and when they went into action as Territorial formations, and again in this war was not complete and we must be ready—
§ Earl Winterton
I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman there, nor can some of my hon. Friends behind me. The whole of the South-Eastern area was then defended by the Territorials. There were companies and squadrons. It was the fatuous action of Lord Kitchener in taking rifts and other equipment away 2432 for the new Army, that made it incomplete.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Yes, they certainly did, if that had been possible in those days. I have always heard it said that the Royal Navy had a hand in saving the country from invasion at that time. But we will not debate this point. I say that the prewar Territorial Army was not a properly balanced force in that it lacked a large number of fighting and administrative units without which it could not function. It was necessary to provide those units either by drawing on existing units or raising new units.
I should like to say a few words about something to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) referred in his speech some three weeks ago when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War introduced the Army Estimates. He asked then that the War Office should say something more about scientific research in the Army. Hon. Members know that a large part of scientific research so far as weapons are concerned, will be done by the Ministry of Supply, but there is a considerable amount of useful work to be done in research in the Army. For example: finding out exactly how the soldier uses the new weapons with which he will be constantly provided; examining the effects of certain actions on his morale—all very important in war time; and finding so far as we possibly can the most suitable type of uniform he shall wear in peace time and, if it should unfortunately occur, in war; and, last, but not least, the effects of new weapons on strategy and tactics, for example, the study of the effects of atomic weapons on the structure of the new Army.
I recognise that there are many points with which I have omitted to deal that have been raised by my hon. Friends behind me and by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I shall do my best, at my leisure, to study this Debate when it appears in HANSARD, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will also do so. If there are any points I have left unanswered—as I am confident there are—I will do my best to answer them 2433 by letter. I,hope I have said enough, however, to indicate that although normal conditions have not yet arrived, we are preparing for the day when we shall have ceased demobilising and can concentrate on the recruitment of a new Army, gathered together as no army ever before has been recruited. We are still in the process of demobilising that fine force which, from one end of the world to the other, has gained victory for our arms, has borne the evils of the pestilent swamps and jungles of Burma with the fortitude for which the British Army is notorious, has suffered the Arctic rigours of the Northern garrisons, and which has swept across Europe and Africa in irresistible and tempestuous force, until the enemy could do no more than lay down their arms in unconditional surrender. Those armies have proved themselves; in their
§ place we are about to build a new Army of Britons as ambassadors of peace. We want the best our population can give. The Army needs recruits ready to enlist with a spirit of youth and adventure, secure in the knowledge that the soldier's calling is an honourable one, and one for which the country will be prepared to pay the price. We want no cut-price Army. We want the best, and I believe we shall get that Army with the help of hon. Members in all quarters of the House, because we are determined to recognise the value of the soldier in peace, as well as in war.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 238; Noes, 100.2435
|Division No. 128.]||AYES.||7.45 p.m.|
|Adams, H. R. (Balham)||Daviet, S. O. (Merthyr)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Adams, W. T (Hammersmith, South)||Deer, G.||Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester)|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Delargy, Captain H. J.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Diamond, J||Jones, P. Aslerley, (Hitchin)|
|Anderson, F (Whitehaven)||Dobbie, W.||Key, C. W.|
|Attewll, H. C.||Dodds, N. N.||King, E. M.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Donovan, T.||Kinley, J.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Douglas, F. C. R.||Kirby, B. V|
|Balfour, A.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J|
|Barstow, P. G.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Barton, C.||Durbin, E. F. M.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Battley, J. R.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Levy, B. W.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Lewis, J. (Balton)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Edwards, N (Caerphilly)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F.||Evans, E. (Lowettoft)||Longden, F.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||McAdam, W.|
|Bing, Capt. C H. C.||Fairhurst, F.||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Binns, J.||Farthing, W. J.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Foot, M. M.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)|
|Blylon, W. R||Foster, W. (Wigan)||Maclean, N. (Govan)|
|Boardman, H.||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||McLeavy, F.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Gibbins, J.||Maopherson, T. (Romford)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Oflr. H. W.||Gibson, C. W.||Mainwanng, W. H.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Gilzean, A.||Manning. C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Goodrich, H. E.||Marquand, H. A.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Grenfell, D. R.||Mathers, G.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Grey, C. F.||Messer, F.|
|Brown, T. J. (lnce)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Burden, T. W.||Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)||Mikardo, lan|
|Burke, W. A.||Gunter, Capt. R. J.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Guy, W. H.||Monslow, W.|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Hale, Leslie||Moody, A. S.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Chater, D.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Morley, R.|
|Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.||Hardman, D. R.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hardy, E. A.||Mort, D. L.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Harrison, J.||Moyle, A.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Murray, J. D.|
|Collick, P.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Nally, W|
|Collins, V. J.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Naylor, T E.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Holman, P.||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Horabin, T. L.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||House, G||Noel-Buxton, Lady|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Hoy, J.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Dagger, G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Daviet, Harold (Leek)||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Palmer, A. M. F||Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)||Viant, S. P.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Walkden, E.|
|Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Smith. H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Walker, G. H.|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Peart, Capt. T. F||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Perrins, w||Solley, L.J||Wells, P.L.(Faversham)|
|Plaits-Mills, J. F. F.||Sorensen, R. W||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Popplewell, E.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Porter, E. (Warrington)||Sparks, J A||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Stamford, W.||Wigg, Col G E|
|Price, M. P.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)||Wilkes, Maj. L|
|Ranger, J.||Stress, Dr B.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Rankin, J.||Stubbs, A E.||Willey, F T. (Sunderland)|
|Rees-Williams, Lt-Col.D.R||Swingler, caot. S.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Reeves, J.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.||Williams, D. J (Neath)|
|Reid, T. (Swindan)||Taylor, H B. (Mansfield)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Rhodes, H.||Taylor, R. J (Morpeth)||Williams, Rt. Hon T (Don Valley)|
|Robens, A||Thomas, I.O.(Wrekin)||Willlams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Williams, W. R (Heston)|
|Scollan, T.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Wilson, J. H.|
|Soot-Elliot, W.||Thorneyeroft. H.||Wise, Major F. J|
|Shackleton, Wing-Corn. E. A. A.||Tiffany, S.||Woodburn A.|
|Sharp, Ll.-Col. G. M.||Titterington, M F||Yates, V. F.|
|Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Tolley, L.||young, sir R (Newton)|
|Shurmer, P.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.||Younger, Hon. k. G|
|Silkin, Rt. Hon L.||turner-samuels, M.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Usborne, Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Skinnard, F W.||Vernon, Maj W. F.||Mr. Collindridge and|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Grimston, R. V.||Nutting, Anthony|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon Sir H.|
|Baldwin A. E.||Hare, Lieut.-Col Hn J H. (W'db'ge)||Osborne, C.|
|Barlow, Sir J||Haughton, S. G.||Peake, Rt Hon. O.|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Headlam, Lieut.-Col Rt Hon. Sir C||Peto, Brig. C. H. M|
|Bossom, A. C||Hinohingbrooke, Viscount||Ponsonby, Col C. E|
|Bowen, R.||Hollis, Sqn.-Ldr. M. C.||Poole, O B S. (Oswestry)|
|Bower, N.||Howard. Hon. A.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J||Roberts Sqn.-Ldr Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Hurd, A.||Ross, Sir R|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Shepherd, Lieut W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R, A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Smith, E P. (Ashford)|
|Challen, Flt.-Lieut. C.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col W. H.||Smithers Sir W.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lancaster, Col C. G.||Spearman, A C. M.|
|Clifton-Brown, U.-Col. G||Lindsay, Lt.-Col. M. (Solihull)||Stanley, Rt Hon O.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Linstead, H. N.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Low, Brig. A. R. W||Strauss, H. G. (Com Eng. Univ'sities)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyrs, Col. O. E.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Stuart, Rt Hon. J.|
|Crowder, Capt. J F E||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Studholnte, H. G.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (l. of Wight)||Taylor, C S. (Eastbourne)|
|Digby, Maj. S. W.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Maopherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Drewe, C||Marlowe, A. A. H||Thornton-Kemsley. C. N|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Turton, R. H.|
|Duthie. W. S.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Maude, J. C.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Erroll, F J.||Mellor, Sir J||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Molson, A. H. E.||Willoughby, de Erasny, Lord|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Foster, J G. (Northwich)||Morrison, Mai. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Gage, Lt.-Col. C||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Neven-Spenee, Major Sir B||Lt.-Col. Corbett and|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Nicholson, G.||Lt.-Col. Thorp.|
|Glossop, C W. H.||Noble, Comdr A. H. P.|
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again "—[Mr. R. J. Taylor] —put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ 7.53 P.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Poole (Oswestry)
The discussion which has taken place has been so wide that I intend to confine myself to one subject only, and although it is not the most interesting and most exciting subject, it is one to which I attach the greatest importance. It is with some hesitancy that I intervene in this Debate 2436 at all, because I joined the Regular Army some years ago and, after a very short time, one of the right hon. Gentlemen's predecessors found me quite unsuitable for Regular soldiering, and I was removed. Such success as I have had in this war was entirely due to the fact that a horse fell on me in Palestine in 1939. As a result of that, I have had some slight experience as an administrative staff officer, and it is on that subject that I wish to speak.
2437 It is necessary, in order to appreciate the position, to look back to what happened before the war. The administrative aspect of soldiering before the war was given only secondary consideration both by officers and men serving in regiments, and at the staff colleges. The best officers went for the operational side, and the administrative services were considered the "Cinderella" of the Army, The fact that they were to have some success during the war says a great deal for the keenness of a certain number of Regular soldiers who went into the Royal Army Service Corps and the Royal Army Ordnance Corps before the war. The officers who went into those corps were not, as a rule, selected for commands, the number of staff jobs available to them were very few, and, in each corps, the number of senior officers was very limited. There was much less scope for their efforts than if they had been on the operational side. In addition to this, their training was totally inadequate. Exercises that were held before the war gave very little scope for administrative training because of the cost to the Exchequer of running a large administrative exercise, and also, to a great extent, because of the unsuitability of the English countryside to deploy administrative organisation. The result was that in 1939 there were very few Regular soldiers who had any great administrative experience, and the administrative [raining which had taken place before the war was entirely unsuited to the task which had to be carried out during the war.
At the beginning of the war, about 1940, Field-Marshal Lord Wavell wrote a series of articles calling attention to the necessity of administration in war. That meant that a large number of people at the top in the Army began to give attention to this side, and a number of civilians, either Territorial soldiers or soldiers who enlisted in 1939, were brought into the Services on the administrative side. It must be remembered that, at that time, many of the commanders had not any very great administrative experience and, as a result of these articles by Lord Wavell, attached importance to administration for the first time. Almost at once a complete change took place. Because of lack of equipment and difficulties of operating in the desert and other 2438 parts of the Middle East, the administrative aspect of the war became almost all important. So one got the remarkable position of having commanders who had only a slight knowledge of administration and, on the administrative side, a large number of civilians as staff officers. The administrative side tended to outweigh the operational side, and one saw, in many cases, operations held up as the result of the administrative staff saying they were not ready and holding up operations which should have taken place earlier. In the Quartermaster-General's branch these difficulties were not so great. But in the Adjutant-General's branch, which called for great experience and officers of considerable Regular service, there were not enough of them available, and one of the breakdowns in the war was undoubtedly the failure to set up a suitable system for the supply of reinforcements.
Again, on the lines of communications, in the administrative services there was a large number of civilians, and it was not until very much later in the war in North-West Europe that we developed lines of communication with the administrative services all doing their jobs with experience and efficiency. If anyone doubts that what I say is true, he has only to look at the number of civilians who were with the 21st Army Group staff. I myself was a senior administrative planning officer of that staff, and the major-general in charge of administration and many others, all civilians, had come into the war either as retired soldiers, or reservists. That seems to prove conclusively that it is essential that the War Office should give great attention to administrative training in the Army. Administration will grow more and not less complex with modern equipment and weapons.
I am going to suggest certain recommendations which I humbly submit to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman are lessons which could have been learned before the war and which the war proved conclusively are right. They will improve not only administrative efficiency, but the status of officers who go on the administrative side of the staff. The first and most important is that in staff colleges administrative training should be given equal priority with all operational training. It is not of much benefit on an exercise if someone runs 2439 around and says after it begins, "What about the rations?" and someone else says "Oh, we will send them out on a lorry." That is what happened before the war. When appointments are made, the best officers should not all be chosen for operational appointments. I suggest that there is a great deal to be said for the American system of having four branches of the general staff, one of which deals with the Adjutant-General's branch, one with intelligence, one with operations and one with the Quartermaster-General's branch, which means there are none of the distinctions that we know in the British Army, but everyone is a branch of the general staff.
I further suggest that no officer be given a high command, in a division or brigade or higher, unless he has had considerable practical administrative experience. He should really understand and be able to assess the importance of administrative limitations and potentialities of the resources under his command, and should not have to rely on some staff officer to tell him what that is. The next point is that exercises should he held that give great scope in administrative training. I realise that there are difficulties in that. During the war they w ere very elaborate. I myself attended one in Yorkshire after my return from abroad. It was worked out most thoroughly, but at the same time it did not quite represent what happened in war. I suggest that abroad in India or some training ground like it is the only place where full scope can be given for administrative training.
The next point, which I will not pursue in great detail, is worthy of consideration. One of the difficulties of the administrative side is to make it sufficiently interesting to attract officers into it. In war it is extremely interesting, but once war ends it is extremely dull. I would suggest that any officer who shows an aptitude for administration should be seconded to industry and business. That is done in the American Army and is a great success. I was deputy chief of staff to an American corps in North Africa, and several of the officers had been detached from the Army and sent to industry in different parts of the country', to such places as railways and ports and things of that sort. It was an advantage inasmuch as it gave them an 2440 insight into what they might expect when they came to similar things in times of war. They did not necessarily want technical experience because they got that in the Army itself, but broad administration such as they would meet in a huge concern like I.C.I., and which would prove of great advantage to them. It was very difficult for an administrative officer, who was dealing with small things, to find himself suddenly called upon to administer the port of Antwerp, which is almost as big as the port of London. We must also have more senior officers in the Royal Army Service Corps, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, etc., and more interchange between the officers in the administrative services and the officers on the operational side, so that they can get more fully to know each other.
There is one other suggestion I should like to make. It is that all senior administrative officers, major-generals in charge of administration and others of that sort, should be considered sometimes, where they are suitable, tot command of Malta, or Gibraltar or some garrison abroad. It seems to me quite wrong that purely administrative positions should be given to officers who are commanders of troops. It may be that commanders are particularly suited for the work in some instances, but at the moment anyone who becomes a major-general in charge of administration is excluded from getting the command of Malta, Gibraltar or places of that sort. This is a wide subject which I have gone through rather quickly because I do not want to delay the House. The last point I want to put is that administrative training and administrative units must be a big part of the Territorial or Auxiliary Army of the future, whatever form it takes. One of the Territorial Army's failures before the war was that it did not have sufficient ancillary and administrative units attached to it, and I do suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should give careful consideration of the whole aspect and status of the training of the administration services after the war, particularly with regard to the Territorial Army.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
I do not intend to use much time, but I should like to raise a matter which I feel is of considerable importance in principle, 2441 and of very great personal importance to a number of individuals. I refer to the existing ban on marriage with ex-enemy nationals. Whatever there is to be said on this subject, I imagine nobody in the House will dispute that this does represent at least a very serious restriction on personal freedom in a matter, in which, above all others, unrestricted freedom of private choice should surely be sacrosanct. This is not a party question and I invite and expect certain hon Members on the opposite side of the House to support me.
§ Earl Winterton
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman to make a terminological correction? They are not ex-enemy nationals; they remain enemy nationals until the peace treaty. which has not yet been signed.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Does "enemy nationals" apply to Austria, because were we ever at war with that country?
§ Mr. Levy
The Minister may clear up that point. However that may be, this is a question of personal freedom, and, although I have sometimes been a little sceptical about the new-found devotion of certain Conservatives to Liberal principles, there yet may be some perhaps who really have the root of the matter in them, and as a result no doubt sooner or later will find their way towards these benches. Here at any rate is a simple issue upon which libertarians can proclaim themselves, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will be duly grateful to me for giving them this opportunity of showing their colours. I fully realise that the present Government cannot like this restriction any more than I do. I realise that it is a hangover from war conditions. But I submit that the matter is ripe, indeed, overripe for review. What are the arguments against removal of this ban? I do not wish for one moment to minimise them. Let me begin with a minor one. It is sometimes argued that foreign marriages bear hardly on 2442 English girls, because it deprives them correspondingly of potential British husbands. Well, I do not feel myself that this argument can be pressed very hard, when we recall the existence of thousands of G.I. brides, to whom the exact converse of the argument applies in that their action has deprived English men of English wives. It is a question of complementary arithmetic, and what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Much more serious, and a far more dangerous argument, is that which says that this ban really protects men from themselves. It argues that after many years of exclusively male company abroad men are in no position to judge coolly between the good girl and the bad one, the good wife and the bad wife. Their judgment, so to speak, is out of practice: they make mistakes. Well, we have all known, in peacetime, men whose judgment has by no means been out of practice, yet who have made mistakes. Cold judgment is not usually a decisive factor in these matters, and I question whether it should be. Indeed, an eminent 19th century philosopher who held rather definite and astringent views upon the alternative sex—and with whom I prudently hasten to dissociate myself—went so far as to suggest that only a merciful and complete suspension of judgment on the part of the male enables the human race to perpetuate itself. Although I repudiate this ungallant analysis it certainly would be a very dangerous idea if we were to accept that men were to be legally prevented from marrying simply because their judgment was in abeyance It might lead heaven knows where. I know perfectly well that the artificial segregation of the sexes as the result of war can heighten a man's susceptibility at the expense of his judgment, and I also know well—and this is far more serious—that such is the miserable and desolate plight to which German Fascism has reduced the German people, such is the hunger, such the insecurity, such the poverty and such the despair, that to many a German girl marriage with a Britisher must seem like a lifebelt in the midst of her miseries. As a result of that, German girls will be eager to make marriages of convenience; not the first in history nor yet the hardest to excuse.
I know all this, and I agree that every possible step should be taken to see that 2443 the soldier knows it. Talk to him, and advise him by all means. No man needs protection against friendly advice. But there is a world of difference between advice and prohibition, and I say that it is important that serving men should be protected against prohibitive interference that may alter the entire course of their private lives. I would remind the House that these men are not boys. They are old enough to fight, and of the many letters I have received on the subject most of them are from men of about 30 I have one here from a regular soldier, a sergeant-major with 12 years' service to his credit, who says:I am not afraid to admit that I want to marry a German girl who, incidentally, assisted me to escape while I was a prisoner of war in Germany. We have fought this war for freedom and democracy, and it seems all wrong to us that we should now be tied up as regards choosing our future wives.It seems all wrong to me, too. I do not want to read a lot of letters, but may I just detain the House with a resume of one from a man who went through North Africa, Italy, France and Germany while serving with that fine corps, the Friends Ambulance Unit? His fiancee is a widow, and a Catholic. She and her husband were members of the anti-Nazi underground movement. They were betrayed to the Gestapo by the French police, in 1942. The husband was shot. The wife spent three years in a concentration camp. The gruesome methods of the Gestapo succeeded in eliciting from her nothing whatever about either her work or her companions. As a matter of fact, she had started her anti-Nazi work many years before the war, and as a result had suffered five months imprisonment for opposing Herr Ribbentrop and his friends at a time when those gentlemen were receiving cordial hospitality from many hostesses in England. Is it seriously suggested that such a woman as this is not fit to be the wife of an Englishman? I suggest that she is every bit as suitable as some of those hostesses to whom I have referred. Nevertheless, my correspondent says that permission for him to marry has been refused. He writes, very moderately:'' I can easily see the reasons why hasty marriages should be discouraged by the British Government. but this complete and utter disregard for human relationships does not seem to me, at least, to fit in with the Liberation Army.I hope my right hon. Friend will take this opportunity to clarify the whole posi 2444 tion. One man has asked me what is behind the ban, what it means. What is at the back of it? Is it "some sort of Nazi idea of keeping the race pure "? I hope it is not. Indeed, I know it is not. But what is it? What makes the thing still more shocking is that the ban on fraternisation has been relaxed, but the ban on marriage has not. I use the word, "shocking," advisedly.
There are, particularly, doubt and confusion, which I hope my right hon. Friend will address himself to when he winds up the Debate, as to the question of legality. I am told by an able lawyer, my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams), that the ban is not legally valid at all, and although the Prime Minister, in answer to a Question in the House in October last, declared that any soldier who defied the ban would find himself in serious trouble, I am given to understand that any officer who sought to enforce the ban might indeed find himself in serious trouble if anybody chose seriously to challenge his right to do so. I hope my right hon. Friend will clear up that point when he replies. I cannot argue the legal case, but at this stage we really want a simple answer to the question whether this ban is ultra vires or not.
Finally, if my right hon. Friend does decide to lift this ban, will he be quite sure that no non-legal—I do not say illegal—obstructions take its place?, I refer, for example, to such matters as posting. It is no good giving a man a legal right to marry and then posting him a thousand miles away before he has done so. Equally, it is not any good giving him permission to marry and then withholding indefinitely permission in each individual case. It is already, I understand, legal for a man to marry an Italian, but I have had two letters from men who said that they have made their applications and have then been kept waiting month after month without getting any reply, and that they seriously apprehend there is no intention whatever of giving them the affirmative reply which the law requires.
I have other letters from men who fear to be demobilised because there seems to be small prospect of their fiancee ever joining them over here—men who, after years abroad, are aching to come home and are forced actually to seek deferment of their demobilisation for fear of losing their girl. I suggest that that is not a healthy or 2445 reasonable state of affairs. In other words, if the ban is to be removed, let my right hon. Friend ensure that its removal is a reality and not a formality.
This question may affect only a few people, but I submit it is, none the less, important. I am not urging that British troops should marry German girls, but I am urging with all the sincerity possible that English men and women should be free to marry whomsoever they please. I am urging, in short, the indisputable and elementary right of a free man freely to choose his own wife, and I cannot think that this Government will gainsay it.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hare (Woodbridge)
I think the House will agree that we have heard an extremely eloquent and moving speech from the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Benn Levy). I would have liked to have followed him on the general theme of the liberty of the subject and the rights of the individual. Those principles have always been dear to hon. Members on this side, and I think they are becoming increasingly dear to all Englishmen and women. Unfortunately, I have not time to take up that subject, since there is one aspect of the future Army that I would like to put to the House as briefly as possible. I refer to the future of close cooperation between the Army and the Royal Air Force. I had the good fortune to see a good deal of how this new technique developed during the war. Perhaps I am prejudiced, but I do not think its importance can be over-exaggerated.
I know that no Army officer or other rank who fought in the later stages of the war would wish to give anything but unstinted praise to the Royal Air Force for the support they gave them when they went into battle. This new use of air forces in support of the Army was largely responsible, in my opinion, for the fact that in this last war our casualties were comparatively light when compared with those suffered in the major battles of the 1914–The overwhelming effect on the morale of the enemy when he is unable to move by day for fear of inviting air attack, and the encouragement that is given to our own troops when they see the sky overhead filled with our own aeroplanes coming down to bomb and strafe the enemy close in front of them, 2446 are two real battle winning factors of major importance.
In this Debate we need certain assurances that the invaluable experience and knowledge that were gained as the result of the war in the linking together of the two Services on the battlefield should not now be forgotten. It is important to realise that this was a new technique, developed and improved as the war went on. It would be foolish and wrong if one did not emphasise at the same time that many lives were lost in the early stages of the war, and many opportunities missed, because neither the Army nor the Air Force understood the problems that affected the other. During the years after the last war the two Services had drifted completely apart in thought and outlook, and I am afraid that already there seem to be signs that now peace has come the same thing may happen again; this is something which must be prevented at all costs.
As this new technique of support for the Army was developed, more and more, progressive Army unit and formation commanders began to appreciate the effectiveness of air attacks synchronised to fit in with the attacks of their own troops on the ground. At We same time, by continuous training and by experiment, the Royal Air Force produced new and improved methods by which it could operate on this particular type of target, such as tanks and self-propelling guns on the move, the enemy withdrawing, the enemy concentrating for a counter attack—all targets with which it had to deal with great speed and precision. It was able to develop special communications whereby aircraft could be diverted in the air and briefed on to new targets which would be attacked within a very few minutes of the ground troops asking for them. New bombs were devised and existing weapons were specially adapted to take on these particular forms of target.
I have stressed this because the improvement in the help that the Royal Air Force was able to give the Army and the great use the Army made of this new weapon all came about and depended chiefly on the greater knowledge that sprang up amongst officers of both Services of the requirements, methods, and functions of the other Service. Having been very slow at the onset, the Army began to understand what the limitations of air power were; they began to 2447 understand on what occasions the air could most help them. The Royal Air Force, in turn, began to learn what the Army was trying to do, and began to understand some of the laborious methods by which we had to go about achieving our object. In all these processes many difficulties and a mass of prejudice were slowly and successfully overcome. The problem is: How can this closer understanding between the two Services be maintained and improved, because we were only at the beginning of vast new vistas in which this particular form of weapon could be used?
I would like to make three practical suggestions by which this object can be achieved. The answer lies under three headings: inter-Service training; inter-Service cross-attachments; general research development. Under the first heading, is it too much to suggest that, as a result of the experience of the war, we should set up an inter-Service staff college? It became obvious, and it was always true, although people were perhaps not prepared to recognise the fact, that every Army operation carried out overseas intimately affected the other two Services. The Navy had to escort and convey the assault Forces and had to support the land Forces. Then it had to maintain the supremacy of the sea routes in order that supplies and reinforcements to our ground Forces should be safely brought from the mother country. The R.A.F. had to batter the main centres of production and destroy the communications system. It had to support the landing by isolating the battle area which was chosen for the particular assault. Finally, it had to produce a great curtain of fire under which the Army was able to advance, when it moved towards its final objectives.
An inter-Service staff college would provide a meeting place where discussion of all the great knowledge we have learned could be integrated and a practical training ground provided on which vital inter-Service matters could be developed and improved. I hope that that suggestion, as part of the practical training which might be given to future armies, will receive the consideration of the Minister. In addition, I suggest that we might be given the assurance that, on major staff courses held by either the Army or the Royal Air Force, there should always be adequate representation of efficient officers 2448 from the other Services. I would finally suggest that it would be quite wrong for any large scale Army exercises or manoeuvres to be carried out in the future without a full, detailed air plan, and the active participation of the air Forces in the exercises.
Now with regard to inter-Service cross-attachments, I would suggest that, in order that a practical understanding can be obtained by officers of the conditions and the working of other Services, a large number, or at any rate a selected number, of the most intelligent young officers for whom it might be possible to predict a distinguished career, should at every stage of their career—not only when they are junior officers, but when they become more senior or even when they may have reached the very top of the tree—be attached to the other Service for a period of at least one year. Such attachment should be designed to assist promotion, and should not be allowed to penalise the officers concerned, during their temporary absence. It often happened in the war that able, intelligent officers were taken from their regiments and seconded for special duties and did extremely well, but, when the time came round for promotion, found themselves barred, on that account. I stress the point that any such scheme should be an encouragement to promotion and not a deterrent.
I have a further contribution to make on this point. I suggest that modification of the German system lay which no Command could be held in either the Air Force or the Army by an officer who had not had actual experience of the other Service should be considered. I am not proposing that we should go as far as that, but there is something in this idea which we might well take advantage of.
Thirdly, and finally, there is the development of research. There is the danger that this close support function of the R.A.F. may be neglected by that Service. It would be a natural tendency for the Royal Air Force to concentrate entirely upon the strategic side of the work, especially as we move into the atomic age. In the same way, I think the Army will be more prone to concentrate on the development of the supporting weapons under their own control —tanks, artillery and so on—than they will in matters of close air support. Therefore, I feel there is a great danger 2449 that close support may well fall between two stools. I would like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister, as Minister of Defence, should watch this matter most closely and should ensure that special money is provided for this research and development. It might be useful to put the development of this type of warfare under the Combined Operations H.Q., which was so successfully started by Admiral Mountbatten in the war, and, I understand, is still being asked to continue its functions. I think I have said enough to make my point reasonably clear and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to make a statement on several of the points that I have raised. We must be quite certain that we have left behind us the jealousies that existed between the two Services after the last war.
In conclusion, I quote from a very excellent article which appeared yesterday in the "Sunday Times" on this subject. It was an article in which the late Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, paid a tribute to General Paget. He used these words:Paget was also able to do a great deal towards solving the problem of Army-Air cooperation. Of course, the main principles had been pretty well demonstrated by the system set up by Montgomery and Coningham in the Western Desert, but in this country a great deal of nonsense was being talked and a great deal of heat was being engendered by both the Army and the Royal Air Force and little had been done '—this was in 1943—to adapt the desert system to the infinitely larger needs of the Channel landing and the ensuing Continental campaign. However, thanks largely to Paget, the knot was cut and the arguments anld quarrels between the two Services became a matter of ' old, unhappy, far-off things and battles long ago.'We should be assured that adequate measures are being taken to ensure that those arguments and quarrels between the two Services shall never be allowed to occur again.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. John Freeman (Watford)
I want to address myself very briefly to a point similar to that so ably brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Woodbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Hare). Before I do so, I think it is right that any of us 2450 on this side of the House who speak after the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Benn Levy) should accept the poignant challenge he has offered to the House on the very human problem of marriages with enemy women. I commit myself categorically, before my right hon. Friend replies, by saying I am with him in this matter and hope most sincerely that my right hon. Friend will give way upon it.
Having said that, I want to turn to the points which the hon. and gallant Member for Woodbridge has just developed. I hope to amplify and to develop his remarks in a slightly different direction. When my right hon. Friend introduced his original Estimate a month ago he said:I have agreed with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply and Aircraft Production that, from top to bottom of the Ministry, there will be a real and complete integration of the Army and Ministry staffs. At all levels, Army officers suitably qualified, will work in the Ministry machine.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1946: Vol. 42o, C. 1313.]That is all right as far as it goes, but it does not meet the point which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just made and which is of at least equal importance: that not only must Army officers be integrated in the Ministry of Supply machine, but officers of all three Services must he integrated with one another and within that same Ministry of Supply machine. The Army has urgent need of both the Navy and the Air Force. The Army in this matter is the beggar of the three Services—without the Navy and the Air Force it would be unable to fulfil its commitments. The hon. and gallant Gentleman pointed out with some force the fact that coordination in research was essential if that cooperation was to be carried out, but I suggest that there is more to it than that. Coordination in research is necessary not only in order that the three Services may support one another closely in action, but even more in order that particular types of technical equipment which may be common between the three Services can be discovered and produced as economically as possible. For instance, if I followed the hon. and gallant Gentleman aright, he said that unless we get close cooperation in research between die Army and the Air Force it is likely that close support from the Air Force will begin to fail and the technique will become lost. I accept that point but further than that, 2451 unless we get complete integration at the research level we shall find that some particular form of, let us say, wireless set which would be particularly valuable to the Army but has been discovered by a R.A.F. technician, perhaps for a different purpose, will be undiscovered and unused by the Army because nobody will ever get to hear about it.
That is not a far fetched picture, and I believe anybody who has had experience of using technical equipment during this war will agree that, even if the level of coordination in these matters greatly improved in the course of the war, it was never really good enough. Cooperation in operations is vital, but in the supply Services I am not sure that it is not almost more vital. Any hon. Member who worked as a staff officer in a fairly low formation, and had from time to time to deal with the actual striking of aircraft on to targets close at hand, will realise the immense extra difficulties caused to the Army by the extreme difficulty, until quite late in the war, of radio communication between aircraft and the ground, and in many ways at that time points could be produced for the closest possible coordination in research if operational coordination is to be effective—
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? Surely in the case of tank attacks a great measure of coordination was achieved, since virtually the same sets were used in tanks as aircraft, both being made by private firms and not by any Government Department? I refer to No. 19 set.
§ Mr. Freeman
On the implication of the hon. Gentleman's intervention, I will tell him privately afterwards the considered opinion in my Division about the No. 19 set. So much for private enterprise. As regards the matter which I think the hon. Gentleman intended to be taken more seriously, I agree that there was some degree of coordination in that respect, and in so far as it existed, it is accepted. But the point I am hoping to develop is that there is some evidence that such coordination as existed at that time is beginning to disappear, and it is to check that trend that I want to appeal to the hon. Gentleman who will reply to this Debate.
2452 I have a letter here from a constituent of mine. As it consists of about 11 pages of foolscap, I shall not read it in its entirety. The House will, I am sure, congratulate me on having a constituency which can produce such documents. This is in fact an exceedingly interesting letter from a scientist who has been working in military uniform during the war and has taken the trouble to write to me, on his demobilisation, a very thoughtful paper summarising his conclusions about what has been done and what could in future be better done. I propose to quote two excerpts from it. In the first place he says:Furthermore, it has seemed to me that, except in the case of Radar in the latter part of the war, there has been little interchange of ideas on telecommunication design between the three establishments;He refers to the Navy, Army and Air Force research establishments respectively.each has apparently carried on with its own problems without thought that the pooling of ideas might unify design and reduce the number of differing types of equipment in Service operation. Many times have I thought that, for example, the Army so-and-so amplifier would, with minor modification, have been just the job for so-and-so a purpose in the Navy;So he goes on, and says in conclusion:The Inter-Services Research Bureau (I speak now of the whole organisation, and not just of the Radio Section) was not entirely tranquil in carrying out its affairs. On occasions, personal ambitions and jealousies tended to make themselves apparent; nepotism was alleged to exist; the service people inclined to be envious of the civilians and charged them with taking advantage of their positions as such; and the different Services had minor troubles between themselves over matters where their differing practices clashed. But for all these petty worries, the organisation achieved the purpose for which it existed with the highest degree of straightforwardness, unity of purpose and sincerity. And "—here is the rub—its main object fulfilled, it has now ceased to exist.Why? Why should an establishment which has served the Armed Forces so well in war and the need for which is in no way reduced by the return to peace, be dissolved? It will surely he agreed by hon. Members on all sides that there is a perfectly good case, at least in pure logic, for having no Army at all and also a good case for having a small but efficient Army. But there is no case whatever for having an inefficient Army. The dissolving of such a highly integrated level of 2453 research as took place in the Inter-Services Research Establishments, seems to me to be a subject which requires at least explanation, if not reconsideration.
I do not want to follow the hon. Member who has put the argument so cogently, into the necessity for coordination, cooperation and intercourse at every level between members of the three Services, but the fact remains that that above everything else was probably the cardinal lesson of this war. In commands where that lesson was fully learned battles were won; where that lesson was not learned battles were lost. That is the lesson we have to take from this war; and we must base our training and the supply of our Army on it in the future. Without the help of the Navy and the Air Force, the Army must, through the nature both of its technical equipment and technical organisation, become the Cinderella of the three Services. I hope the hon. Member who is to reply to the Debate will give adequate assurance that at least on these subjects covered by the hon. and gallant Member for Woodbridge and myself we are not taking retrograde action, because, if the Army does become the Cinderella of the three Services, men are going to lose their lives unnecessarily in the future, as I believe in certain cases they have done in the past.
§ 8.50 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown (Bury St. Edmunds)
There are a great many Members on this side of the House who are largely in agreement with the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Freeman). There is a tendency, on the return to peace conditions, for things to get into watertight compartments, and I hope that in regard to his matter we shall see a high degree of coordination. Having said that, I propose to confine the remainder of my remarks to the youth aspect of the future Army. I was much upset the other day, when I received a reply to the effect that a youth cannot now volunteer for the Army for his compulsory service. He can volunteer to enter into a long-term engagement, as soon as he has passed his 17th birthday, but he cannot do so for short-term compulsory service. He has to wait until he is 18 years old, and he is then directed. I was told the reason was that we were trying to "boost" the long-term engagement. That is rather short 2454 sighted because a lot of young men will not have made up their minds and will, to begin with, go into the Forces purely for a short-term engagement. If, as we are told, our Army of the future is to be the marvel of all time, why should not these young men have the chance of changing over, and of being put on the same footing as a boy who has joined for his regular engagement? I think it will tend to make the Service unpopular if one has to wait. I know that there is the possible consideration of trying to have conscripts of exactly the same age, but I am sure that that will never be effective because some allowance will have to be made for youths who are at universities or who are apprentices. I hope we shall hear something more from the Minister on that aspect.
I wish to see if we cannot get the Minister to give further and better recognition to our cadet and junior training forces. I raised this question in a previous defence Debate. I wish we could see to begin with a joint cadet force, organised by all three Services. At present we are badly handicapped by the restrictions which are put on the cadet force, the shortage of permanent instructors or of reasonable pay for men who could be instructors, either officers or N.C.Os. Also, the rules and regulations applying to the use of schools or other educational facilities are so tight as to make very big difficulties for the cadet forces. As for the cadet himself, there, we have the potential officer and the potential N.C.O. of our regular Forces, the boy who is giving his time and getting good training. Cannot we see that these cadets get some advantage? I do not look for anything which will cut into their service, but cannot they be given some recognition so that, for example, when they go into the Regular Army their good service as an N.C.O. or as a cadet will count, perhaps, towards their getting an immediate stripe, or some other immediate recognition in the regular Forces. That would help a lot, and we should be able to pick out likely good N.C.Os. and potential officers. Moreover, we could do so without incurring much more expense.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
I want to ask three questions on the point which has been raised by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy), and to ask the 2455 Financial Secretary whether he will take the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown on them. The first question is, If a man in the Forces defies the ban and marries a German woman, goes round to the priest and gets married, is that a lawful marriage? My understanding of the matter is that it is a lawful marriage. Secondly, is the effect of that marriage that the woman becomes a British subject? I understand that the effect is that she does become a British subject Thirdly, can any disciplinary action be taken against the man who marries? That is not an easy question. As I understand it, it is strongly argued that the order not to marry is an unlawful order at common law and, therefore, that disobedience of that order is not subject to disciplinary action. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to take the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown and to inform us at some time or other the result of that advice.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
In the short time that I have left, I can only reply very briefly to the very interesting points which have been so ably put. With reference to the matter mentioned by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. B. Levy) in what my right hon. Friend tells me was a very admirable and moderately expressed speech on a very controversial question, obviously the House could not expect me to give a clear legal answer. Indeed, it is not entirely a matter for the War Office to settle. This concerns the three Service Departments, the Foreign Office, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who is in charge of the Control Commissions for Germany and -Austria. Obviously, agreement has to be reached between these Departments before it will be possible to give an answer to the question put by my hon. Friends. Of course I shall be only too willing to take the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown. I have already consulted the Judge Advocate-General. I understand the position is roughly that the commander-in-chief of the occupied and conquered country can promulgate orders and can prohibit civil or religious authorities within the Army lines from celebrating any marriage between an enemy national and a British soldier. If that order is correct and has the force 2456 of law behind it, which I beg to suggest it has under international law, then, if the soldier wilfully disobeys an order legally given by his commander-in-chief, he can be proceeded against under the Army Act for a breach of Army discipline.
§ Mr. Bellenger
The House will now begin to realise what happens when I attempt to enter into a legal discussion with my hon. Friends, but they will permit me to say that the Secretary of State is fully conscious of the hardship which this perhaps entails on certain soldiers in certain circumstances, but it is a very involved legal matter, and, obviously, further consideration is necessary. I think the House will generally agree that it is not entirely desirable, at any rate at this stage, that large numbers of marriages between British soldiers and German civilian women should be permitted. There are certain factors which have to be taken into account, but I do not wish to make any pronouncement on the general question. I think I had better leave it, at any rate for the moment, and consult the Law Officers and get the legal position quite clear, and the moral position, too.
§ Mr. Levy
I do not want to press the hon. Gentleman, because I quite understand his difficulties. I realise that it is a matter which has to be arranged in consultation, and that is why, when I originally raised it at Question time, I raised it with the Prime Minister. But every time I did so, the question has been referred to the War Office, and, before this Debate took place, ample warning had been given to the War Office of the request that they should take legal advice so that they should be in a position to tell us whether the ban is legal, and, if it is legal, whether steps will be taken to rescind it. Does the hon. Gentleman now mean that we cannot have an answer tonight, and, if not, when can we have an answer?
§ Mr. Bellenger
The ban is legal, according to the advice we have had; therefore, the consequences of breaking that ban will follow. The second point is an entirely different matter, and, as I have explained, is to be considered in conjunction with three or four other Departments. Hon. Members can always put down 2457 Questions, and I hope it will be possible to give them some indication of the Government's policy, which I am not able to do tonight.
The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Oliver Poole) suggested that attention should be given to administrative training in the selection of our highly placed officers. That is a matter which, as every hon. Member who has had Service experience during this war will know, has been given considerable attention in both the American Army and our own. We are not unmindful of the fact that, in large armies, with the largest proportions sometimes in the administrative tail of the Army, considerable attention has to be given to the future training of staff officers, in particular in matters of administration. Those hon. Gentlemen who are following the interesting articles now appearing in a Sunday newspaper will know the difficulties which sometimes arise in administration with what the Americans call an integrated Army. That matter is receiving very considerable attention at the War Office and will receive further attention when the Army has resolved itself into more static form and we give attention to the training of the new Army.
I was very interested in the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Woodbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Hare). I am afraid I heard only a portion of his speech but, as I understand his remarks, he was urging that there should be close and integrated cooperation between the Air Force and the Army, especially in their operational roles. I fully agree with him, and I do not think that there is anybody at the Air Ministry or the War Office who would disagree. It is obvious that, in the future, with new and, perhaps, startling weapons—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air indicated what some of these startling weapons are, the jet plane for example—there will have to be close cooperation betweeen the air and the ground if we are to get the best possible effect from both Services. It is not possible for me tonight to indicate some of the interesting experiments that have been going on and the lessons that have been learned as the result of the war, and are still being learned, from this cooperation between air and ground. I can only say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, as time goes on, we shall 2458 profit by the experience we have gained in the war and that I hope we shall continue to profit from it in training matters.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am sorry I cannot give way to the hon. and gallant Gentleman as I am about to finish in a few moments. I read the article in the Sunday Times "by the ex-Secretary of State for War, Sir James Grigg, to which he referred and, like a lot of the writings of Sir James Grigg it contained a good deal of common sense. What he mentioned in that article has not been lost, at any rate, on one Minister who read it yesterday and who is now answering this Debate.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman) rather underlined and emphasised the point made by another hon. Member. He said that he had received some communications from one of his constituents. He is not the only hon. Member who receives communications from constituents, but, nevertheless, I think there is a good deal in the letter, if I can call it such, from which he read extracts. There is no denying that many of the integrated operational units which emerged during the war are disappearing. That is inevitable, and I think the hon. Gentleman would be the first to recognise that the Army is running down and that units have to disappear in the process. I agree with him that the valuable lessons learned by research units on an inter-Service basis, such as he mentioned, should not be lost in the postwar period. He is perfectly right in asking me to bring the matter to the attention of my military advisers at the War Office, and I will certainly do so.
§ Mr. J. Freeman
When my hon. Friend gives as the reason for the disappearance of this particular organisation the fact that the Army is running down, does he mean to imply that it was one of a number of such organisations or that it is the only one which has disappeared?
§ Mr. Bellenger
No, Sir. What I was intending to convey was that, in all probability, particular units may have disappeared by reason of the fact that officers and men are disappearing under the Class A release scheme.
Finally, with regard to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Bury 2459 St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown) I want to say a few words on the cadet force, and in particular the Army Cadet Corps. If a young fellow has done well in the Cadet Corps and has been promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer, his service is bound to follow him into the Army, and the same merits and qualities which enabled him to obtain promotion while he was a cadet, will enable him, if he continues on those lines, to get promotion in the Army. We shall endeavour to give every encouragement we can to those young men who, when they need not do so, volunteer to join the Army Cadet Corps, and maintain their good spirit when they are called up or when they enlist in the Army. If there are any points which I have missed in this or the previous Debate I will try to gather them up in the next few days—it may, perhaps, provide some little occupation for me in the Easter Recess—and endeavour to reply to them in due course.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Major MILNER in the Chair]
§ PAY, ETC., OF THE ARMY
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £76,511,000, be granted to fails Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, etc., of the Army, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1947 in addition to the sum of £48,500,000 to be allocated for this purpose from the sum of £450,000,000 voted on account of Army Services generally.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.