§ 1.45 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I should like to ask if I may now change the subject of the Adjournment?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member has risen, but I am not aware of what he is going to say.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
This Adjournment Debate has been arranged at the last moment and I raise the subject only in view of the fact that debates have gone quickly so far. Nevertheless, I think the subject is one which ought to have attention drawn to it whenever the occasion arises, and I am grateful to the Financial Secretary to the War Office for coming down this afternoon to reply to the Debate.
The question to which I wish to draw attention is that of publicity for Army recruiting, with particular reference to the Regular Army. I had hoped that we might have had the promised statement from the Minister on the subject of the Territorial Army, which I gather is to be made in a few days' time. I quite understand why that may not be possible if consultations are still going on. Nevertheless, we have seen, over the last few months, a considerable amount of Army publicity, both on the poster hoardings and in the columns of the daily Press, and it seems to me that there is something wrong with it, especially when one compares it with that of the other Services.
1691 I would draw the attention of the House to a few isolated instances which I think are largely typical of a great many of the publications in the form of posters and advertisements on the Army. There is one from the Royal Air Force in which an aircraftsman—I take it to be an aircraftsman—is holding up his hand in a greeting, with the caption "Ginger's Back." "Ginger" looks pleased to be back, and that is a very excellent thing. On the other side there is another poster. Strangely enough, in my constituency these two posters appear on the same house; one at one end of the house and one at the other end. We see the R.A.F. poster as we come into the constituency and the Army poster as we go out. The Army poster has been described by a neighbour of mine as a "moon-faced youth gazing in rapture at 43 trades." I think hon. Members will know to which poster I am referring. It seems to me there is very great danger of getting the 43 mixed up with a certain brand of 57 different varieties.
More important than that, it seems to me that in that poster a psychological blunder is being made, if we want the Regular Army really to be a success. Although in the past we may not have given men joining the Army very much encouragement, nevertheless in the old days it was "Join the Army and see the World," which at least gave an indication that the Army was doing something purposeful in other places besides Great Britain.
The present publicity seems to tend to make a man think of what he is going to do when he comes out, even before he joins up. I think that is rather borne out, perhaps, by what the C.I.G.S. said yesterday to the Mothers' Union—that there has long been a sense of uncertainty as to what is going to happen to the Regular soldier leaving the Army. An old acquaintance of mine, a Regular soldier of many years' standing, who has achieved considerable notoriety in the last few days.—R.S.M. Brand, of the Royal Military Academy—was asked if he had any other trade. It has long been, I fully admit, a worry of the Regular soldier, this question of what he will do when he leaves the Army. I am glad to hear that 43 trade unions have agreed to allow Army trades to count for membership of 1692 the unions. That is an excellent thing. I am delighted about it, and I hope that the 43 will soon become 57.
However, I do think it is wrong psychologically, both from the national and the individual's point of view, to overlook the fact that the Army has a job to do, and that it expects a good deal of service from its members. Throughout the publicity of the Army there runs the idea that the only purpose of joining the Army is to train for civilian life afterwards. That is wrong. The Army is of very great importance at the present time. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary will try to use this defence, but, in any case, it is a bad one—that that idea will be modified, that difficulty got over, when the man joins his regiment, and that if the regiment's discipline is good the man will soon have his mind centred on the right things. That is probably perfectly true. It is, however, a little unfair on the individual. There are some men at present who would join the Regular Army far more willingly if they felt that the job they were to do was one they could carry out, and was one based on the fine traditions of the Army of old.
It has been my business in the past to go a good deal into regimental history. Earlier today we were discussing Bumbledom and Barnet. I do not propose to direct this Debate to Blimpery and barracks—though I have much respect for that much maligned gentleman, Colonel Blimp, who did a great deal of good in the first world war. We should be wrong in these modern times to disregard the great heritage that practically every regiment of the British Army has. If attention is paid to that in Army publicity there can be only beneficial results. I was responsible, in part of my Army career, for introducing many soldiers to regimental history and tradition, and I found that the soldiers took a great interest in that subject and a great pride in knowing more of it than their comrades.
Yet there is a complete absence of any of that sort of thing in the Army's publicity—except, perhaps, in that for the Household regiments. I have noticed that the Regular recruiting for them has been extremely high, and I hope that it will long remain so. Is there not a lesson to be learned from that? They also have the advantage of the hope of having full dress uniform again. Such things as that 1693 matter. That sort of thing is a great encouragement to recruiting. There is a certain type of young man who will be attracted to the Army, or to a particular regiment, by its uniform. Not all, of course, for there are some who curse the moment that they have to start cleaning. However, there are some good potential soldiers who would join if given the chance of turning out a little more smartly than it is possible to do in battledress, berets, and the ordinary Army dress of today.
It would be only fair to consider for a moment the figures for recruiting for the Regular Army over the last few months. I do not propose to go into details, and to give figures of normal Regular engagements, short service engagements, of those who rejoined from the Reserve, and of those who re-enlisted. I do not propose to consider those different sources of recruitment separately for each month. The total figures which I propose to give are in themselves interesting. In January there were 4,580 recruits; in Febraury, 4,457; in March, 2,459; in April, 3,275; in May, 2,644. I have not the figures for any period later than May. That is the latest figure published. This is a disturbing set of figures because it shows that between February and March the numbers declined by about half and have not grown again to the February figures since. The figures may have improved since May, but they have not according to those I have at the moment.
There are some other figures I want to give. In February the number who came from the Reserve to rejoin was 1,871; in March, it was 197; and since then it has been running in the hundreds, and in May was 222, whereas previously it had been running in the thousands. These figures ought to be borne in mind. They are not the only thing by which to judge Army publicity, but they ought to be borne in mind when we are deciding whether the publicity the Army has produced is effective.
I am inclined to think that to encourage Stinks Smith Minor to join the Army it is just as well to try to see if he could do something for the benefit of the Army. So far as I can make out every advertisement about Stinks Minor tells him that the only advantage he gets if he joins up is, that he will be able to go into a laboratory when he leaves the Army. The last thing he ought to do 1694 in the Army is to make a stink in it, but we hope that he will become a Regular soldier and give the best service he can. We want him to be and he ought to be a square peg in a square hole; but, nevertheless, he ought not to look upon the Army only as a means of getting into a laboratory when he leaves the Service.
I hope I have made it clear that I do not in any way wish to discourage the great work which the trade unions have done in agreeing to allow Army trades to count for membership of the unions. That is an excellent thing, and no one on this side of the House will dispute that for a moment. However, I would recall again what the C.I.G.S. said yesterday, that we are suffering from a national disease of uncertainty. There is no better way of curing that than of making people confident that the Army can protect them. Whatever atomic experts may say, and whatever the articles written by retired generals may say, the fact is there will always be a very important role for the Regular Army to play, a role vital to defence, and not one which is created only when war is declared. It is a vital role. I am rather disturbed that there is such an abysmal gap in the Army's publicity, that there is no mention of this role in it.
I believe the Army has tremendous scope for publicity, not only in recruiting men, but in educating the country in what the Army is doing. There is no surer detractor from Army recruiting than the man who goes about saying always that the Army is doing nothing. There are such men, and I think they do a grave disservice to the Army. The armchair critics who write on the subject of what the Army's role is to be in the future are also doing a great disservice to the Army, and, indeed, to the country, if they give the impression that the Army has not a role to play in peace, and in war, if war should come. I hope that the Financial Secretary will say something on these lines.
I would say in conclusion, that it has been remarked by various people from time to time, including the Minister of Labour, that the Army used to be a home for the unemployed. He has said that in this Parliament. I hope that he will not say it again. Although it is perfectly true that a great many unemployed men did 1695 find a useful job to do in the Army, the fact remains that the old type of Regular soldier is essential to the well-being of this country, because he is essential to the efficiency of the Army. I believe that much too little has been said about him.
I am in the position of being on extended release, and if my constituents dislike me at the next General Election, I can go back to the Army. I am not in the least sorry about that, because I believe that there are few finer professions in the world; but I do not wish to play the trumpet of jingoism today. I implore the House and the country to realise that the Regular Army is the nucleus on which the great expansion which took place during the last war was based. If we let that go, whether we have National Service in peace time or not, we can lay a wager that the likelihood of war will be far greater if we do not pay attention to this matter; and the difficulties which we experienced at the beginning of the last war will be repeated on a far greater scale than in the past. I hope that the House will believe me when I say that we want to get this matter away from party politics altogether. There should be no party dispute about it. We believe that recruiting is not very encouraging to judge from the figures, and we believe that Army publicity has probably an influence on that; we do not believe that Army publicity is good enough and we hope that something will be done to put it right.
§ 2.2 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
I must apologise to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), who raised this important topic, that it was not possible for me to hear the whole of his speech. I was a little disturbed by one comment which he made about the publicity that is being used in connection with Army recruiting. He seemed to minimise or decry the value of that form of publicity which indicates that after a man has completed his Army service, he can go into a laboratory or engage upon some other useful form of industrial activity.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
In defence of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), may I say that the hon. and gallant Member for 1696 Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) was not present at the beginning of his speech. He did not put his argument in that way; he modified what the hon. and gallant Member has said.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I am glad to hear that, but I think that I made it clear that I was not present during the whole of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, and I may have placed a wrong construction upon the comments which he made towards the end of his remarks.
I have always felt that a very considerable contribution towards the success of Army recruiting would develop out of some guarantee that a man on completing his Army service would find a job in civilian life. I have on previous occasions advocated that the authorities should say to any would-be recruit, "Look here, if you will join one or other of the Services, we will guarantee on your release that you will have a job." A number of people who might otherwise hesitate would have the scales sufficiently tipped in favour of their joining one of the Services. We have to remember that a man, even on the completion of a full-time regular engagement, leaves the Service in the prime of life or, at least, with many years of useful work still ahead of him which would be to the advantage of the community as a whole.
The policy of full employment which the Government are trying to implement should make it easier for them to guarantee suitable employment to a man on the completion of his service in the Forces. That is a fundamental consideration, because when a man leaves the Services at the age of 40 or 45, after completing full-time regular service, he wants to know what his future is likely to be. By that time, he is often married and has young children. He finds it quite impossible to live, especially if he has served in the ranks throughout the whole of his Army service, upon the small pension to which he is entitled. I would like my hon. Friend in his reply to indicate that this particular aspect of the matter has not been lost sight of. I know that useful arrangements have been made in association with the trade unions for recognition of the technical training provided while a man is in the Service. I hope that this will become a universal practice. Recruiting will be considerably assisted if a 1697 man knows that at the end of his service he will be guaranteed a useful job, out of which he can make a reasonable living, and on the basis of which he can maintain his family and continue to render valuable service to the community in a civilian capacity.
§ 2.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I am sorry that I, like the previous speaker, was not present during the earlier stages of the Debate. I wish to put the point of view that, far from there being too little recruiting, there is too much recruiting; that the Army at the present time is far too strong, and that a very large proportion of the manpower of this country is going into the Armed Forces. Hon. Members who have read the latest statement from the Minister of Defence will realise that at the present time 1,126,000 people are either engaged in the Armed Forces or in producing for the Armed Forces.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I hope that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will appreciate that most of the publicity which we have been talking about is concerned with recruiting for the Regular Army. While I follow his point, I do not think that it is relevant to this Debate.
§ Mr. Hughes
I understand the point of view of the hon. and gallant Member, but I maintain that my point of view is very relevant to this Debate, and that no attempt should be made to recruit men into the Regular Army at the present time. A military expert, whom I regard as the best informed military correspondent in this country, Captain Liddell Hart, has just written a book to show that the Army is swollen out of all proportion to its usefulness, and that at the present time to get sufficient military forces from the military point of view the first essential is to get rid of conscription.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that whatever size of Army may be considered right and appropriate in present circumstances, it is far better to have it based upon voluntary recruitment than have to rely, as we have to at the moment, upon compulsory military service.
§ Mr. Hughes
I have not been impressed by some of the speeches made on the 1698 voluntary recruiting platforms. If the hon. and gallant Member wishes me to go into that, I might develop the point a little later.
At the present time, when the economic condition of this country is so serious that we need to organise the whole of our available manpower for productive and useful purposes, the Armed Forces are swollen out of all proportion, compared with their usefulness in overcoming the economic crisis which confronts this country. I have in mind the number of men from the building trade who are at present in the Army. I am interested first and foremost in improving the social, housing and living conditions of the people of this country, and I approach every problem raised in this House from that point of view.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Would the hon. Member not agree that the shortage of houses is due more to the shortage of materials than to the shortage of manpower? That was admitted in a recent Debate.
§ Mr. Hughes
If the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to continue, I will put my point of view. In Scotland, where there is an acute housing shortage, we need on the building front all the trained building apprentices who are now being called up into the Armed Forces. We are short of plasterers, of building trade workers, and of every kind of skilled labour which should be used in building the houses our people need. In addition, we are there faced with the fact that the present tuberculosis figures are the worst for the last 20 years. The greatest enemy of the people, in Scotland at any rate, is not any foreign army but tuberculosis. I object strongly to any recruiting campaign being conducted to take away building workers and others who are needed on the home front, merely in order that their energies may be diverted to doing God knows what in barracks, and training for something which might never come off, and which if it does come off may not be like the rehearsal.
I can understand the point of view of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and others who come from the military caste, who have the Sandhurst tradition, and who think in terms of military expenditure. But I come from the working class, and I 1699 will use every opportunity I have in this House to point out that what we need is manpower mobilised for raising the standard of living of the working class, and I will not advocate anybody going on to the recruiting platform at the present time.
What is the Government attitude towards recruiting? For what purpose are they recruiting men? What was said the other day by an air-marshal who took part in a recruiting campaign in the City of Edinburgh? He made what I consider to be a most mischievous speech, and said that we wanted all the men we could get in the Royal Air Force in order that we may get "cracking" for the war with Soviet Russia. I put Questions to the Minister of Defence and to the Secretary of State for Air, asking if that represented the point of view of His Majesty's Government, and they replied that it did not represent the point of view of His Majesty's Government. I understand the air-marshal was politely and discreetly rebuked behind the scenes.
If the Government do not want a gigantic Army for the purpose of defending ourselves against Soviet Russia, why do they want all these men mobilised in uniform, when nobody quite knows what to do with them? Of course, we differ fundamentally. If it is intended to carry out any kind of recruiting campaign, the people who are to be asked to go on to the recruiting platforms should be issued with weekly notes to speakers, such as one gets from party headquarters, telling them what to say. If that were done there would be a very fundamental difference in the briefs issued from the two sides of the House.
Some people want the Army as an established institution, while others do not know what they want it for. What we do know is that after every war there is a small collection of vested interests in the war Ministries—for the Army, the Air Force and the Navy—who have to perpetuate their existence; they have to find some excuse for carrying on; they have to justify this enormous publicity; they have to try to imagine that we are back in the last century instead of in a new century, when we have the atom bomb and bacteriological warfare, and all the other devilish devices which will destroy civilisation if we carry on in the old military way.
1700 What about recruiting for the women's Armed Forces? I have already said a great deal about that in this House. At present, we need 5,000 trained nurses in Scotland, but we cannot get them. Yet at every post office and every Ministry of Labour office there are glamorous pictures showing what an attractive career is afforded to the women of this country if they go into the Armed Forces. But there is no glamorous appeal for nurses to fight T.B. Women are being attracted into the Armed Forces when every one of them is needed on the home front. I was distressed to see in a report published by the Minister of Defence this week that there were still 40,000 women in uniform, and that the Service chiefs are calling for more. The Service chiefs will always call for more. There can be no justifiable reason for it, and I wish this Labour Government would exert itself over the Chiefs of Staff and tell them that our business is to mobilise the manpower of this country for the essential needs in bettering the social conditions of our people.
How many Labour Members of this House spend their time at the week-ends recruiting for the Armed Forces? Not many. And why? Because the whole conception of mobilising manpower for the Armed Forces is, in the Labour and Socialist Movement, associated with war. Socialist propaganda and activity are for the organisation of manpower to build up peace and a decent system of international relations. I am trying to impress upon the people of this country the absolute need to change the policy of this Government to turn away from a continuation of the policy which gets a blessing from the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill): to have a real Socialist policy which will dispense with the idea that in time of peace we must have a huge Army. At a time of economic crisis and of supreme need, when we should have better houses and more goods for the people, when we need more labour employed on the land, we should not dissipate our energies in mobilising our men and women for the purely destructive purposes of what is called "the art of war."
§ 2.17 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I should like to follow, very briefly, the two last speeches, and to say I agree entirely with everything said by the hon. and 1701 gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), who was unfortunately not present at the beginning of this Debate. Had he been here at the beginning he would have realised that the initiator of the Debate had said almost word for word what he said. I should also like to add my thanks to the great trades union movement for the step it has taken in recognising Army trades in the way it has. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) was trying to stress, in relation to advertising and the activities of a soldier when he leaves the Army, that that aspect should not be over-emphasised to the exclusion of everything else, which is rather what is happening at the moment.
The speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was the sort of speech we expected him to make the moment we saw him come into the Chamber. I suggest, quite seriously, that we might find a speech of that nature a little more convincing had we not been aware of the real political affiliations of the hon. Gentleman. To the hon. Member I will say just this—although I could talk to him on the subject for hours—I happen to be one of the many people who, in the early stages of the last war, saw and could show him graves which were the result of the sort of tripe that he has been talking on the Floor of this House today. That is all I have to say to the hon. Member.
I believe that advertisement for the British Forces is not only contained in the matter of posters. There are three things which can contribute to a voluntary Army in this country, which is a state of affairs I would welcome more than anybody else, because I am opposed to conscription. I am not opposed to conscription if it is necessary in order to achieve the requisite numbers, but I am opposed to it in principle, and I am also convinced, as I have frequently said before, that a voluntary Army of the size that is requisite could be obtained if the right methods were adopted. As I have said, there are three methods, all of which come under the heading of advertisement in one way or another, which would help to produce an Army on the voluntary basis of the size considered necessary by the Cabinet and by the Chiefs of Staff.
The first thing is the question of pay. I am able to show by facts and figures—and no one will convince me to the con- 1702 trary—that the pay of members of the Forces, taking into account all perquisites, is not equivalent to the pay for the same rank in industry. Until it is, there will always be a shortage of voluntary recruiting.
Then there is the question of the treatment of the soldier when he arrives at his unit. In this connection there are matters which I should not like to raise at the juncture, but I would ask the Financial Secretary to take note of what I say and look into these things very carefully indeed. However big or small the unit may be, it is essential, even if it be only on a cadre basis, to have it thoroughly and efficiently equipped, not only with weapons for war but also with the equipment for amusements and sports. Even more important than anything else, it should have modern training equipment. I cannot believe, having regard to the vast quantities of stores and equipment which existed at the end of the war, that it should be necessary for any unit to be in a situation such as I have recently heard about, in regard to training equipment, vehicles and spare parts. It seems to me to be a fantastic state of affairs.
I am convinced that the biggest advertisement for the Army is the Army itself. It is like dropping a pebble into a pond, the circles going wider and wider. Those who join up who feel happy, contented and not frustrated will advertise the Army, but there is still I am afraid a lot of frustration. The average young man with spirit likes a good show. He likes to feel that he is taking part in an efficient organisation, and that every minute of his time is profitably occupied. He likes to feel that he has first-class instructors and training equipment. In that way he need not be kept at his job too long and can have plenty of leisure. But that is not the situation at the present time, and why that is the case is beyond my comprehension. I hope that the Financial Secretary will look into this matter.
As far as publicity is concerned, there is a hangover of the old feeling that to join the Forces is an admission of failure in civilian life. That is no longer true, and we all know it. Those of us who have for many years been fighting for the conditions of soldiers in the Army know that these old conditions are going, and 1703 that there is no need for any mother to feel it is a disgrace for her son to join the Forces. But that feeling does still exist to some extent. I agree that the poster advertisements should not be confined to what is going to happen to a man when he leaves the Army. Let the posters give the men an idea what they are to do in the Forces and what the Forces are there for, which would be a good thing from the point of view of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire who does not seem to have any idea why the Forces are there.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I admit that I am an ignorant layman and not a military man. The hon. and gallant Member is arguing that we need a large Army, but can he tell us precisely what this Army is needed for? Can he also give some indication of why Captain Liddell Hart, who I believe is a great expert on these matters, is wrong? Can he tell us whether the purpose of having a large Army is to fight Soviet Russia?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am very happy to answer that question. First of all I should like to describe, and I am sure he will not be offended by my banter, Captain Liddell Hart as a "fireside fusilier." I think that some of the senior officers in the Army have regarded him as such for many years. On the other hand, there is no shadow of doubt that we have got very large commitments in various parts of the world, and that if any foreign Power, and I am not necessarily referring to Russia, feels that a country is weak, it is a temptation which ought not to be put in her way. Furthermore, there is no man in the world with sound sense who believes that this Empire, this country, or the United States would fight in an aggressive war. All I want to see is that our women and children can sleep in their beds without the fear that we may be invaded by a foreign Power, Unless we have a strong Army, Navy and Air Force there is always that danger; until a world organisation is set up which is strong enough to maintain peace, it is absolutely vital that we maintain adequate forces in the country.
The Army has got quality goods to sell, and these goods can be sold by advertisement. Therefore, I hope that the advertisements in relation to recruitment 1704 will be on a very much higher plane than they are on at present. I hope that when men join the Army they will no longer be hampered by shortsighted, footling restrictions, which are sometimes initiated by regimental sergeant majors when they are off duty. There should be the strictest possible discipline on parade, but there should be the greatest freedom off parade so that a man can feel that his soul is his own. A man, until he abuses the trust placed in him, should be treated as a reasonable human being, and should have decent living conditions, sympathetic treatment and proper training facilities so that every minute of his time is occupied profitably, which need not necessarily mean long and strenuous duties.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
I intervene briefly in this most interesting Debate to take up a point which represents more the view of hon. Members on this side of the House than that put by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I speak with all the respect that I have for him and also for the view which he holds. I am of working-class origin too. I am not a militarist and if I support a voluntary army I do not think I can be labelled "a jingo" or "a militarist." Like my hon. Friend I am passionately devoted to raising the standard of life of all people in this country, and I hope he will accept that in all sincerity, in view of what I have to say.
None of us on this side of the House—and here I think I can speak for hon. Members opposite—wants the Army to have more than its proper share of the resources of this country. We may differ from hon. Members opposite about the size of that Army, but all of us want to have an adequately equipped, well trained, modern Army. On its size I am not competent to speak, but I accept the advice given to my right hon. Friends, the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Defence by their experts. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire talks about bloated figures in the Army doing nothing. I would say to him that if we have what in my view is a moderate, well trained army, it would mean that we should need fewer people to be called up in the conscript classes year by year. That, I am sure, will meet with his approval.
1705 On the question of publicity, we should do more both in newspaper articles and in posters. We are so close to the last war with all its horrors that none of us is wildly enthusiastic about rushing into the Army. It is only common sense that people will want to get over the shock of the last war, before dashing into the new Army to be rushed into another one. Also, there is this great difference between the period before the last war and now, that we are now in a period of full employment, which makes it far easier for people to get their living outside the Army. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) mentioned that people who went into the Army were not only the unemployed. I realise that there were people who liked the glamour and adventure that was entailed in joining the Army, but many people before the war had to join up through force of circumstances. That happily has been removed.
There is this significant note about the publicity for the Army today, that it must have a positive content. It is not enough to say, "Come into the Army. You will be well fed and clothed and you will see the world." Because it has to have this positive content, I join issue with the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) solely on that poster about 43 trades. In my view, many people who join the Forces are worried from the day they join about what they will do afterwards. Five or 12 years pass very quickly, and unless they have got some trade to go back to, they are bewildered and are unwilling to give up their lives to the Armed Forces even for a period of five years.
I welcome the fact that we are specialising at this stage on the basis of giving a trade in the Army. The mere fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman stressed it so much in his speech is a sign that this particular poster is a good poster. It was good publicity, because it made an effect upon him even if it were an adverse affect. There is the danger of having too many posters of the kind, "Join the Army, join the Air Force, join the Navy, join the Police or join this or that." They are all on the same hoarding or on the same page of one newspaper. I would ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, with whom I was associated as Parlia- 1706 mentary Private Secretary until recently, if he could co-operate with the other Departments to try to get a more specialised kind of publicity and avoid this overlapping.
Let me come to what I think we ought to do. Here again the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing hit the nail on the head when he said that the most important thing is the pay side of it. I am convinced that it is no good talking about bedside lamps and all the rest of it. It is only an aggravation to the men when they find that they have not got them. We have said that we want to make Army pay commensurate with the pay in civilian life. If we want the men for the Army, we have to do much better than that, because the civilian is not aggravated by petty annoyances or restrictions to which the soldier is subject. If anything, it should be a little better. I do not know if my hon. Friend can say anything on that point today, but the whole pay structure needs re-examining. We considered the post-war code of pay in a cursory manner, and if we had to consider it now it would not get through so easily.
There is one point which so far has not been made. Year by year we get hundreds of thousands of young men coming into the Forces for a year's training. If we are intelligent in our use of that one year it seems to me that it can be the most fruitful recruiting system for the permanent, Regular Army. If we can make those boys enjoy their lives so much, they will consider that it is worth while joining the Army, and as a result we may be able to get some of them to volunteer on a permanent basis. We should explore that far more.
There is one other small point. My hon. Friend has been very interested in the problem of recruiting, and he has been touring the country looking at recruiting centres to see what improvements can be made. I should like to ask him if he will this afternoon give us some of his impressions of those recruiting centres. My own view is that they are not attractive enough. They are tucked away in side streets and one has to look all over the place before finding them. By the time one has found them, one comes away without doing anything about it. Would it be possible for my hon. Friend to tell us which parts of the country are recruit- 1707 ing most people to the Armed Forces at the moment, because from that we may be able to derive certain lessons as to which kind of section of population is being most attracted at the moment? Can he tell us what publicity other than poster and newspaper articles is being used to recruit people for the permanent Army?
I should like now to return to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire. He said there was no appeal to nurses to join the fighting services. That is completely wrong because the Ministry of Health has been devoting infinite pains to try to get people to go into nursing. Posters are to be seen everywhere in England, though I cannot speak for Scotland. The object of these posters is to attract girls into nursing and they have met with a considerable measure of success.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The point I was making—I do not wish to cast any reflection on the Ministry of Health—is that in the part of the world I come from—Scotland—there is a glamorous appeal for the Forces in practically every Ministry of Labour office, and every country post office, but there is no similar urgent appeal for women to join the nursing staff needed to battle with tuberculosis. The appeal and publicity is directed towards attracting men into the Army and is certainly infinitely greater than that devoted to attracting girls to nursing.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I cannot comment in detail on that, but the nursing side might get more of it at this stage. Let me put the matter to my hon. Friend in this way. Surely, the women who go into the Forces replace men; they are doing jobs which otherwise would have to be done by men. I would say from experience that the women who went into the Forces did the sort of thing which we would expect women to do—such as cooking—far worse than the things—driving and so on—which we would expect men to do. I think women are much better at that kind of job, and are replacing men who are able then to play their full part in this country's productive enterprise outside the Forces. This has been a useful Debate. Later on we may need a similar Debate on the Territorial Army, which obviously does not fit into this one today. 1708 I ask my hon. Friend to put as much positive appeal into his recruiting publicity as he can.
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
I had not intended to intervene in this discussion but perhaps it is not a bad thing for someone to do so from these benches who has never been a Regular soldier and has lacked all the advantages so exemplified by my two hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) but who, nevertheless, has a very great regard for the Regular soldier and the Regular Army. Although it was the last thing I ever expected to do, I served 11 years in the Army—coming, perhaps, from a rather unlucky generation.
I listened with very great interest to the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd), whose speech produced several most useful points. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), a model of consistency, never gets up without wishing to bomb-blast the battleship, prang the Air Force and reduce the Army to one drummer boy, but he has led the Debate into channels which were not quite those which it should have followed. If I may say so without offence, I shall look on his speech as perhaps a rather agreeable piece of comic relief. I do not propose to answer his arguments because they do not seem very closely related to the question of recruiting for, not the Army as a whole, but the Regular Army.
The Regular Army, as I see it, is the core of the Army and is probably of greater importance to us in this country than the Regular Armies of any other country because it is the stable element—the professional element—and, therefore, it is of vital importance that every effort should be made to ensure that it is a satisfactory life and one which men of good character and normal ambition can take up with the reasonable certainty, that, if they do their best, they will have a reasonably prosperous and happy life.
At present there is no doubt at all—I am not attacking the Government on a party line but merely looking at the question from a national point of view—that we are not getting the recruits we need for the Regular Army. I do not think the Financial Secretary will be complacent 1709 about that or will be satisfied with the position—I can hardly imagine that he is. Therefore, if he is not satisfied, steps should be taken to improve the position. It may be that we can do more by posters and smartening up the dress of soldiers, which certainly is not particularly glamorous at present. I regret very much that the old traditional red coat of the British Army, which has covered itself with glory on so many stricken fields throughout the centuries, has been abandoned. That, I suppose, is a decision which is irrevocable for the present and cannot be gone back upon. The self-respect of a man is always improved by what he wears. If it is a uniform it should be one which is capable of looking well.
Welfare is important. I have had a considerable acquaintance with that admirable branch of the present military idea and I would like to give one warning. Welfare has been greatly publicised, but the establishment of a welfare service does not relieve an officer one iota of his responsibility to his men. In some units there was perhaps a tendency to think, "Oh, this is a job for the welfare service," just as towards the end of the war before last, when musketry had rather sunk, if anybody happened to be shot at by a rifle, there was a call for the snipers. It was parallel to that in its misapplication. Every officer is responsible for his men as much as he ever was. It is only to assist in those things for which he has not the resources that the welfare service exists and it should enable him to do much more than he has done in the past. It should never be taken as a cloak for slackness in taking care of men. It is important to remember that every regimental officer should look on his men from two aspects—as soldiers and as persons. There is nothing so unfortunate as when the latter relationship between an officer and his men is forgotten.
Pay is probably the most important single factor, but that has been already discussed and I do not propose to add to it. Another factor, which has been mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) is the certainty of employment when the period of service with the Regular Army is over. At present the Regular soldier does not get the certainty of employment which I should like him to have. There was no doubt that in 1710 some Continental armies the non-commissioned officer—the regular element in these big conscript armies—had an absolute no per cent. certainty of good employment in Government service. Nobody else got it. Our Regular soldiers' prospects are far less good.
The particular type of man who is in a great difficulty is the senior N.C.O., the man who has served in the Regular Army for a long time, to whom I, as an amateur, used to look as a sheet anchor. He is one of the most valuable elements that an Army could have. He has served for a long time in the Army and goes out at a higher age than the average. If he has a good record, if he has an exemplary character—as many of them have—he should have the absolute certainly of a good job to go to; because when a man gets old he looks, above all else, for security for himself and, even more, for his wife and family. At present the senior N.C.O.—the man who has served in the Regular Army for a long time and has given good service to it—is not getting the prospects which I would wish him to have. These would aid his ambition in doing such service for the Army and the country as to qualify him to become a senior N.C.O. He should get what he deserves—the prospect of a good job and reasonable security for himself and his family.
I think that the regimental tradition should be emphasised more. Above all, I would be interested to hear what the Minister will say in reply, because looking at the whole question it does seem to me that the recruiting campaign for the Regular Army is not being sufficiently successful. Therefore, what do the Government propose to do about it? The Regular soldier is the core of the Army and the Regular N.C.O. is, and has been, one of the most valuable assets that this country has had, not only in war, but also in peace. The British soldier, unlike the soldiers of some countries, has always borne the highest character, and that is true of the Regular soldier in peace-time as it is of any soldier in war-time.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
It seems to me that what the initiators of this very interesting Adjournment Debate wish to do is to seek more 1711 clarification from the Government spokesman of the position we see ourselves in at the moment, namely, that the Government are failing to produce, for whatever reason, the core of volunteers for the Regular contingent of our Army which is so essential if we are to maintain a military force at all. One remark made by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) at the end of his speech did point the theme today. He said that what we are after is to have a big, efficient volunteer element inside His Majesty's Forces. The remark of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) also gave a clue. What he is saying is that we cannot have a good and efficient military force unless it is based upon a good sense of discipline, proper officer-man relationship and proper welfare facilities, but essentially a good sense of discipline. It seems to me that we cannot have good discipline in any Service unit unless we have a proper standard of morale amongst the troops.
What is wrong with His Majesty's Army at the moment, and I am on record as having said this in a longer Debate in this House a year or so ago, is that we have chosen to have as the basis of recruitment for the Army a conscript force and, as was said by an hon. Member opposite, it is from there that we expect to recruit our volunteer force. I do not believe that we shall get volunteers to continue their service after their year of conscript service unless we can first establish inside the conscript force the standard of morale and discipline which alone makes men satisfied with their service and seek to continue serving their country by continuing in the Army.
There are various aspects which disturb me. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) said something about the lack of emphasis on the county regimental tradition. This is particularly noticeable when we take men, most of them unwilling, who register from school, or interrupt the beginning of their industrial life, and pitchfork them into six months of training in a conscript unit. They do not stay long enough to have any sense of morale or esprit de corps such as they would have got if they had been led into the tradition of the old regimental unit. Then they go out again, perhaps being required to join the Territorial 1712 Force of a different county and a different regiment.
Although perhaps this is not the right Debate for it, I would throw out for consideration the suggestion of men doing at least six months of their Territorial service with their Territorial units before they go into the Regular Service in order that, in less strange environment they might get some sense of comradeship, moral and esprit de corps, and get some of that sense without which we cannot get good morale and discipline. Then they could go to the Regular Service unit which is associated with the county Territorial Force to which they can reasonably expect subsequently to go, if they complete their year's conscript service, and then go back and finish their time with the Reserve.
Unless we can get into the men in their first year of military service a sense of loyalty and of belonging to something, a sense of making a contribution to something of which they are proud, and to the prowess and progress of which they want to make a contribution, we cannot hope to build up a disciplined force, and have the volunteer element in the Regular Army which I believe is essential, if we are to have a reasonable instrument on which we can depend if, which God forbid, this country should have again to call upon its military strength.
Having got these men in their conscript units, most of them in my submission unwillingly, we must examine what happens to them during the first year. I do not know whether it was the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) or another hon. Member who said that the best advertising for the Army lies in the Army itself. After having got the conscripts into the military service we can then treat them in an intelligent and disciplined fashion so that they feel they know what they are doing and have a sense of making a contribution to the welfare of the community, a sense of real service. Then I think we should not have the difficulty we are having at the moment in getting them to continue in the Service by signing on for a Regular engagement.
In fact, one sees them loafing in the streets. Their appearance is below the standard of the troops during the recent war. They drift about, and the incidence of petty crime and petty absence without 1713 leave, and so on, is no better than it was even at the worst period when their homes were being bombed in London and the big towns. They do not feel that what they are doing has any significance or importance inside the scheme of the life of this country. My view of course is that it has not, because there is no reason at all for us to have a conscript force which puts at the disposal of senior officers, who cannot possibly be expected to hazard a guess about the nature, structure and technique of the Army in a couple of years' time, more men than they properly know how to cope with. I believe that the ruination of the Regular Army is the fact that we have a larger body of conscript troops than we can properly train.
I beg the Under-Secretary and his right hon. Friend to look again at the whole question of social education, education into citizenship and education into the purpose of having to do service of any kind whether military or otherwise for our community. I believe we should get an infinitely better military force and a greater degree of voluntary recruitment from that, than from any bedside lamps or other expedients. In my opinion that is the proper basis for a real Army.
§ 2.58 p.m.
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
I hope that the Financial Secretary listened well to what the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington) said about the regimental spirit. Unfortunately, over the last few years a number of attacks have been made on the regimental spirit from the Treasury Bench. I am quite certain that nothing but harm has come as a result of undermining that regimental spirit. I hope, too, that the Parliamentary Secretary, unlike the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd), will also bear in mind that the Regular Army and the Territorial Army are bound very closely together and will not consider them as two things apart.
As a serving Territorial officer I would be a little apprehensive if I thought we were to have large drafts of young conscripts and then lose them after six months. We have enough difficulties with which to contend without the extra burden of men whose hearts could not be in a unit if they knew they would only stay there for a short time.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has quite got my point. The difficulty is that they are not getting recruits at the moment, and I would seek to stimulate voluntary recruitment by assuring them that during their whole period of service, having started with their local county Territorial unit, they would then go to a Regular conscript unit knowing that they would have continuity of association throughout the whole of their service.
I see the point of the hon. and gallant Gentleman but I think it would be making too many changes in a rather short period of service. I do not wish to go into any particular Territorial Army problems, except to make the point that the Territorial Army should be considered, to put it crudely, as part of the publicity agency, of the Regular Army, and that through the Territorial Army the Regular Army should look for a proportion of its long-service volunteers as it has done in the past.
That brings me to a comment on another poster. We have heard criticisms of the 43 trades poster, but there is a most extraordinary poster which has been sharing the hoardings with pleas to join the Palestine Police, for about the last two years. It is a picture of a man. Whether he is taking his clothes off or putting his clothes on it is difficult to tell. Underneath there is some caption about the Territorial Army. I can promise the Financial Secretary that it has done the Territorial Army no good. I do not think it has done anybody any good at all, with the possible exception of the printer. It has no clear appeal. Surely, if there is to be a poster campaign, those responsible should make up their minds how long that campaign is to last, there should be some definite story running through the campaign, and a climax at the end. That poster has become a feeble joke, so I hope the Financial Secretary will destroy it and, at a later date, initiate a proper campaign in favour of recruiting for the Territorial Army. It is true there was a Mansion House lunch, at which one of his predecessors made a speech, but that does not constitute a national campaign. With regard to recruiting, in some units it is not wholly unsatisfactory, in others it is entirely unsatisfactory, and there is every reason now why the hon. Gentleman should 1715 attend to this, not only for the sake of the Territorial Army, but for that of the Army as a whole.
I do not think recruiting for the Territorial Army is mainly affected by pay questions; in the past all ranks used to pay for the privilege of serving, and that not so many years ago. At the same time we are extremely annoyed when we find that our scale of allowances is not the same as that of the Regular Service. Will he look into that? A great deal of irritation is felt when it is discovered that some messing allowance of 2½d. or 5½d. is disallowed. Those are the small things which in course of time can have a large effect.
Again, transport can contribute to showmanship. Ten days ago I attended a weekend camp, and the 60 or so men who attended the camp, drawn from two companies—not wholly unsatisfactory today—were not taken in R.A.S.C. troop carrying vehicles but in civilian hired lorries, red, white, blue, and all the colours of the rainbow. The only excuse given was that there was little R.A.S.C. transport in Northern Command, and what lorries there were were aiding the meat supplies in the London Docks. That is a pitiful situation. It would be the highest possible advertisement for the Army if, when a unit runs a weekend camp, it could be done in a spick and span fashion from drill hall door at the start to drill hall door at the finish. We should not be expected to move through the towns and villages looking like a village fair.
My last point is about the No. 1 uniform. There is a great deal of apprehension that when this new uniform appears, probably at no distant date, we shall get it only in limited issues so that it may take a number of years before any unit is completely equipped. I leave it to the Minister's imagination to tell him what the situation will be. For the first year it may mean that 20 per cent. of the men in a unit will be wearing the uniform and the other 80 per cent. will be waiting for it. Perhaps for five years the unit will be going about looking like black and tans—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that recruiting will take place in a black and tan uniform?
The hon. Gentleman has not understood what I said, any more than he has understood a great deal else during this Debate. I used the words "black and tan" not in any sense in which it appears to have struck the hon. Gentleman but in the sense of having a particular unit in mixed dress perhaps to the extent of one fifth in blue and the remainder in battle dress. I would beg the Minister to consider whether a unit would not become an object of ridicule if that situation arose, and I would ask him that when this uniform is issued it will be done in such a way as to be acceptable to commanding officers. He might like to put examples of the uniform in the tea room, as was done about two years ago. But I do beg him to ensure that whole units are equipped at the same time. The matters which I have raised are important when taken by themselves, as well as cumulatively. If the Minister does not pay attention to them the interests of our national Army which is our national defence are bound to suffer, whatever anyone may think.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Michael Stewart)
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) deserves our congratulation and gratitude for the wide and interesting Debate to which his speech on the Adjournment has given rise. He mentioned that should he be so unfortunate as to displease his constituents at the next Election he would then serve the nation in another sphere. I should warn him that by saying that he is possibly tempting my right hon. Friend and myself to take special action in his constituency at the next Election, not merely with a view to partisan advantage but with a view to the national advantage which may accrue if the hon. and gallant Member's services were directly available to us on the topics which he has so ably raised this afternoon.
I would refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). He has to a considerable extent, been answered by some of my other hon. Friends. I do not think that he suggests that this country should, in all circumstances, be completely deprived of military defence. Whatever the size of our Armed Forces may be—that is a point of dispute with some hon. 1717 Members—it will certainly be necessary for them to contain a solid voluntary element. It is therefore quite proper that, whatever device or machinery there is for recruiting that voluntary element should be efficiently and competently managed. That is the point we are discussing. The wider issues raised by my hon. Friend could not profitably be discussed under the heading of Army recruiting. The need for efficient recruiting abides, whatever view may be taken on the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire.
Another topic which I should like to set aside from the main stream of the Debate, not because it is not important but rather for the contrary reason, is that of Territorial Army recruiting. The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) spoke just now of the desirability of a national campaign which, he pointed out rightly, is rather more than a lunch at the Mansion House. It will be within the knowledge of hon. Members that it is intended to carry out a campaign for recruitment into the Territorial Army on the most ambitious scale. In order that that campaign may be well launched, may have behind it the full support of all those people who do voluntary work for the Territorial Army—there are very many, and we owe a great debt to them all over the country—in order that the campaign may be launched with their full support and in the most auspicious manner, it is necessary to settle a number of points of principle and of administration, some of which were mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Westmorland.
There are, for example, questions with regard to allowances, the position of men in certain occupations who may wish to volunteer for the Territorial Army, and so on. It is on those and other points that my right hon. Friend will be able to make a statement before long, and I am sure the House will agree that on an occasion like this, when the whole question of Army recruiting and Army life has been raised at comparatively short notice, it would not be at all appropriate for me to attempt, even if it were possible, in any way to anticipate that statement.
If I do not say any more than that on the question of the Territorial Army, it is, as I have indicated, not because it is an unimportant subject but because it is 1718 far too large and important, and at this moment too critical a topic to be taken up in the imperfect way with which I should have to deal with it if I attempted to say much at this time. We are, therefore, mainly concerned with the question of voluntary recruitment into the Regular Army, or perhaps one ought to say the full-time part of our national Army, because that is really what we have at the present time—a national Army in which there is a full-time voluntary element, a full-time conscript element and a territorial volunteer element, and also in the comparatively near future there will be a National Service element in the Territorial Army, but they must all be thought of as parts of a national Army.
On this question of voluntary recruitment to the Regular Army or, if it is preferred, the full-time part of the Army, that subject divides itself under two heads. Let us consider the actual machinery of recruiting. Are we putting before the public in the most compelling and attractive manner possible the thing which, if I may use commercial language, we have to sell? That is one part of it. The other part with which I would first like to deal is: What is the nature of the article that we have to sell? Is it an article which, if the public have once acquainted themselves with it, they will like and approve of and which will make its own market as time goes on? That is to say, what is the nature of Army life today, and of a career in the Army?
We make a very large section of the public aware of what the Army is like through the process of conscription. It would take far too long to go over all the arguments that were advanced and which, if I may remind the House, convinced hon. Members not so very long ago that peace-time conscription was necessary. For myself I hold most firmly—and every day in which I have the honour to continue in my present office convinces me more firmly—that it would not be possible for this country to discharge its commitments and to maintain its own defences adequately without the maintenance of peace-time National Service.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is that an official statement on behalf of the Government, that we are committed to permanent conscription, or is it a personal view?
§ Mr. Stewart
When the hon. Member says "permanent," I must make it plain that I was not suggesting that that will be the position, for all I know, in a quarter of a century or half a century's time. I am speaking with reference to the position as it is today. It has been suggested in some quarters of the House today that we ought now to do without conscription. What I am saying quite definitely, and what certainly is the view of the Government, is that in the position with which we are faced today it is necessary to maintain the measure of peacetime National Service which is now on the statute book.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I think he slightly misrepresented the views which were put forward. I do not think it was ever suggested that we could do away with National Service now, but what I think was expressed was the hope that we should be able to increase voluntary recruitment so that it might become unnecessary.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry if I misrepresented any hon. Member, but I should like to make it clear that in face of the present circumstances I do not believe it to be possible to dispense with compulsory National Service.
When a man comes into the Army and serves a period, which before long will be a period simply of 12 months, does his experience during that time make it likely that he will want to become a volunteer member of the Regular Army? Hon. Members have drawn attention to the number of aspects of Army life. On the question of pay, which was mentioned by a number of hon. Members, I would say this: the question of Service pay—and this is a matter, of course, which would have to be examined not merely by the Army but jointly with the other Services—was considered comparatively recently. Perhaps, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) suggested, it was not considered carefully enough by the House.
An attempt was made, and it was thought at the time that a successful attempt was made, to preserve a fair proportion between pay in the Services and the rates of wages prevailing in civilian life. It is true that since then there have been some alterations in some civilian 1720 occupations but, as was pointed out in the House recently, we cannot make this comparison between Service pay and civilian pay too rigid because of the extent to which a Service man is paid by some things which he receives not in cash but in kind, I would add that I have listened most carefully to the arguments advanced on that question by hon. Members and to the concern which so many hon. Members obviously have for it.
Turning to points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), after he had mentioned the question of pay he discussed the question of the treatment of the recruit on entry. What sort of impression does the Army make on him when he first comes to it from civilian life? Is it an impression which is likely to make him either join the Army himself or suggest to other people in later life that that would be a sensible thing to do? I do not accept the view on that point, expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington), that these men come in, for the most part, unwillingly. I would not accept that view. It is true that these men come forward under a legal obligation and not entirely of their own volition, but my own conviction is that the great majority come in quite cheerfully, quite anxious to see what Army life will be like, quite eager to make the best of it, and not only because of the novelty of it.
That is the frame of mind in which most men enter the Army. The House will be aware that in the spring of this year an alteration was made whereby a new recruit entering the Army does not go to what was known as the P.T.C.—Primary Training Centre—but goes to the A.B.T.U.—Arms Basic Training, Unit. That is to say, from the moment he enters the Army he belongs to a definite arm: he is not in what one might call a nondescript corps. We were not quite certain how that would work out and it has been interesting to discover by experience that one definite advantage it has is that of making the recruit feel, from the moment he enters the Army, that he belongs to something which has a real existence, a real purpose of its own.
When the hon. Gentleman says "real existence" does he mean a county regiment or just a corps?
§ Mr. Stewart
I was thinking primarily of a corps of the arm of the Army to which the man belongs. In the case of the infantry, of course, he would belong not only to the infantry but to a particular Group. At any rate, it is more useful than his going straight away into what was, in effect, a nondescript unit where he knew he would not be any length of time. I believe that his going straight to an A.B.T.U. secures the result in which hon. and gallant Members have expressed themselves interested—that the man does feel from an early stage that he belongs to something which has a purpose, that his time is not being wasted, that he belongs to an institution of which he can be proud. That view was expressed to me by officers and men in more than one kind of A.B.T.U. I had the good fortune to visit recently.
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing asked, Did we treat these men well? I was interested to observe, when looking at an old fashioned recruiting poster recently, that one of the inducements offered to men to join a particular regiment was, that the regiment was commanded by a gallant and well known hero whose name was there given—this was some time in the last century or even earlier—and that this was the regiment in which the men were most kindly treated of all the regiments in the Army.
§ Mr. Stewart
Nothing; but I do not think we should use quite that wording today in a recruiting poster. I was not quite sure on that occasion when I was looking at the old fashioned poster that we should not consider what are the underlying ideas they had in mind when they issued it, and how they could be put into terminology which would be appropriate to the 20th century. My own impression, having visited A.B.T.U.s to give to the best of my ability my attention to this question, is that we do treat the young recruit, when he goes into the A.B.T.U. in the early months of his Army service, in a way which would give satisfaction to his parents, to his friends, and which helps him to feel that the Army has a real and personal interest in him.
§ Mr. Stewart
My hon. Friend is presumably referring to military corrective establishments, one of which was visited by the Secretary of State, in his capacity of Secretary of State, not so very long ago. I would tell my hon. Friend that when he makes a casual reference of that nature—
§ Mr. Stewart
So have I. When my hon. Friend makes casual references of that kind, he is, I am afraid, showing not only his lack of sympathy with the policy of the Government, to which we are very well accustomed, but that he has not troubled to keep himself up to date on what are the conditions of Army life at the present time. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) and other hon. Members stressed the importance of the position of commanding officers, saying that commanding officers should not get into the habit of saying that this, that or the other of the personal problems of the men under their command was a matter for Welfare. My feeling is that commanding officers are very well aware of that. It was true during the war—it was inevitable—that welfare services should grow. The great number of men who had to be dealt with, the range of problems to be dealt with, and, in some cases, the length of time men were with one commanding officer, were such that we had to make welfare a quite specialist business. The movement now is decidedly in the other direction. I do not mean that Army welfare services can disappear, but that there is a proper resumption by commanding officers of a field of work which, through sheer necessity, they had sometimes to set aside during the war.
§ Sir R. Ross
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman could have heard the full effect of my observations on that point. It is not only the Commanding Officer, although he is predominantly responsible, but every officer who is responsible.
§ Mr. Stewart
I accept that, and the degree to which that is appreciated throughout the unit, but the whole key note is set by the attitude of the Commanding Officer.
Reference was made to what view mothers may take of the life which we are providing for their sons during their first 1723 few months in the Army. One ought not to lay too much stress on casual encounters, but it was my good fortune to visit an A.B.T.U. recently, and to talk to young recruits who had been only a few weeks in the Army. I asked one of them, which, of all the things which he was required to do while he had been in the Army, was the one which he disliked most. He replied, after about ten seconds hesitation, "Having to make my own bed when I get up in the morning." I could not help feeling that his experience in early life had been one of perhaps undeserved good fortune in the matter of making his own bed, and that his mother might feel on his return from Army service that, far from suffering anything, he had acquired a new and useful skill, apart from any military knowledge which we might have been able to give him.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
Is not my hon. Friend's argument based on the assumption that the sole sum of a man's benefit from military service will be his dexterity in making beds, and is it not a fact that we do teach him other things in the Army besides making beds?
§ Mr. Stewart
That is true. While I would not give too much weight to an isolated example of that kind, I suggest that this particular incident of bed-making illustrates one thing—there are certain things which a young man living away from home for the first time does learn, and which he will be glad of in later life.
It was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing that a clear distinction should be drawn between the strict discipline which is necessary for military purposes and the widest possible measure of freedom which can be given to a soldier, consistent with the performance of his military duties; or, as so many of us have heard it more simply and eloquently expressed, "On parade is on parade; off parade is off parade." That has been a subject of repeated advice to commanding officers throughout the country. The interest which the Chief of the Imperial General Staff takes in what is sometimes described as "The soldier's way of life" is, I think, well-known—the reconciling of the strict discipline necessary for the performance of military duty with his obvious rights and needs as a human being.
1724 I do not suggest, of course, that when we look at Army life and the treatment of young recruits that that is a field in which no improvements can be made. It is a common device in this House to ask the Minister if he is satisfied with such and such a thing. That presents the Minister with a simple dilemma. If he says, "No," then it will be thought why does he not do something about it in order to make himself satisfied; if he says, "Yes," that is regarded as clear proof of self-complacency. The Minister of Health has recently provided us with a way out of that dilemma. In a recent Debate in reply to a question in that form; his answer was that he was not satisfied, but that he was proud of what had been done. I believe that it is possible for us to say, when we look at the task which we have taken up since the end of the war of making compulsory national service work, in circumstances often of great difficulty, that we are in process of finding an answer which will make a young man feel that he has rendered useful service to his country; and he may well be influenced to cause others to join the Army.
It would not be reasonable to expect that every man will so enjoy his period of National Service that he will be determined to become a Regular soldier when his period of National Service comes to an end. We must recognise in these times that there will be very many men who wish to render lives of service, not only to themselves but to the State, but who do not feel they can best do so in the Armed Forces.
I have been speaking of the nature of the article which the Army has to sell. Now as to the question originally raised by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely; with what degree of competence is that put over by the machinery of Army recruiting? In particular, he criticised the approach, which I admit is so obvious at first sight in Army recruiting propaganda at the present time—the suggestion to the man, "If you join the Army you will be well-trained. You will be able to look forward to a future, after you leave the Army, as a skilled workman with a recognised position in the world of organised labour." The view of the hon. and gallant Member was, as I understood it, not that we ought not 1725 to say that, but that we were saying it too loudly and to the exclusion of other matters which we ought to stress.
No one, I think, mentioned one of the most important reasons for that: that if we look at the total figures for recruiting we may regard ourselves as not unsatisfied with the result; but that there is a serious danger of our not being able to recruit in sufficient numbers to the technical arms. The bias in Army recruiting propaganda at present is mainly due to the fact that the shortage is most serious in the technical arms. Therefore, we have for the time being, until that situation is righted, to direct a special appeal to men whose attitude towards life is that of the technician, to the man who is interested in using his hand and brain on the kind of job requiring the skilled co-ordination of hand, eye and wits. It is to him that those advertisements are particularly directed.
I am bound to say, I do not accept the criticisms of some of the particular posters which have been mentioned. It is, after all, entirely a matter of opinion and taste whether the face of the soldier in the "43 trades" advertisement is or is not to be regarded as moon-faced; others would say that it radiated youth, cheerfulness and an eager looking forward into the future. It is even possible that one's view of that poster might be affected by whether one wished to score a point for or against His Majesty's Government, so I do not think we can pursue that too far.
We pursue this line of propaganda, partly for the reason I have mentioned—shortage in the technical arms—and partly because we are, I think, making up for the past neglect of this problem. Moreover, as this matter was discussed by hon. Members—for example, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton)—there seemed to be a general agreement with the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely, that we ought not to try to get people into the Army by talking only about their position when they leave the Army; but that, on the other hand, it would be a very serious dereliction of duty to neglect their position when they leave.
The question of resettlement has been under constant discussion between ourselves and the Ministry of Labour, and 1726 we have already succeeded in bringing into operation a number of measures—and we shall go further—which will make it far more certain than it has been in the past that there is a suitable and dignified occupation for the regular soldier when his term of service is finished. It is true that in the past insufficient attention has been paid to that, and to some extent in this matter of recruiting young men are influenced by what members of the older generation tell them. Some of these members of the older generation tell a story of neglect of all these factors of resettlement in the past. We can honestly say that we are not neglecting it to-day, and we therefore have to bring it forth and give it particular emphasis in our propaganda at this time.
Another reason for laying stress on this, and I hope Members will not shy away in horror of the word, is the psychological argument. We have to consider what kind of men we are appealing to. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely has mentioned the older type of soldier whom we still require in order to give the Regular Army its strength. He had in mind, no doubt, those iron qualities of obedience, loyalty and discipline which almost alone have made the immense reputation of the Army in the history of the world. We are appealing to the sons and grandsons of those men who joined the Army at the beginning of the century and earlier, and although these grandsons and sons will have inherited the military virtues of their fathers and grandfathers, it is the fact that with the general change in social and living conditions they will be probably better educated—I imagine that all grandfathers and fathers hope that their children and grandsons will be better educated than they were. Therefore, the young man in deciding what career he will follow will look further ahead. A man has to think not only of himself but of his family. It is notorious that so far as the men themselves are concerned they would cheerfully face, at the call of national duty, any kind of danger and risk, but they hesitate about exposing their families to risk.
The young man today looks ahead more than the previous generation and says to himself that if he wants to marry and have a family he has to make allowance for providing the sort of opportunities he 1727 wishes to afford to his children after he has finished his service. We have to allow for that change in social habits. That is why we have laid so much stress on this. I think Members are mistaken in supposing that we have allowed this particular aspect of our recruiting to elbow out completely the remainder. For reasons I have mentioned we have been bound to give it considerable prominence. It is arguable whether we have overdone it, but we have not yet rubbed out completely the other forms of appeal.
If Members will look at the successive posters which are appearing they will find that a proportion of them refer to the fact that the Army is a noble career, and that while in the Army the men will have an interesting and varied life. They will see too that these advertisements occupy a rather higher proportion than they have supposed. If they look at the booklet on "The Modern Army," which they can pick up at any Post Office, they will see that considerable stress is laid on this in its letterpress, and in another booklet, which I have been recently reading, stress is laid upon the comradeship of the Army, upon the service rendered by the Army to the nation, and that by being in the Army a man is doing something useful in his life and something of which he can be proud.
I have recently visited a number of recruiting offices, and I am bound to say that some of the criticism I have heard in this House as to the bad location of these offices has got out of proportion. I do not deny that there are some which are badly located, but it is a great deal easier to say that they are badly located than to discover in the present conditions of accommodation how we are immediately going to remedy that problem.
Recruiting officers are not without ingenuity in this matter. In places they have taken their own remedy such as approaching the manager of the cinema and in one case a recruiting officer approached a commercial firm and secured a window in which he could have a recruiting display. In that display he gave the exact location of the recruiting office, so that it would be made known to all who passed by. I must say, however, that a number of the offices I saw were very well sited indeed. They were in places where the great mass of the 1728 population pass them day by day. Not only did they pass them, but they stopped and looked in the window, because the recruiting offices rely not only on posters but on photographs showing the modern Army doing something useful. I formed the opinion that we could with advantage have a greater variety of these posters, and we could pursue with greater vigour and imagination the advertising of the constructive purpose of the Army. The Army is to serve not only this country but all mankind, and it is well that our Army does exist and is one of the factors in world politics at the present time.
In the course of this Debate we have had a number of suggestions for altering tactics in this direction in the interests of our recruiting. We have had our attention drawn to particular features in Army life, which may well merit special attention, but I do not think that any case has been made out—indeed, I do not think there was any intention to make one out—against the Government for being unaware or for neglecting this problem. What we have to bear in mind is that we have got to tie together several strings if our appeal for Army recruiting is to be really successful, the old and new reasons for joining the Army. We have got to remember that some people approach the matter with what one may call, without any derogatory meaning, the old fashioned approach saying, "My family have served for many generations in this particular regiment, and I want to do the same thing." Another man approaches it from a different angle and says, "I want to join the Army because I like that kind of life, and I believe the Army has scope for the particular kind of skill of hand and brain that I possess." The second man is not influenced so much by the older ties of loyalty, but his devotion to the work and to the country is not less on that account.
Somehow, we have got to tie these two together, and it is not always easy to do so, because for one thing the advance of mechanisation in the Army makes it a bit more difficult to tie men and units closely to a particular area on the map. It is the nature of modern warfare which has imposed the necessity for the grouping system in the organisation of the infantry. If we are prepared, as the War Office is prepared, to study past experience and to keep in touch with the judgment of the 1729 present generation and use the newest and most expert ideas about advertising and propaganda; and if we can tie up all the reasons why men should want to render this form of service to the State as well as all the publicity methods, both old and new, to the present requirements I think that there will be that improvement in Army recruiting which we all want to see.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
With the permission of the House may I ask the Under-Secretary one question before he sits down? I hope that he will not overlook one of the points in my speech regarding the availability during training of equipment. I was referring, as it appeared from what the hon. Gentleman said, to the training equipment available in A.B.T.U.s, the new horror of abbreviation with which we have been infected, but I am thinking much more of the availability of equipment when men join units subsequently to their training. After all, the training required in A.B.T.U.s is simple and elementary. It is the further training which is vital, but is nonexistent.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry that I did not take up the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member. It is one which I appreciate. The use of the word "nonexistent" is a serious exaggeration, but I think the hon. and gallant Member has put his finger on a matter to which we shall have to give attention.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
I apologise for not having been present when the Debate began. Since I came into the Chamber I have heard certain statements from the hon. Gentleman which demand comment, if nothing more. I should like, first, to say that, from what I heard of his speech, the intentions of the hon. Gentleman seem to be very much better than the result of any action he has so far been able to take.
The particular remark in his speech which worried me was about pay. I realise that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) referred in particular to posters for recruiting, and I understand that he gave the hon. Gentleman some figures which he has not fully referred to or explained. The hon. Gentleman will agree—and in 1730 the course of his speech admitted—that pay has an important bearing on this matter. He said that the House had recently given careful consideration to the pay question. That really will not do. The House gave very careful consideration to it when civilian wages were at least 15 per cent., if not 20 per cent. below what they are today. The case for the Government when introducing these rates was that at that time they bore a reasonable relation to civilian wages and earnings, but, if these have since risen by 20 per cent., it is time that the House gave careful consideration to the problem again.
Some of us on this side have been trying during the last few months to get a statement from the Minister of Defence or the Secretary of State for War of the up-to-date relationship of present rates of pay in the Armed Forces with civilian earnings. Instead of facing the situation Ministers on the Front Bench have absolutely refused to do so. Many of us who are looking into this matter realise, as obviously the hon. Gentleman himself realises, how important it is, and we propose, having studied it carefully, to give the comparison which the Government will not give. It takes time to work out but when we have worked it out, we propose to give it to the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Gentleman if they will not give it themselves. It is a great dereliction of duty that they will not face the facts of today.
In his speech the hon. Gentleman mentioned the great difficulty which he has in recruiting for the technical arms of the Service. One of the reasons why he is not able to get men to join the technical arms is the present pay scheme. On the last occasion when we discussed this matter he thought he would get over the problem by compulsory posting from one corps to another. Today he says that one of the things he has to do is to give greater emphasis to the post-Army life of the men who recruit into the Army. All these things may help him—
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Member makes a mistake when he says that today I say so and so, and that this sort of thing is one way of putting the problem off. We drew up the nature of this recruiting appeal and the reason for it a considerable time ago. Nor was it at any time 1731 suggested that compulsory transfer was meant to be a way in which we could solve, or were likely to solve, this particular problem.
§ Mr. Low
The hon. Gentleman has mistaken me. I do not expect that it is the only solution he has, but it is the justification for all these steps and one of the main justifications he himself put to this House for the introduction of compulsory transfer from corps to corps in the Army, Now today I have heard him say that the chief justification for this form of publicity in army posters is that he has to appeal to the men to join the technical arms. It is quite clear therefore that he is faced with this problem and he chooses his courses. I am putting to him that the real problem is the present relationship of Service pay and civilian wages.
I was pleased to hear the general outline of the War Office outlook on the problem of recruiting today. I only wish that the actions of the Government were much better. I realise it is not the fault of the hon. Gentleman or even of the Secretary of State. He has to persuade the whole of the Government. Another point is with regard to this word "A.B.T.U." one of the many new abbreviations that seem to be foisted upon this House from time to time. We really are getting into the most terrible state of inventing new words for the English language. When one was in the Army if one went to the Staff College one had an examination in abbreviations. It was difficult enough during the war to keep up with all these abbreviations, even though one went to the Staff College and spent some time trying to learn them. How the hon. Gentleman thinks that hon. Members of this House are going to keep up with all these most frightful abbreviations I do not know.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman will remember that when I used the word "A.B.T.U." I immediately translated it as Arms Basic Training Unit.
§ Mr. Low
It does not make it any better, even if one or two hon. Members did happen to hear the hon. Gentleman and know what it meant.
The second thing he said with which I must join issue was that the speeches of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) often contained casual references. I have heard the hon. Member make many speeches, but I have never heard him being casual. He is most emphatic and serious in everything which he has to say. I do hope also that the next time the hon. Gentleman addresses the House he will try to shorten some of his phrases. I heard him say, much to my regret, "Great masses of the population pass by recruiting offices." By that I understood him to mean that many people walk by these recruiting offices.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I do not know if the hon. Member is hoping to speak? If so, I must remind him that he has already exhausted his right to speak.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member spoke on the Question, "That the House do now adjourn"; that was the question proposed.
§ Sir W. Darling
Then you will permit me, Sir, to ask a question with the leave of the House? Has the hon. Gentleman given consideration to the importance of developing personal leadership? He referred to the glamour and colour of days gone by; has he any views on reviving that glamour and leadership among the many hon. and gallant Gentlemen available?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Four Minutes to Four o'Clock.