§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) indicated last Thursday that it was the desire of the Opposition to discuss today the recruitment, organisation and training of the Regular Army. It is difficult not to feel that this Debate is to some extent overshadowed by the rumours which appeared in the newspapers yesterday and today of impending large cuts in the Armed Forces, and in particular in the Army. I conceive that this is not the occasion on which to debate that question—with one qualification—except so far as those cuts may affect the permanent strength of the Regular Army. It may seem odd to Members of the Committee that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) should initiate a debate upon the Territorial Army, he being a Regular officer of great distinction while I, whose sole experience of the Army before the war, was for a short time as a Territorial subaltern in a horse artillery regiment—which incidentally had neither horses nor artillery—should initiate a Debate upon the Regular Army.
That seeming paradox demonstrates the complete community of interest between the Regulars, the Territorials, the National Service men and ordinary members of the public with regard to the modern Army. Everyone has now the same interest to see that the Army should be properly recruited, properly trained and properly organised, all sections of it being so inter-dependent and inter-related.
468 When discussing the future of the Regular Army we must obviously have in mind its new task. The older tasks exist, although to some extent changed in name. First of all, the Army has to enable us to discharge our commitments to the United Nations organisation, to strengthen the hands of the Foreign Secretary and to carry out the occupational and operational roles overseas. Those really are the traditional tasks, but in the future the Army will have the new task of training the National Service men. The National Service scheme is absolutely dependent upon there being an efficient Regular Army. I had misgivings about the period of 18 months in the National Service Bill, and I have many more misgivings about the period of 12 months. I was very doubtful whether it would be possible to train men properly in that time because I thought that the Regular Army would never be given the men, the resources or the equipment to do that job. If we do not give the Regular Army adequate resources to train the National Service men, the National Service Act will be made completely futile and it will be a complete waste of manpower. We have on the one side the disadvantages of interfering with the industrial and professional careers of these men. It is not putting it too high to say that we cannot afford to waste a single day of the 12 months if we are to get value from the National Service Act. Everyone in the country is vitally concerned in this matter. To use current phraseology which finds favour in certain quarters, we can say that the Regular Army is now an integral part of a national plan for the proper use of manpower. It is the falsest of false economy to cut down the Regular Army so that it cannot carry out that task properly.
The first question I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman is: What is the planned strength of the Regular Army on 1st January, 1950? It is true that certain figures have been given from time to time. On 13th March the right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned a figure of 250,000, and before that in another place reference was made to the same figure for the purpose of exposition. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that figure stands. If it has been altered, has it been increased or diminished? If so, why? I would stress in this connection the importance of continuity. When some minor 469 administrative slip up is found out in the Army, usually we get a tremendous howl from members of the public, but they are apt to forget the enormous fluctuations and oscillations in the strength of the Regular Army. There is a period of semi-starvation and then a vast and enormous expanse. Then follows an equally vast and violent contraction. It is obvious that in that process some administrative mistakes must be made.
In another connection we hear about the rhythm of production. With regard to the Army, it is absolutely vital that once a figure has been planned, it should be adhered to. We cannot expect those who administer our Army to be able to do their job properly if their ceiling is constantly being changed. Somehow it always seems that the Army is the first target for cuts. It is easy meat for the gentleman who is proposing to use an axe. In view of the new task and the National Service Act, I hope the country and the Committee will realise the wastefulness of cutting the Regular Army beyond a certain figure. The right hon. Gentleman will be more convincing with regard to that planned figure if he will attempt to justify it to us to some extent. I may be met by the answer of secrecy. I do not think we would be entitled to ask him for order of battle details or for details by theatres, but he could give us a great deal more information than he has done in the past about the set up of the Regular element of the Army of the future.
What are the reasons why this figure of 250,000, if that be the correct figure, should be the irreducible minimum? First of all, take the task of training National Service men. I understand that there are to be about 100,000 of them under training each year. I should say that if we reduce the period to 12 months we shall probably have to have a ratio of four to 10 so far as the Regular element is concerned for training these men. When the whole problem is considered, a ratio of four to 10 will probably not be a serious over-estimate. That means 40,000 Regular soldiers absorbed in that one task straight away. Then there is the Regular element in the Territorial Army. The figure for the Territorial Army is, I understand. 600,000, and the Regular component is planned at two per cent. I make that calculation 12,500. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give 470 us his opinion on both those figures. That is 52,500 straight away on those tasks. In connection with the Territorial Army, we must not forget that it has been promised that during the training season the Regular Army will, so to speak, be at the disposal of the Territorial Army.
That means a further call on the Regular Army's manpower. In certain cases that call will be quite abnormal because of the disproportion in arms between the Regular Army and the Territorial Army. For example, I imagine that anti-aircraft units of the Regular Army will be almost completely used up in assisting Territorial units during that time because relatively speaking there are so many more Territorial units of that branch. So obviously there is an important commitment for the manpower of the Regular Army in that respect. Then I assume that a proportion of the units of the Regular Army will be in the United Kingdom. That is already the case as far as anti-aircraft is concerned and certain other types of units which I will not mention. But I also imagine that, from the point of view of morale, it will be necessary that that shall be so for all arms as time goes on; if there are to be a certain number of Regular units in the United Kingdom, once again that will take a certain amount of the Regular Army's manpower. Again I ask the right hon. Gentleman, is that so?
Then there is the maintenance of certain special arms or services—airborne forces are a typical example, and certain special signals units and special engineer units which had strange and wonderful methods, of waging war towards the end of the last war. Are these being kept in being? I think most of us would feel it would be a serious thing if they were allowed to die out completely. What arrangements are being made in the Regular Army for keeping in being those special units and special branches of the Service? Then there are the education, welfare and catering services. How many men from the Regular Army will they absorb on 1st January, 1950? It would be of assistance to the Committee if the right hon. Gentleman would give some indication of the layout between these various elements competing for manpower within the Regular Army itself.
471 Then there is the maintenance of staff training. I hope it will not be considered offensive to the Regular Army to say that at the commencement of the last war staff training up to the divisional level had been extremely good, but, for a variety of reasons, beyond that level it was hot so good because there had not been the opportunity. That also applies to inter-service co-operation. After many years of, in some cases, painful work, the measure of co-operation became extremely good between the three Services. At the moment I understand that is being preserved by the Inter-Service Staff College, but we would like to hear about the future from the right hon. Gentleman, and to have an assurance that those institutions for preserving inter-Service staff cooperation will continue. The relevance of this question is that this kind of thing absorbs manpower and it is a demand upon the strength of the Regular Army.
Superimposed upon the strength of these competitive demands which I have listed, is the fact that the Regular Army has to carry out its operational duties overseas. No one can see those disappearing during the next few years. I am sure, if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give us these particulars, he will also welcome the argument from this side of the Committee that paper strengths are different from actual strengths, and when you are deciding whether or not a quarter of a million is too many, it should be borne in mind that a proportion of those men will be on leave, sick or travelling from one position to another. So paper figures are not the real figures by any means with which the man on the ground has to carry out his job. Again I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is not only quantity he wants but quality because, if these various responsibilities under the National Service Act and for the Territorial Army are to be carried out, it will require a well educated and an intelligent type of man; accordingly I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer these questions and to give not only some grounds for supporting the figure of 250,000, if that is correct, but also give us an idea of the picture he is building up of the future layout of the permanent element of the Regular Army.
That is the first part of what I want to say. The next part relates to the present position. The latest figures, which 472 I understand were given to the House yesterday, were that there are at present 108,813 other ranks, 14,894 officers and 15,633 short service men. There has been some confusion about these statistics. Sometimes they appear to include officers, at other times without; sometimes with short service men, and at other times without them. I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would make clear beyond doubt the present statistical position. If my figures are right, they add up to about 139,000, and that means that he is 111,000 short of his target for 1st January, 1950. That is an extremely serious shortage. I do not think we on this side of the Committee want to be alarmist about the matter because, particularly during last winter, the recruiting figures were quite good. Nevertheless, they have fallen somewhat substantially during the summer—I concede that they are to be expected to do this during that period—but even so they have fallen to a level which is pretty low. In December the total number of enlistments were 4,673, of which 2,790 were long service and 1,650 short service approximately. By May the long service figures had fallen from 2,790 to 1,980, and in the case of short service from 1,650 to 1,390. In June the long service figures were up by nearly 200 but the short service figures were down by about 300.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, that he is really running month by month far short of the figure he really requires, because one also has to take into account the wastage figure. That has been given at something like 600 a month, but it is quite impossible to make further calculations upon that figure because, as the Regular element increases in size, the wastage figure will increase. There is the further point that I imagine it would not suit the right hon. Gentleman's purpose to get his 249,999th man on 31st December, 1949. If the Regular Army is to carry out its job, it must be recruited in time for it to be trained for the purpose, and I suggest there is no case at all for complacency over the present figures. What steps are the Government taking over the matter, not only about the numbers but about getting the right type of man?
I would suggest certain lines to the right hon. Gentleman along which action requires to be taken. First, over pay.
473 The most obvious and first step is to revise the rates of pay. Figures have been bandied about and, as is usual with figures, they seem to prove almost anything. I will not give another set to the Committee, but the opinion is widely held that many, individuals in the Army are worse off under the new rates of pay than they were under the old. Secondly, there is widespread dissatisfaction on that ground. Whether it is well-founded dissatisfaction or not is another matter—I believe it is—but it certainly exists to a substantial extent. Thirdly, in my view, the Army is not offering comparable rewards with industry.
I will give one set of figures to compare increases as between 1939 and March, 1946, between various types of soldiers and men in industry. The first case is of a sergeant with a wife and three children and with nine years' service; his net remuneration has increased by 46 per cent. A warrant officer, class 2, also with a wife and three children finds his net remuneration has gone up by 37 per cent.; and a major with a wife and three children has had an increase of 12 per cent. in his net remuneration. If one takes the figures in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" for February, 1946, in regard to industrial workers, the figure for all operatives is an increase of 80 per cent., and for men of 21 years and over the increase is 76 per cent. That shows the disproportion between the increases. I concede at once to the right hon. Gentleman that my comparison is not quite a straight comparison, because I have selected individual soldiers and not individual operatives in the industrial field. But if I did that, I think the difference would be even more startling, and the tendency has increased since 1946. I think it applies particularly to skilled technicians. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to say what prospects there are of a revision in rates of pay.
Then there is the question of accommodation. In many cases at present married quarters are just not available and Regular soldiers coming back after perhaps six years of absence from their wives and families are finding it quite impossible to set up house again near their new stations. The right hon. Gentleman must get his share of new construction. I quite agree that that is very difficult at present, but I ask him what 474 steps have been taken to see that at each station a certain amount of accommodation is earmarked for Regular personnel. Time and again a man has a house or a flat in which he lives with his wife and family and is then relieved; but he leaves before his replacement comes, and the house or flat gets into the open market, and when the replacement arrives he finds it impossible to get that accommodation. The War Office authorities should make it quite certain that that accommodation is kept earmarked for the replacement, if necessary paying the rent in the interim. Then there is the vexed question of jobs at the end of the period of service. I think we should know what is the War Office organisation for the placing of men when their period of service is over. That is one of the matters which worries a great many people who are considering enlistment in the Regular Army and we would be interested to know exactly what the War Office does or proposes to do about placing these men.
Barrack accommodation is obviously a matter which cannot be solved immediately, but old-fashioned barracks do lead to enormous waste of manpower. We have complaints of skilled men scrubbing floors, but that is inevitable as long as we have old-fashioned barracks in which a large number of men are needed merely to keep them clean and sanitary. Finally, over equipment, if there is a failure to provide up-to-date equipment a sense of futility will be induced which will do a great deal of damage to recruitment to the Regular Army. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to say something and to do something about the questions of rates of pay, married quarters, a plan for modernisation of barracks, the organisation of placing men when their term of service is at an end and the question of up-to-date equipment. If he will give an indication of what he is prepared to do on those lines it will help recruiting. What action are the Government going to take, or are they going to allow matters to drift?
I wish to end on a personal note. Unfortunately, the Army has suffered very much in the past from the ease with which it can be caricatured. We have the conventional sergeant major, "Colonel Blimp," the "Whitehall Warrior" and the "Brass hat" with the red tabs. I think perhaps it would be better if senior 475 officers could be distinguished in some other way than by way of red tabs and brass hats. When in September, 1939, I went to the Staff College, I confess I went imbued very much with some of those ideas about the Army, but I found that General Paget had gathered around him about as outstanding a staff of regular officers as it is possible to imagine, whose qualities of intellect and character were unrivalled. I also served during the war under various commanders and in association with many Regular officers. I am very proud to have this opportunity to pay tribute to them. I am perfectly certain the Committee and the country need have no fear about the capacity of these men to carry out their responsibilities, if they are given the proper material with which to do so. I am also certain that many of the officers and other ranks of the Regular Army are of the best that this country can produce.
The Army has not always had tan treatment in the past. We have expected too much from too few with too little, and I hope that is not going to happen again. I am quite convinced that if the right hon. Gentleman has a plan, and will tell the Committee about it; and that, if it is a good plan, and the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to stick to it through thick and thin, then, when it is successful, no one will be more ready to applaud his success than I and those who sit on this side of the Committee.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Bury St. Edmunds)
Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) I think we are all very worried about the present position and the future. As he said, the question of possible reduction is not one to be discussed now, but I think it is a point on which the Minister should say what is in the mind of the Government. Nothing does the Regular Army, or any of the Services, more harm than to read these things in the Press but to see no Government pronouncement upon them. That is one of the things that puts young men off when they are considering enlisting. They do not like to commit themselves. My hon. and learned Friend very clearly pointed out the difficulties we face with the commitments we now have. Not only are those commitments more than we had before the war, but they are far more 476 arduous and difficult. That makes it far more difficult for the small number of men, and the small number of units we have, to be and to remain in a complete state of readiness. They are so far flung that they can never get on with their main job. I, for one, am not seriously worried on that score, because from what I have seen of the soldier of the present day I think he is just as good as, if not better than the man of the past, and he will very quickly pick up what he is not being taught now, if the need ever arises.
I am worried about why we are not getting the men to join up. It does not matter what the Government say is to be the strength of the Army unless we can get the required number of men. The Government must decide on the figure they want, and that figure must be attained. We must get the Regular Army put in such a position that it is not just a question of getting the exact number we want, but one of being able to be a little more selective, so taking the young man with a little better brain. That is the aspect upon which I wish to speak, and to put to the Minister certain points which I feel tend to operate against recruitment.
What is in the mind of a young man now when he thinks, "Shall I join up or shall I not?" My first point is that he probably says, "The British Regular Army will be a foreign legion, and if I join I shall never serve at home." I believe that point is in the mind of many men. It must be cleared up, and a statement must be clearly made as to how much service the average soldier will have at home. I know that it is difficult to arrange, but surely it can be worked that, say, one year in every five each Regular unit is at home as a unit, not that it comes home and leaves all its young men abroad, as has been done in the past. In the case of the last joined recruits with only about five months' service abroad, they were told, "You have not done enough service over seas. Therefore, you will have to stay out with another unit." That does a great deal of harm. The whole regiment, the whole battalion, must come back. It should come back and do one year's complete service in every five at least.
The second point which I have heard spoken about quite a lot by some of the men now in the Services is this question of different types and different lengths of 477 annual leave according to the area the troops are in. We were told at Question time yesterday that there are two periods of 19 days if they are nearer home, or one period of 30 days if the are further away. The period of leave ought to be exactly similar for every man in the Service. A man has no choice whether he serves near home or further away, and he should know that he will get the same amount of leave as his pal who is in some other part of the world, that is, leave in this country, not including all the time taken getting here and going back.
My third point concerns the reduction of units. Men and officers are very proud of their regiment and battalion. I have heard of first battalions with long and distinguished service being put into what is called "suspended animation" and of the second battalion being kept. We also hear that there are to be reductions in the Royal Armoured Corps. There is talk of some of its regiments, with extremely long and valiant service, having to go, while battalions or regiments formed quite recently are to stay. That is difficult for the average man to understand. We all know that in the war we had to train men in very little time compared with that taken in the old days of peace, and that it did not take a new unit long to master its job. Therefore, if we have to have a new type of unit now, I suggest that the oldest regiment be asked to adapt itself rather than that it should be said, "We will have a new regiment, and the old one must go." While I am speaking on the question of regiments and battalions, I would say that in recent years there has been rather too much talk of the spirit of the corps rather than the spirit of the battalion or regiment. The esprit de corps of a unit in a precious thing to a Regular soldier. In war it is difficult to maintain in view of the need for reinforcements, but now that the war is over let us try to rebuild our regimental spirit. The traditions of the unit are of vital importance to a Regular regiment.
I also wish to touch upon the question of pay and allowances. These were increased, but we know that the pay of other people has gone up more. That is a factor which influences the mind of a young man today. Some people will say that a boy who joins the Services is not looking to the future, but that is not true. He is looking carefully at the future, and 478 he looks at the pay rates—what he will start with, what he will get if he becomes an N.C.O., and what he might get if he becomes an officer. He will ask his friends about it. Without question there are N.C.O's and senior officers, majors and lieutenant-colonels in particular, who are no better off now, and are in some cases worse off, than under the old rates. That is mainly due to the taxation of allowances. I would quote the case of one senior officer, who reckons that he is £10 a month worse off than he was before the new pay code was introduced. That sort of thing gets around to young men, and obviously it cannot help recruiting.
We would also like to know what are the opportunities for the soldier after he has finished his time. That is a point on which the Minister could easily give guidance—what opportunities will there be, and what jobs will be kept, or what percentage of jobs will be available for the Regular soldier when he has finished his time? I have a word to say about living conditions which I shall base upon my own unit. They came home a short time ago, having been abroad during the whole of the war. They were placed in a camp where there was not the slightest opportunity for any of them to bring their wives to live. There was another empty camp alongside it, but no effort was made to provide temporary dormitories or hutments of a suitable nature for married people. They have now been moved to a barracks. Their attitude was, "When we go to a barracks, there will anyhow be quarters there." But when they got there they found hardly any available, the majority being occupied by members of the staff and their families. These are the fighting regiments where the recruits started their Service career. The recruit enters the Service to join a regiment and not to join a staff. Accommodation of this nature should be made available for regiments. If it is not possible to provide the permanent buildings at present, surely it is possible to convert huts so that the families of members of these units can be together.
I also wish to refer to the purchase of discharge. Before the war it was possible to purchase discharge. Naturally, that system was dropped during the war. Is there any reason why it should not be re-introduced? The percentage of men we would lose would not be great, 479 but the percentage of dissatisfied men which are held because they cannot purchase discharge is very great. In a regiment there may be one man who has a very difficult home situation which is not quite strong enough to enable him to obtain his discharge on compassionate grounds. He becomes a most dissatisfied man if he cannot buy himself out, especially when he is told that this was only stopped as a wartime measure. Here we are two years after the war, and the system has not yet been reintroduced. It would not cause a very big wastage and it would help a great deal to promote a better spirit and to stop a lot of grumbling.
Finally, is there any reason why there should be so much secrecy? Why cannot we be told where different units are serving? If certain units are in Palestine, details should be published in the Press. Why should it not be said what unit is concerned if there is an unfortunate incident? I cannot see that there is necessity for secrecy now. Everybody out there knows exactly which units are there. People at home like to see where their friends are serving. If there happens to be some good action, everybody likes to know the name of the regiment or battalion which has performed it. I ask the Minister to consider these points. If many of these complaints were given attention, I suggest that our recruiting figures would be improved.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I intervene in this Debate with some diffidence in view of the contributions which have been made from hon. Members with personal knowledge of the Army. I served in another branch of the Forces. Nevertheless, there is much in what they have said with which I agree. It is essential that the Army should consider further the question of making the pay of the Regular Army equal to the pay for service in industry. It is amply clear now that the new codes of pay have not achieved that object. In several cases men are worse off because of the new way in which allowances are regarded. Wages and salaries in civilian life have increased since the new code was introduced. It is essential that the War Office should look again at the system. A well-trained, well-Paid Regular Army is the essential 480 basis of a good Army system, and a fair code of pay is bound up with that. I would also like to associate myself with the remarks made about guaranteeing jobs for soldiers at the end of their service. At the moment there is a lot of uncertainty on this subject. I think that a promise should be given to each man when he joins the Regular Army that at the end of his service a job will be provided for him in civilian life at a certain status taking into account the training which he will be given. Reference has been made to the regard in which the Army is held. The hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) referred to the ease with which it is possible to caricature the Army and said that very much of it was not justified. It might be equally true to say—and I may strike a discordant note here—that all too often much of it is justified.
I wish to deal, in particular, with the position as regards recruiting men from Wales for the Regular Army. I am afraid that we have not had from the War Office that understanding of our point of view to which we feel entitled. I will not refer to the Territorial Army in detail, because that would be out of Order on this Vote, but I cannot let the opportunity go by without putting on the record our problem in Wales regarding recruiting for the Army. We are a martial nation, willing and anxious to contribute our share to the voluntary Army. The Regular Army will never recruit a proper quota from Wales, unless those who rule the Army begin to understand the special point of view of the Welsh people, particularly those in the rural areas. There, the young men are brought up speaking the Welsh language and nourished by the culture of Wales. It is very important both in regard to the conscript and the volunteer, that they should be trained with and posted to Welsh units during every stage of their service career.
It is essential that the Secretary of State should make a declaration that it is the policy of the War Office to post Welsh recruits, National Service men and volunteers, to Welsh units, officered by men from Wales. Under the new system the officers themselves will come from the ranks. From my conversations with young men who joined the Army in wartime, and from correspondence I have had since then as a Member, I can assure 481 the Minister that few things are more disturbing to a young Welshman than for him to join the Army which in itself is a rather alien institution to him, and to find himself among people who do not understand what he says, and with whom he finds difficulty in communicating freely. The laying down of that principle is vital for the National Service men and the Regular Army alike.
There is another thing which should also be laid down. In the past we have had disputes concerning the correspondence of Welshmen serving in the Army. Local commanding officers or officers have raised objections to men writing home in the Welsh language, but it is essential that the War Office should lay down—equally with the other principle I have mentioned—that men serving in the Army should be entitled, wherever they live and wherever they are serving, to write home in their own language. I assure the Committee that otherwise, a man is deprived of that most intimate of rights, the right to write his letters home to his family in a language they can understand. An Army Order to this effect in this very important matter should be published to end disputes once and for all.
The understanding by the War Office of these national considerations is really vital and we are disturbed by certain things which are happening. There was the 53rd Welsh Division, two battalions of which, in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, went to form the 5th and 6th Battalions. These battalions, recruited men from Anglesey and Caernarvon, Merioneth and Montgomery, the most Welsh parts of Wales, but they have been disbanded by the War Office, although men from these parts are naturally good infantry men. That is done in the name of administrative neatness at the War Office and in Army Commands. These are important considerations, but it is even more important that rather than try to make men fit the machine an endeavour should be made to make the machine fit the factors of national life. I ask the Secretary of State for War to bear in mind that these mechanical arrangements, however difficult they may be or however important they may seem at a certain level, are after all only secondary matters, and that it is his duty so to build up the Army that there is scope in it for the characteristics 482 of the men from Wales. There is great foreboding and dissatisfaction with the present position.
It is not only we Welsh Members on this Liberal bench who take this view, and not only Welsh Members in other parts of the House, but all over Wales representations have been made. They have been made to the War Office by the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, a society of non-political character covering all aspects of Welsh life. We are far from satisfied that our point of view is understood or accepted by the War Office and unless we have some assurance that it is appreciated and carried out we shall have to reconsider our attitude towards recruiting for the Regular Army and the Territorial Army in Wales. I do not wish to develop that point further. Negotiations are proceeding, but I did not think it right that this Debate should pass without putting on record the things that have mentioned.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Sir Roland Ross (Londonderry)
I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) concerning the difficulties of Welsh soldiers, and I can support him in one material particular, because, when raising my regiment in Ulster at the beginning of this war, I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow a corporal cook from that sound and tough regiment, the South Wales Borderers. He cooked food so highly flavoured and with so much Welsh pepper in it that we could hardly eat it, and this shows that for the Welsh our food would have seemed rather anaemic. It shows, too, the individual consideration because of which we must guard against treating the soldier as a mere unit or robot—private, trooper, gunner or whatever he may be.
There is another point—and here I would stress the sympathy of Ulster Members for Wales as compared with the lack of sympathy of Welsh Members for Ulster—which is the question of writing in the Welsh language. Welsh is the Welshman's native tongue and he can express himself in it, and when I was privileged to be in charge of the welfare in a very substantial military district, one of the great difficulties we were always up against between the soldier husband and his wife at home was the great difficulty 483 they had in expressing themselves by letter. They were not, as a whole, very literate people, and they found estrangement arising through a complete lack of spiritual contact. I think it is very important in the case of Welsh-speaking troops that they should be able to use the tongue that comes most naturally to them when writing back to their relatives.
§ Mr Emrys Roberts
I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not assuming that these Welshmen were illiterate simply because they were not fluent in English. The two things do not go together at all.
§ Sir R. Ross
On the contrary, I agree that they are positively bardic, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will realise that I am doing my best to support his case.
Returning to the general Debate I wish to make one or two points, and to deal particularly with Northern Ireland which stands in a special relation as regards military affairs. First, there are the points which two of my hon. and gallant Friends have already made, and which can be summed up by saying that whatever size the Army is, it must be the best in quality that we can possibly obtain as regards material, training, prospects and equipment. There is an old agricultural adage that it is just as much trouble to raise a bad crop as a good one, and that very nearly applies to the Army. We entered the war in 1914 with about the best Army this country has ever gone to war with. That is, perhaps, not a very good standard because we are not as a rule very good at being ready to go to war, but any economy in quality is most dangerous. A bad Army and an Army that is not efficient, is more of a danger and disadvantage than an advantage. It has been said that we did more for the German Army in the Peace Treaty by making it a small, long service arm, and so providing an expert corps from which the Army could be expanded, than if we had let them go on with conscription. Even before the days of Hitler they did not make any mistake about letting the Army be other than a very good and expert body.
I should like now to emphasise one particular aspect—not on the question of pay generally, a point which was well and truly made by other hon. Members—namely, the fact that the proportionate rate is not enough. It should bear a 484 relation to the normal rise of wages. The most important person in any unit is always the commanding officer, whether it be in any of the three Services, and this is certainly the case in the Army. In war he prevents unnecessary casualties, and in that respect he saves the lives of his men. In peace time he makes for a well disciplined and happy unit. An ill-disciplined unit, under the command of a bad commanding officer, is not, generally speaking, a happy or comfortable one to belong to. I think that more attention should be paid to the prospects of senior officers. I know full well that if I went to the country with the slogan, "More justice for major-generals," it would not have very wide support. But I think that the potential major-generals, on going into the Army, should be able to realise that, if they do well and distinguish themselves, they have a career before them in which there is not only a spiritual, but also a material satisfaction.
In that connection, I think that the worst thing that has recently been done is the taxation of officers' allowances. Hon. Members opposite have a very happy knack of using the word "reactionary," which they sling about in appropriate, semi-appropriate, and, some times, wholly inappropriate senses. But if ever there was a reactionary change, it was the taxing of allowances. Let us consider what are the allowances. A soldier, of whatever rank, was supposed to be fed, housed, and, where necessary, warmed by the Army which employs him. It was subsequently found that it was simpler to let him have a certain amount of money and to arrange these things for himself. Sometimes the amount of money was wholly inadequate, as in the case suggested, that, in London, for 2s. a day a man could supply himself with the almost wholetime service of a manservant. That was the basic idea.
Now we go back to positively feudal times. In feudal times, a man gave his service, and if he had a certain amount of land he was supposed to do without some of the pay he otherwise got. The taxation of allowances is like saying that people who are well off can warm, feed and house themselves on only 50 per cent., or thereabouts, of those allowances. It is a most distressing thing that the inducement given to potential commanding officers should have been lessened by a reduction not only in relation to the 485 present standard of living, but, in some cases, to an absolute reduction of pay in the modern Army. Whenever there is an announcement of increased pay, every officer works out what he is likely to lose by it. They do not all lose by it, but a large number do. That is the impression that increases in pay make on that gallant, but not always fortunate, class of men who are prevented by their loyalty to the Service from making any effective political demonstration.
I will now come to the particular position of Northern Ireland. There we have an area which, before the National Service Acts were passed, was the best recruiting area in the United Kingdom. In 1938, it had the highest proportion of voluntary recruits in any area. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it is a most valuable reservoir from which many good recruits should be enlisted. It should be recognised by the War Office that the conditions in an entirely voluntary area must be distinguishable from those of an area where service is compulsory, and that it requires some special branch, or some particular body of service officers or civil servants to study recruiting in such an area. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to make a special study of recruiting in this voluntary area and to see that it has the material assistance which it requires.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can verify the rumour that the Victoria Barracks in Belfast were condemned at the time of the Crimean war, and that it was almost a relief for the men to go to the Crimea. It is probable that that is no more than a rumour. Although the Germans did their best to destroy those barracks, they were not wholly successful, and they are still being used. I suggest that, except for the new military establishment at Lisburn, the barrack situation in Northern Ireland is not as good as one would like it to be. One of the things which attracts the attention of voluntary recruits is to be able to see good barrack accommodation. That is specially important where we are wholly dependent on voluntary recruiting. I know the struggles which the right hon. Gentleman has to get his buildings, but I would particularly urge the necessity for these things. I hope that we shall hear more definite information than we have yet 486 heard from the right hon. Gentleman about the position of the Regular Army. I think that the questions which my hon. and gallant Friends on this side have already asked are questions which could be readily answered, and that a certain amount of publicity will not do the Regular Army any harm.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Symonds (Cambridge)
I hope, that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts), and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) will forgive me if I do not follow them in discussing Wales and Northern Ireland, and purely nationalistic problems. I wish to confine myself to the broader issues raised in the Debate, and particularly to the two issues which affect Army recruiting—pay and conditions in the Army itself, and the post-service prospects for the recruits. It has been suggested that one of the main reasons for the comparative slowness of Regular recruiting is the new pay code. While, in a sense, agreeing with that, I think it is a matter of rather broader economic issues than just the question of the pay code. There is all the difference in the world between conditions now and conditions before the war, because, then, as we all know, Regular Army recruiting varied according to the unemployment figures. The higher the figures of unemployment, the higher the figures of Regular recruiting tended to be. We no longer have unemployment as a recruiting sergeant. Therefore, quite different methods have been used to induce men to join the Regular Army.
The general aim as expressed in the White Paper, to make pay and conditions in the Services roughly equal to those in civilian life and industry generally, has been successful. There are exceptions and individual anomalies which might well be put right, but by and large I think the aim has been achieved. I am not sure, however, that the achievement in itself answers the problem because, as I see it, any young man faced with the alternatives of taking a job either in the Army or at home, both equally remunerative, will very often tend to choose the one at home, simply because there is no separation from wife, children or the family generally. I do not think it is 487 sufficient to make the conditions comparable between the two. What is necessary is some special form of compensation—and I think it is inevitably bound to be financial—for the separation from home which overseas service inevitably involves. Much more could be, and must be, done with regard to overseas stations so that more and more families can be together when the husband is serving overseas. The other day I had an instance of a prewar Regular soldier who got married in 1939, and who has spent only a few weeks at home with his wife since that day. Now, two years after the war, it is still impossible to post the husband to a station where his wife and child can join him. He has expressed his willingness and eagerness to serve at any station in the world, providing his wife and child can be with him.
As regards the outlook for the Regular soldier after he has completed his military service, we ought to try to get away from the curious distinction there has always been between service to the State in uniform and service to the State out of uniform. There might well be some sort of continuity in the service of the Crown between service in uniform and service out of uniform afterwards. It is rather hard that a man should spend the best years of his life in the service of the Crown in uniform, and then when, because of his age, he is no longer physically capable of quite the amount of effort required from him in ordinary military service, he should have to look around for quite a different job. It should be possible for a man at the beginning of his life's career, if he enters in the service of the Crown in uniform, to feel sure that, as in most other forms of employment, it is possible to look forward to a lifetime's occupation, if he wishes, in that same direction. I think we might well examine possibilities of seeing that in the future our Regular Forces, which inevitably are bound to be comparatively small in number, have some sort of continuity to which they can look forward after their Regular service, so that a man joining the Army will not necessarily feel that after a certain number of years, before he reaches anything like civilian pensionable age, he will suddenly find himself looking for something else to do. If that question of providing continuity of employment for the Regular soldier after he gets out of uniform can be 488 considered more thoroughly, his outlook will be much improved.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North)
I am sure that the Committee are very interested in the suggestion which the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds) has made. I will not follow him directly in what he said, but I will later make a few comments on some of the points to which he referred. I would like to refer to the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), who dealt with the importance of recruiting to the Regular Army. I think it is a matter of such importance that it warrants discussion, especially at a time when like today, all our discussions are overshadowed by a spirit of great urgency. My hon. Friends will agree—and I think the Secretary of State also will agree—that one must view the present recruiting situation with a certain amount, not of alarm, but of urgent concern, and I would remind the Committee that about ten months ago there was the same concern, both in Parliament and in the Press, about the way in which the recruiting to the Regular Army was proceeding. During the winter, recruiting got better, and now it has gone back slightly.
I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman a few figures so that we may, perhaps, clear up this question. I have always believed—and I think Government spokesmen also have stated—that the target for the Regular Army is to be 250,000. I find at the moment that, including men on short service engagements, we have approximately 140,000 on Regular engagements, normal engagements, plus short service engagements. This leaves a shortfall of 110,000, ignoring wastage for the moment, if we are to reach the figure of 250,000 in two and a half years—and I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman wants to take as long as that—we shall require every month a net increase of 3,700. We have been told that at the moment the wastage is approximately 600 a month.
It is quite clear that the wastage is bound to increase as the size of the Regular Army increases. It is bound to increase when the Secretary of State opens the door through which men who are now in the Regular Army may obtain their discharge, because that door is held fairly tightly closed at the present time. The 489 Secretary of State will probably remember that when he presented the Estimates on 13th March, he said that once the figure of 250,000 had been reached, in order to maintain that figure and to cover wastage, he required 2,800 men a month. We are now getting only 3,400, including 1,000 short service men and we have not only to maintain the 250,000 when we get them, but we have got to get to that number. The matter is really urgent, because unless we have a Regular Army of the proper size, not only can we not carry out our peace time commitments properly, but the right hon. Gentleman will not be able to make full use of the 12 months' period of whole-time service.
It cannot be too often said that the whole purpose of the National Service Act will be defeated if we have not efficient instructors of high quality and character to guide these men during that period. I believe the right hon. Gentleman's chief shortage at the moment is of men of the right quality to become N.C.O's, warrant officers and officers. I hold the view that unemployment will not help him in that respect. Even if anybody in this Committee were so blind as to think that unemployment of that size would have any advantages at all, it would certainly not be of any advantage to the right hon. Gentleman. I believe he wants to go for men of the right quality, and it is for that reason that I lay rather more emphasis than I used to do on the pay conditions in operation.
We have in the past argued this for some time across the Floor of the House. We have always been told that the right hon. Gentleman is waiting to hear from all the theatres and the Home Commands what have been the reactions to the new pay code. I think most of us realised that we would not get adequate reaction until there had been some experience of the period in which allowances have become taxable. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, although we have not had much experience of that, we have at any rate had a little. He certainly has had, as all of us have had, time to hear a little more of the reactions. I agree with my hon. Friends who have said that there is general dissatisfaction. It is very difficult, according to the procedure of the Committee, to argue figures. Any- 490 body in the right hon. Gentleman's position starts with an advantage because he has all the figures available only a few yards from him, and he can shout us down; but I should like to put this point to the Committee.
One of the main objects of the new pay code, as was so rightly stated a little time ago, was to get some balance between civilian rates of pay and the rates of pay in the Army. The new code was fixed in the autumn of 1945. If hon. Members will turn to their digest of statistics, they will find that at that time the points rating for wages over-all in this country registered 51 above the 1939 civilian wage rates. At present, it has risen from 51 to 67. Therefore, any comparison that was made in the autumn of 1945 is, surely, quite out of date, if the right hon. Gentleman's purpose is still the same. I quite realise that we cannot shuffle rates of pay in the Army every time wages are put up or down. That would be administratively impossible. But the change of 16 points in the average over-all wage rates of the country is a very big one; it is something that we should have very much in mind. In the United States of America it has been found necessary to increase the pay of other ranks between 20 per cent. and 50 per cent. since 1945, and that of officers between 10 per cent. and 20 per cent. That is a matter to be taken into consideration. If we compare the rates of pay in the British Army of officers and other ranks today—the gross rates before deduction of tax—with those received in 1939, we shall find that in practically every case, there is, as there ought to be, an increase. If we compare the net emoluments they receive, that increase is not so general, but it is fairly general.
What I am arguing is that the increase has not been sufficient between 1939 and today. I further argue that, whereas civilian wages have gone up since the end of the war, the amount of net pay for many other ranks—privates, N.C.Os., warrant officers—and many officers has actually gone down. It has gone down for two reasons. First, because, particularly in the case of other ranks, certain war service increments have been lost. The right hon. Gentleman's own pay code shows 1½ per cent. fall between the rates in force in August, 1945, and the rates under the new pay code, and so, obviously, we may expect a fall. It has 491 gone down—for officers mainly—because allowances have become taxable. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) mentioned in the recent Debate on the Territorial Army that certain officers had lost a substantial sum. I think a lieutenant-colonel with two children has lost £180 a year as a result of the taxation of his allowances. The right hon. Gentleman may well say that there was a warning, and that officers should have accepted that. It is not only officers who lose, but warrant officers and N.C.Os. as well. My hon. and gallant Friend quoted the case of a staff sergeant who, I think, lost between £40 and £50 a year. These losses are substantial and they do matter.
To sum up my argument since the new pay code was based on a balance with civilian remuneration in August, 1945, and since civilian remuneration has gone up by 16 points; and since the new pay code was also based on the lowering of Income Tax in the near future, which has not taken place, there is a very good case for an immediate revision of this new pay code. I have gone into that argument somewhat fully because I believe it to be one of the most important matters.
There are certain other factors affecting recruiting which I want to mention. There is a common opinion—not as large as it used to be—that Army life is not a profession. Some people believe it is wrong to treat service in the Army as a profession. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), whose advice, I believe, does not appeal to the Secretary of State for War so much as it appeals to his colleague the Minister of Defence, thinks so. I hope that the Secretary of State for War disagrees with the hon. Member for East Coventry, and thinks that the Army is a profession, and a very noble profession.
The second point is the importance of information about the Army, about what is happening; and the importance of that information not being concentrated on bedside lamps. I think we want to know far more of what the Army is doing, and of the new things that the Army is doing. I believe that would be a great recruiting fillip. It would be a fillip to recruiting, for instance, to give information about new weapons. I think that the more information the right hon. 492 Gentleman is able to give out—and, of course, there is an old conflict between the giving of information for propaganda and morale purposes and the security instincts of the G.S.I., as we all know—the better.
The third factor is home service. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the importance of home service to a young man. I hope he realises that a young man does not want to sign on in a job that is going to take him out of the country and away from his family—and, perhaps, away from his wife and children in later years—for five, six, seven years without the prospect of some equivalent period at home. It is quite clear that at the moment, there is inadequate provision made for home service. I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties in regard to housing, barracks, and so on, but inadequate provision is made for stationing formations at home.
I believe that the importance of the Regular Army to the efficiency of the land forces of the future cannot be exaggerated. The chance of success of this country has always depended on quality, and not on quantity. In order to obtain that quality in the Army, we must have the right number of men in the Regular Army at the earliest possible moment. But in addition to the men we must have good and up-to-date equipment. General Fuller, who is a well-known writer on military matters, has said—and many people agree with him—that the right weapons contribute 99 per cent. towards victory. That may be an overstatement, but it is quite clear that at the moment, for reasons which the Secretary of State explained to us in the last Debate, he has not been able to get any new equipment or new weapons, and, therefore, no new techniques of a major character for the Army.
In the course of his reply to the Debate on 21st July, the right hon. Gentleman used what I thought were some peculiar words about the up-to-dateness of the equipment of the Regular and Territorial Armies at the present time. I will not quote his exact words, because I think the Committee, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman, will have them in mind. He told us that we had ended the war with a lot of equipment which was already out-of-date, and implied that such 493 up-to-date equipment as we had was mostly American, and that we had not been able subsequently to keep that equipment in the Army because we could not get the spares. I hope he will give us some assurance that the position is not really as bad as that.
I am sure the Committee will feel that this Debate has served a useful purpose if the right hon. Gentleman can give us the assurances for which we have asked. Despite the absence of the ranks of Tuscany from behind him, I hope the Secretary of State will feel that the Committee as a whole is as interested as ever it was in the success of the Regular Army.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams (Croydon, South)
I think the Army must be going through a difficult period just now, and this Committee should give it any help we can. In the first place, the Army has, to a large extent, to meet a situation it has never had to meet before. There is the new weapon, the enormous effect of which we saw in Japan, whose ultimate effect cannot yet be gauged by anyone, and whose mark on training, tactics and, indeed, strategy, must be very largely a matter of conjecture. On top of that there is the inevitable fact that never again will the Regular Army have a time lag in which to train its reserves and the new Army coming to its support in time of war. It must be ready to kick off, as it were, with its full strength immediately war is declared, or even before that. This is a matter we have never had to face in this country, and I do not think any of us fully realise what it means to the people who are working on it at this moment in the War Office.
I believe that never again will this country—certainly in a European war—be a base for operations, because that would be too dangerous; the concentration of population would be too great for this country to be a base, and to provide the necessary industries to support and maintain an Army in the field. Then again, the Army is faced with limited manpower, and has but a limited amount of money at its disposal. It has to train a large National Service reserve coming in by dribs and drabs every week and every month, which must of itself impose a great strain upon the Regular training staff. Finally, it has great garrison commitments abroad.
494 All this means that the Army must cut its coat according to its cloth, and must be prepared to sacrifice ruthlessly anything which is not of immediate importance and vital necessity. Before the war it seemed to me, as an amateur soldier, a Territorial, that the Regular Army did not do that, and that the War Office did not do it either. One example sticks in my mind. In 1935, I remember going to a brigade headquarters of the Royal Horse Artillery. We called them "brigades" in those days; they are regiments today. I went around that brigade headquarters with the commandant, a lieutenant-colonel, and when we came to the gunnery training school in the establishment I found that it consisted of a shed containing a table. The gunnery training was conducted in this way. Before starting ranging a man with a lighted cigarette was seated underneath the table to register the supposed fall of shot; he puffed the cigarette, the smoke spiralled through holes in the table, and the fall of shot was registered.
Now, that was a crack brigade of the Royal Artillery; the Royal Horse Artillery, the right of the line and the pride of the British Army. When we consider the amount of money the Army was spending at that time on the Royal Artillery—on horses, equipment, and so on—it was obviously fantastic not to have the operative part, the gunnery, properly organised with an efficient system of training, such as the heavy guns had at Shoeburyness. But it goes further than that, because the cost of this amateurish apparatus had come out of the pocket of the commandant; it had not even been paid for by the Army. In those days, at all events, in spite of the enormous amount of money being spent on the Army year by year, the really vital things were lost sight of, and a great deal of money was spent on matters which were not of first importance. So I do beg my right hon. Friend and the Army Council to try to determine for themselves what are the matters of first importance upon which their limited amount of money must be spent, and to spend it on those matters and ruthlessly to cut out anything else.
Recruiting is the special subject for today, and affects what I have been saying. I am impressed—as I think we all must be—by the allegation that the new pay 495 code is having an adverse effect on recruiting. I cannot say whether that is so or not; only the Secretary of State can say that. But it is fantastic to make a statement such as we heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown), that a young man is dissuaded from entering the Army because a lieutenant-colonel receives £10 a month less now than he did before the new pay code. That sort of argument is childish and detracts from the value of the case put forward on this pay code. We all know perfectly well that no young man entering the Army as a recruit would ever bother to compare the pay of a lieutenant-colonel—who, after all, is a being on a very high plane to the recruit—in 1946 and his pay in 1947.
To my mind, recruiting for the Regular Army before the war was bad. It depended very largely upon a Territorial Army permanent staff instructor, who had to cycle or walk round his area every week and clock in, as it was called, at the post offices to show that he had circled the area on that particular day. Those permanent staff instructors had no interest in it whatever; they were interested only in the Territorial Army; they got no extra pay for it, and the Regular Army was definitely handicapped by having to rely upon such an uncertain source for its recruits. When my right hon. Friend replies I hope he will give us some assurance that that old system of using the Territorial Army permanent staff instructors has gone, and will never be replaced in such a way, but that some more efficient system is employed at the present time.
We often hear it said from both sides of the Committee that it was unemployment which drove men into the Army in the old days. To some extent that may be true, but there was also a lot of keenness for the Army. There are people in this country who enjoy soldiering; they are natural soldiers, who join the Territorial Army or the Regular Army. I remember some years ago a young man who wanted to join the Welch Regiment. The standard of height was not very great, but he happened to be half an inch below what was necessary. All he had in the world was 10d. He went outside the Barracks and bribed a man to hit him on the head with a bottle to raise a swelling, 496 and then went back to the medical officer, who accepted him because his height had been made up to the right standard. That man has served in the Army ever since, and he is serving today. He has been a fine soldier, and has brought up a family in the Army. I guarantee that there are very few Members in this Committee who would be prepared to go to that extent even to become Members of Parliament. It shows that there was keenness in the old days, and that it was not only unemployment which brought men into the Army.
We must face the fact that after every war recruiting is bad. We have to obviate this difficulty in some way. Speaking as an onlooker who has never been in the Regular Army, I have one or two suggestions to make. I agree that too much foreign service is detrimental to recruiting. It is difficult to avoid it, especially under present conditions, but I would ask my right hon. Friend what is the position in regard to Gurkha troops, of which there are, I believe, 10 battalions? Then there are the colonial troops. They do not like to serve outside the colony in which they live, but it seems to me that there is no reason why they should not serve within their own areas to release our Regular soldiers.
I believe that we shall have to pursue methods of this sort in order to economise in our manpower overseas, as I feel certain that this is one of the chief detriments to recruiting. Secondly, I would ask my right hon. Friend as far as possible to get rid of the petty, trifling, irritating restrictions which are so prevalent in some units. We all know the sort of thing which happens when there is a narrow, small-minded commanding officer or battery commander. Instead of overlooking tiny faults, he jumps on them, with the result that a happy unit soon becomes very unhappy. I would put a broad outlook on the part of the commanding officers even above welfare and matters of that kind. However good the welfare is, and however many sets of ludo there are in a unit, if the commanding officer is a little Napoleon, tyrant or dictator, there will be an unhappy unit.
Years ago, there was a battery commander of the Royal Horse Artillery who was known to have no interest in welfare. He used to spend most of his time hunting, but they always sent him a telegram when 497 an inspecting general was about to arrive at his unit. On one occasion a general came to inspect the battery. The men were lined up for inspection in two ranks, and after inspecting the front rank, the general turned to this battery commander, and said, "I have never seen such a filthy lot of men in my life." The major replied," Ah, Sir, you wait until you get to the rear rank, that is where the lousy ones are." This is a true story, but the point of the story is that it was an extremely happy unit. The men loved their battery commander, and it is perhaps not surprising that they fought extraordinarily well at Omdurman, and they pulled the battery commander out of danger when he was badly wounded.
I hope that the War Office will take into account any recommendations which may be made in regard to summary punishments and courts-martial. I do not know what stage the Committee's findings have now reached, but in some units in the past there has been a great feeling of frustration on the part of the men because they thought they were not getting justice and a square deal. The Army Act gives tremendous power to commanding officers, and in many ways the powers given to commanding officers and to courts-martial are out of tune with modern ideas. That is why I ask my right hon. Friend to go into the question carefully, and to limit these excessive powers in accordance with the views of the times.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I am always very happy to follow the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) because of the very useful and constructive speeches he delivers on the Army. I can find nothing upon which to criticise him, except perhaps his last story which I find a little difficulty in swallowing. I shall have a word to say on the question of welfare in a moment. It is apparent that recruiting is not going as well as it should do, and that we are not making up for normal wastage. It would appear that we shall not have the numbers requisite by 1950. I suggest that this is due to the extremely inadequate propaganda, although I prefer to use the word "advertisement," and, to the question of pay, which I again wish to drive home to the right hon. Gentleman. As I have said before, I am convinced that were the conditions of service 498 in the Army as they should be, we could raise a voluntary Army up to the strength required. I shall continue to say that, because I believe it is correct.
The basis of the new pay code, as has been stated, was that it should provide parity with industrial wages. I wish to produce one instance out of many to disprove that this has been achieved. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Ministry of Labour's Statistical Digest and compare the figures shown there with a soldier's pay, he will easily see where the discrepancy arises. Take the case of the average two-starred, well-trained soldier who is married. Taking into account his pay, his "home saving," in which is included his food, clothes and his roof, which are his "perks," and his marriage allowance, he receives 97s. a week. That is what the average highly-trained soldier receives in the Army. He is below the expert, and above the recruit. Let us compare his 97s. with the figure shown in the Statistical Digest for April. We find that the average for a man in industry over the age of 21 is 120s. 9d a week.
These figures cannot be denied, and until this discrepancy is overcome there will still be a feeling that the soldier is not being paid as well as his counterpart in civil life. I hope the Minister will not say that I should realise that these civilian figures include bonus and overtime, because I would point out that the soldier spends a great part of his Service life working overtime. He works on Sunday, and does not get double pay for it; he works all night on occasions; and when he goes out on divisional exercises he may get only two hours sleep a night for a fortnight. He does not get a bonus or overtime. There is, however, one part of the pay code with which I am in complete agreement—the abolition of specialist rates of pay. Towards the end of the war the position in this respect became farcical; commanding officers who tried to get a little more money for their men used to qualify all sorts of people for specialist rates of pay, until there was hardly a man in the Army who was not receiving some kind of specialist pay.
The whole idea of the one, two and three star basis is excellent up to a point, but it has one limiting factor. Whereas it has brought the ordinary fighting soldier up to the level of the man who drives a 499 carrier, fires a machine gun, or works a wireless set, it has reduced the expert technician to that level. The expert technician should not be on the same basis. I refer specifically to the radar mechanic, the armament artificer, the instrument mechanic, and the wireless mechanic. When they go back to civil life they will be of great value to the community, and will receive high rates of pay. They should not now be on the same basis as the ordinary star soldier. The Minister will not attract the best brains into the Army to fill these posts unless men know that they will get a higher rate of pay than the ordinary skilled soldier. The excuse has been offered that we cannot afford this. I do not think that we can accept that excuse any longer. We see vast sums about to be spent on nationalisation and social security schemes, with which latter I am in entire agreement, but I suggest that it is very short-sighted not to pay a simple premium on an insurance policy which will ensure that the advantages of those schemes can continue to exist by reason of the fact that we shall not be invaded or conquered.
On the question of training, I assert—and I hope I shall be contradicted—that training of any sort in Germany has come to a complete standstill. I believe that units are dispersed over wide areas, and are split into small sub-units. They never see the rest of their regiment from one year's end to the other. They are on guard duties all day long, and there is virtually no training of any value going on at all. There is also no collective training. Without individual training the soldier is valueless, and without collective training individual training is also valueless. I hope that some new arrangement will be made, that some guard duties will be reduced, and possibly, taken over by the Germans. Are there no Germans who can be trusted to guard D.Ps., or see that the right sort of doctrine is taught in German schools? Our soldiers are standing over school children to see that they are not taught the Nazi doctrine. I should have thought that we would have got beyond that sort of thing by now.
I have one constructive point to make about relating the standard of living index to the rate of pay in the Army. I fully realise, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North 500 Blackpool (Brigadier Low) has said, that rates of pay in the Army cannot be altered as the index figure rises and falls. But I suggest that there might be a standard of living allowance, entirely separate from any other allowance, which should fluctuate with the rise and fall in the standard of living.
There is another point which creates dissatisfaction in units. It is a child of the war. I never thought that it was necessary in wartime, but it is even less necessary now. It has to do with commanding officers and brigade commanders leaving their commands, and new officers being appointed in their place. During the war, commanding officers used to arrive to take over a unit after the outgoing commander had left. I had to take over a brigade after only five minutes' conversation with the previous brigadier. That sort of thing is absolutely wrong. It is impossible for an incoming commanding officer to get to know the characters in his regiment in under three months, unless he is given some indication by the outgoing commanding officer. Unless this is done there are all sorts of cases of unfairness and anomalies in regard to pay, promotion, and leave. I hope that an A.C.I. will be issued laying down, categorically, a specific time during which commanding officers and brigade commanders must live alongside their outgoing opposite numbers, so that valuable information can be transferred.
We have heard a lot lately about welfare, both from Members opposite and Members on this side. The correct type of welfare is not provided by one officer—probably a junior officer, who is useless for anything else—who is given the job of running the ludo and darts games, and all the rest of it. Every officer and every N.C.O. in a unit is a welfare officer. Until officers see that their men are properly fed and bedded down before they have their own meals there will not be happy units. That is all I have to say, except this: We get criticisms of the "brass hats." The War Office is in exactly the same position as any other Ministry. The right hon. Gentleman is responsible; the whole of the responsibility rests fairly and squarely on his shoulders. It is up to him to apply the energy and the effort, with all the personality he possesses, to see that the 501 Army gets a square deal—I go almost so far as to say for the first time in its history.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
My remarks will be brief because I do not want to delay and thus incur the displeasure of the right hon. Gentleman who, I believe, will follow me. They are primarily directed to the subject of recruitment for the Regular Army. I am strongly of the opinion that one very useful factor which would help recruitment would be some form of guarantee, which is not impracticable in the circumstances, that soldiers who have completed their term of Army service in the Regular Army should be given an over-riding priority in connection with civilian appointments after they leave the Army. It should not be beyond the bounds of possibility, with the kind of Government which we have in office, and with the kind of social and economic developments which are going on in the country at the present time, to regard as impracticable some such form of guarantee. As it is, many men in the prime of life when they leave the Army find themselves completely at a loose end, and that, I am sure, has been a deterrent to recruitment in the past.
My next point links up with a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), and is a suggestion which I made a year or so ago, as to whether it is possible to form some kind of Foreign Legion which could work with the British Army and be officered by British officers. There are large numbers of people in this country and other parts of the world who were associated with the Allied war effort, and who might be glad of an opportunity to join some kind of Foreign Legion on terms and subject to such conditions as the War Office might consider desirable.
My next point is that, for some curious reason which I have not been able to understand, there appears to be discrimination as between recruitment for the Regular Army and recruitment under the National Service Acts. Under the National Service Acts, no questions are asked as regards parentage and matters of that sort. The recruit is called up, and so long as he is British born and does his service, no questions are asked, but when it comes to the Regular Army or the 502 Territorial Army various difficulties are placed in the way of the man. For one reason or another, he may have one of his parents who is not of British birth. I have a case at the moment, which I am trying to get cleared up with the War Office. A young fellow in my constituency—like other hon. Members I do my best to encourage recruitment for the Regular Army—is 17½, and he desired to join the Regular Army before he was called up under the National Service Acts. His application was turned down. The only reason I can find for this refusal is that his father is Swiss, although his mother is British. His father became a naturalised British subject 30 years ago, and two brothers of this young man, also born in this country, served during the war. This young man is denied the opportunity of joining the Regular Army, and unless a favourable decision is made, he will have to wait until he is called up under the National Service Acts.
I know of another case affecting a constituent of mine which shows a curious mentality on the part of some one at the War Office. A Territorial officer, whose pedigree is unimpeachable, and who has been serving since the Territorial Army was embodied in 1939, applied for a Regular Army commission. His application was turned down, and he was offered a short service commission. I cannot understand why an officer who has been serving for so long, and who has earned a good report from his commanding officers, should be rejected for a Regular Army commission and offered a short service commission. The only explanation I can think of is that the War Office may save a few pounds in a few years' time. That does not appear to be an adequate reason for the peculiar form of treatment which they have handed out in this case, which is within my own personal knowledge, and which is possibly repeated in other cases. I think that in little things of that kind, concessions could be made, without detriment to the national interest, which would be to the advantage of recruitment for the Regular Army.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I have been glad to note as the Debate has proceeded that there is in no quarter of the Committee any feeling that the Opposition have done wrong in putting down this subject for discussion. It is 503 certainly the duty of this Committee to examine these problems. I notice that until the intervention of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds), the approach of the party opposite was what seemed to be an avowed Trappist silence in regard to this discussion. I was getting worried about it. I thought that they must be feeling so depressed by this morning's proceedings, that they were unable to say anything, but I must be very careful because I know that those proceedings are highly confidential, and I must not seek to penetrate the veil.
§ Mr. Eden
Unhappily we can neither of us do that. We are today discussing the Army's future role and the problems of recruitment for the Regular Army. We are not discussing the commitments which the Army is called upon to fulfil, nor are we discussing conscription under the Act which the House has already passed. I would be ruled out of Order if I attempted to do so. With regard to the part which the Army has to discharge, I would remind the Committee, especially in view of what has appeared in the newspapers in the last day or two, and of the repeated assurances given during the Debate on the conscription issue. As the right hon. Gentleman will remember, during the Debate on the limitation of the Forces to be raised under the scheme which the House finally approved—that is one year instead of 18 months—we were repeatedly assured that such limitation would not involve any reduction of our existing commitments. I do not wish to discuss that matter today, but merely to note that those assurances were given to me personally by several Members of the Government, including the Foreign Secretary, and that is where we still stand. Therefore, any departure from, or any diminution of, these commitments would be a matter of the gravest significance for all of us. In any circumstances I should hope, if I may say so, that this House would be unwilling to consider anything of that kind in an atmosphere of scare or scuttle.
Today, however, that is not our main concern. Our main concern is to try to save the Government, within the sphere of agreed decisions already taken, from a repetition of what is already a characteris- 504 tic pattern in their behaviour. We are now dealing solely with the recruitment and organisation of the Regular Army. Time after time, as it seems to us on these benches in recent months, we have on other issues drawn the Government's attention to impending difficulties in various spheres, and we have had very little thanks for our pains. We have been scoffed at as panic mongers, only to find when the time arrived, that our fears and predictions had been only too well founded, that we had given the Government rather more credit than we should have done, and that the Government were planless in the grip of a situation which they had not foreseen or provided for.
I come to the position in respect of the Regular Army today. Our anxiety is to ensure, so far as this Committee can ensure, that that does not happen where the future of the standing Army of Great Britain is concerned. I cannot pass on to what I have to say about the Army of the future without making one reference—and here I am sure I have the sentiment of the whole Committee with me—to the present position of our troops in Palestine. I think that there ought to be on the occasion of this Debate some indication from the House that we understand and sympathise with the extremely harassing duties that all ranks in Palestine are now called upon to perform. Those are not the dangers and discomforts of active service under war conditions. They must, I feel, suffer severe distress in maintaining discipline and performing unpleasant duties under conditions of extreme provocation. I think also I would carry the Committee with me if I say that the bearing of our troops under these exceptional, arduous conditions, commands general admiration from us all. After this Debate, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will send some message to that effect from the Members of the Committee.
I address myself now to this problem on which we want to focus the Government's attention, namely, the future of the Regular Army. It appears to us in the light of the information available, that the recruitment figures and the planned strength of the Army give serious cause for alarm. Might I briefly put the position as I see it? By the beginning of 1950—the right hon. Gentleman can correct me in a few minutes if I am wrong—unless the Government go back on the clear under- 505 takings which they have given to the men in the Services, the only National Service men still serving will be those called up under the Act which the House passed two months ago. These one year conscripts will number, if we are to judge by the size of the annual intakes forecast, a little above 100,000. The remainder of our standing Army at the beginning of 1950 will consist of men serving on regular engagements.
The Government have repeatedly indicated that the permanent side of the Regular Army is intended to be approximately 250,000 men. What is the position at the moment? Against that figure of 250,000 there are, I think, rather fewer than 110,000 regular soldiers serving. That means that with the present wastage rates of regular soldiers the average monthly recruitment which we need in order to raise our Regular Forces to the Government's figure of 250,000 by 1950 is, I reckon, about 5,300 a month. The best figures we have seen were those towards the end of last year, which were about 4,500 a month and which were encouraging, but those figures included a large number of short service enlistments, which may or may not be converted in due course to normal Regular engagements. Whether they are converted depends on inducements, upon which I want to say a word in a minute or two.
Since last year the situation has become, if our information is correct, more and more alarming. Recruitment has fallen steadily in each successive month of the present year until in June last—the last figure we have—the figure was less than 3,250. In other words, we are now running at the rate of 2,000 recriuts a month less than the minimum monthly figure which we need to restore the Regular Army to the planned size at the required date. I ask whether these estimates are right, because if they are right they reveal a very serious situation, and I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions on the position.
The first question I should like to ask is, are my figures and calculations approximately correct? If they are, have the Government realised the existence and the gravity of the problem which is now developing? Have they understood that on present indications they will find themselves at the beginning of 1950 with a most serious shortfall in the size of our Regular Army. If that position does 506 develop they have also to bear in mind the warning given so well just now by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) that no Army at the present time in this country can serve its defence purposes unless it be immediately ready, and with its present recruitment strength it could not be immediately ready. I asked the Government whether they have realised these things, and, if they have, I ask that the House and the country should be told of the measures which the Government propose to take.
What do the Government propose to do? Have they plans to reverse the present unfavourable trend in recruitment and, if so, what are they? If those plans do not succeed, how do they propose to achieve the minimum figures for the Regular Army which they themselves laid down? There is a matter which is not often realised in the reports one reads in the Press, and that is that the continuation of the National Service Acts will give us little help with this problem of recruits, if we are faced with a large deficiency in the Regular Forces. It is no solution, even if it were possible, which it hardly is, to retain conscripts with the Colours beyond their normal term. The functions which the Regular Army has to perform—and I know the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me—are very largely functions which under our system can only be performed by long-term Service men. In the first place, they have to provide the cadres to train the annual intake of conscripts. They have to provide further cadres for the new Territorial Army. These are both tasks which only Regular, experienced and highly trained Service men can discharge.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
There is just this point. Would the right hon. Gentleman take into account the fact that those two groups may at the end of their service decide to go into the Regular Army and, therefore, the picture is not quite as black as the right hon. Gentleman is painting it at the moment? Am I not correct there?
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Gentleman may or may not be correct. None of us can tell, but what I am obliged to base myself upon is the position as it stands at present. It may be that what he says is true, and that in those two groups some of the short-term Service men may prefer to stay 507 longer; but I am bound to say that the figures of recruitment at present show very little indication of that, and unless the Army can be made more attractive—a subject on which I wish to speak in a moment or two—it seems to me that the trend is likely to be the other way and we are likely to find ourselves by 1950, by a series of shortfalls in the Regular Army, with nothing like the figures anticipated. If anything is wrong in those figures and calculations I shall be glad if the Minister would tell us.
I will give an estimate of what I think is required. There are two fields of activity, the training of the intake of conscripts and the training of the cadres for the Territorial Army. I suggest that those two groups of activity would employ something like 40,000 regular N.C.O.'s and men. Then there are our overseas garrisons and the provision of a high percentage of all the occupation duties, which will still fall to be performed in 1950. There again, though conscripts will help, there must be a large percentage of Regular Forces for occupation duties. These are tasks which must be done. I think I have said enough to show that the critical position which the Regular Army appears to be in with the falling off of recruitment is rapidly leading us to the possibility that when 1950 comes, it will not be able to discharge its task.
Hon. Members in this Debate—some of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee and some hon. Members from the other side—have made a number of very valuable suggestions to the Government for improving recruitment and increasing the inducement to the volunteer. I want to say this in all seriousness to the Government before I pass on to the question of inducement. If the Government are decided that this is the Regular Army which is their minimum requirement to carry out the national and Imperial needs, they must go all out to get that figure and must start going all out now. Do not, please, leave it to the very last minute when you are approaching 1950 and find that it is too late to get the men.
May I tell the right hon. Gentleman what I think he should do above all. He is probably aware of all the suggestions that have been made with great frankness, but I think that he will admit that 508 they have been put forward to help him in his task. They have come from all parts of the Committee, but I think that the most important of all are those dealing with the question of rates of army pay, especially, if I may single out one section, those for warrant officers and non-commissioned officers. Those rates of pay today do not bear any relation to the general level of wages which men of comparable intelligence, skill and training can command in civilian life, and until that discrepancy is met I fear that the right hon. Gentleman will not obtain the recruits for which he looks. If the Government allow this disparity to go on they are really placing an unjust strain upon the patriotism and sense of duty of the men who come forward to volunteer or who would wish so to come forward.
As I have said, I am not today arguing the general merits of the Government's defence plan, but whatever that Plan may be, the Government must take the necessary measures to put it into effect. The Government's present failure is that, having made a scheme and having budgeted for a Regular Army of a certain size, they are failing to recruit that Army. We are asking today, first, whether the Government have realised the extent and consequence of the failure which is developing, and, second, what measures they propose to take to remedy it before it becomes so serious as to threaten the collapse of their whole scheme.
I conclude with this warning to the right hon. Gentleman. This Debate was brought forward after we had carefully considered the figures because we are genuinely concerned at the situation which may confront us at the beginning of 1950. We want the right hon. Gentleman to understand that the warning which we are giving him of our anxieties, though intended to be constructive in spirit, is a very serious warning. If the Government have not remedied the position by the date to which I have referred—their own date of January, 1950—a very heavy responsibility will lie upon them, but at least they cannot say that they have not been warned by this Committee or that this Committee has not done its part both by warning them and by suggesting measures by which they can meet the risks we see ahead.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Bellenger)
With the general tone of the Debate, and especially with the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), I have no fault to find. Indeed, I have some commendation to express because the situation as the right hon. Gentleman has put it, is perhaps not quite so alarming as he appeared to suggest. The position is certainly serious. But if any matter may be said to be a non-party one it is the defence of this country. In the course of my remarks I shall suggest that it will not be possible for any one Minister, whether the Minister for War, the Minister of Defence or any Service Minister to solve this problem by himself for reasons which are obvious to the whole Committee at the present moment. Whether we increase the pay by 50 per cent. or not, the fact remains that there is serious and intensive competition from industry. We also have to overcome the weariness of six years of war. Men do not want to go into the Services but wish to be in civil life, although in certain circumstances this may be less beneficial to them even from a financial point of view than if they went into the Army.
Our principal anxieties at the moment are concerned with the lack of skilled soldiers—that is speaking for my own Service. But no doubt this affects the other two Services as well, to a greater or lesser degree and, perhaps, so far as concerns the Royal Air Force, to an even greater extent because they have such a large proportion of skilled tradesmen in that service. Our main anxiety is to maintain the forces that we have in existence at the present time, in the interim period before I950, with which most hon. Gentlemen have been dealing, and to carry out the commitments which are vital to us. In that respect it is very difficult to compete with industry, which is offering far better conditions—short-term perhaps—than the Army can hope to offer under present circumstances.
Before I come to the details of the speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee, I would like to take up the remark made by the right hon. Gentleman in relation to our troops serving in Palestine. It was my intention, 510 particularly after the news that we had heard today from Palestine in relation to two of our N.C.O.'s——
§ Mr. Bellenger
I have no more information than was given by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary as I have been here all the time since he made his statement. Nevertheless, certain information was given and whether the news is confirmed or not that these two N.C.O.'s have lost their lives, the fact remains that their lives are in jeopardy. This applies not only to their lives but to those of other troops in Palestine, and it was therefore my intention to pay a tribute to the patience and forbearance of our troops there under most trying and serious conditions, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has anticipated that. Those troops, who are only carrying out the policy of their Government and those set in authority over them, and who, in the main, bear no great antipathy towards the indigenous population, are jeered at, insulted, provoked and badly treated in every way by those who, to a certain extent, owe their safety to them. In view of this the Committee will I am sure share my view that we cannot render too much thanks to those troops on behalf not only of the House of Commons but of the rest of this country as well, for the forbearance and patience they have shown in very difficult circumstances. I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that a message should be sent to them from the House as a result of today's Debate and I will certainly consider it.
Before I come to the composition and the recruitment of the Regular Army, perhaps the Committee will permit me to say one or two things which are related to this question and which arise from a remark made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). He mentioned the scare headlines which we have seen to the effect that the C.I.G.S. has suddenly been ordered home or that he is coming home in order to make drastic cuts in the Army. This is all quite remote from the truth. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff was not ordered home. I gave him no instructions to come home and he is coming home on his own initiative. I understand that he 511 will arrive in this country about 8th August, which I imagine will be after the date when the crisis referred to in those headlines is supposed to reach its height. So far as this House is concerned, this will certainly be so since the Debate will be next week. Decisions have been taken in relation to the reduction of the Armed Forces, but this does not apply to the Regular Army where our policy is the opposite one. We are doing all we can to increase the figures in relation to the forces now serving in the Army. We have taken decisions of which the Chief of the Imperial General Staff knows and approves, although they have been taken in his absence.
As a result of these decisions it was announced that part-group 63, so far as the Army was concerned, was to be released by the end of the year. This means that 48,000 more officers and men will be released in the last quarter of this year than we originally planned. In effect, we are planning to increase release in the last quarter of the year in the Army by nearly 100 per cent. over our original plan when we announced that part-group 61 would be released by the end of the year.
§ Mr. Eden
May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving us more information about this matter, to the great relief of the Committee? I would like to be clear that this great acceleration that is proposed is in no sense contrary to the fulfilment of the commitments which the Government have hitherto told us they stand for.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am coming to that point in a moment. I am mentioning the figures because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said that part-group 63 would be released by the end of the year. The effect of that statement is to expedite release to the extent of 48,000 officers and men over the target which we had originally set. Further than that, in the first quarter of next year we shall still further accelerate the rate of release. In regard to the question which the right hon. Gentleman has just put to me, I would say that it will be done without prejudice to the maintenance of those commitments which His Majesty's Government consider vital to 512 the interests and peace of this country. It really means that we are pruning and streamlining the Army as much as we can, in the circumstances. On previous occasions when we have been discussing the Armed Forces, there has been, even if there is not today, an implied criticism that we are keeping in the Army a large number of men unnecessarily. Next year, as a result of the Government's release plans which they have already announced, we shall release something like 350,000 officers and men, who will be coming out of the Army in order to keep to the engagements we have entered into in the White Paper. As against that, there will be, as the right hon. Gentleman estimated, something like 100,000 National Service men coming into the Army next year; so we shall achieve a release of something like 250,000 officers and men. I mention that fact in order that the Committee may appreciate what we are doing and what will be done next year to help our industrial affairs.
In the course of this release programme next year—or I should say, not next year but the next financial year; the Committee knows that it runs from April to March—the number of troops serving overseas as compared with the current financial year will be cut by more than 50 per cent. I hope that some of my hon. Friends who have been inclined to criticise us for keeping too many men in the Army in relation to our industrial requirements will appreciate the significance of the figures which I have just given.
Now let me come to the main point of the Debate, namely, the future of the Regular Army. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to say a few words on the effect of reducing the period of National Service from 18 months to 12 months. That decrease in the period, to which the House has agreed recently, will result in the Army getting some 60,000 fewer National Service men than it would have got under the 18 months' programme. That has meant a complete recasting of our training programme and the allotment of the manpower which we shall be getting from 1949 onwards. It has resulted in a very careful review being instituted of the training organisation in order to minimise the loss of efficiency which the cutting down of the period from 513 18 months to 12 months might have entailed. We find that we cannot cut the primary training below six weeks. We are investigating that position, but we think it will be necessary to maintain the six weeks' period in order to give the men the elementary basic training for a soldier. The personnel selection procedure will then be applied to him and we shall be able to fit the square peg into the square hole, or, at any rate, not put the square peg into the round hole.
During the war, the primary training period was followed by a corps training period. We found that to be a most useful method of intensive training of men before sending them into their units, which probably were in the line. As a result of the reduction of the service period for National Service men we shall not be able to continue that corps training period. Therefore, men will be posted straight from the primary training centres to their units. At first sight it may appear that we shall lose the benefit that we have obtained by the intensive training of men, but on reflection that may turn out to be an advantage. It will mean that the National Service men for the remainder of their 12 months' service, after having done their primary training, will be posted to one unit. It will be an advantage to the men to be able to stay there for the remainder of their period of National Service.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Many of us would agree with those admirable sentiments, but can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there is no question of training being curtailed and men being sent straight on to guard duties which would be very bad for them?
§ Mr. Bellenger
Yes, Sir, there are dangers, but I am thinking of the period when the National Service man is first called up under the new Act which will not be until 1st January, 1949. I sincerely hope that by that time we shall have got rid of some of our more pressing commitments which necessitate guard duties. There is a tremendous amount of valuable stores and equipment, and a good deal of time in the Army must be spent on work like guarding them. I hope that we shall be able to get some relief in the Army from those duties, although there is no doubt that as long as an Army exists there will always be certain guard duties and fatigues to be performed.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
Is there not an alternative to doing away entirely with the corps training centre? Could not the primary training centre be given a little longer time to handle men? Although they make wonderful progress in six weeks, the recruit is still a very raw recruit at the end of six weeks. If he has three months, something could be done.
§ Mr. Bellenger
If the Committee will allow me to continue with my survey of the training organisation that we are proposing to put into effect as a result of this decision to reduce the period to 12 months, I think the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) will understand that what we have in mind is probably something better than he has suggested. Perhaps I ought to say that the corps training centre will not entirely disappear. For certain parts of the Army it will have to be kept in existence. For certain highly specialised arms of the Service it will obviously have to be kept going, for example, the Royal Engineers, the Regular Army part of which will have to be given a much more concentrated period of instruction in their duties than they can possibly hope to get in their units. But as a result of what I have just said, corps training except for certain specialist and highly skilled tradesmen will be carried out in active Army units in the following arms and services: The Royal Armoured Corps; the Royal Artillery; the Infantry; the Royal Engineers, with the exception of the Regular part of the Royal Engineers; and the R.A.S.C. In all other arms and services, corps training will be carried out much as it is at present—in corps training units in the United Kingdom. In all arms and services the training procedure will be exactly the same both for the National Service man and the Regular.
The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington and others have referred to the difficulty we shall have in manning our outstations, which can only be manned by the Regular Army. This consideration caused me some alarm taken in conjunction with our present recruiting figures. It is quite correct that we shall have to rely on the Regular Army for all stations abroad except for Europe proper and perhaps—we are looking into this at the moment—stations like Gibraltar. Malta and Trieste. It may be possible to 515 send to those stations National Service men with 12 months to serve in the Army. It would be a very good thing that they should see those parts of the Commonwealth in which in the past Regular soldiers have had to do duty. But generally speaking with those exceptions—Germany, Austria, and the Mediterranean stations—we shall have to rely on Regular soldiers to carry out duties farther afield. They will have their training duties to perform, a large proportion of them to be performed in this country, particularly in relation to anti-aircraft. It is therefore clear that we have a considerable task to recruit our Regular Army up to the ceiling which we will have to set.
A figure of 250,000 has been mentioned in this Debate. It is based on some remarks of mine which I think I made in my Estimates speech earlier this year. I think I said then that the figure was of the order of 250,000, but my own feeling is that the actual target figure when finally approved will be something less than that—something perhaps like 20,000 to 30,000 less than that figure. If we can recruit to this figure it will provide satisfactorily as far as we can see at the moment for our garrison duties overseas and the training organisation needed to train the National Service man up to the stage that he is to achieve by the time he leave the colours and goes to the Territorial Army.
§ Brigadier Low
The right hon. Gentleman has given only two roles for the Regular Army. Does he not include the role of a striking force or a nucleus of that?
§ Mr. Bellenger
Yes, Sir. I am not going to say that that force will be composed as it was before the last war or the first world war—composed largely of a British expeditionary force. It is quite obvious that there will be certain formations—the Airborne Division as in Palestine at the moment and so forth—which would in emergency form the spearhead of the striking force, but we estimate that in any act of aggression against this country the whole impact of the aggressor will fall on this country or countries very near to us. Although my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) said it would never be possible for these islands to be used as a base again 516 in any European war, I am rather inclined to doubt that. I know the difficulties. It means the dispersal of factories and of the Army and its equipment and stations and so forth, but nevertheless, until we have experience and knowledge of the form that aggression will take, we have to prepare in the way we know best, and that way is based on the experience we got from the last war, and particularly the closing stages of the last war. That obviously means that a large portion of the Army will have to be engaged in antiaircraft protective duties both with the static forces at home and with mobile forces overseas if they should be necessary there. A large portion of the Territorial Army will have to undertake those duties and therefore a large portion of the Regular Army will have to be engaged in instruction duties and, indeed, in manning duties.
Perhaps I ought to explain now to the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield how we shall post these men to units when they come into the Army, as I said we should do, after a short primary training period. They will be allotted to their units by intakes varying according to the nature of the unit. For example, in the battalions of the Infantry there will be four intakes of these men in a year, roughly corresponding to the four sub units—the four rifle units—of the battalion. Therefore, the men will get in the unit to which they are posted four periods roughly of 11 weeks training, allowing for six weeks primary training and two weeks for drafting and leave before they are posted to their unit.
In the Royal Armoured Corps the periods will relate to the structure of the regiment, with three squadrons. There will be three annual intakes. This we think will enable the training to be carried out in stages which will equip the men, with the exception perhaps of the specialists and tradesmen, reasonably well to take their part in the Territorial Army when they leave the colours. The Committee must not forget that the whole purpose of the Regular Army is really to train men to take their place in the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army will be far larger than the Regular Army on which will fall the garrison duties and the instructional duties which I have already outlined. It follows, therefore, that the men will spend their time wherever their 517 units are located. There will be some—certainly while we are in occupation of Germany—who will have to be sent to B.A.O.R. and will spend most of their 12 months in Germany. There will however, be others who will spend their time in this country because the units to which they are posted will have to be stationed in this country. These will serve their 40 odd weeks in this country, and to that extent there will be some difference between the National Service men called up. Some will be lucky—according to their point of view—by being retained in this country, and some by going overseas.
With regard to the technical training of these specialists, it is quite true as the hon. and learned Member for Wirral said, and as other hon. Members have reiterated, that we shall need to recruit quality before quantity, although obviously we must have quantity at some time if we are to recruit up to our ceiling. That will not be an easy matter. Indeed, I am not disguising it from the Committee, it will be very difficult to recruit those tradesmen. It is possible that we may be able to get a better response than we are getting at the moment if we improve rates of pay and this possibility has not been entirely overlooked, although the Committee will understand that now, under the new system, with the Minister and the Ministry of Defence to co-ordinate the three Services, it is not possible for each Service Minister to play his own hand in that respect. He has to do it in coordination with the other two Services. Therefore, those matters are considered on a Ministry of Defence level and then put up to the Treasury.
I view with some sympathy the points that have been put by both sides of the Committee as to anomalies which may have appeared in relation to senior N.C.O.'s and warrant officers and, perhaps, commanding officers. My own feeling is that, generally speaking, we have succeeded in the new code in relating the rates of pay of the Services to industry although, if there is any great inflation of industrial wages the relation would obviously be upset. However, the Committee has reason to hope that taxation will be reduced, and I know that is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to achieve that——
§ Mr. Bellenger
He is cynical sometimes too—sceptical of the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who told us in his last Budget speech that that was his intention, and I hope and believe he will achieve it in spite of what hon. Gentlemen opposite may say. If that is the case, then it is obvious that some of the arguments made by hon. Gentlemen this afternoon as to some officers being worse off than they were, will weaken. At any rate, I am prepared to look into any anomalies which hon. Gentlemen like to bring to my attention and, if possible, to try to rectify them, always of course in association with my colleagues in the other two Services.
I could go on to give the Committee more information about the training proposals but, in view of the time, I ought to get on to that other important matter raised today, recruitment. In stating those facts I have disclosed some of the difficulties with which I have to contend, and although some of the proposed solutions advanced by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen this afternoon may help me to solve them, my difficulties are much more difficult to solve than would appear from the suggestion made, that merely by improving pay, we can get all the recruits we want. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said that if we would only put that right, we would have all the recruits we wanted for the Regular Army.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Perhaps I misunderstood him but, nevertheless, that was my impression. It will not be possible by increasing pay alone to get recruits for the Regular Army, for reasons to which some hon. Gentlemen have referred today. One said that it was so easy to caricature the British Army, and that it has been done extensively in the past. Why? What hon. Gentlemen are saying when they have attempted to criticise the Government this afternoon is that for years past, during which time they were in office, we have steadily neglected the Army's needs. That is absolutely true, particularly in relation to barrack accommodation, housing and so forth. That 519 legacy, which was handed to me when I took office as Secretary of State for War, is a legacy which I cannot hope to dispose of by 1950 or any early date like that.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced the party aspect into this reasonable Debate, but may I remind him of the by-election at Fulham?
§ Mr. Bellenger
The by-election at Fulham had nothing whatever to do with these bread-and-butter matters which affect the Army. I think it was in 1932 that we had the lowest Estimate for the Army between the two wars. However, I want to introduce no party note into this matter but to state facts. The facts are that in the matter of accommodation for our troops—and after all hon. Gentlemen have brought these matters forward this afternoon only too well, as well as I could have put it when I was a back bencher, if not better—I cannot hope to overcome those difficulties in two or three years. It will probably take us 15 years to rebuild and reform barrack accommodation for the Army, always assuming that we are given some better priority in building matters than we are given at the moment.
Therefore, I want the Committee to be under no illusion whatever that, in so far as better accommodation will help me to get recruits for the Regular Army, I cannot hope to do that in two or three years. I am, however, doing my best to meet that situation. Since we took office we have budgeted for 2,000 married quarters for other ranks, for 750 married quarters for officers, and 200 War Department constabulary married quarters. I am not satisfied with the rate of progress being achieved in the building of these quarters which have been approved in the Estimates, but in this matter the civil population can get greater priority than I can in the Army. Also, I have to rely on other agencies to build these married quarters for us. Nevertheless, those figures I have given are some indication that we are attacking this matter seriously, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested in his concluding remarks we ought to do.
Since the end of the war we have recovered many quarters that have been irregularly occupied, sometimes by civilians, with the result that we have increased the number from 5,000 at the end of the war to 9,000 now. Those figures 520 may seem small in relation to the Army's needs, but these accretions, small though they may be, are of value to the Army, especially to those returning from overseas. On top of all our difficulties we have to make provision probably for a large number of Regular troops who will be leaving India and very shortly arriving in this country. Whether it be married men coming back from Palestine with their families, as they did a little time ago owing to circumstances out there, or the troops and their families coming home from India, the Army is looking after them as best it can, and on the whole we have had very few complaints from those for whom we have found temporary accommodation until they have become assimilated into the structure of the civil population here.
It is true that figures in regard to recruiting are not as satisfactory as we had hoped. I am bound to say, however, that they never are satisfactory during the summer months. It is very difficult to go to the seaside resorts and holiday camps to appeal for recruits during the summer. We would get a very short answer. During the summer time people do not want to come into the Army, but want to be doing something different.
§ Brigadier Head
It is very interesting to note that the right hon. Gentleman started recruiting for the Territorials on 1st May.
§ Mr. Bellenger
That may seem curious, but recruiting for the Territorial Army on a part-time basis is quite different from recruiting for the Regular Army on a full-time basis. Our whole experience goes to show that during the summer months the falling off of recruits for the Regular Army is constant, although to a lesser extent the same applies to recruiting for the Territorial Army. I hope that the hon. and gallant Member is not suggesting that we should have delayed the start of recruiting for the Territorial Army from May until the end of September. I thought the Debate was intended to urge the Government to get on with recruiting as speedily as possible, and recruiting for the Regular Army has its concomitant in the Territorial Army.
I wish to give some figures in regard to recruiting. After all, this problem is not entirely mine, although obviously I 521 have to take responsibility for it, and I have to take any criticism if any is coming. Also I hope that if there is any credit, and if I am successful in recruiting for the Territorial Army—and I am not despondent of doing that—I hope I shall have some of that credit. In the first quarter of 1937 the monthly average intake of normal Regular engagements was 2,433. In the second quarter it has fallen to 2,181. That would bear out what I have said about the difficulty of recruiting in the summer months. The short service intake average fell from 1,753 to 1,213. In the technical corps the lack of volunteers does cause us some anxiety, but we are doing what we can, particularly by the recruitment of boy apprentices, which will give us a dividend in a few years time. The recruitment of boy apprentice tradesmen is itself not entirely satisfactory. On the last examination, in July, for 787 vacancies, only 396 boys competed. There is room for improvement there, but, generally speaking, as I look at my charts in the War Office, I am satisfied, not complacently so I hope, that in time as parents get to know of the valuable opportunities there are for boys to learn a trade in the Army, there will be more coming forward who will be the future specialists, tradesmen and N.C.Os. of the Regular Army.
Having given what appear to be, as indeed they are, not entirely satisfactory figures in relation to recruiting, perhaps the Committee would be interested to know that for Regular recruiting, including the short service man, the figure for the period 1st January to 30th June last year was 10,119. These are volunteers. In the first half of this year it has more than doubled and the figure is 22,815. That gives some indication that the situation is not yet lost by any means. It has to be considerably improved, I quite agree, but those figures give me hope that we shall be able to do better in the forthcoming months. The interesting thing is that we are now getting more National Service men volunteering for Regular engagements, and more men serving on Regular engagements are volunteering to re-engage. What does that indicate? It confirms a thought I have had in mind for some time, and which I have tried to impress on my recruiting people at the War Office. It is 522 that the best field for recruitment to the Regular Army lies among the National Service men, a compact 100,000 of whom are coming up each year. Although we shall still appeal directly to the civil population to join the Army, I believe that so long as our propaganda is right, and conditions are right, and so long as we have the right commanding officers, we shall get a very good response for the Regular Army amongst the National Service men. At any rate, we are going to make special efforts to recruit amongst National Service men.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I can give my hon. Friend some figures, although not the percentage. In the first six months of the current year 8,890 men have accepted short term engagements. For the whole of last year the figure was less, 8,618, and throughout 1946, 4,299 National Service men volunteered to remain in the Army on Regular engagements. That is for the whole period of last year, but already during the first six months of this year 4,205 have so elected to become Regulars. I think the Committee will agree that those are very welcome signs that the National Service man is beginning to want to join the Regular Army.
§ Brigadier Low
In comparing the short service recruiting of this year with what the right hon. Gentleman calls the short service recruiting for the whole of last year, ought he not to have told the Committee that it was not brought into operation until the middle of May last year, and that the figure relates to only seven months, which is in fact a good comparison with the first six months of this year?
§ Mr. Bellenger
Whether it is a good comparison or not, I think that the figures in regard to the National Service men are an excellent comparison, because they were serving for the whole of the year, and these figures go to prove that we are getting a better response from National Service men to join the Regular Army.
§ Sir R. Ross
Is the right hon. Gentleman going to make special arrangements in regard to Northern Ireland, which is a purely voluntary area?
§ Mr. Bellenger
Yes, Sir. I was coming to that. I am making a special visit to 523 Northern Ireland, and hope to do a bit of recruiting there. I hope hon. Members who come from Northern Ireland will help in that respect. I believe we shall be able to get quite a number of recruits to join the Regular Army from Northern Ireland and perhaps from elsewhere in Ireland. In answer to the question of what special steps we are taking, we are now considering, in co-operation with the other two Services, whether we can have a special recruiting campaign led by Service Ministers, and perhaps other Ministers also. Owing to the cutting down of newsprint, I am afraid we shall get less space in the newspapers, and we can perhaps make up for it with speeches in the country, and broadcasts over the wireless. I hope that in that publicity right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the Committee will help us.
We have to take advantage of every possible means of getting recruits. Although I believe that we shall get a good response from National Service men, we have to go round the country to persuade their relations that it is a worth while job for the men to join the Regular Army. As I say, recruiting figures are not satisfactory; they have got to be improved. There is no easy solution to this problem, but I am not disappointed about our finding that solution. Indeed, I go so far as to say, although it is very unwise to attempt to prophesy in this House, that I believe the time is not far distant when we shall have a waiting list for those who want commissions in the Regular Army. At Sandhurst, for three terms in the year, we are training our candidates for commissions. I believe that in two or three years' time we shall have got that matter satisfactorily settled, and that our main difficulty will be among the non-commissioned officers, who have to come from the Regular recruits.
I shall have to neglect to reply in detail to some of the interesting points put to my by different members, because there is another Debate to follow this one. I 524 would particularly say to the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) who spoke so feelingly about recruiting in Wales, that I hope that Welsh Members will give us every help to recruit men from Wales. We need them. It is not so easy to put them in Welsh speaking units or mainly Welsh speaking units——
§ Mr. Bellenger
This is a subject which Welsh Members have taken up with the War Office. I hope we shall be able to convince them that there is a satisfactory reason for not changing the composition of the 53rd Division because the role of some of the regiments forming that division has changed from infantry to artillery. I hope that I can appeal to hon. Members from Wales not to say that they will not help us unless we can give them every national point for which they have asked. Scotland has also asked for the same sort of thing. We have difficulties in giving them all they want, but I shall do all I can to concede the points which can be conceded, as I want the help of hon. Members from Wales.
I hope that if I have not given complete satisfaction to the Committee, and obviously I have not done so unless I can say I have got all the men I want in the Regular Army, I have shown something of our difficulties, which are not entirely of our own making. Some of them have been left over from the years which preceded the coming into office of this Government. As a final example, in the war there was no Regular recruiting whatever. I hope that I have shown to the satisfaction of the Committee what we are doing at the War Office to tackle these matters in a responsible, and, I hope will be shown, when 1950 comes, in a satisfactory manner.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn