§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Brigadier Low (Blackpool, Worth)
I wish to raise with the Financial Secretary to the War Office the question of progress of Army recruiting. I do so because of two very disquieting statements which have been made, one in another place, and one in answer to a written Question by me on 30th July. From those statements, it is clear that the Government are not succeeding—and I will try to suggest reasons why—in reaching the target for recruits to the Army announced by the Financial Secretary in his reply to the Debate on 27th June.
The Financial Secretary then said that the War Office were aiming to get in 1946, 100,000 recruits under the short-service scheme, and 50,000 under normal engagements I think those are the correct figures which appeared in HANSARD. Up to date, the following numbers of other ranks have so far been recruited—that is, up to mid-July—into the Army: a total of 9,572 under normal engagements and 1,448 under short-service engagements. The short-service system started on 15th April There have, therefore, been up to the time of this statement, three months out of less than nine months of this year, in which the War Office have achieved 1.5 per cent. of their target. That is, in a little more than a third of the time available, they have achieved 1.5 per cent. of the target. The position is somewhat better in the case of recruits under normal engagements. It is true to say that the recruiting campaign was started by the Secretary of State for War on 16th May, but I think the Financial Secretary will agree that there has been a trickle, and perhaps more than a trickle, coming into the Army, particularly men still serving and men who have just been released. With five months to go there is still 80 per cent. of the target which the War Office have set, themselves to be collected. These figures will persuade all sides of the House that the position is bad.
I am glad that the Secretary of State was willing to answer the question I put to him, particularly so because only six days previously a Government statement was made in another place to the effect that it was not in the public interest to give any such figures. I am glad that in the course of six days they changed their mind about 1435 that. Having said I am glad about that, I am sorry about one thing. I am delighted to see the Financial Secretary here. I know that he will answer in the usual candid, frank and thorough way he answers Debates in this House. But I consider this question so important that it might have been to the advantage of the War Office and of the House if the Secretary of State had been able to attend today, because it is my object in raising this question, and I think the Financial Secretary knows this, to assist the War Office. If I and my hon. Friends criticise it from time to time on matters of administration of the Army, we do so with the object of improving the Army. Indeed, the Financial Secretary himself knows, through criticising other administrations, as he has done for years in the past, that that is a fair test of the criticism. I hope to make some constructive points which will not always be congratulatory.
My first point is that I hope the Government will do more than they have done to make clear to the country what the role of the Regular Army is in peace time. The Secretary of State has made it quite clear that in his opinion we must have a reasonably large professional Army to carry out our peace time commitments. I am not sure that every one understands the importance of there being a professional Army to carry out those commitments. I believe that a number of people in the country think that we can, by means of some form of national service, get away with a sufficient number of men who will come into the Army, through some form of national service, to provide ourselves with an Army to carry out those commitments. That is an entirely wrong use of conscription or of any form of national service. If we are to have national service, we should not have it for that purpose. I hope that the Government will also make clear that we have these commitments throughout the world, which we must carry out, and that we do not regret having them. There is far too much talk in this country at the moment of regretting that we have these commitments. We certainly regret the disorders and the hardships of the soldiers in Palestine at the present time, but much of the place which we have won for ourselves in the world has been won by the deeds of our forefathers, and we should not regret but rather be proud that one of the duties 1436 imposed by our high position in the world is to provide a peaceful and orderly police military force in the world.
Secondly, I think the Government can do far more to explain to the young men what opportunities they will have in the peace time Regular Army. I do not believe that anybody really knows at the moment what opportunity a man has for technical study, technical efficiency, for the satisfaction of the normal spirit of adventure and so on, in the peace time Army of today. I believe there are very few people who really know the life of the soldier who is serving abroad or at home in the Regular Army today. I think the Government could do far more, through the many mediums open to them, to let the country know about that.
Thirdly, and this is a point which we have pressed before on the Financial Secretary, I hope the War Office will try to reduce to a minimum at once, and then cut out completely, the mistakes and delays that are made from time to time, which get the War Office far more publicity than their many successes. It is an unfortunate thing that the public like reading about the mistakes of Government Departments much more than they like reading about their successes. In the past few months, we have had too much reference in the House and the country to the unnecessary deferment of officers and men and to delays in the release of land. We have had several references to the way in which the War Office has sent men from this country, after leave, to Burma, India and the Far East to get demobilised and come back a month or so later. It is this sort of stupid mistake which is causing the War Office and the Army to be less popular in the country. I believe that, at the moment, there is some perhaps unavoidable muddle about the future clothing of the Army. I know there are reasons, which I shall not go into, but I believe that there was a Committee which sat before the war and which decided on a suitable walking-out dress, but now the whole matter appears to be on the shelf again. I mention that as a matter on which the Government, as a whole, have not come up to scratch.
Fourthly, I should like to make it clear that, when the Secretary of State and the Financial Secretary give this House and the country promises and pledges of improved conditions, such as the building 1437 of better barracks, both at home and abroad, those are promises which the Government will carry out, unlike some others, which seem not so likely to be carried out. It is of course, necessary that the country as a whole should have confidence in the statements on improved conditions which are made from time to time in this House.
Fifthly, I think more publicity could have been given to the recruiting campaign. The 16th May, the day on which the Secretary of State launched the campaign, was also the day on which the Cabinet Mission in India issued its statement, and the Press next day carried the Cabinet Mission's statement from India. That was unfortunate. It is also true that the Secretary of State, when broadcasting the same night, did not receive full publicity, but I have also been disappointed with the publicity given to the recruiting campaign since that time. In my own constituency, as the Financial Secretary no doubt knows, there has just been a visit by the mobile demonstration column. Unfortunately, the weather was unkind on the first day and it could not perform. I believe, however, that it attracted a very large crowd in Stanley Park, Blackpool, and a number of people have told me what good arrangements were made for showing off the Army vehicles. I rather wondered, however, from the reports I have received—I was unable to get down there, because the House was sitting—whether they are showing off that part of the Army life which is most likely to attract young men today. I think they do, perhaps, concentrate too much upon the glamour of the tanks, and I hope the Government will explain to the young men what opportunities they will have of becoming technically efficient and taking up a trade of their own, so that, when the time comes for them to leave the Army, they will have a good chance in civil life.
The other part of the Government's recruiting campaign is to send round Army mobile information units in lorries with loudspeakers. I have heard nothing about that, and I do not know how they are succeeding. I think it would possibly help—and I throw this out as a suggestion —if the Government issued a statement from time to time about the success or failure of these mobile demonstration columns and information units in various 1438 parts of England. I believe there is still a spirit of competition between various parts of the country, and that it would be a good thing to publish a statement showing what they were doing and indicating, for example, that North is doing better than South and that Lancashire was doing better than Yorkshire, which I am sure would be the case.
Finally, what are the public relations arrangements which the Secretary of State has established for getting this great campaign across? I have purposely left out any reference to conditions of service and pay. Those are subjects upon which I have given the Financial Secretary my opinion from time to time. I believe his aim is the same as mine. I am not sure that he has gone far enough.
I do not believe it is possible to overemphasise the importance of the recruiting campaign this year. Men who are recruited this year will be useful to the Army in five to 10 or 15 years' time. That is when they will be really useful. The job of a modern soldier is complicated, and the sooner we begin forming a really good nucleus of a professional Army, a strong, good and sufficiently powerful nucleus, the better. We cannot wait. I believe there is a feeling that there is time to wait. I think there is a certain amount of misunderstanding of the position. I hope the Government will make that clear.
Also, I think there has been a little muddled thinking about conscription. The Government and the country cannot, and must not, rely upon getting sufficient men for the execution of the peacetime commitments of the Army from the men who have been called up for a short period. They must rely on long term professional Army recruits. I think I am right in saying that this is the first occasion for a very long time when all responsible parties in this country are behind the Government in supporting the recruiting campaign. There is no difference between any of the responsible political parties upon the matter. I would like to see the Government making use of this circumstance. The Press and hon. Members of this House are willing and anxious to help. We all agree that we must have a strong Army. We can only have a strong Army if we get recruits. The will is there and I ask the Government to use methods worthy of this will. The presentation so far has been insufficiently vivid. If the 1439 campaign is not successful, then there is a certain lack of national patriotism in this country. I refuse to believe that that is the case. It is the presentation of the Government's case which needs to be made worthy of the will of the country.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
It is obvious to anyone familiar with the problem of Army recruitment that in present circumstances the campaign would fail. I venture to say that in the years before the war the majority of men who joined the Army did so not because they thought they were going to like Army life, but because they had not got a job. The Army does not appeal to Englishmen, particularly to young Englishmen, for the simple reason that Englishmen do not like a life of discipline. That is quite understandable. They much prefer the greater freedom of "civvy street" in which, once the factory hooter has blown, they can go where they like, dress as they like and do what they like. In "civvy street" there are no dress regulations, no night operations, no orderly sergeants who come in and shout "Lights out" at night, and "Get up" at reveille.
It is not a bit of good the Government patting themselves on the back and saying complacently that they have offered pay terms comparable with industry. If we are to attract young men into the Army we must be able to offer them better pay and conditions than industry, in order to make up for the disadvantages of having to live under military discipline. Before the war, the Treasury exerted a most unfortunate influence upon those who were trying to make the Army attractive. Let me take the case of the married man, for example. Before the war, there was no marriage allowance in the Army until the age of 30, and married quarters, like Army barracks, were a disgrace to the nation, and they were far too few. Married men in many stations, particularly abroad, had no possibility of living with their families, and a young married man who went, for example to India for six years had to say goodbye to any possibility of seeing his wife in that time. In order to make the Army attractive, the Government must be prepared to spend money in a big way, and there are already signs of Treasury difficulties over making Army life attractive, which 1440 has its bearing upon recruiting, as was so before the war.
I believe that never before has it been more necessary to have a strong and efficient Secretary of State for War than in this difficult period of postwar transition. I regret to say that the present Secretary of State for War is both weak and incompetent, and I honestly believe that until there is a change the best interests of the Army are bound to go to the wall. Every man has his level and it is perfectly clear to any Member, in whatever part of the House he sits, if he searches his conscience and is honest with himself, that the Secretary of State for War has been placed in a position which is manifestly beyond his abilities. We only have to watch the Minister at Question time, and see that he is quite unable to answer the simplest supplementary question if it goes beyond his brief. We see him standing there, if I may use a boxing metaphor, "punch drunk," unable to parry the simplest supplementary question, staggering from side to side, and one wishes the Prime Minister would throw the sponge into the ring and save him and us from positive embarrassment.
The B.A.O.R. today has many most urgent problems, of which recruitment is but one, particularly because young men will have to go to Germany for most of their conscripted service, since Germany is a home station. Once again, I ask, why has the Secretary of State for War, who is responsible for this great Army which is so close to Whitehall in flying time, not thought fit to visit its headquarters to settle some of these problems there on the spot? What would happen to a regimental commander who had a sub-unit on detachment and never went to visit it? He would not stay long in his job. It is a scandal that the Secretary of State for War has not thought fit to visit the British Army of the Rhine. If we acquit him of complacency we can only assume that he finds his work in Whitehall so difficult to grasp that it leaves him no time to do anything else. I regret that I have not given him notice that I was going to make this statement about him, but I had no reason to assume that he would not be present at this most important Debate.
§ Mr. Lindsay
He ought to have been, as my hon. Friend says. I hope the Secretary of State will think fit, during the coming Recess, to consider his own position very carefully and that he may decide to ask the Prime Minister to relieve him from this position, which he is manifestly incapable of fulfilling in the best interests of the Army.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams (Croydon, South)
If I might return to the subject of this Debate, I would like to mention one aspect with which the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) did not deal. That is the long foreign service which members of the Regular Army have to endure. That is one of the main reasons, in my opinion, for the lack of recruiting in this country. If a boy feels that when he goes into the Army he will have to spend many years abroad, I do not believe a new walking out kit, or anything of that kind, will remedy the position as long as this long service abroad hangs over him.
Take the case of the Welch Regiment, of which at one time I was a member. The second battalion has been abroad since a time shortly after the last war. It has never been home. The first battalion has been abroad for some eight years. Thus, the whole of the regular part of the Welch Regiment has done nothing but foreign service, except for the Depot, for many, many years. That does mean a tremendous drawback to recruiting. I do not wish to detain the House for long, because I know other hon. Members want to speak. There are two suggestions I would make to the Financial Secretary for remedying the position. The first is that there should be much shorter periods of service abroad. I know it is difficult, but it must be overcome if we are to have a competent Regular Army. Secondly, before the recruit joins, and afterwards, foreign service should be put in its true perspective. I have spoken to many young men on this matter, pointing out to them how lucky they are to visit foreign countries when they are young. If that point of view can be put to them, they will be encouraged to join.
When they are in the Army there should be plenty of education and so on, encouraging them to take an interest in local affairs, local people, the geography of the country, its industry and so forth. 1442 It is a wonderful opportunity for a young man, going abroad at that time of life. If the Financial Secretary does these things, I feel sure he will have a much bigger Army than by merely supplying those who join with blue walking out kit, which I do not believe has the slightest effect on those thinking of joining the Army.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Grimston (Westbury)
I wish to address the House very briefly on the subject of the importance of this recruiting campaign from a slightly different angle. Our commitments have been mentioned, and they are heavy. I think it is true to say they have become heavier in recent months, and we cannot foresee what form they are likely to take, or what directions they are likely to be in the future. In any case, if we are to reap the reward of victory, and if the Foreign Secretary is to speak in the councils of the world with the weight which ought to be attached to the opinions of the British Foreign Secretary, those commitments will have to be met, and it must be known that they can be met. If voluntary recruitment fails, there is only one way in which the number car. be made up, and that is by increasing the length of service which a man has to do when he is conscripted. I think it is felt on all sides of the House to be most desirable that should not happen through a failure in the voluntary recruiting campaign. I do urge that things should not be allowed to drift in this regard, as they have been allowed to drift in many other things.
The other day the Under-Secretary of State for War spoke in another place. The gist of his remarks was, that the results of the recruiting campaign were somewhat disappointing. In the light of a Question which was afterwards answered in this House, that remark would appear to be either a masterly understatement or, shall we say, a euphemism. I hope that this afternoon we shall hear the results have been a good deal better in recent weeks. The cause of the failure of the recruiting campaign may be one of two reasons. There may be something wrong with the campaign itself, in its presentation or in the publicity. Certain criticisms have been made. I have not had the advantage of seeing it myself, but I am told by my colleagues that it is a 1443 very good show. Whether it is the sort of show which is merely a good show as a spectacle but which does not make the appeal we wanted to make, I do not know. It may be that the recruiting campaign is a failure for reasons which are more fundamental. Perhaps the terms are wrong, or perhaps the point raised by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) is a great deterrent, but whatever the cause may be, it must now be known to those who are running the campaign. From running the show and from conversations and so on, they must be getting a pretty fair idea of the reasons why they are not getting the recruits. I want to know whether that is already being taken note of, and whether the War Office, if it has become apparent that there is something wrong with the show, will put it right while there is still time. I do not think the publicity is awfully good; the country is not particularly conscious that a recruiting campaign is going on, and if that is one of the reasons it should be attended to. But if other reasons are becoming apparent, if the terms are not good enough, if the prospect of the length of overseas service is uncertain, that should be known, and the War Office should be taking steps already to deal with it. The price of a failure to get voluntary recruits, whom I think we should get by hook or by crook, will simply be that, if we are to keep our commitments, we shall have to have a longer term of conscription than any of us would wish to see.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Orbach (Willesden, East)
In the days when hon. Members were being showered with letters from constituents about demobilisation I picked out 100 typical letters and prepared a memorandum, which I submitted to the War Office, containing a series of complaints made by serving men, and it is on the basis of those complaints that I have a few constructive suggestions to make to the Minister. It seems to me that the first thing we ought to do is to examine our methods of recruitment. If the suggestion that awards to recruiting sergeants are being continued is true, to me it seems to be a most undignified thing that the nation should allow commissions to be paid to sergeants for enticing men away from other occupations, or from the ranks of the unemployed. Then, if the recruit- 1444 ing campaign is to be conducted by recruiting marches, I would counsel the Minister that brass bands are a little out of date. The general standard of musical education in this country has risen in recent years, and he might consider whether another method ought not to be adopted.
Thirdly, the posters which are being exhibited in connection with the recruiting campaign appear to me to be out of date. No new appeal seems to have been suggested or inspired since the great campaign for which Kitchener was responsible in 1916, and. I would suggest that these methods should be abolished or drastically altered as soon as possible. The appeal to "Join the Army and see the world" is, to the men who have been in Malaya and Burma, a great deal of "hokum." They do not want to leave their homes, and an entirely different appeal must be made to them. As other speakers have said, the conditions should be such as to attract the many, but even when the conditions are comparable with those appertaining to civilian employment, something else is needed in order to get over the past attitude about the Army. On this question we have something to learn from a country whose methods it is considered fashionable to despise at the present time.
The Red Army, I believe, is composed of the é1ite of the people of the Soviet Union, and if in this country we could inaugurate something in the nature of a people's Army, and make it difficult for men and women to join the Forces, that new attitude might result in better recruits for the Minister. I suggest that the standard of physical types and physical attainment should be placed very high.
I suggest that medical officers should be told to keep those standards as rigid as possible, and that the most mentally alert men should be attracted into the Forces and not those who resemble the village idiot or the urban dullard. We must endeavour to attract men to the Forces on the basis that service in the Army is a distinguished career, and that the Army is not a reservoir for the unemployed, and that every man who comes out of the Forces is a rogue, or a man who does not want to do a real day's work.
When the recruit is in the Army there are other things that have to be done. In the first place, trainees should not be 1445 trained by persons who have one leg out of the Forces, as so many of those responsible for training have at the present time. Every man recruited into the Forces should be trained in civilian employment, and the standards of craftman-ship should be the same as those demanded in civilian life. Again, I believe that the whole attitude towards sport in the Forces is wrong. There is a constant appeal by headquarters for cricketers for the company, for footballers for the company. There ought to be more intercompany matches and inter-platoon sport. If there were, there would be more esprit de corps or some sort of public school spirit, real public school spirit that would be of value.
I speak about that without very great authority, because I was not, like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) a colonel in the Forces. I am sorry he made so unhappy and unfortunate a reference to the Secretary of State for War. I was only a private in the Home Guard, and the only private in my platoon. As long as we have a national Army I hope we shall try to attract the very best men into it. But I hope the time is soon coming, when U.N.O. will provide a world security force. If U.N.O. provides a world security force, let it be that the contingent which comes from Great Britain, will be the contingent that will be emulated by all the other national contingents.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I associate myself with what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) has said. I agree with him, most particularly, that this year is the most vital year, so far as recruiting is concerned. We have made a bad start, and I hope the Government are going to see that we go ahead with more efficiency now. As regards foreign service, may I associate myself with what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams)? In my own regiment, the first battalion has been abroad as a battalion since 1930 and at the present moment we have no home service battalion at all. That has a very bad effect on recruiting. I appeal to hon. Members opposite—or to sections of the party opposite—not to pay mere lip service to this recruiting. It is no good paying lip service to strong 1446 armed forces, and to recruiting at the present time, if one puts down Motions about no conscription, or belongs to pacifist organisations. A scheme was announced a few months ago—I have not the details in my head—by which, I think, a bounty of £25 a year was to be paid to people who took on a short service engagement. I think that had a thoroughly bad effect on recruiting, because, in fact, what it meant was that we would not pay a bounty to those who take on for the proper period of service. That seemed to me an ill considered and ill timed scheme.
As regards. what was said about the Secretary of State for War, I was sorry to hear what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) said, because I think this is not the right occasion for such an attack. I would just say this: that whatever else people may say about the Secretary of State for War, he is a man with a very fine record of service in the Armed Forces of this country, serving originally in one of our finest regiments, the Durham Light Infantry. I have some admiration for him on that account at least. I would prefer a man of his attainments in his present job to one of the wishy-washy idealists to be found in all too large numbers among Members on the other side, and who call themselves members of the intelligentsia. I very much hope that we are going to be reassured by the Minister, and be told that the Government are really putting their backs into making the recruiting scheme an efficient one.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Bellenger)
As has been pointed out, I have had occasion in days gone by to criticise the Government of the day, and therefore I never mind any criticism which is constructive. Hon. Members will never find me getting out of temper merely because they have something unpleasant to say about the Department where I happen to be at the moment. I am most grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) for the very apposite and kindly words he has spoken in relation to my right hon. Friend. This is not the occasion when the other hon. Member should make these remarks, whatever he may think about my right hon. Friend's lack of qualities in this House. 1447 We are engaged on a subject which ought to be above party. This new Army we are attempting to build will not be raised by any one political party, or by one section of the population. The Army must be drawn from all sections of the nation, if it is to be entirely successful in its purpose. Therefore, we ought to discuss this matter in its right perspective, free from all acrimony about individual Ministers.
I welcome some of the helpful remarks which have been made from both sides of the House. I can assure Members that we at the War Office are not above learning. We have had to learn a lot in the past. Even during the last Government the War Office was constantly under review, as the cliché goes, and there is no reason why it should not be under review under this Government. There is no universal or easy method to obtain the number of officers and men we require to form the regular Army. I agree in many respects with the moderate and constructive speech which was made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low). It is necessary at some time to define the role of the new Army, but this is not the occasion to do it. The occasion for that is on the Estimates, when the Secretary of State gives his review of the past and also some inkling of the future. It has not been possible for my right hon. Friend to do that because he has made only one Estimates speech. When the war ended in August, the whole thought and trend of public opinion was how to get the men out of the Army, not how to get them into the Army, and we have to overcome that frame of mind before we can say that we have successfully accomplished the recruitment of the Regular Army.
I wish to leave the House under no misapprehension that this is going to be a quick and easy policy. It will be a long-term policy, and we must apply our minds to it. For the past year we have been improvising and trying to get the biggest number of men back to their homes in the quickest possible time. Demobilisation is not quite finished, but very soon we have to apply our minds- we are doing it already-to see how we can build up this new Regular Army. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Blackpool truly said that 1448 the public like to read about the mistakes of Government Departments, particularly those of the War Office, and I am not going to say that the War Office has never made a mistake or will never make a mistake. I may be permitted perhaps to say, as that great master of warfare, Napoleon, said, that the greatest general was he who made the fewest mistakes; and that is what we are attempting to do at the present time. We are open to learn from any source how we can get the men, because we want them. As to the clothing situation-walking-out dress and so forth -we have placed in the tearoom of the House two examples of the blue walking-out dress which has been submitted to His Majesty for his approval, and the prewar 1938 suggestions, which were never approved.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
Do I understand my hon. Friend to say that the walking-out dress has been decided upon and submitted for approval, because we understood from his right hon. Friend that that was not the case, up to a few days ago?
§ Mr. Bellenger
The question of the uniform dress for the Army is within the prerogative of the King, and, therefore, designs and ideas are suggested to his Majesty who has, no doubt, ideas of his own, but the final approval has not yet been given to either of these two dresses which are exhibited in the Tearoom. We all have our ideas on how the Army should be dressed-I have views of my own, but they do not meet with the approval of quite a lot of people, because I am told that the public do not want the colours which were used in the dress of the Army in the old days. I must say that I like to see the Chelsea Pensioners, for example, in their red uniforms, going about Chelsea. It adds to the gaiety of Chelsea, and, perhaps, in these drab times, we may hark back to the days when soldiers were dressed in more colourful uniforms than they are now. I am told, however, that the public will not stand for that sort of thing. It is open to hon. Members to submit their ideas to the War Office, and I can assure them that they will be very carefully considered.
As to the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool about periodical statements, I think that, at some time in the future, they should be made, but I suggest that now is not the 1449 appropriate moment. I have to admit that recruiting is not as satisfactory as we would desire. There are various reasons for that. I think that the principal reason is that the spirit of the nation and of the young men, is not directed towards joining the Regular Army. There is intense competition in civil life, with the purely artificial conditions which exist, and which, possibly, will continue to exist for some time to come, but I am quite certain that this nation will respond and the young men will respond, as their fathers and forefathers did, but with this difference, that the young men of today will join the Fighting Forces—not only the Army, but the other Services, because they are quite sure in their own minds that they want to make them a career, and not because they are unemployed, down and out, or because some recruiting sergeant has got hold of them in some public house.
The hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) said that Army quarters had been a disgrace to the nation in the past. That is quite true. I hope that the House will absolve me, my right hon. Friend, and the present Government for being directly responsible. We have been handed this inheritance Many of these unsuitable barracks and married quarters are still there, and we have to get rid of them and rebuild new ones. I can assure hon. Members, in all parts of the House, that we are busily engaged on that, and my right hon. Friend has given to me personally that particular job to watch, and to supervise the progress of the building campaign which we have laid down, and which will extend over a very long period, possibly as much as 20 years.
§ Brigadier Low
Will the hon. Gentleman have sufficient priority from the Ministry of Health to make these building improvements?
§ Mr. Bellenger
We do not ask the Ministry of Health for priority in this respect. This is a matter of Government responsibility and I can assure the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool that my right hon. Friend, with all those faults and failings upon which the hon. Member for Solihull seems to concentrate, is constantly putting forward the point of view of the War Office in respect of many of these things, and, indeed, meeting with a very considerable amount of success— at any rate behind the scenes.
1450 I should like now to deal with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams). I agree with him that the overseas tour of service in the past has been too long, although it is a remarkable thing that in days gone by, in the earlier part of this century and the last, there was competition for the overseas tour of service. Now it seems to be the other way about; both officers and men want to spend the shortest possible time abroad and the longest possible time at home, and obviously we shall have to meet the changed circumstances. I am glad to say that in the new plans which we are now in the process of making we have allowed for a shorter tour of overseas service. I think that as far as foreign service is concerned there will be a desire at some time on the part of young men to go and see the world.
I do not altogether agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Willesden (Mr. Orbach) that the spirit of adventure epitomised in the poster, "Join the Navy and see the world" is lacking; 1 believe that the time will come, particularly with the faster means of communication, when young men will want to leave this country and go abroad to see what is happening in other parts of the world, and I like to think that perhaps the Army will be a very good avenue for that overseas travel. However be that as it may, we have wide flung commitments in all parts of the world and we have to have an Army to protect them. It will therefore be necessary for young men to realise, as I am sure they will, that a shorter period of overseas service than we have had hitherto will offer many attractions for those who are young, vigorous and healthy.
I am very pleased to hear from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) that the mobile recruiting column that we are sending round the country is "a very good show," but I am quite sure that it alone cannot achieve what we desire. It is only part of the propaganda which we at the War Office are trying now to introduce in order to stimulate some interest in the country among the recruits we want. I am inclined to think that we are not getting as much publicity as we would desire or as is necessary, but there it is—we are in very difficult times. The newspapers are very brief; they have not the same space as heretofore, either for the War 1451 Office or for the House of Commons Debates, but I must pay a tribute to them. They are helping us considerably and they helped us equally when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State opened the recruiting campaign in May last. As time goes on, we shall use all methods of getting our message over to the public, including both the Press and, of course, the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Grimston:
Has the Minister formulated any opinion as to why the campaign is not going as it should?
§ Mr. Bellenger
We are engaged in a very technical process, which I have not time to go into now, for ascertaining the reactions of the public to this recruiting campaign, and perhaps at some time I may be able to inform the hon. Gentleman and the House as to the result of that technical examination.
The hon. Member for East Willesden rather suggested that we should adopt the same method and the same outlook as the Red Army to get our men. I do not think that would be quite suitable in this country. I am quite prepared to pay tribute to many of the methods adopted by the U.S.S.R., but in recruiting a voluntary army—which the Red Army is not—we must use essentially British methods, with all their faults, and hope for the best. I am not at all sure that we shall not get as good results as Russia does, though perhaps not on such a magnificent and wide scale. I would like to give the House as much information as I can—
§ It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Captain Michael Stewart.]
§ Mr. Bellenger
Although, as I have said, this is not the appropriate moment to give detailed figures, I would like to give the House one or two facts. Strangely enough, the summer season is never the best season for recruiting. That is our experience in the past and it is our experience now. Here is another little piece of information. Before the war, the Royal Air Force was able to attract three recruits to every one we got in the Army, although the Royal Air Force was a smaller Service. 1452 I think there should be healthy competition between the Services, and also between the commands, formations and units within those Services. A little healthy rivalry like that is all to the good. Therefore, it will not be out of place for me to say that, today, the Royal Air Force is not in advance of the Army in recruiting, although in many respects they have more to offer than we have. They have that glamorous element, the air, which attracts youth. The Army is on terra firma. But today at any rate we are keeping pace with the Royal Air Force, and I hope that in time we shall lead. I am sure the Royal Air Force will not mind that, because the Royal Air Force, by the very nature of its service, and the smaller numbers required, will get all the recruits it wants. We are getting from one source, 1,000 inquiries a week for the booklet we have advertised dealing with conditions in the Army. Naturally, those 1,000 inquiries do not produce 1,000 recruits, but nevertheless it is an indication of the interest the country has in the Army, and we hope that that will be continued and stimulated.
Finally, I would ask hon. Members in all parts of the House to help us in this matter. By all means criticise. We shall welcome criticism so long as it is constructive, but we depend on Members of Parliament, who are in a special relationship with their constituents. They are entirely different from trade unions, the employers and other organisations. They are more specialised, and obviously we cannot expect trade unions or even employers to go recruiting for the Army, because at the present moment they want workpeople in their industries. In that respect hon. Members can help us considerably in the task to which we have set our hands. I am not at all pessimistic as to the results of the campaign, although I think it will take some time before we are able to come to this House and show very tangible results.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes
I hope the hon. Member will realise that there is widespread dissatisfaction with both models of walking-out dress which have been exhibited, and that in particular we feel that the step that has been taken during the war, of giving the private soldier the right to wear a collar and tie, should not be taken from 1453 him. The cut and texture of the clothing must be on a much better scale than it is in the case of either of those models. I hope the Minister will assure us that very careful reconsideration is being given to this matter, which is of such importance to recruiting.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I take note of that, and those remarks will receive particular attention at the War Office.