§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is an amending Bill which brings up to date and co-ordinates in various important particulars the existing statutes governing the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces of the three Services. The form of the Bill, which is perhaps somewhat complicated, may need some explanation. What it does is to legislate directly for the Territorial Army and the Army Reserve which are governed by one series of statutes; to make provision for those Clauses affecting the Territorial Army and the Army Reserve to be adapted and applied to the Auxiliary Air Force and the Air Force Reserve respectively by Order in Council; and also to make direct provisions for the Naval Reserves which are governed by a separate series of statutes.
It may be asked why these Clauses are necessary and why the Air Force Reserve and Auxiliary Forces could not be dealt with directly by provisions in the Bill. Under the Air Force (Constitution) Act, 1917, as stated in Clause 7 (1), power is given to apply by Order in Council to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and Air Force Reserve any of the enactments relating to the Army Reserve and the Territorial Forces. Consequently, during the past 30 years, a large number of Orders in Council have been issued applying these provisions to the Auxiliaries and Reserves of the Royal Air Force. It was considered preferable to maintain this procedure; otherwise it would have been necessary to have introduced a consolidation Bill of a most comprehensive nature, which was not considered practicable having regard to the present state of the Parliamentary programme.
The Bill has three main objects. In the first place, it amends the constitution and powers of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations with a view to assisting them in carrying out the very 2352 important and onerous responsibilities which have been placed upon them. We hope, therefore, that these provisions, at any rate, will be non-controversial. I would, however, draw the attention of the House to two of the proposals contained in Clauses 2 and 3, namely, that representatives of industry, both of employers and of workers, are to be appointed members of the associations by the Army Council and Air Council instead of being co-opted as now. The associations will also be required in future to consult both representatives of employers and of workers in their areas in arranging the most suitable times for training. The second main object of the Bill is to make the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces as well as Regular Reservisits more readily available to meet either an actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom. The third main object is to facilitate the calling up of Regular Reservists of all three Services for service overseas in certain eventualities.
The proposed changes in conditions of service relate to a situation which may arise after the emergency which began in 1939 comes to an end. As the House knows, technically that emergency still exists, and so long as it continues adequate powers to recall officers and men, should they be required, are available. But we have to look beyond this. The powers asked for in the Bill are those which the Government conceive to be required to enable them to make effective use of the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces in the kind of emergency foreseen under modern conditions.
The main provisions of the Bill are, firstly, that all the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces—the Territorial Army, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the Army and Air Force Reserves generally, and the Reserves of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines can be called out for service without a Proclamation to meet an actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
My right hon. Friend used the words "apprehended attack." Will he please be a little more explicit and tell the House what is meant by an "apprehended attack"?
§ Mr. Henderson
This terminology is not new. It has been set out in previous 2353 Acts of Parliament, and in the Auxiliary Air Force and Air Force Reserve Act, 1924, provision was made for calling out the Auxiliaries and Reserves in exactly identical circumstances to meet an actual or apprehended attack. I should have thought that there would be no difficulty in appreciating that a situation may arise in which there has not been an attack but in which there is apprehension of an attack, as there was in 1938 in the days of Munich.
As I have said, this form of words, which is already embodied in certain previous statutes, is intended to enable the Government to call out the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces quickly and without the publicity attaching to the issue of Proclamations when they have reason to think that there is a real risk of an attack on this country. These powers are required to meet the sort of situation to which I have just referred, which we faced both at the time of Munich and in 1939, though in 1939 we possessed additional powers under a special Act passed in May of that year which lapsed in 1942.
At the time of Munich, however, we did in fact apprehend an attack, and parts of the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force were called out in anticipation of it and without waiting for them to be embodied by Proclamation. The Government at that time were able to call them out because under existing statutes members of these Forces could voluntarily undertake to be called out to meet an apprehended attack, and many of them had so voluntarily undertaken at the time of Munich.
This undertaking has always been a condition of enlistment in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and, since 1947, it has been a condition of enlistment in the Territorial Army also. It is now proposed to make this liability statutory for all the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces. In the case, therefore, of existing members of the Territorial Forces and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force there is no change whatever in their terms of service. As regards future entrants who will continue to be volunteers, they will accept this liability of their own free choice.
The procedure for mobilising by Proclamation was designed in 1859 when the circumstances attending the outbreak of war were fundamentally different from 2354 those of the present day. There was usually a formal declaration of war and the news of any mobilisation could only travel slowly. The present possibilities of sudden and devastating attack by an aggressor which might paralyse the whole of the country were unknown. Experience during the present century has shown with increasing force the need for the country to be able to prepare to meet sudden attack without undue public notice. This need was felt, as I have said, at the time of the Munich crisis; and in 1939 a special Act was passed—the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act—in May of that year, which permitted the Service authorities to call up such of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces as were necessary, without Proclamation. This Act lapsed, as I have said, because it had only a three-years' duration, but it will, I believe, now be recognised that provisions of this kind are required as a permanent measure, as an essential part of national defence.
The question may be asked what is the position of National Service men under this Bill. This liability will apply not only to men enlisting voluntarily in the Reserves or entering them from voluntary Regular engagements but also to National Service men who will, as from next year, begin to enter the Reserves, after their period of whole-time service, for four years part-time training. National Service men will form an integral part of the Reserves in future, and they must necessarily be available to us at the same time as the rest of the Reserves. It would be useless, for example, as I am sure the House will recognise, to deploy the voluntary element of an anti-aircraft battery to meet an apprehended attack without also being able to deploy the National Service element, who will form part of the personnel of that battery.
§ Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
In order that there should be no misunderstanding, may I ask whether this will apply to the National Service men who volunteer later to become Territorials, or to National Service men who are obliged to do their period of service with the Territorials? Will it apply to both these classes?
§ Mr. Henderson
It will apply to all categories of the Territorial Army, whether they are originally volunteers or 2355 whether they have come into the Territorial Army after they have done their full-time service.
§ Colonel Dower
After the National Service man has finished his service he may volunteer to become a Territorial, or he can be a National Service man who is obliged to do his service with the Territorials.
§ Mr. Henderson
This provision covers both.
I should like to deal for a moment with the question of overseas service after embodiment. I have dealt with service in the United Kingdom in the event of an actual or apprehended attack before embodiment. As regards overseas service of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces as opposed to the Regulars, after embodiment, the Bill makes statutory the liability of members of the Territorial Army for service overseas after embodiment, that is, after the whole or part of the Territorial Army and the Reserve Forces have been called out by Proclamation, which is the test of embodiment. I wish to emphasise that the Bill does not in any way alter or extend the existing conditions under which the Territorial Army may be embodied. This is hardly a new liability for the Territorial Army because under existing statutes it has been possible for members of the Territorial Army to accept the liability voluntarily.
§ Mr. Henderson
The great majority of them do. Its acceptance has, with few exceptions, been a condition of enlistment since 1947. It is thus an existing liability for all members of the Territorial Army except a few who have enlisted for Home Service only and whose rights under that form of enlistment will be preserved. In relation to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force it will be a new liability but only, I think, one of form, because, as I am sure the Royal Auxiliary Air Force realises full well, the Government would undoubtedly have to ask in a future emergency for special statutory powers such as were granted in 1939, to send the Auxiliary Air Force overseas. In relation to the Naval Reserves there never has been any distinction in liability between home and overseas service so that 2356 no new provisions are necessary for them under this heading.
I now turn to the problem of posting. The Bill authorises the posting of future entrants in the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force away from their parent units when these forces are called out for home service or embodiment. This is dealt with in Clause 5 (3). This provision affects only the Territorial Army and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. There is already provision for the general Reserves of the three Services to be posted to any unit on call-up as the exigencies of the Service require. I will with the permission of the House, examine the proposal in some detail.
Under Clause 5 (3) of the Bill compulsory posting can only take place, before embodiment for the purpose of defending the United Kingdom against actual or apprehended attack; or after embodiment. Clause 5 does not involve any major departure from past—or indeed present—practice. As regards past practice, similar powers were found to be essential in 1939, and the Armed Forces (Conditions of Service) Act of September of that year provided for similar compulsory posting of men of the Territorial Army after embodiment. As regards present practice, an undertaking to accept compulsory posting after embodiment has been a condition of enlistment in the Territorial Army ever since that force was reconstituted after the war, in 1947.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaking about compulsory posting or compulsory transfer? There is a slight difference even in this Bill, and I think there is a slight difference as the terms are understood by my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am dealing with compulsory posting, not compulsory transfer. It is true that we are proposing to go further than the precedents that I have quoted, and to take powers to post compulsorily not only after embodiment but also within the United Kingdom—not overseas—in the stage preceding embodiment, that is, after calling out in anticipation of an apprehended attack. But I think the House will agree that the distinction is not one of principle; in either event the country will be in grave peril—and if these powers are necessary in one eventuality they are equally necessary in the other.
2357 That the powers are necessary there can be no doubt. We are now able to transfer men of the Regular forces when circumstances demand, and we must also have these powers for the Auxiliary forces when these are called out for actual service in emergency. We must have flexibility in employing those forces to meet the kind of sudden devastating attack characteristic of modern war. We cannot afford, for example, to have men in anti-aircraft units or in the fighter control units of the Auxiliary Air Force pinned down rigidly to a particular unit in a future emergency; we must be able to post them if necessary either to meet an apprehended attack or possibly to replace casualties sustained if it materialises. At the same time, we realise the strong feelings that are held by hon. Members on both sides of the House on the question of transfer from one corps to another, especially if it is done without the consent of the man concerned, and we should be fully prepared to consider sympathetically any representations which may be made on the matter in the course of the Debate.
At this point, I might perhaps refer to Clause 4 of the Bill, which provides that, for the future, men shall be enlisted in the Territorial Army for service in "such corps as they may select," instead of being enlisted "for a county," and for service in "such corps for the county" as they may select. The original conception of the Territorial Army, as hon. Members know better than I do, envisaged its formation mainly into units, recruited from individual counties, and bearing, as a rule, the name of the county regiment. But the modern Territorial Army includes not only infantry but anti-aircraft units, armoured and airborne forces, as well as Corps and Army troops which are not organised on a county basis. Some hon. Members may regret this apparent weakening of local affiliations, but Clause 4 is nevertheless, I believe, an inevitable recognition of altered circumstances.
Fourthly, there are important changes contained in Clause 12 affecting Army Reservists. As the House will know, there are two main categories of Army Reservists. The first category, composed of men who have enlisted on a Regular engagement to be followed by a period on the Reserve, are the first class of the Army Reserve, but they are usually described as the Regular Army Reserve. 2358 This category includes those who belong to Section A, which is composed of Reservists who voluntarily accept the additional liability to be called out during the first year of their Reserve service for warlike operations overseas. Clause 12 (2, b) makes this liability statutory for those men in the Regular Army Reserve who are designated so to be called out, and who would then belong to what is now called the Section A Reserve.
The men concerned will not be designated if the circumstances at the time of their transfer to the Reserve do not require it, and, even if designated, an emergency involving the calling out of this class of the Reserve may well not arise. For this last reason, too, combined with our experience of past members of Section A of the Army Reserve, we are confident that the provision will not affect adversely the ability of the ex-Regular to obtain employment in civil life, and there will be some compensation in the form of additional Reserve pay or bonus which is now payable to Section A.
§ Mr. Henderson
I can give the hon. Member the figures. The Army Reserve, first class—and I take the case of a private—is 1s. a day; the Army Reserve, first class, Section A, is 1s. 6d. a day. I have to deal with the Supplementary Reserve in a moment, but I can give the figures now. In the Supplementary Reserve, which is dealt with under Clause 12 (2, d), category D will receive £7 10s. a year, plus £1 10s. for efficiency; and Supplementary Reserve, Category I, will receive additionally to the £7 10s. the sum of £10.
May I remind the House that control by the House over the use of these powers would be effected both through the annual Estimates of the Service Departments, as regards the numbers which the Government will propose to maintain from year to year in these sections of the Reserves, and, as regards their employment on overseas service, by the provision in Clauses 11 (3) and 13 (3) that the calling out of any or all of them shall be reported to Parliament as soon as may be. I hope, therefore, that this proposal, too, will meet with general approval. These provisions do not, of course, apply at all to National Service men.
2359 I would emphasise that the liabilities under Section 12 are only to apply to men who enter into Regular engagements after the commencement of this Act. It therefore does not apply to men now serving and will only apply to men who voluntarily enter into a Regular engagement after the commencement of the Act. No question of compulsion, therefore, arises. Moreover, the liability for overseas service will not arise until at least five years after enlistment into Regular service, nor can it exist for more than a year unless the period is voluntarily extended under Clause 12 (2, c), freely by the man concerned.
The second category of Reservists, dealt with under Clause 12 (2, d), is composed of those who belong to the Militia and who are generally referred to as the Supplementary Reserve, who have no liability for overseas service before embodiment, unless they have expressly entered into an agreement in writing to become so liable. In this event they are placed in Category I of the Supplementary Reserve, for which they receive this additional annual payment. Statutory authority for this category is already contained in a section of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, which is, in effect, re-enacted by Clause 12 (2, d) of this Bill.
The Naval provisions corresponding to Clause 12 for the Army are in Clauses 9, 10 and 11. As regards the Air Force Reserves, Clause 14 enables the provisions of Clause 12 to be applied to them by Order in Council made under the Air Force (Constitution) Act of 1917.
The other provisions of the Bill provide for—(a) raising the ceiling of Section A of the Army Reserve from 6,000 to 30,000. This is the Section of the Reserve into which the designated ex-Regular will be posted, as provided in Clause 12 (2, b); (b) raising the ceiling of Category I of the Army Supplementary Reserve from 4,000 to 15,000; (c) forming a new special class of the Royal Fleet Reserve, with a ceiling of 25,000; (d) by Order in Council, forming new Sections of the Air Force Reserve, with a combined ceiling which will be fixed at the same level as the Army, namely, 45,000.
May I say a word as to the position of women under this Bill? Under Clause 17 (4), the Bill is made to apply 2360 to women as it does to men. This does not affect the Navy, but it means that, as regards the Army and Air Force, the new liabilities could be attached to women as well as to men. This is essential now that the Army and Air Force Women's Forces are integrated into the general structure of those two Services, although, in practice, the application is limited.
§ Mr. Henderson
Yes, provided they have no young children and that they contract in. There is nothing compulsory about it; it is on the basis of voluntary service.
Women enlisted for whole-time service are not required, as a condition of enlistment, to undertake to serve on the Reserve on completion of their whole-time service, and are, therefore, not available for designation under Clause 12 (2, b) as being liable to be called out for service overseas at any time during the first year of Reserve service. Women who voluntarily join the Auxiliary or Reserve Forces of the Army or the Air Force will, of course, have the same call-up liability as men in those Forces, but they must join on a voluntary basis.
The Prime Minister of the day on 26th April, 1939, when announcing the prospective introduction of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Bill of that year, said that the present procedure for the mobilisation of the Forces was antiquated in character and quite unsuited to modern conditions, based as it was upon the hypothesis that war could only come after such a period of warning as would give time to change from a peace to a war footing. That Act having lapsed—[Interruption]—it may well be that the Bill was opposed at the time, but we have had the experience of what happened since—the procedure which we should have to use today is that which existed before 1939, which was, and remains, unsuited to modern war.
It is for this reason that this Bill has been introduced, to make permanent provision for those powers which were found essential in 1939, and which will be needed in any future emergency. It is intended to be realistic and not alarmist. While it is naturally the hope of all hon. Members on both sides of 2361 this House that as little use as possible should be made of the powers conferred by the Bill, it is essential that those powers should be available if the need should ever come, and I commend this Bill to the House as an important contribution to the effective readiness of our Defence Forces.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air has given, if I may say so, a lucid exposition in a comparatively short compass of time of what is, in the main a non-controversial Bill, though my hon. Friends and I will have some points to raise on which we are in doubt. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, whom I see sitting next to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, is pleased that this is a non-controversial Bill because he in his great position and I in my humble position have this in common, that we detest controversy. It is only the sincerity and exuberance of our nature which lead us into it, to the annoyance of our enemies, and, occasionally, to the embarrassment of our friends. Therefore, I am very pleased to face him this afternoon on a Bill of this character. But the matter goes very much further than that, and I think both sides are glad that we are now in a very happy, and, in my long experience almost, though not completely, unique position in regard to defence Bills of this kind.
For almost the first time in my long Parliamentary experience there is no difference between the Front Benches in peacetime on the need for Measures like this, but only on the methods of attaining security. I do not want to be controversial in a non-controversial atmosphere by saying anything which would be wounding to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it is a long way from the days when, under the aegis of the Lord President of the Council, the Cadet Corps were not allowed to drill in Battersea Park for fear that some day they might be prepared to defend their country. It is a long, long way from Battersea Park. As one who has actually employed one, I know that poachers turned gamekeepers are often very good gamekeepers, and, in the same way, pacifists turned patriots often make very good patriots. But there is a serious 2362 side, of course, and the important thing is that it gives an impression to countries abroad of a unity that certainly exists on the major question of defence, however much we may differ on the method by which it is being obtained.
Until the right hon. and learned Gentleman made his speech, some of us thought that there was one major defect in the Bill—the Clause relating to transfer and posting with which the hon. and learned Gentleman dealt at some length. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) pointed out, there is a very great difference between the two things. With regard to Clause 5, my hon. Friends and I realise that under present conditions it may be necessary that a man should be—to quote the words of the Clause:posted without his consent to any unit within the corps for service in which he was enlisted.…I know that there are special technical reasons for that, but we were concerned with the phrase which said that a man should be transferred without his consent to any corps. Here, I must say, I do not think the Government's handling of the matter has been completely happy.
As I understood him, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said he realised that there might be objection to this, and that he would therefore consider—I took down his words—"any proposal for the alteration of the Clause." I do not wish to bore the House with arguments which I have previously used on the subject of the Territorials; I would only say that I can claim a very lengthy experience of this matter, because, with the exception of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I was the only Member of the House who took a part—at any rate a very full, if not a prominent part—in the discussion on the Territorial Bill of 1908. I first joined the Yeomanry in 1901 and the Territorial Force in 1920. I was a founder member of my Territorial Association, and I retired only two or three years ago.
I feel it necessary, once again, to emphasise the point I have often made in this House that the Territorial Army is, as its name implies, a force recruited from a particular district. It would not otherwise be called a "Territorial Army": the whole connotation of the term "Territorial Army" means that men from the 2363 same parish, district, county, village or town should serve together. I remember, as if it were yesterday, Lord Haldane, that great Secretary of State for War—the man who did so much for this country—emphasising in his speech at the time——
§ Earl Winterton
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is usual when a Member of the Front Opposition Bench is making a non-controversial speech for a Parliamentary Private Secretary to keep his remarks to himself. At the present time Parliamentary Private Secretaries have to be careful. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about, and I am afraid I am not very much interested.
I well remember Lord Haldane, or Mr. Haldane as he was then, saying in his speech introducing the Bill that the word "Territorial" meant what it was intended to mean, that there should be a local esprit de corps—those were his actual words. That position has always been reserved up till the 1914–18 war. During the 1914–18 war there was—and I have often said this from these benches—a great deal of transferring and cross-posting which did a great deal of mischief. I am sorry to have to say this, but I have said it before—and it has not been resented—to hon. and gallant Members on both sides of the House who served in the Regular Army: but, at any rate, there was some feeling during the 1914–18 war that the Regular Army was not as favourable to Territorials as they should be.
§ Earl Winterton
I am glad to see the right hon. and learned Gentleman nodding his head in acquiescence. He will, no doubt, remember the private conversation which we once had on this subject. Of course, it is necessary under modern conditions, as I say, to carry out Clause 5 (1, b). I am very glad to hear, however, that paragraph (a) of the Clause can be withdrawn. The point I want to make is this: in view of what I have said, with really no dissent in any part of the House from those acquainted with the Territorials, and in view of the appaling difficulty of getting Territorials at the present time, why blazon forth to the 2364 whole world that you are going to do this, when the Minister subsequently comes to the House and says that if there is much opposition he is prepared to withdraw it? That is not the right way to treat the Territorial Army.
§ Mr. Henderson
I did not say what might be done hereafter. What I said, in view of the spirit of sweet reasonableness which I think, will characterise the discussions on the Bill, was that we would give sympathetic consideration to representations.
§ Earl Winterton
We all know what that means. That is a Parliamentary term. If I may say so, the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot expect to catch out an old bird like me with such salt as that on my tail—if that is not a mixed metaphor. We all know what that means; it is a Parliamentary term for saying that if there are sufficient speeches from both sides of the House against the proposal then the Government will withdraw it. However, I do not want to make capital out of this; It is a pity that it should be put in the Bill. Perhaps the Secretary of State, in his reply, will be able to tell me whether I am right or not, but I understand that this matter was not fully discussed with the Council of Territorial Associations, and I think a matter of this kind should have been discussed with them.
In addition to the points which my hon. Friends behind me may wish to raise, there are one or two other points to which I would make reference. The first is this: as far as I can see from the Bill there has been no provision made to enable naval representatives to be full members of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations, as would have been expected now that those Associations have these naval responsibilities. I think they can be co-opted, but they are not necessarily members.
The second point, upon which there is a complaint of some substance, is this: in the proviso of the 1907 Act it is required that in the composition of associations, not less than one-half of the whole membership of an association should be representative of all arms and branches of the T.A. That has been replaced by the requirement that not less than one-half should be members or former members of the Army or Air 2365 Force. Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to that, I do not think he gave a sufficient answer. Again, I am not asking him to disclose confidential information, but I should like to know whether that point was discussed with the Council of Territorial Associations, which is the recognised trade union, as it were, for Territorial Associations.
I have put on my notes a reminder to ask a question about the position of men in Section A of the Reserve—as to whether or not they are offered sufficient inducement. I understand, however, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has stated that the Government are prepared—although I was not clear whether he said this or not—to increase the emoluments of these men on the Reserve.
§ Mr. Henderson
No. I stated that there would be an increase for any person who went up into the class designated. He will get the emoluments which go with Section A; he will get the extra emoluments.
§ Earl Winterton
My hon. Friends and I understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that there was going to be an improvement. Probably the misunderstanding is our fault. In view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, I must put it to him that the financial inducement is at present not sufficient. I understand that it has scarcely been altered since 1898. I have not worked it out by computation, but I do not think the sum of money involved would be very great, and I beg the Government to consider whether they could not increase the financial advantage offered to men joining this Reserve. My hon. Friends feel very strongly about this.
The last point I wish to make on this part of the Bill is, perhaps, a delicate point to make. Nevertheless, I think it should be made. It is whether the requirement that Parliament should be notified when any Section A Reserves are called out for overseas service should not be omitted, on the basis that such notification may be highly embarrassing in a difficult international situation. On this particular point I might be in disaccord with the right hon. and learned 2366 Gentleman. I am in accord with him on the principle because, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman plainly said in his speech, and as the Bill itself explains, part of the purpose of the Bill is to make it easier for the Government, in an emergency, to take action without causing embarrassment to international relationship. Before the Minister replies I should like him to consider the matter, to see whether he could not take this further.
There is one other point of some substance affecting both Territorials and Cadet Corps. Under the Bill, as, indeed, it was to some extent before—but it is now defined—the Territorial Associations have responsibility for Cadet Corps. It would, of course, be out of Order for me to go into the matter fully, but it affects a situation which has arisen, as it happens, in my constituency and which has also arisen elsewhere, when advantage has been taken of a Section of one of the Health Acts of 1875. Why it should be a Health Act I do not know. Advantage has been taken of that Section to prevent Territorial exercises and Cadet exercises taking place on a Sunday. Under the provisions of this Health Act anything which can be held to be a disturbance to public worship can be objected to by a clergyman and a churchwarden. All that it is in Order for me to discuss today is whether it would not be feasible to incorporate in this Bill or some other Bill a provision to the effect that this Section of the Health Act should not apply to any of His Majesty's Forces. Purely in parenthesis, and supporting my case, I say that, read literally, the Section of the Act in question which prohibits disturbance of church services would prevent not merely Territorial exercises but, for example, such things as trains running on a Sunday, so that the recent strike of railway servants should have earned the commendation of the Lord's Day Observance Society, for the railwayman certainly observed the Lord's Day by refusing to work on it.
What it is in Order to discuss is the effect on the Territorials. I hope I shall have the assent of both sides of the House in saying that the provisions of the Act to which I have referred should, by amending legislation, be made not to apply to duly authorised military exercises by the Territorials or Cadet Forces on a Sunday. I am not arguing whether 2367 such exercises are desirable or not. Personally speaking, as a churchman, I should prefer to see them avoided on Sundays, but there are occasions, as both Secretaries of State know, when it is important to have them, and I do say that it is intolerable—quite intolerable—that a common informer should be able to prevent authorised exercises by His Majesty's Forces by threatening action under an Act which was passed with an entirely different object, 74 years ago. It is a fantastic situation which would be permitted in no other country in the world. In fact, it could prevent a march of the Guards down the street to a drumhead service, because that could be said to be interference with public worship as they pass places of worship in the street. This interference has occurred in my own constituency and elsewhere, and has caused considerable annoyance and concern to those responsible for arranging such exercises.
I think this is a useful Bill. We all on this side of the House think so. It co-ordinates to a considerable extent the mechanised work of the defence Departments in regard to the use of manpower. I think that that is the phrase which best describes the Bill. As it is concerned with all the Territorial Forces I should like to take this opportunity to repeat that we on this side of the House give the fullest support to the Government and to the military authorities—the defence authorities of all three Services—in seeking the maximum strength and efficiency of the Territorial and the Auxiliary Forces of all three Services, and of the Cadet Corps of the three Services.
I should like to repeat that we give that support, as we have shown by joining in broadcasting for recruiting, and by the appearance of Members of the Opposition, from this Front Bench and other benches, at recruiting meetings, and so on. I am afraid that the results of the joint efforts of everyone concerned, including hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, have not as yet been very great. There is still a very considerable lacuna in the numbers required in the defence Forces. Perhaps I may be allowed to say to the House as a whole that I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides will continue their efforts. No doubt, persuasion has 2368 more influence on the British than threats.
But I think it is necessary—and I should like to say so from this Front Bench—that every man or boy eligible to join these Services—that is to say, the Territorials and all the other Auxiliary Forces or Cadet Corps—should be made to realise by argument that not only is membership of these Forces agreeable in itself, but that his own, his family's and his friends' interests are helped by his joining. I think that should go forth from this House—with the exception of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). Both of them use their pacifist arguments with such sweet reasonableness that once or twice they have almost turned me into a pacifist. With the exception of them, and of one or two others, I think it should go out from this House as a whole—and had it gone out through previous Parliaments before the last war and the 1914–18 war those wars might have been prevented—that, whatever sentimentalists may say, the greater the defensive power of this country, the more remote is the danger of war.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Shackleton (Preston)
The noble Lord has treated us to a speech of such unusual gentleness and kindness that I find it very difficult to follow him, as I had hoped to do, in the path of controversy he advocated for himself and the Secretary of State for War. There are one or two avenues down which I should like to follow him, however. First, there is that of his revolutionary proposals for Sabbath breaking, which I am sure will be noted by every common informer in the country.
§ Earl Winterton
I particularly said that I, as a churchman, did not favour these proceedings. I said it was intolerable that there should be an Act of Parliament which permitted interference with His Majesty's Forces. I said I did not favour these proceedings.
§ Mr. Shackleton
The noble Lord has convicted himself of hypocrisy of the Worst kind, since, in fact, he has advocated something which he at the same time deplores. However, let me pass on to the Bill, and to the view which I, and many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, hold—that it is a good, 2369 and, indeed a desirable Bill. It is so desirable that, in our opinion, something along these lines should have been introduced two or more years ago. It is, indeed, a Bill which, to a larger extent than certain other military Measures which have been before the House recently, does provide scope for the voluntary spirit—for the non-conscript; and it is, I hope, possibly the beginning of a step back towards the old type of military service that we had in this country. I shall deal with certain matters in the Bill which may be the subject of discussion, and, perhaps, of disagreement between us later in the night, but the point I want to make first is that the most important elements in this Bill are based on voluntary engagements. It is not a Bill on which to discuss conscription or National Service, any more than it is a Bill on which to discuss foreign affairs.
§ Mr. Shackleton
I did not say it did. I merely said in the main it had nothing to do with conscription. I regard the most important provision as that concerning the Class A Reserves. This is concerned with volunteers and not with National Service men, and to that extent it is a step in the direction in which my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) wishes to go.
I was interested in the points which the noble Lord made on the issue raised in Clause 5 (3, a)—the question of transfer of a man without his consent to another corps. The Secretary of State for Air has indicated—in a way which the noble Lord has clearly followed, and has taken a particular meaning from—that the Government are prepared to consider waiving this particular proposal. Now, it is of very great significance to the man who joins up in a particular unit or in a particular corps to know whether he will be allowed to remain in the corps or unit. The Bill makes provision for his return to it at a suitable moment when opportunity arises, if he is transferred. None the less I do commend to the Government the views that have been expressed—with one proviso, that it is militarily possible and satisfactory which is the first consideration. This, of course, is a problem that we have never had to consider in the Air Force. 2370 In the Air Force we built our "empires" but we did not go in for the tribal system as they do in the Army, and the Air Force, fortunately, is not concerned with that particular Clause.
There are provisions in the Bill, too, which must commend themselves to Members on this side of the House. First we must welcome the provision in Clause 2 which makes it a statutory obligation to have representation on the Territorial Associations of employers and employed. Although under previous legislation there was that optional power to appoint trade union representatives and it was used to a considerable extent, I hope that more use will be made of it in the future. I hope that the trade unions, if they wish to take part in democratisation of the Army, will co-operate. It is all the more important since in the Territorial Army there will be a National Service content. For that reason, I think that particular Clause is one on which we should congratulate the Government.
The controversial Clauses are Clause 5 and, I think, Clause 12. On Clause 5 there are two points on which I think doubts may be raised from this side of the House. The first is on the question of the power to call outfor actual military service in any place in the United Kingdom in defence of the United Kingdom against actual or apprehended attack.…That may be said by some of my hon. Friends to be a somewhat provocative measure. May I suggest, with all sincerity, that it is precisely designed to avoid provocative measures. It is precisely designed to enable the Government of the day, when they feel obliged to take certain precautions, to take those precautions without taking what may be called overt military action.
The question of sending the Territorials overseas on embodiment is in no way changed from the position in which it was before. It will not be possible to send the Territorial Army abroad on embodiment without, of course, a Royal Proclamation. Provision for the action to be taken on Royal Proclamation is laid down in the 1882 Act, which makes clear that Parliament, if it is adjourned, must be called together. I do not think that certain fears which have been expressed, particularly in a leading article in the "Manchester Guardian," need be taken very seriously, when it is suggested that 2371 on the mere whim of the Secretary of State the Territorial Army can be embodied and a part of it sent off to Malaya. That cannot arise without this House being concerned and informed by being called together.
§ Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Will the hon. Gentleman give a further explanation on that matter in view of the fact that the Secretary of State for Air in his speech indicated that Proclamation was far too slow a method of rallying and getting the Forces out of the country under conditions of modem warfare? How can he say now that Proclamation is necessary?
§ Mr. A. Henderson
If I may be allowed to reply to that point, I was referring to the position before embodiment as compared with the position after embodiment. What the Government are seeking to do is to take powers to call out the Auxiliary Forces and the Reservists unobtrusively without having the paraphernalia of a Proclamation and all the publicity attaching to it for one purpose only, and that is for service within the United Kingdom and not beyond the shores of this island. With regard to the position after embodiment, and the statement made in the newspaper about going out to Malaya, this Bill does not affect by one iota the rules with regard to embodiment.
§ Mr. Shackleton
I hope that point is clear because it is very important. This Bill I have found very difficult to follow because we are dealing with two types of reserve Forces, first the Auxiliaries and Territorials, and, secondly, the Reserves to whom different rules apply. It is quite clear that the Territorials cannot be sent abroad without embodiment and without Proclamation.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I understand that the powers under this Bill cannot be exercised unless there is either an actual or an apprehended attack upon this country. In those circumstances, surely it is better to be as obstrusive as possible in our defence methods.
§ Mr. Shackleton
I do not know how closely the hon. Gentleman has studied this Bill, but let me point out that in Clause 5 there are two specific provisions. One provides power for the Secretary 2372 of State to call up certain men for service within the United Kingdom, which would apply particularly to men engaged in radar or ground defences or the Observer Corps, and so on, and the second power allows the Territorial Army after embodiment and after Royal Proclamation to be sent abroad.
§ Mr. Silverman
Clause 5 (1, b) states:Against actual or apprehended attack.and in no other circumstances.
§ Mr. Shackleton
For service in the United Kingdom, I should like to continue this discussion, but I do not want to waste the time of the House, and there are one or two other points which I should like to make.
There are, of course, certain provisions which apply differently to the Air Force, but I think that these are really Committee points, and after that interlude perhaps I had better leave them. One particular point to which I would like to refer concerns the provisions in Clause 12. Here again it is clear that the only men who will go into Class A Reserve which is liable to be sent abroad in time of peace to meet a particular circumstance—and we are dealing with the reserve and not the Territorial Forces—are men who are volunteers. That is a point of great consequence and one that should be recognised by anyone who feels any doubt on the subject of this Bill. It applies in the case of men who will be serving on regular engagements and also, if I understand it aright, it applies to men from the militia and Territorial Forces who have taken on that additional obligation.
That particular provision is something which hon. Members on this side of the House have been advocating for a long time. It is precisely the reservists that we feel we need, and I think it is an admirable thing to see a much larger volunteer reserve which will be available and which, in my opinion, does make it possible to consider, what it was quite impossible in the past to consider, the day, perhaps sooner or perhaps later—I hope sooner—when we may see the end of conscription. I think that this is an argument which hon. Members should consider very closely before they decide to oppose this Bill. With those general remarks, I would like to commend the Bill to the House, and I hope that it will receive the unanimous approval of the House.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I am glad to have this opportunity of following the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton) who made what, I think, the House will agree was a most helpful contribution to our discussion of this Bill. I want to deal very briefly with the points that affect the naval reserves. I fully agree that some of the points I may mention may be really Committee points, but I would like to bring them to the notice of the Ministers at this moment, so that they can be borne in mind before that stage of the Bill. I feel that it would be a very pleasant little job for them when they are not at Blackpool.
First, to quote Clause 3:the conferring on the association of functions connected with the organisation and administration of the reserves of the royal navy, of the reserves of the royal marines …Perhaps I might refer to the fact that in that quotation the words Royal Navy and Royal Marines, etc., are set out in small letters. Is it not usual for those words to start with capital letters? With regard to the functions referred to there, to be undertaken by the Territorial Association, we are told in the Explanatory Memorandum that this to be(where this is desired by the Admiralty).I can find in the Bill no similar limitation.
Clause 3 leaves full powers for these functions with the Territorial Associations. It may be that subsection (3), which deals with finance, is meant by the Government to be the limiting factor. It says that the Admiralty will pay an association for whatever is done for them. Whether or not that is so, it does not alter the fact that the Territorial Associations have got these powers, and it may be—although I am sure it is very unlikely—that in certain cases, when the Admiralty do not pay, they might exercise those powers. I do not know what functions the Admiralty have in mind. It may be that in the past there has been some friendly and co-operative spirit, that the associations have done things for the Navy which were not legal, and this may be putting the matter on a legal footing. It may be that the associations will help the Navy with advice on recruiting, or in administering the Royal Marine Forces Reserve. I do not know. But I hope we shall be told, perhaps tonight and at any rate in Committee, exactly what this means.
2374 I would say that under this Clause the associations would have power to steer men into one of the three Reserves. I do not know, but I think that is a point to be considered. I also hope that we shall be told whether this is something the Admiralty want now, or whether these powers are being put in to cover something they may want in the future. I wonder whether putting this into the Bill at this moment is really necessary, because I imagine this is merely legalising what has perhaps been going on before, to allow the Admiralty to ask the associations to do what it wants. If it is not that, we shall have to consider, as my noble Friend said, representation on the associations, and there will have to be more official naval representation, and much more representation of course in certain areas, such as naval ports or where the reserves are mainly trained.
Although I hate to suggest this in front of some of my hon. and gallant Friends, we might even have to consider changing the name. It might have to be called the Naval Reserve Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association, to take the extreme case. Nevertheless, I think we should be told exactly what the Admiralty have in mind. To illustrate that, I would mention something I was told the other day. When an officer of the R.N.V.R. was having a slight disagreement over procedure with a member of the Territorial Army he was squashed with the words, "Wait till the Bill comes out." I do not know whether or not he had hold of the wrong end of the stick, or exactly what is implied in this Clause. Incidentally, I notice that in Clause 2 (3) the Army Council will appoint members of the Sea Cadet Corps. I wonder whether that is correct, or whether it should read "or the Board of Admiralty, as the case may be."
With regard to the calling up of these Reserves, I should like to refer to the statutory ceiling of 25,000 imposed upon the Navy in this Bill for the new class of the Royal Fleet Reserve. The House will remember that this is a major departure from precedent. It constitutes an entirely new precedent, and I hope we shall be told the reason why a ceiling is put on this force for the Navy. Although I am afraid I do not remember the Debate—no doubt my noble Friend would if he were here—Section 5 of the Naval Forces Act, 1903, removed from 2375 the Act of 1859 certain previous restrictions on the number of reservists, and said:The Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Fleet Reserve shall consist of such number of men as the Admiralty may determine.I wonder why on this occasion we are departing from that?—for it must be remembered that Parliament's control over the Navy is technically only financial. Could we be told exactly what is the position with regard to naval reservists in the event of actual or apprehended attack upon the United Kingdom? Does that mean that men called up in that event can, as happened in the last war, be sent to spend long periods of service in places like Iceland? I think the Minister said in his speech that in the Navy it is more difficult to distinguish between home service and overseas service.
Finally, I would ask why this was referred to Parliament. Are any special arrangements being made within the Navy for the W.R.N.S., who do not come into the Bill as do the other Forces? I very much hope that those points will be borne in mind before the Committee stage, and that we shall have an opportunity of discussing them then.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I think the House will be in general agreement with what the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said about this Bill. Its main principles are non-controversial, except perhaps for a few hon. Members who hold, as it seems, rigid and unalterable ideas in the face of facts—and recent facts—which I should have thought might have caused them to modify some of those admirable views. Many of their colleagues in the Labour Party held such views in the past, but in the face of facts, have had to change those views.
The Bill is, in itself, a small Bill. It regularises many administrative features which are desirable in the working of the military machine—which, if it is to be permitted to exist at all, must function smoothly in the face of apprehended or actual attack—but I am not sure that it sets out to achieve anything of real value to our defence Forces. It is true that in place of a Proclamation in the event of apprehended 2376 warfare—because that is what it would be—a Secretary of State can get his troops into position; but those of us who have any knowledge of what happened in the year following Munich, when war was absolutely inevitable, will know how, to a large extent, the military Forces of this country were hamstrung.
I am not at all sure that the Secretary of State for Air was right when he said that this calling up of Forces for home defence before the actual outbreak of war will be done unobtrusively. I should not have thought that the calling out of the Reserves and the Auxiliary Forces, even for home defence—it would, of course, be largely for anti-aircraft defence—would pass quite unnoticed in this country, or even abroad. Obviously, if such an action had to be taken by the Secretary of State, it would be the first move in a possible war, and everybody, not least hon. Members in this House, would understand what it meant. I am not sure when embodiment would occur, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton) truly said, embodiment—that being the embodiment of the Auxiliary Forces in the Regular Forces—would occur only after the actual outbreak of war, and certainly not before. Perhaps I ought to put it a little more accurately and say: until after a Proclamation had been issued. I understand that a Proclamation would be issued only in the possible event of war breaking out, and so, to all intents and purposes, the Auxiliary Forces called up by the Secretary of State for War in an apprehended emergency would not be sent overseas until they were embodied, which would be practically on the outbreak of war or immediately afterwards.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that there could be an attack upon this country without there being a war?
§ Mr. Bellenger
The Auxiliary Forces would be embodied only after a Proclamation, and a Proclamation would only come when that attack had actually started. At least, that is how I understand the position. I was going on to say to hon. Members who may disagree with Forces being sent overseas in peacetime, that I think they ought to, and, perhaps, will, agree that if there is any danger of attack against this country, then it ought to be the duty of everyone, and 2377 not only the Auxiliary Forces, to be ready to resist that attack. I agree entirely with that principle in the Bill. If there is any danger of attack, as there was between 1938 and 1939, every patriotic citizen ought to be ready. Not only the Auxiliary Forces but also the Civil Defence Forces will have to be dealt with, and perhaps the Home Secretary will tell us how these Forces will be linked up with the calling up of the Auxiliary Forces.
The whole purpose of my argument tonight is not to disagree with the purpose of the Bill, but to indicate that it will not fully achieve its purpose unless the whole of the defence Forces, including Civil Defence, are also mobilised or deployed ready to meet the attack which may possibly come against this country, or the attack visualised by the Secretary of State before he issues the order calling up the Auxiliary Forces.
§ Mr. Shackleton
There is one thing which must be made clear. The right hon. Gentleman says that it is right that the Auxiliary Forces should be willing to go overseas in peacetime, but there is no question of that, except the Class A reserves of the Regular Army and that section of the militia who volunteer to be included in the Class A Reserve.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not differ from that interpretation of those who have to go overseas. My whole argument was directed to those Members who disagree with the purpose of this Bill. Surely, if it were necessary to meet any apprehended attack, the calling out of these forces for home defence ought to meet with their approval.
I fear that the provisions in Clause 12 (6), to increase the Class A reserves from 6,000 to 30,000, will not entirely meet the point which the Secretary of State for War has in mind. He is faced with the difficulty of providing trained troops to meet his commitments in many parts of the world. What he is doing is to increase his Class A Reserve because he has not been able to recruit the Regular Forces up to sufficient strength. Hon. Members should read between the lines of some of these Clauses. They are an indication, to my mind, that the recruitment of the Regular Forces and Auxiliary Forces, if it has not failed, has not been successful; otherwise, I am not at all sure that my right hon. Friend would have 2378 decided to increase the Class A Reserve from 6,000 to 30,000.
§ Earl Winterton
That is exactly what we told the right hon. Gentleman when he was Secretary of State for War, and what we have been telling his successor ever since. Recruiting has been very unsuccessful during the office of both right hon. Gentlemen.
§ Mr. Bellenger
At the time I was Secretary of State we were mostly demobilising the Army, and not recruiting. The recruiting campaign started only about 18 months ago. But I do not disagree with the noble Lord. I have never disguised from the House, even when I was Secretary of State, my preference for a volunteer Regular Army. All I am saying is that a volunteer Regular Army also means volunteer Regular Reserves, and that because the one has failed, the second has failed; we have neither got the volunteer Regular Forces nor the volunteer Auxiliary Forces with which this Bill deals. In this connection, I would offer my right hon. Friend one or two suggestions which, I hope, he will take in a friendly way. I hope, also, that this will show to the noble Lord that I have been thinking about this matter both in and out of office. I am very much concerned to see that the defence Forces of this country are on a footing that will be a warning to any potential aggressors; a warning that it is not worth while their attacking this country or its possessions overseas.
The largest command in the Army is the Anti-Aircraft Command. I do not see why my right hon. Friend should not recruit a special Force for home service, composed of Regular Reserves and Auxiliary Reserves, to deal with antiaircraft defence. I think he will get a lot of volunteers to come forward, men prepared, after their period of National Service, or after five years' service with the Regular Forces, to take further training to protect this country from the threat of war, or during war, and who would not be sent overseas. I believe this would bring in a large number of volunteers, and that such a scheme could fit in with our industrial and economic requirements. It would also relieve my right hon. Friend of many of the headaches he has at the present time, because he knows that a, large proportion of Anti-Aircraft Command in this country has to be made up by Regular troops as he has not got the 2379 Auxiliary Forces coming forward to volunteer for this job. This applies particularly to the special trades, like R.E.M.E. I believe it would be possible to link up Army tradesmen with industry, and for employers to give a certain amount of industrial time for men to be trained, with pay, for anti-aircraft defence.
I do not disagree with compulsory postings. I believe that if war comes every man, and perhaps every woman, has to place himself or herself in a position to defend the country. Therefore, I do not disagree in principle with compulsory posting. I subscribed to that view in office, and I still hold that view.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I believe in the principle both before a war starts and when it has started. The Territorial Forces as embodied in war can be compulsorily posted as can the Regular Forces. Therefore, why not do it in peacetime when there is a threat of war, if it is absolutely necessary. I do not deny the power to my right hon. Friend, and I hope the House will not oppose him in spite of what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Air.
I take a different point of view from that tentatively advanced by my right hon. Friend. Obviously, if we are to get volunteers we have to use that power with discretion and with as little arbitrary posting as possible. There is no doubt that under present conditions there must be powers of cross-posting in the Regular and Auxiliary Forces. I fear it is not going to be conducive to increased volunteering among certain sections of the people. In the Territorial Forces young men like to join the unit near their homes, because it gives them some sort of comradeship and it is a very good principle, too.
From the days when Lord Haldane first formed the Territorial Forces there was this idea of serving with people one knew. In the First World War I believe the Territorials had to sign undertakings so 2380 that they could be sent overseas. All that is a thing of the past. Wars are not fought as they used to be fought, thousands of miles away. They have to be fought where the enemy is. That is so because, in the past, troops were often sent to where the enemy was not; nowadays they are sent to where he is, and he might very well be close to our shores before there were any chance of a Proclamation being issued.
Hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite, who do not have a wholly prescribed right to speak for military forces on military matters, even though they may have served in the Armed Forces, might give more serious attention to the points I am trying to put, though I may not, be putting them as adequately as they would like. I am concerned to see that our defence Forces will be efficient and the best to do the job that it is intended they should do. I do not believe they are in that position at the moment, and I do not believe that the Bill will help the matter too much. I am not at all sure that my right hon. Friend should not consult with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence—who, we understand, is now on the way to Hong Kong—to get really co-ordinated defence in this country, because at present we have not got it.
I suppose the Bill will pass to the Statute Book after a very peaceful Debate. If hon. Members examine it closely they will see that it deals with three kinds of Reserves, three kinds of Auxiliary Forces and also mentions the Cadet Force. Incidentally, there is no mention of the Home Guard, which I should have thought was just as much a necessary Auxiliary Force as the Territorial Forces. I think they will see that we have probably got too many different Forces. I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will get down to the problem of co-ordinating defence. Although hon. Members opposite may preen themselves that they may have said that before, it has not passed unnoticed behind the scenes, at any rate, in other quarters than their own.
That does not prevent me from saying that I do not think we have a properly co-ordinated system of defence at present. I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is capable of doing something in that direction if 2381 he makes up his mind, though he is not perhaps the appropriate Minister for that purpose—at least, not yet. I hope he will take my remarks to heart, and that on some appropriate occasion we may be able to go further than this Bill goes.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)
All of us make unintentional jokes, and I want to assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) that we on this side of the House listened attentively to the remarks he was making, and I, for one, have a great deal of sympathy with the things he said. In presenting this Bill for Second Reading, the Secretary of State for Air told us that it had three main objects; I want, if I may, to divide my remarks under two headings, and follow the plan set out in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. In the first place, one of the main objects of this Bill is to alter the constitution and power of the Territorial Army associations; and the second main object of this Bill is, by placing new obligations on the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces and by giving new powers to the Admiralty and the Secretaries of State, to make Auxiliary and Reserve Forces more readily available to meet certain emergencies.
Before addressing myself to those two main objects I want to put a preliminary question to the Secretary of State for War. Why have the Government not given time for hon. Members to consult the Territorial Army associations throughout the country? We only received this Bill on Tuesday of last week, and none of us has had time to consult with the counties with which we are connected. It is a pity that the Government should have taken this precipitate action. I might also ask why there was no consultation with the county associations before the Bill was drafted. I know that in 1945 the Council of the Territorial Association appointed a consultative and advisory committee, which had some contact with the War Office, but that is four years ago.
Surely, before the Second Reading of this Bill, another week or two might have been given to allow consideration, and consultations with the Council, particularly in view of the time that has elapsed since the first contact was made, and 2382 because, as I am told, quite new proposals are contained in the provisions of this Bill which were not discussed with the Council at all. A considerable degree of discourtesy is offered to the thousands of men and women who are doing voluntary service with the Territorial Associations throughout the country.
Turning to the provisions of the Bill I want to ask the Secretary of State for War if it is proposed to compel any county associations to combine, or whether combination is permissive. I know that there are 52 associations which have already telescoped their administrative arrangements into 19 administrative headquarters, and that 49 separate associations remain. I think the Minister has indicated that there is no intention to use compulsory powers in this respect, and if that is so I am glad to learn of it.
§ Colonel Ropner
The county basis is a really good foundation for the Territorial Army. Of course, one does not forget the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry, and other units whose titles embrace two counties when saying that the county basis is a good one both for the Territorial Army and for a number of Air Force units or commands.
I support the hon. and gallant Member who spoke a short time ago and suggested that if the Territorial Army associations are to administer naval personnel, there should be naval representation upon them. At the same time, I would issue a warning against Territorial and Auxiliary Force associations getting too big. They will become too large and will not be able properly to carry out their functions if the Secretary of State and other Ministers fall to the temptation of acceding to the request that every conceivable interest should be represented upon them. Nevertheless, speaking on this occasion on behalf of the Army, I hope that we get naval representation on the associations if they are to have naval work to do.
Clauses 5 and 6 are the most controversial of the Bill. Here I speak on behalf of no one but myself. I am going to disagree to some extent with some of the 2383 remarks that have been made this afternoon; first of all, with regard to the new conditions of service which will be imposed on future volunteers. With regard to the liability for service overseas after embodiment, we do not want a recurrence of the "pledge" of old days, a pledge which had to be broken. If anybody thinks he can join His Majesty's Forces in these days for home service only, he is two wars out of date.
With regard to the liability to be called up in emergency for home service without proclamation, I would like to hear rather more about this from the Secretary of State for War. What are the advantages of calling up individuals or units without a proclamation? There may be very good reasons why that should be done. It may very well help the Service Departments if they can call out individual men, or even units, without issuing a proclamation. An hon. Member on the other side said that there would not be any publicity. That is really nonsense, if I may say so. This country really could not call up hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of men without a good deal of publicity. It is going to be known throughout the length and breadth of this country, and for that reason it will be known throughout the world.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not object if I remind him that this power has been in existence for 25 years, ever since the Reserve and Auxiliary Air Force and Air Force Reserve Act, 1924, was passed. As I endeavoured to make plain in my speech, units of both Army and Air Force were called up in 1938 and 1939 without any proclamation and it has never been suggested until now that that was a wrong action.
§ Colonel Ropner
I do not mind the right hon. and learned Gentleman asking the House to give him the power. I was saying that he cannot exercise it behind the scenes and covertly. I am not saying that he will not be able to convince me, but I want to know what real advantage is gained by having this power and thereby relieving the Government of the necessity of issuing a proclamation. I am afraid that the Government are thinking more in terms of individuals than of units. They are taking powers, or maintaining powers, to call out in a rather hush-hush sort of 2384 way, particular individuals who may be of particular use to them in filling serious technical gaps during an emergency.
That brings me to Clause 5 (3, a and b). Both paragraphs (a) and (b) may discourage recruiting because of the knowledge that the Government ask power to transfer men without their consent, or to cross-post them. Nevertheless, it is absolutely essential that the Government should maintain the powers asked for in paragraph (b). So long as recruiting is bad, and we have this "tabbing system" under which men who are in reserved occupations are recruited but not available to fight on mobilisation, shall we have these potential gaps of skilled men in every unit. Consequently, the Government are bound to maintain the power to post men from one unit to another. In my view, it is also necessary for the Government to have the power for which they ask in subsection (3, a). It is best to admit publicly, during the passage of this Bill, that when a real emergency descends upon us we shall require powers to transfer men from one corps to another. It always happens when there is war. We are bound to need powers of that sort. Any talk about what Lord Haldane thought in 1908 is completely irrelevant; the Territorial service in those days was for home service, anyhow.
The question of transfer from one corps to another is not only one of individuals. The Government might want to transfer a whole battery or battalion or a whole regiment from one corps to another. Indeed it will probably be highly necessary to do so. I imagine that the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretary of State for Air and the Minister of Defence are completely at sea today, as are all Service Ministers in all other countries, to know what proportion of men to recruit for the Air Force, the Navy or the Army and, within each Service, to know how many infantry sappers, gunners, and so on we should have.
It must be utterly impossible, with the threat of the atomic bomb and other inventions, to decide in advance what is the proper proportion to have in any arm of the Service and even in any Service. The difference, for instance, between a Royal Artilleryman who is trained on a Bofors gun and another who is trained on a 2385 twelve inch coast defence gun is far greater than the difference between a gunner trained on a 25 pounder self-propelled gun and a member of the Royal Armoured Corps. It may well be that future re-organisation will necessitate some new division within the Royal Artillery or between the Royal Artillery and other corps which are somewhat similarly armed. It may well be that infantry, gunners and sappers are as out-of-date as the cavalry. I am not at all sure that the Navy is not completely out-of-date, or at any rate a very large part of it. I am not at all sure that the Army is not out-of-date. I am not at all sure that the next war will not be won by half a dozen aeroplanes flying at a thousand miles an hour and dropping super atomic bombs. I am quite sure that the Secretary of State for War is not sure that his Service is not, if not out-of-date, obsolescent, and the Navy and the Air Force, too. We cannot disband the whole of the fighting Services because there may be great developments in the next few years but we should be wise in this little and comparatively unimportant Bill to face the fact that we have to take powers now to transfer men from one corps to another and even from one Service to another.
I do not think that powers of this sort will be a great deterrent to recruiting, particularly if the powers are not used. I do not believe that the normal recruit to the Territorial Army looks very carefully into his conditions of service, but it would of course be a deterrent to recruiting if we had continual crises of an international nature and were constantly pushing men about from one unit to another, one corps to another or one Service to another. But the Secretary of State for War need not be too fearful about the effect on recruiting of just having those powers in reserve, in spite of what some of my hon. and gallant Friends say and what has been said from his own benches. The Press do not leave the Press Gallery in this House because they may be hauled up for a breach of privilege any time we, may care to institute proceedings. But the Press Gallery would be empty if once or twice a week, we brought reporters to the Bar of the House and told them that they had committed a breach of privilege. Similarly if we spied strangers every five minutes, the public galleries would not be very full, 2386 but we do not, and things go on normally and the galleries are full.
I have some remarks to make about the provisions of the Bill applying to women. I believe that once a decision is taken to put women into khaki or one of two shades of blue, then, as far as is possible, they should be treated exactly like men. I do not think there is any halfway house. This is another occasion on which I can express regret within the rules of Order—that the W.R.N.S. are not really in the Navy. The Army and the Air Force enlist their women personnel, and I think it is time that the women of the Navy ceased being civilians.
I hope that the Ministers responsible for this Bill—there seems to be a large number of them and some doubt as to who is really responsible—will see that we are given adequate time, preferably on the Floor of the House, for the Committee stage of the Bill. I have made a complaint that we have not had time to consult our Territorial Army associations. None of us has had time for anything more than an odd telephone call or an odd letter from the chairman or the secretary, and there has not been real consultation. There are many important points in this Bill with which we have not had time to deal on Second Reading. Indeed, Second Reading is not the proper occasion for them. There is a very large number of important Committee points, and I hope that ample time will be given on the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I believe that every hon. Member who has spoken in this Debate so far has some time or other been intimately connected with the Fighting Services. It is as well, therefore, that an ordinary civilian like myself should say a word in this important discussion. The House will pardon me if I repeat once more my feelings that when I find the Conservative Party supporting our Labour Government, especially on military affairs, I automatically get a little suspicious. That is my position tonight, except that I do not want to offend the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who spoke for the Opposition. We all respect him and his views; and there is one thing about him which is not common throughout this or 2387 any other country. He believes in fighting if necessary and will do some fighting himself. I know some people who believe in fighting provided other fellows do the fighting on their behalf.
There is one thing about the Bill which I cannot understand. We had a slip of white paper attached to it regretting that the name of the Minister of Defence had been omitted from the back of the Measure. Therefore, as we received that special intimation that his name must be included as one of the principal supporters, I should have thought that he would have been here to present the Bill himself. I heard a joke cracked about him this morning. I do not want to offend him in his absence, but somebody said that the Minister of Defence had flown to Hong Kong, and a joker replied, "No, he has just fled the House of Commons."
I do not agree with those who think that this is a very innocent Bill. It would not have come before Parliament at all if the military gentlemen behind the scenes did not mean it to do something useful for the war machine. I have been here for a long time, as hon. Members know, and I have seen innocently worded Bills like this introduced before. I would like to tell some of my hon. and gallant Friends on this side of the House who are supporting this Measure that I could almost guarantee that if we were the Opposition tonight and this Bill were introduced by a Tory Government, probably every Member of the Front Bench, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) especially, would be on the other side condemning it holus-bolus.
§ Mr. Shackleton
The hon. Gentleman has raised a very unpleasant suggestion inferring that hon. Members on this side of the House who support this Measure would have taken a different line if in opposition. He should withdraw that remark.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I will add something else. I never understood in this Parliament how it comes about that——
§ Mr. A. Henderson
Will my hon. Friend allow me to put him right on a 2388 question of fact? I find that the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Bill, to which I referred in my speech as being introduced by the Conservative Government in 1939, was not opposed by the Opposition.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I should like to know, however, what sort of speeches they delivered although they did not oppose and vote against it. I come back to my main theme. I may be entirely wrong but I hold the view sincerely, that I do not believe that if a thing is wrong when we were in Opposition, the very same thing can be right because we are the Government, and I take my stand on that.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Would the hon. Member allow me to interrupt? Would he hold the view that because he holds an opinion sincerely, anybody who disagrees with him must be insincere? It seems to me to be a somewhat totalitarian view of sincerity for a fighter of freedom to hold.
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Member has accused us by making the statement that, if this Bill had been introduced by a Tory Government, we would have held opposite views. If he is talking about us personally, a number of us were not here before the war. I supported conscription before the war though I admit that some did not. But why have these allegations been made that people here are deliberately insincere and would do something quite different if they were in Opposition? That is a deliberate accusation of insincerity which is unworthy of a gentleman who is so righteous about his own sincerity.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I do not want to pursue that point except to say that during my 28 years here, when we were on the opposite side of the House we opposed the Tory Government on some of the very things this Government have done. What is the good, therefore, of talking like that to me?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Hon. Members may have different views. I never accused any of my hon. Friends of insincerity. I believe that every man who speaks here is sincere. As a matter of fact, I believe that people who tell the House that war can achieve certain objects and settle certain problems are sincere, but I hold the opposite view strongly, that war settles nothing and that this Bill is part of the war machine. It is a conception commonly held that in order to ensure peace you must be prepared for war, but, even from the military point of view alone, what has happened in the last two wars contradicts all that. The nations that were least prepared for war were the nations that won those wars militarily. [An HON. MEMBER: "At a sacrifice."] If it were true that in order to secure peace a nation must be prepared for war, then Hitler ought to have defeated all the Allies who fought against him. There is something much stronger than military preparation in connection with war.
But let me not digress too much. I always feel that in these Bills there is an attack made upon the personality of the individual. Words are put in this Bill "without his consent," and I deny the right of the State to determine what an individual shall do with himself. About 100 years hence everybody here will have passed away and nobody will know whether we were here or not. While, therefore, I pass through this life I shall emphatically declare for the rights of the individual against impositions by the State for military and industrial purposes. For illustration, in this Parliament we have had industrial compulsion, military conscription, and conscription extended from 12 to 18 months. So it goes on, and I should imagine that the administration of this Bill will fasten more securely than ever military shackles upon the individual.
I do not know enough of the details of Army life, however, to argue about the administrative difficulties that may arise, but let me put one point. According to the latest figures, we have now in the Fighting Services 784,900 men and women and 237,100 civilians waiting upon them employed by the Service Departments. I should like some hon. or right hon. Members on either side of the House to explain how it comes about that we can find any amount of money for 2390 these purposes but, when we raise the question of extending house-building or education, or new road construction, there is always a financial halt called. In the columns of this Bill all we are told is that the Estimate of increased expense will be laid before Parliament in due course. If we were dealing with any other Department of State, we would be told almost to the last pound how much it would cost.
This may be a strong thing to say, but I am under the impression that this Bill is part of the price Great Britain has to pay for joining the Atlantic Pact. I am not arguing against the Atlantic Pact, but I should imagine that once we get into a pact like that we are bound to take notice of what the other great Powers have to say in relation to our Fighting Services. There is another point. The noble Lord talked about people who are patriotic and, if I understood him aright, the suggestion was that because one is a pacifist one cannot be a patriot. Well, my pacifism is the basis of my patriotism, because I have seen my country becoming absolutely bankrupt and hopelessly in debt all over the world as the result of being foolish enough to follow its military leaders into wars from time to time.
How comes it about that we have these one million people doing nothing at all but preparing for the next war? Indeed, some of the speeches that have been delivered here today remind me of 1938 and 1939. I trust none will be offended when I add that, while I do not blame my own country alone for this, it is a terrible thing to contemplate that while the statesmen of the four Powers are meeting in Paris, trying to patch up a peace, the nations and the governments they represent behind their backs are arming to the teeth, ready for the next great war. As I say, I do not want to criticise them unduly. They believe, I think wrongly, that one of the ways of securing peace is to be strong and ready for war. I take a different view, as I have already indicated.
I do not want to detain the House too long but I have a suitable quotation with which to support my contentions on this score. In passing, I am wondering from Press reports whether this Bill is the outcome of some negotiations between our Prime Minister and the Leader of 2391 the Opposition about our defence Services. I do not like any coalition with the Conservatives, especially on defence——
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Gentleman has made a statement which he should not make. I take the responsibility of saying that this Bill has nothing whatever to do with certain talks which are going on at a high level, and which quite properly are going on. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not make statements of that kind which have no foundation.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
My hon. Friend did not make a statement; he asked a question. Is it not clear that millions are putting the same question today, either vocally or otherwise?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
If I accepted the dictum of the noble Lord, I would say nothing at all. It would, however, take more than the noble Lord and the Tory Party to stop me preaching peace.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I am not denying that he is entitled to make the speech he is making—it is an eloquent one. I was only saying that he should not make the statement—and any Member of the Government would support me in this—that this is the result of some negotiations between the two sides.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Here is the quotation I want to give the House in support of my objections to all these military arrangements. The late Woodrow Wilson surely knew what he was talking about when he spoke about peace and war. Irrespective of my views on such mighty problems, it is worth while quoting what he said:So soon as you have a military class, it does not make any difference what your form of government is; if you are determined to be armed to the teeth you must obey the orders 2392 and directions of the generals who can control the great machinery of war. Elections are of minor importance … and back of that political policy is the constant pressure of the men trained to arms, enormous bodies of disciplined men, wondering if they are ever going to be allowed to use their education and their skill and ravage some great people with the force of arms. That is the meaning of armaments. It is not merely the cost of it, though that is overwhelming, but it is the spirit of it that matters.It is that military spirit that I am attacking.
I hope I have not said anything to damage my country, because I think well of our people and our institutions. I am, as I have stated, attacking the war spirit expressed in speeches in this House from time to time, four years after the greatest war in history, causing the most terrible destruction and bloodshed which some of us knew. Even now, there are hon. Gentlemen who talk as if they were preparing for another world war. The hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) said very frightening words for the military class when he suggested that the day had arrived when the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, except for a few aircraft, might be abolished. I wonder what was passing through the minds of the Ministers of the three Service Departments when he said that? My last word is this. I hate the idea of war; I wish the nations spent as much time, energy and money on peace as they are spending on the rearmament programmes which are proceeding at a very rapid and ominous rate.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. George Ward (Worcester)
If I ask the House to return its attention to the Bill which we are supposed to be discussing, I hope I shall not be accused by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) of negotiating with hon. Members opposite for another war. I want to make one or two points from the Air Force point of view. As the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton) pointed out, there is not very much to be said on the Second Reading of the Bill as regards the Air Force because most of the important points—one or two are extremely important—will arise and be dealt with, I hope on the Committee stage.
To a layman, and particularly one who is interested in Air Force matters, the Bill appears at first sight to be extremely 2393 badly drafted. The Secretary of State for Air explained why this is so, and there may, of course, be certain advantages in drafting the Bill in this particular way, but brevity can be overdone if in trying to achieve it we sacrifice clarity. I hope that before long it may be possible to introduce a comprehensive Bill which is also comprehensible.
I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would agree that anyone looking at the Bill and wanting to know how the associations were to be constituted and what their powers and duties were to be, would be very puzzled by Clauses 2 and 3. He would be astonished to find that no reference whatever was made to the Air Council, to the Reserves of the R.A.F. or even to the Air Training Corps. Not until Clause 7 does the thing begin to emerge at all clearly. Even then difficulties arise, because Clause 7 gives the impression that the Air Force selected members are not selected by the Air Council, because the Air Council is nowhere mentioned in the Bill. By being referred back all the time to the Army, one gets the impression that these Air Force selected members must be selected by the Army Council. That is the sort of thing which must be tidied up on the Committee stage.
There may be a further advantage in drafting the Bill in this way which was not mentioned by the Secretary of State for Air. It may be—I do not know—that the Order in Council, which must be made before the Bill becomes applicable to the Air Force, can be made to apply to the Air Force only those parts of the Bill which the Secretary of State thinks should be applied to it. As an illustration, let me refer to one of the few controversial matters which the Bill contains. I refer to Clause 5 and the power to cross-post before the Auxiliary Air Force is embodied in the Regular Air Force. I hope that the Secretary of State will use great discretion in exercising this power which will be given to him by Order in Council. From the Air Force point of view, the power to cross-post might be useful, and even necessary, in the case, for example, of fighter control units, all of which are part of the Auxiliary Air Force, or of the light ack-ack units, which used to be called the R.A.F. Regiment but which are now part of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
2394 But I hope that the Secretary of State does not use that power in the case of the flying squadrons. Those squadrons have built up for themselves a tremendous tradition and reputation. A very large part of their success has been due to their squadron spirit and local patriotism. Their members have always been friends, flying, working and training together; people who know each other extremely well and are used to working and flying side by side. They are extremely proud of their squadrons and of the crest painted on the aircraft, which is probably the same crest as that of the city whose name their squadron bears. They want to remain together, and if ever the time comes for them to fight, they will fight very much better together than if they were separated in completely different squadrons. Recruiting for the Auxiliary flying squadrons is difficult enough already. It would be made even more difficult if it became known to those wishing to join that instead of being able to go to war as one inseparable unit, they were to be regarded as a sort of pool from which postings would be made to other units.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
It may help the hon. Member and, perhaps, those who read what he has said, if I say that so far as we can see ahead there is not the slightest intention of posting between Royal Auxiliary Air Force flying squadrons. I could not commit Governments hereafter, but that is not our intention at the moment. We are seeking the power because we think it is necessary in connection with the report and control system, with special reference to the fighter control units.
§ Mr. Ward
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and very pleased to hear him say that. I agree that it may be useful in fighter control units, but, as he knows, there is a competitive spirit among the flying squadrons and, owing to this natural and healthy spirit of local pride and patriotism, there are squadrons which one considers slightly inferior to one's own. I am pleased that the Secretary of State is of the same opinion that nothing should be done to destroy this great tradition and inter-squadron spirit.
I believe that Clause 12 (2, b) will apply to the Royal Air Force Reserves by Order in Council. I am not at all 2395 persuaded or convinced by the Secretary of State's assurance that a man will be attracted by an extra 1s. a day. I do not think he will be interested in an extra 1s. a day. He will be much more interested in the fact that, if he wants to start up a business of his own when he leaves the Regular force or offer himself to civilian employment, always hanging over his head will be the possibility that he might be called up and have to leave his business. It must be unsatisfactory for a man to have that liability for the first 12 months.
I believe it could be avoided and if it could, it should be avoided, because it is unsettling to the man and unsatisfactory to his employer. If a man signs voluntarily that he is prepared to do that, it is a different matter, but if he is compelled to do it 1s. a day compensation is not good enough. I hope that is one of the matters which will emerge more clearly in the Committee stage. Apart from these points, I believe the Bill is valuable and will be made more valuable if it is tidied up on Committee stage. If I am fortunate enough to be on the Committee, I will give the Government every assistance I can from the Air Force point of view.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) concluded his speech by a quotation from President Wilson, a quotation which said that, whatever kind of government we had, the menace was the military caste. I think that was a complete misreading of history. The government and the nature of the government are very much more important than anything else. It is a very striking fact that when we look at the growth of war we find that it is associated closely with the growth of power. The number of people under arms in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars was three million. We killed and wounded five times that number in the First World War alone and I do not know how many more were lost in the Second World War. It is when power is associated with democratic government and not with absolute government that there is a growth of war. The French philosopher, Taine, made a very profound observation, which I think the 20th century is showing to be true, that if we place the voting paper in everyone's hands, we also place the soldier's knapsack on everyone's back. That is 2396 the gradual growth which has taken place in Europe.
The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) wrote a very interesting book before coming into this House, on Plato and the nature of democracy and democratic government. This Bill is the first which has been introduced into this House that brings about Platonic democracy in this country. It includes women for the first time. It was argued a long time ago that women should be on the same basis as men. The argument for that, using the Socratic principle, is the interesting argument that we never divide watchdogs by sex, but employ them according to function. On the same principle, we employ both men and women in the Armed Forces. That was the argument, and it is a very valid argument if one accepts the association of power with the form of government.
When the old absolute kings had to make their appeal, they had to go round for money to keep their forces. Their resources were limited because their power was limited. Louis XIV, with all his absolute power, had small resources and in those days one could move from one country to another without obstruction, although those countries were at war. Although Napoleon imposed conscription, he was never able to call up more than half a given class, but Hitler, having the democratic resources of universal suffrage in a given form and universal control of propaganda forces, was able to summon all the resources of the nation, men, women and even children.
That is the change and that change imposes itself on countries like this which wish to follow the democratic way of life without exercising that power. Here is the problem which confronts modern Europe and makes necessary Bills of this sort. I do not take the pacifist point of view—I have served in the Forces—and I do not share the argument of the hon. Member for Westhoughton, but there is force in his speech, although I think he missed the real point, as did the quotation he made. The real point is how democracy, by extending its control over the life of the individual in every form, exercising many controls as a benevolent and beneficient power, can escape by the exercise of that power from war on an ever-increasing scale. That is the problem we have to solve. The right hon. 2397 and learned Gentleman would not have been introducing this Bill today except for the fact that throughout half Europe, in the name of democracy, Government is controlling the resources of masses of people, whose lives and resources are at the will of Government. That position is compelling our democratic Government for the first time to extend to women, if they have entered the Territorial Army voluntarily, provisions relating to service abroad. That is a serious situation and a very serious problem.
The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said that he believed that if we had had adequate preparation in 1914 and 1939 we would have escaped war. I do not believe that to be true. I do not think we could have escaped war in 1914 or 1939, because it is inherent in the problem of the extension of power where a government controls the lives of the citizens.
§ Earl Winterton
Since the hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted me, may I point out that it may be argued from both sides. The point I was making was that when our Navy was supreme for nearly a hundred years we avoided war. It was only when the Germans had a Navy almost equal to ours that we were engaged in it.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
But in 1939 governments had been able to gain control over the lives of the people; and once there was an evil-minded dictator in a position of authority and power, not only could we not escape war with that man's country, but war was imposed on other countries who did not desire it in the least. They found themselves in the position of having to fight to save their lives and copying him afterwards in peacetime conditions. That is the problem we have to face.
This Bill is a narrow Bill. I very much doubt whether it will even accomplish what is desired in the preparation for war. That, however, is a matter of technical criticism. We must strive to ensure that the quality of life as well as the survival of mankind is secured. For 2398 what do people want to live? They want not merely to live, but to have the good life.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
I would accept the right hon. Gentleman's own argument. He would prefer armed service on a voluntary basis, which is a very important factor. I would remind the House that the position of woman is one of the marks of Christian civilisation. Christian civilisation places woman in a unique position, and one would not like to alter that position. It is the attack on what woman stands for in civilisation that is the worst feature of this Bill.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
It would be fascinating to follow the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) into his analysis of what are the root causes of wars and what are the consequences of fighting them. But I think that that is not the subject with which the House is concerned tonight. We are concerned with this Bill as a contribution to our capacity to defend ourselves if attacked, and to express our own way of life.
There is only one point with which I desire to trouble the House on Second Reading. It is in a sense purely a Committee point which, if the House so wills, can be corrected in Committee. But because it seems to me to raise a matter of real fundamental constitutional importance I think it is proper to raise it at the earliest stage on Second Reading, even though it may be corrected in Committee without any danger, as I see it, to the rest of the Bill. I offer no criticism whatever about the efficacy of the Bill for its purpose. I am not qualified to do so and I do not propose to do so. The constitutional point which seems to me to be significant is found in Subsection (3) of Clause 13.
As I understand it, there are two constitutional safeguards for our democratic way of life, our Parliamentary democratic way of life, because the words, "democratic way of life" are used nowadays to describe so many things. By "democratic way of life" in this country we mean control by a freely elected Parliament of the Executive. If we have not that, we have not the democratic way of 2399 life as we in this country understand it, and would wish to preserve it. What are the two safeguards? One is the control of this House over money. I am not suggesting that that is in any way impaired or undermined by this Bill; of course it is not. The other is the control by this House of the right of the Executive to summon and to maintain, or indeed to have at all, Armed Forces of any kind. That is why we pass an Army Act for one year at a time, only because there would be no safeguard whatever that Parliament could have if the Executive were able to raise and maintain an Army otherwise than in accordance with the exercise of the check and control of the House of Commons.
What does this subsection do? It disposes of one of those essential safeguards, or two of them. Subsection (3) repeals, so far as this Bill is concerned, Sections 12 and 13 of the Reserve Forces Act, 1882. Section 12 of that Act provides:In case of imminent national danger or of great emergency,"—not very different words from the words used in this Bill—… the occasion being first communicated to Parliament, if Parliament be then sitting, or declared in Council and notified by the proclamation, if Parliament be not then sitting …then the Reserves may be called out by proclamation. That does not apply to the new Reserve we are creating by this Bill. There is no need for Parliament to be consulted at all. There is no need for Parliament to be notified, except as a partial safeguard later on. There is no need for any Proclamation——
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not think that my hon. Friend is right when he says that a new Reserve is being created. It is the Class A Reserve which existed before this Bill was drafted, the Supplementary Reserve, and the militia.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am prepared to accept what my right hon. Friend says, because he is much more likely to be right on that point than I. But I think he will agree that it does not affect the argument which I am offering to the House and that is that the Reserve, whatever it may be, can be called up to a limited extent, to the extent of 30,000 men, without there being any Proclamation 2400 and without there being any summoning of Parliament.
§ Mr. Crossman
Would not my hon. Friend agree that that power has been there for the last 20 years and that there is nothing new in this Bill?
§ Mr. Silverman
No, Sir. I was a little worried on that point myself and with their customary co-operation and helpfulness my colleagues on the Front Bench explained it to me. The power which my hon. Friend has in mind, and which made me wonder whether I might be wrong in my interpretation, existed for 20 years with regard to the Territorial Forces and not the Reserve, and what we are dealing with here is the Reserve. If it were not so there would be no need for this. Subsection in the Bill. If I am wrong no doubt I shall be corrected.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
As a matter of fact, the Reserve Forces and Militia Act of 1898 provides for the calling out of the Reserves without any Proclamation or communication to Parliament.
§ Mr. Silverman
Then what we are asked to do is not without precedent, but I think that the Parliament of that day was a little slack in allowing the Executive to take such power, and the point I am raising today ought to have been raised 50 years ago. My right hon. and learned Friend will not be surprised to find that this Parliament is not taking for granted points which Parliaments 50 years ago were only too ready to take for granted. I say that Parliament ought not to give to the Executive, unless it is absolutely necessary, power to call out or embody a Reserve without a proclamation and without notification to Parliament.
But Section 13 is more important. If the emergency was a serious emergency a country would be acting suicidally if it refrained from calling up its Armed Forces and using them when attacked merely because it was not convenient or practical to call Parliament. Because of that, there was Section 13 which provided that:Whenever Her Majesty orders the army reserve and militia reserve, or either of them, to be called out on permanent service, if Parliament be then separated by such adjournment or prorogation as will not expire within 10 days.…2401 then Parliament must be summoned. That Section is also repealed by subsection (3) of Clause 13 of this Bill. How can it be necessary for the purposes of this Bill to dispense with essential constitutional safeguards of that kind? As I understand the argument, and as I understand the Bill, these powers are not to be used at all unless there is an actual attack or an apprehended attack on the United Kingdom. I am not concerned to say that the Executive ought not to have such powers in such circumstances. What troubles me is that if the powers are not to be exercised unless there is an actual attack or an apprehended attack on the United Kingdom, what can be the sense, the wisdom or the necessity of dispensing with the summoning of Parliament? If Parliament is sitting at the time, then no doubt, the appropriate questions can be asked, the appropriate authority given and the appropriate responsibility called upon. If Parliament does not happen to be sitting when there is an attack upon the shores of this country, is it conceivable that Parliament would not immediately be summoned?
§ Mr. Silverman
I am trying to deal with the matter fairly by dealing with one section at a time. If there is an attack we can use these Forces, and it is true that if there is an apprehended attack we can use these Forces. I am dealing first with the position if there is an actual attack. If there is such an attack there is no Member of this House who would say that Parliament should not be summoned at once. The second point is, supposing that the attack is not an attack then impending, but merely an apprehended attack in the sense that the Government have a real fear that an attack is contemplated and may eventuate at any moment without notice or without declaration of war, then it is absolutely inconceivable that the Government of the day, feeling that a situation had arisen which entitled them to use these powers, would not also feel it necessary to summon Parliament at once.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
It would depend on the Government's definition of how serious the danger of an attack was. They might apprehend an attack, but their view might 2402 not be accepted by Parliament and the people.
§ Mr. Silverman
That would only strengthen my point. If the apprehended attack is not a serious one, then there is no case at all for the use of these powers, whereas if it is a serious apprehension which is well founded, then it is inconceivable that anyone would think that Parliament should not be summoned at once. If that is accepted, I cannot understand why the Government should seek to repeal by this Bill, at any rate, Section 13 of the Reserve Forces Act, 1882. I would not agree with it, but I can conceive that an argument might be made on Section 12 about the proclamation. An argument might be made, but I think that it would be a bad argument. The Secretary of State for Air explained that point by saying that the Government might want to do this unobtrusively. I do not know how we could call out 30,000 men unobtrusively.
§ Mr. Silverman
We could call only a few, but if the attack is of such a nature that it can be met by calling only a few, I do not know why we need these extraordinary powers. It really does not make sense.
If, on the other hand, there is an apprehended attack then I should think that the more obtrusively we take our defence measures the more likely we are to deter the enemy from making that attack that we apprehend. In either case, I can see no sense whatever in taking the defence measures unobtrusively. If we once say that we intend to take defence measures unobtrusively, and we announce that to the world, to that extent we make a provocative gesture in international affairs. I confess that I can see an argument against that. I can see how an argument could be advanced in favour of unobtrusive defensive precautionary measures. I do not agree with it, and I have given my reasons, but I can see a case for it. I cannot see any case for dispensing with summoning Parliament.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
The hon. Gentleman admits that there is an argument for being unobtrusive. Surely, if there is a case for being unobtrusive it is inconsistent to summon Parliament. That would make the action obvious.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Gentleman makes a point, but it is purely controversial. I return to the argument which I put in the forefront of the general case which I am advancing. It is that if we have either an attack or an apprehension of an attack that is serious, it is inconceivable that Parliament should not be summoned—not necessarily that it should be summoned in connection with the embodiment or calling up of the Reserve—and, therefore, these steps might be taken unobtrusively. I cannot understand by what argument at least Section 13 of the 1882 Act is repealed as far as it affects the purposes of this Bill.
That is all I wish to say. I propose to say more about it during the Committee stage when it may be more appropriate to do so. I hope that the House will agree if there is anything in the point—it may be that there is not—that it is of sufficient constitutional gravity to justify an intervention on the Second Reading of this Bill if only to get it answered. It is not often that I can call in aid the sympathy of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I am sure that both sides of the House will agree that in the phase of human affairs through which we are passing we cannot dispense with any of the essential safeguards which limit Executive power and make Executive power more and not less responsible to elected representative opinion. I say most earnestly to the Government that this Bill would be a very much better Bill without subsection (3) of Clause 13.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
Without agreeing in general with the remarks of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), I agree with his last proposition. Otherwise, it appears to me that the main objects of this Bill as described in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum are, with a few exceptions, not unacceptable to both sides of the House. Those main objects are first the modernisation of the constitution of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations, and enabling them to undertake functions connected with the Reserves of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, as to both of which I shall have some few words 2404 to say a little later. As to the other main object of making the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces more readily available to meet actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom, or to meet a minor emergency in the form of operations abroad, I think we shall mostly be in agreement with it.
I wonder why, however, a more comprehensive Bill could not have been introduced—a Bill dealing fully with all Reserves existing and otherwise, and their liabilities. Would this not have been an appropriate time for the production of such a Bill, especially as the 1939 Proclamation under the Reserve Forces Act, 1882, is still in force? The provision for setting up an association for two or more counties is, it seems to me, both desirable and convenient. In some counties with small populations and small territorial forces to maintain, the maintenance of separate associations is not justifiable from the point of view either of expense or of administrative convenience. In a good many cases this provision has been anticipated. There are already counties which, for administrative purposes, have joined their associations together. I would mention one county which has had one association for as long as it has existed. That is the association of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight of which for 10 years I was the chairman. Those counties, although they constitute one lieutenancy and they have one Lord Lieutenant, are none the less two separate administrative counties and they have always had one Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association. To my certain knowledge this has worked extremely well.
As to Clause 2 (2), the requirement that not less than half the whole membership of the association should be members or former members of the Army or the Royal Air Force, seems to me to be sound. It gives a wider choice of the so-called military members than the old rule did. Also sound, in my opinion, is the provision for the appointment of representatives on the association of county district councils as well as of county councils and county borough councils. I hope very much that this provision will engender and increase interest in the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces in the county districts as well as in the counties generally.
2405 However, in view of Clause 3 (2) which confers on associations functions connected with the organisation and administration of Reserves of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines as well as of the Sea Cadet Corps, I do not understand why there appears to be no provision for representation of the Royal Navy on these associations. It seems to me to be essential, at least in what might be called the maritime counties—the counties which border on the sea, and especially those which have large naval ports and establishments within the limits of the county.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) suggested that this might be only legalising what has already been going on. I cannot speak for other counties, but I can speak for my own county which is very emphatically a maritime county, and which includes the great naval port of Portsmouth; we have certainly never done anything of the kind. There has never been any provision for this to be done, and it has not been done either officially or unofficially. There is a real omission in this Bill in that there is no provision for the representation of the Royal Navy on associations which may have to administer the Reserves and Auxiliary Forces of the Navy. In Clause 7 (3, a), moreover, the establishment of joint Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces Associations is provided for—that is to say, in the sense of it being joint between the Army and the Air Force—but there is no mention of the Royal Navy.
As regards the calling up of the Reserves, it seems that the provisions for assimilating the systems of calling up the Reserves of the three Services are generally sound, especially the constitution of the special class of the Royal Fleet Reserve to correspond with Section A of the Army Reserve. I believe that the nearer we can get to similarity in conditions of call-up and service in the Reserves of the various Services, the better it will be and the less chance there will be of any inter-Service feeling on the subject. No objections can be raised to two provisions, first, as to all Reserves and Auxiliary Forces being liable to call out for home defence without notification to Parliament. I say that in spite of the opinions of the hon. Member for Nelson 2406 and Colne. Nor can there be any objection to the large increase in the numbers of men who can be called up for overseas service without any Proclamation.
I now come to Clause 5 (1, c) relating to liability on embodiment to serve in any part of the world. I think this is a very necessary provision, and those of us who can look back to 1914, when there was a very definite option allowed as to whether the Territorial forces would serve abroad or not, will agree that there were great difficulties. I think this will make matters much clearer and better in every way. One point in Clause 5 is open to question and possible objection, and that is the power taken under Clause 5 (3) to transfer volunteers—and I particularise volunteers—in the Territorial Army from one corps to another without their consent when the Territorial Army is called up for home defence. This power may be necessary in exceptional cases. The danger is that the use of that power may become the rule rather than the exception. The damage done in the Regular Army to county and regimental esprit de corps has been not inconsiderable by this power which has been taken in the Regular Army.
Territorial Army loyalties and spirit are primarily local and county, and immense damage may be done if this power is used unwisely. Special cases may arise, I agree, as regards the conversion, for instance, of infantry or possibly Royal Engineers to anti-aircraft duties, but generally this power should be used as sparingly and exceptionally as possible, and it should only be used, so far as possible, in the case of units drawn from adjacent localities. I have known of cases in the Territorial Army during the last war in which considerable drafts from the north country were sent to very south country regiments; I believe there were cases, although I do not know of them personally, of this happening to drafts from Scotland. I do not hesitate to say that, with the best will in the world, a great many of the drafts of men and the units to which they were drafted could hardly understand one another's language.
I wish to refer to Clause 12 (1, d), which deals with the liability of the Militia under this Bill. I would like some explanation as to exactly what nowadays is the Militia. Does this refer to those who are still serving who were 2407 called out under the Militia Acts just before the beginning of the war, or is there, officially, any body of Militia at this moment? I also wonder whether some provision should not be made under this Bill for dealing with the formation of a Home Guard. It is almost certain that if there is war again there will again be a Home Guard. In the last war the Home Guard did wonderful work but it suffered from being improvised at very short notice without any kind of prior preparation having been given to the question of its formation. I suggest that a Clause might very well be inserted in this Bill at least making possible the formation of a Home Guard, and laying down certain conditions for its formation.
I would once again say that this Bill seems to me to be generally acceptable to hon. Members on both sides of the House—we know there are some to whom it is not acceptable—as necessary. I would only suggest that during the Committee stage, certain Amendments on the points which I have mentioned might very well be considered.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton (Sudbury)
I wish to support what the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) said about the need to use this power of transfer wisely. Every soldier knows the enormous importance of esprit de corps in maintaining the efficiency of any unit, and we have to be careful about doing anything that might harm it. Those of us who served any length of time have probably known cases in which the Staff has rather tended to disregard that fact. I used to put it down to the fact that officers who went to the Staff were liable to have one Staff appointment after another without intermediate spells of regimental service, as they were supposed to have. Many of us have probably heard the saying attributed to Sir Henry Wilson when he was giving advice to a young officer. He said: "If you want to get on in the Army, my lad, keep away from the troops." I hope that that is now a thing of the past and that it is insisted that all officers shall do spells of regimental service in between spells of Staff service, so that due notice will be taken of this very important matter of esprit de corps.
2408 At the same time we must not confuse means and ends. Esprit de corps is a means towards an efficient Army, towards creating that spirit of enthusiasm in the Army without which it will not do its job, but if that is made into a fetish and is allowed to militate against efficiency by hampering flexibility it is failing to achieve its object. We have to combine flexibility with the maintenance of esprit de corps, and I am quite sure that it can be done if commanding officers particularly and their junior officers and N.C.O.'s, both in what I might call the parent unit and the foster parent unit, pay strict attention to it. Make it clear to the man that he is only leaving his parent unit temporarily and also how important is the reason for his leaving. We all like variety, and if the matter is put in the right way, no man, if he is an infantryman, will mind going and doing a spell of anti-aircraft work.
I wish to turn to another point which I do not think has been much touched upon this evening. I refer to the first object of this Bill—broadening the basis of Territorial Associations, and particularly to Clause 2 (3) (b) which refers to the appointment of people:representing employers in, and persons employed in, the area …That is in contrast to the provision in the 1907 Act which merely considered the appointment of:such number of co-opted members as the scheme may prescribe, including, if thought desirable, representatives of the interests of employers and workmen.The whole emphasis has been changed, and we can now look forward to seeing real representation of employees on those associations.
It is true to say that for many generations there has tended to be something of a division between the Armed Forces and the ordinary citizen. The Armed Forces were something rather apart and in so far as those ordinary citizens were concerned who were out to promote a new order in which there would be a great extension of freedom and democracy, both in the political and economic sphere, in other words, Socialistrevolutionaries, there was considerable antagonism towards the Armed Forces. That is easy to understand because those progressively-minded people were up against existing authority, and the Armed Forces were the last line of defence of existing authority. 2409 The Army always hated the job of being called out to suppress civil disorder; it was not what officers and men had enlisted for; they had enlisted to fight the nation's enemies. It is also true that with very rare exceptions the Army, when called out on this unpleasant duty, acted with tact, judgment and restraint. But those progressively-minded people could hardly be expected to realise all that, and they had, in consequence, a feeling of antagonism towards the Armed Forces.
We require to change that completely. Since the 1945 Election the attitude of the ordinary citizen towards the Government has changed. The Government are regarded as their own Government, to a degree to which no Government was ever so regarded before. The ordinary citizen now feels, looking at it from his point of view: "This is my Government, this is our Government." We want them to feel the same way about the Army, Navy and Air Force—that they are theirs. This provision in the Bill can do a great deal towards that.
I would be the last to belittle the fine work which has been carried out by Territorial Army Associations, but I do not think anybody can deny that they have been recruited from a somewhat narrow section of our population, and it is most important that their basis should be broadened, as this Bill gives power to do. Of course, we want to see how these powers are to be used, and we want them to be fully used, but that depends on both sides. It depends, first, on the War Office side, and I think we can trust the Secretary of State for War to carry out his part in encouraging the full enlistment and co-operation of trade union and working-class leaders in these associations, but we also want a response, and a very full response, from the other side.
I would therefore appeal to trade union leaders and working-class leaders to pay great attention to this matter. I appeal to my hon. Friends in this House to give all the encouragement they can to it; that is to say, those of us—and they are the vast majority—who believe in defending this country at all. I think those to whom I refer do realise that this great experiment which we are carrying out in building up social democracy and social justice in this country can only survive if we keep our country intact.
2410 My hon. Friend the Member for West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said that it perturbed him to hear hon. Members of the Opposition backing up the Government on this Bill. I do not see why he should be perturbed, because surely that aim of keeping our country intact is common to both sides. The Opposition want it because they want to preserve the old order; we want it because we want to establish a new order. Both of us, therefore, want to keep this country intact, so that a Measure which is framed from the point of view of defending this country against aggression is quite likely to receive support from both sides of the House, and I think that is a good sign.
Bearing that point in mind, it is most important that our Territorial Army, in particular, should receive this general support from working-class leaders and organisations. I think it would be a very great inducement to better recruiting, both in numbers and in quality, that it would knit the ordinary citizen, the Armed Forces and the Territorial Army more closely together than they have yet been, and for that reason I most heartily support that part of this Bill, and I commend it to my hon. Friends on this side of the House.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton) was in a very possessive mood. He explained that now the people think they have a Government of their own, for the first time in history, and he was anxious that the people——
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton
May I correct the hon. and gallant Gentleman? What I actually said was "to a greater extent than ever before"?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I accept the hon. and gallant Gentleman's correction. He then went on to suggest that it was important that people should also feel possessive about their Navy, Army and Air Force. I do not wish to quibble with him as to who is to be the commander-in-chief of those forces, but I do emphasise that I believe that the people of this country are extremely interested in the welfare and wellbeing of the Armed Forces. It is because I believe that they are extremely anxious about the welfare of the Services that I am 2411 going to speak tonight in the way I intend to do. That is, perhaps, not a way which some of my hon. Friend's will expect, but I have given some considerable thought to the matter, and the conclusions which I have reached as a result are very far from those which some of my hon. Friends have reached.
I believe that this Bill was introduced, first of all, to fill up time. In fact, this Bill has been rushed upon the House, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) has pointed out. It was presented only on 23rd May. The Territorial Associations have not had an opportunity of fully discussing it, and we as Members have had the chance of making only one brief contact with our associations, and that is not enough before we discuss a Bill of this importance. I take the very strongest exception to the way in which this Bill has been rushed before the House, and I believe it will suffer as a result of being, so rushed. Already, we have seen that the Government were not even clear when they sent it to the printers which Minister was responsible for introducing it.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
It has been suggested to me that one reason why the Bill has been introduced is in order to prepare the way for a consolidation Measure affecting all Reserves. What I do not see, and what I hope we shall have explained to us tonight, is why it should be necessary first to introduce this Bill in order to get a consolidation Measure to tidy up existing legislation.
The reason I am disturbed is that the Army, in particular, is suffering from what it will always suffer unless the Secretary of State for War is on the alert to prevent it. It is suffering from what the "A" Branch of the War Office considers to be convenient from the administrative point of view, without proper regard being paid to what the officers and other ranks have to do in order to work out these arrangements. It is for that reason that I take the strongest exception to the provisions of paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 5 (3). I know that, certainly in rural areas and I believe it to be true of urban areas as well, nothing was a greater spur to recruitment before the war, especially when the Territorial 2412 Army was doubled in a hurry just before the war broke out, than the fact that it could be held out to men living in villages that, if they joined, they would be placed in a platoon with their own friends and see their way through action with their own friends. This Bill destroys that.
We have an assurance from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air, who moved the Second Reading, that the Government are prepared to look kindly upon any suggestions against compulsory transfer. That is a step in the right direction, but it has got to go further than that. Example after example can be cited to show that, if "A" Branch can get away with something which is administratively convenient to them, they will do it, and that if the Secretary of State for War does not look after regimental interests all the time, the War Office, or "A" Branch, will do what is most convenient for them and that which causes the least amount of administrative difficulty. It is natural that they should, and I am not particularly blaming their motive at all. One knows that everybody likes to do a job in the most convenient way, because people think it is the most efficient way; but the fact remains that it comes back on the regimental soldier in such a way as to endanger esprit de corps. I was rather surprised that my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), when opening for the Opposition this afternoon, did not translate that phrase, if only for the convenience of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, but the importance of esprit de corps is realised in the Territorial Army. Indeed, its importance is recognised in the Regular Army as well, and if we destroy it, we are making quite certain that the Armed Forces will not be in as healthy a state as they should be.
I believe that the state of Anti-Aircraft Command at the present time is far from what it should be. I also believe that the real reason this Bill has been introduced, quite apart from the fact that it is convenient to fit in something just before Whitsun, is that the right hon. Gentleman knows that if he wanted to get Anti-Aircraft Command into as good a state as it should be in, he would have to call up some people. Another reason why I strongly dislike this Bill is because we have now in Anti-Aircraft Command, I understand, some mixed batteries and 2413 the right hon. Gentleman is seeking in this Bill the power to call up selected people whom he finds he needs to fill gaps. In Clause 17 (4) we find the trite phrase:This Act shall apply to women as it applies to men.What the right hon. Gentleman is now doing in bringing this Measure before the House is to acquire power to call up certain selected women for certain selected jobs in the Armed Forces before all the men have been called up.
As a rule, I do not believe in trying to make party points on the matter of defence, but I think it is considerably stretching the loyalty of the Opposition in this House if we are asked to support the right hon. Gentleman in doing something which he knows perfectly well, had it gone into the Election manifesto of the Labour Party, would have resulted in that party not being returned at the last General Election. I defy any hon. Member opposite to get up and say that they made it clear on Election platforms that they would be calling up women before men in the case of an emergency being apprehended. That is what they are doing by this Bill, and that is why I cannot possibly support them on it tonight.
Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but, even so, I am glad to be able to say that I do not find it so very wrong that it was unnecessary for Lord Nelson to have Lady Hamilton with him on board H.M.S. "Victory" in order to win the Battle of Trafalgar. I would say, as a general principle—I know the right hon. Gentleman is not yet the first Lord of the Admiralty, but perhaps that is an honour to come—that men are the people who cause wars, and that men should only involve women directly in war when there is no hope of winning without doing so. I believe it is quite unnecessary to call up women for Anti-Aircraft Command in, I was going to say men mixed batteries, but perhaps I had better say, "women mixed batteries" of that Command. I take great exception to it, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who I see is half smiling, will not think for one moment that I am trying to be funny. I mean this very seriously. I believe that we are doing something by this Bill which is certainly contrary to Conservative principles, and I strongly hope that it is contrary to Socialist principles as well. I am quite certain that 2414 it would not have brought the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends into office, had he said in 1945 that he was going to do this.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The right hon. Gentleman asks, "Do what?" I can only suppose that he is not taking the trouble to listen to what I am saying. If that is so, I can only hope that he will read the report of what I am saying in HANSARD tomorrow morning. The right hon. Gentleman has the very great art—and I hand it to him—of hearing only what is administratively convenient. It is that very point which I am criticising in his Department at the present time. There are far too many people in his Department, and, indeed, in the Armed Forces, who will only do what is administratively convenient, and that is not good enough.
There are many points with which we shall have to deal in Committee. I know that there are many points which the Territorial Associations will wish to raise, but I believe that we in this House are in duty bound to make sure that we do not wallow any further in the morass into which our Defence Services have got since this Government took office. Because this Bill is trying to deal with the Territorial Army in its present form, it cannot be a good Bill, for the Territorial Army in its present form is a bad Territorial Army. I am not making any reflections on individual members of it. Indeed, I pay tribute to them, because if any Territorial Army has deserved the tribute of this House it is the Territorial Army of the last 20 years. Never in history has it had to go through such difficulties of training. However, I believe that we shall never get our defences right so long as we go on accepting without question the principle of Measures which this Government put before the House, on the apparent assumption that the original step which they took to reorientate our defences in time of peace was the right step. I believe that it has been fundamentally wrong.
I accepted conscription, although reluctantly, because I believed it necessary at that time. I still believe that it cannot be abolished at once today, but we and the right hon. Gentleman must really take steps to ensure that we 2415 do not kill the Regular Army on its feet, which he is trying to do at this moment. The Regular Army is being slowly destroyed; the esprit de corps is being slowly destroyed, and the best officers, N.C.O.s and men have started to leave the Army because they know that it is not the Army as they understood it when they joined, and because it is quite impossible for it to be as they want it to be, under the existing system.
It is because I believe that the first half of this Bill in its application to the Territorial Army makes that confusion even worse confounded that I cannot accept it. I believe there is to be an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill. I do not know, of course, whether that Amendment will be called. I shall certainly not go into the Lobby against the Bill, and, indeed, if it is put to the Vote, I shall not go into either Lobby for this reason. I am not so presumptuous as to believe, like some hon. Members opposite, that I am the repository of all the wisdom in this world, and I am not so arrogant as to suppose that what I have said can be applied at once. I believe that we must take very firm steps in the near future to put our Defence Forces on a proper footing. This Bill does nothing towards that; it continues the confusion we are in at the moment and in some ways makes it worse. In my opinion we shall never have our defences on the right lines until we have a really effective volunteer Regular Army. That is what is being destroyed by the present system. Since he has been in office the right hon. Gentleman has not done one single thing effectively to bring about a satisfactory volunteer Regular Army. It is for that reason that I shall abstain if a Division is called upon the Bill.
I certainly should not support the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who, I know, would have quite different motives for disliking this Bill from those which I have expressed. On the other hand, to expect me to support the Bill is to expect me to support inefficiency, incompetence and lack of thought. It is lack of thought which, perhaps, matters more than either of the other two things at the present time—thoughtlessness in not realising the position of the unfortunate Regulars in the Army, Navy and Royal 2416 Air Force and in not realising what a terrible time the Territorial Army has been through during the last few years and the even worse time it will go through when the National Service men begin to enter after their full-time service.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
On a point of Order. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) mentioned the Amendment standing in my name, "That the Bill be read a Second time upon this day six months." May I have your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to whether it is your intention to call that Amendment?
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) because it seemed that this Debate was going too quietly, with the Tory Party showing most unrepresentative reasonableness in accepting the views of the Government. It is true that earlier there had been a typical Tory touch when the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) spoke from the Front Opposition Bench and made reference to Lord Haldane. I must come back to that. That was a very nice reference to Lord Haldane, and I am glad to see the noble Lord in his place now. I think that we all know on this side of the House that Lord Haldane was undoubtedly the greatest civilian who ever had anything to do with military matters in this country, and it is worth noticing that, the Tories having hounded that man out of public life, having thrown him out despite all his services, now 40 years later a spokesman of the Tory Party, in a passing aside, says that, after all, he was a great man.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does not the hon. Member know that the Labour Party opposed Lord Haldane's Territorial proposals?
§ Earl Wintertonrose——
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) referred to me, so perhaps he would be good enough to give way.
§ Mr. Crossman
I thought I might be able to reply to one hon. Member before the noble Lord intervened.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was not referring to the Labour Party's opposition to Lord Haldane's Territorial scheme; I was referring to the fact that the Tories hounded him out of public life.
§ Earl Winterton
Perhaps I may now be permitted to reply to the hon. Member. It is quite untrue to say that the Tory Party hounded Lord Haldane out of public life. It is quite true that in the 1914 war he was attacked by Lord Northcliffe—whether the hon. Member would describe him as a typical Tory or not I do not know—but certainly he was not hounded out of public life, because afterwards he became Lord Chancellor in a Socialist Government. The hon. Member is talking more nonsense than he usually does.
§ Mr. Crossman
I regret that the noble Lord should say that, because he really was sweet and reasonable, apart from this reference, and I appreciated very much his tardy recognition of Lord Haldane. I am sorry that he does not appreciate my compliments.
I should like to turn now to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely. We have the Blimps of the right and the Blimps of the left, and I had a great hope that I should see the Blimps of the right and the Blimps of the left go into the Lobby together against this Bill. I myself appreciate, the problems of abstention and I was glad to see the agony which the hon. and gallant Member felt in making up his mind to abstain. If I could give him one word of advice it is this: when abstaining, do it ostentatiously, do it with a long speech beforehand, do it with a profound display of sincerity, do it showing no sense of humour, do it with passion—but do it with a few better arguments. Perhaps I might deal with the arguments. He had three.
§ Mr. Crossman
I will give way when I have completed this point. We heard 2418 three arguments. The first was that this was a stop-gap Measure, brought in at the last moment. But the obvious fact is that this Bill should have been passed at least two or three years ago. All of us on this side who have pleaded, as we have here, first for a Class A Reserve and then for its enlargement, have known the urgent need for this Bill. It is also clear from the plans the War Office have had in relation to this Bill for months that the War Office is lucky that it has been jammed in at this moment. In fact, the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not have a shred of evidence for his assertion that this is a stop-gap Measure. The second point to which he turned—as I hoped he would—with really Blimp-like love was that of Clause 5 (3). Fortunately—unfortunately for him—there are modern brigadiers round about him who know what the modern Army is like. We all looked to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to have a proper Blimp-like reaction to Clause 5 (3).
§ Mr. Crossman
Let me complete the demolition of the hon. and gallant Gentleman and then he can reply. As to Clause 5 (3), we all appreciate that people prefer to join up locally and to be with their local acquaintances. We know that argument by heart. But I should have thought that it was true that the last war showed the difficulties it involves. When we have increasing mechanisation and specialisation, though we try to retain the principle of local association as far as possible, it is found to be entirely impossible to organise a modern army in that way, as though it were a village football match. We have had to move from the parish pump because we have a much more specialised Army. We have moved from the county association to the region, and military matters, despite the hon. and gallant Gentleman, have to make progress along with science and other sorts of progress. But I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman represents a definite attitude of mind, and we respect it, and the Bill contains careful safeguards in respect of this very matter.
§ Mr. Crossman
Just one more thing. Then, of course, there was the subject of the service of women. "These poor 2419 women," he said. What does the Bill say? It says that the women shall be treated exactly as the men.
§ Mr. Crossman
That is disgraceful! It is a disgraceful thing for women in the Armed Forces to be treated in the same way as men when they are released! As for all the hon. and gallant Gentleman's talk about these poor women, and the purity of women, in which he believes, I do not believe that any sensible British woman would accept his point of view. He is as Blimpish on this subject as he is on the parish pump. Now the hon. and gallant Gentleman can have his say.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am thankful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He has referred to me as a Blimp on several occasions. It gives me the greatest pleasure that I am referred to as a Blimp, if only because I think that the Blimps, as a class, had a war record a good deal better than that which the hon. Gentleman has.
§ Mr. Crossman
The Blimp class is noted not only for reaction but for bad manners. Now I should like to deal with the Blimps of the Left, and the speech of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). I am sorry he is not here. The pacifist Blimps fire off their bombs and then fly off to their constituencies without waiting for a reply. The great thing about being a pacifist is that one can lay claim to a specially correct conscience, and that one is allowed to make a speech without citing many facts to support it, and to depart before one can be corrected. In that way the purity of pacifism is maintained against every argument and all the evidence. The hon. Member has done this year after year for 40 years, and now he has gone off and we have no chance of clearing up his mind one little bit.
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Member for Westhoughton said the Bill was a result of the Atlantic Pact. Perhaps, we shall have that remark repeated by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes).
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Member for Westhoughton gave no evidence that this Bill was the result of the Atlantic Pact. On the contrary, the evidence is that it was designed long before the pact came into existence. Then he said the Bill was a result of conscription, and that it fastens yet more closely on the British people a military machine. In so saying he showed the weakness which so many of his colleagues show, of not understanding the thing he hates, for if there is one thing this Bill has nothing to do with, it is fastening conscription policy on the British people. It has all the opposite effect.
Why did we have to have conscription after the war? Why did we on this side of the House have to vote for it? For three reasons. We had to have it, first of all, because we did not have enough professional soldiers to meet our overseas commitments. So we had to have conscripts to fill the gap. Secondly, not only did we not have a large enough professional Army, but we did not have enough trained Reserves available to send overseas at short notice. Again, we had to fill the gap with conscripts. Thirdly, we have conscription for the general training of the men in the event of another emergency. If I know the opinions of hon. Members on this side of the House, it is that our party would never have agreed to pass conscription for the sake of general training. We supported it because there was no other way at that moment to maintain our Armed Forces overseas.
What has this Bill to do with conscription? This Bill does two things. First, despite what the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely told us, it will integrate the Territorial Army sensibly in the event of an emergency into war-time organisation. The second thing it does is to enable us to enlarge the Class A Reserve, and make it a reality. Those seem to me to be fairly sensible things to do. At any rate, they do something towards achieving the position which we want to reach, the reduction of the time 2421 of service of the conscript. That will never be reduced until the professional Army is larger, and there will not be a larger professional Army and a larger Class A Reserve without this Bill. Why the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Memfor the Isle of Ely does not agree with that, and does not see that the Bill helps precisely to achieve those two things which he himself so desperately wants I do not understand.
We on this side of the House support this Bill with sound consciences for two reasons. The first reason is that the Government at last are understanding that having a large conscript Army does not increase the number of effectives available. Indeed, having a large conscript Army almost decreases the effectiveness of the Army by keeping so many professional soldiers in training so that there are not sufficient for use overseas. When I was down at Camberley the other day, I had talks with several people, and not one single Staff officer agreed that it was a good thing to have conscription except for general training. I recall the arguments that were used by hon. Gentlemen opposite two years ago in regard to this matter of the training of conscripts. They did not use our arguments that conscription is needed for the present emergency, but they said that eighteen months was essential for the training of the soldier, although today the expert professional says that that is not so and would rather have them for six months.
§ Earl Winterton
Do I understand from the hon. Gentleman that he went down to Camberley in the official position of lecturer to the officers, and is he quoting their individual opinions or is he quoting them officially? He has no right, I suggest, to quote officially the opinion of the Army.
§ Mr. Crossman
I have every right to quote the opinion of a group of men which they gave to me in conversation with me. If I do not, how is the House to know what these people are thinking? The Army is constantly quoted without authentication by brigadiers amongst hon. Members opposite. In regard to conscription, we have learned our lesson, and all that we are doing in this Bill is increasing the class of Reserves and the professional Army with the idea of ultimately reducing the period of service of the conscript.
2422 I only want to make two more points. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) raised an important point in a rather complicated way. I was not very much convinced by the argument. I think my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate was a little nervous about the "unobtrusiveness" in the call-up of men. But the fact is that the more mechanised modern war becomes, the more numerous are the stages of preparation for war, and the longer it is before the final call-up of the Reserves by Proclamation. It may be that eight, nine or ten things require to be done. If, however, there is a possibility for genuine, unobtrusive steps to be taken, it means that we do not commit ourselves diplomatically, although there is a degree of preparedness. I think, therefore, that in the modern world it is practical common sense for certain quiet, unobtrusive steps to be taken as the Bill proposes. Last year for instance at the time of the Berlin crisis it was very opportune to do one or two things quietly and unobtrusively. It is no good telling me that these things cannot be done quietly. They can and I believe the key is here in one part of this Bill. That is why we should vote for it.
I should like to make one more remark. I regret the absence of the Minister of Defence. It is a great pity that he should have been away during perhaps the only Debate in the last two years when he would have had not only the votes but the arguments on his side.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)
I quite realise that the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) misses the Minister of Defence. If I remember rightly, it was the hon. Member who was the cause of the decline in the morale and in the general outlook of the Minister of Defence. However, that is all past. Like the hon. Member, I welcome the Bill, I welcome also the fact that it is very much a non-party Bill, which is all to the good. We can discuss these most important questions together so that by our contributions we can make the Bill a little better than it is.
Perhaps I have some right to speak on this subject. I do not go back as far as the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) or the hon. and gallant 2423 Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys), but I did start life as a lance-corporal at the funeral of Queen Victoria. I had commissioned rank in 1910, and I have been for many years a member of a Territorial association. In that connection, I would like to pay a tribute to the members of Territorial associations who, through all these years have done wonderful voluntary service. If it had not been for them, not only before the war but during the war in their organisation of the Home Guard, and for the part they have played in reorganisation since the war, the task of the Government would have been much more difficult.
Our difficulty today has been that some hon. Members have been looking at the matter from an ideal point of view, while others have looked at it from the practical point of view. I would tell my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) that I went through exactly the same difficulties after the first world war, reorganising a unit and building it up for years, as is happening to officers commanding units at the present time. I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend not to be too pessimistic about the matter because the people of this country, with their natural patriotism, will gradually come back and enable these units to be built up.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend does not believe, and that the House does not think, that I was questioning the natural patriotism of our people. That is the last thing I would do, as I tried to make clear in my speech.
§ Colonel Ponsonby
A great deal has been said of the necessity for Territorial units to remain as collective bodies. That is true from the ideal point of view, but we must also look at the practical point of view, which has come up many times in connection with Clause 5; it is essential to look at the matter from the modern angle. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) pointed out, methods of fighting have changed. I will give one very simple example. If war broke out suddenly and one of the batteries of my anti-aircraft regiment in Kent was knocked out, it would be essential immediately to 2424 replace it from, say, somewhere in the North of England. That example shows the obvious reason for the Clause.
We have at present a difficulty in the manning of units which has not occurred before. In the past we had to fill up the best way we could, recruiting over the areas, but in 1950 the volunteer Territorials will have put into their midst the National Service men. The only hope is that a large number of these National Service men will become volunteers. In that event we shall have quite sizable units which can operate in an emergency. At the moment, however, the conditions of the Territorial Army volunteers are entirely different from those of the National Service men. The Territorial Army volunteer has a commitment of 15 days' camp and 30 or 40 drills a year while the National Service man has only to do 60 days in four years. If a young man is lazy and has no patriotism, he will probably select the 60 days in four years; I only hope that with the goodwill which exists in Territorial units, it should be possible to get quite a number of National Service men to become volunteers.
I particularly ask the Government to consider this, and even though we may have passed certain legislation two years ago, to see if they can draw these two classes closer together. If they can do that, should an emergency take place in, say, 1952 or thereabouts, we should have a large number of Territorial units ready, or to a great extent ready, to take the field. In this connection I would remind hon. Members of what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash. He said that the situation had to be faced that at the moment many units were recruiting men in key positions in industry who at the outbreak of an emergency would be taken away. The Government must face this question soon because it is no use to a Territorial unit to be half-full of keen, energetic men learning their arm of the Service if they will be removed immediately an emergency occurs.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield referred to the Home Guard. In March, 1939, I made a speech in which I recommended the formation of what was afterwards the Home Guard, and therefore I have great pleasure in putting forward this recommendation again. 2425 There is an opportunity here to put something in this Bill to start the raising of a Force like the Home Guard. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) also made a somewhat similar recommendation in his speech. I put that forward also to the Government in the hope that they will take this opportunity.
Finally I would say that the Bill is a sound one. The idea is right, and while it will no doubt be amended in Committee, I am perfectly certain that practically all hon. Members in the House will support it.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)
Apart from the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) there seems to be in this House, almost for the first time when discussing a defence measure, complete agreement—except, of course, from those people who are called pacifists. I am worried about this Bill, as I am worried about all defence measures that come before the House. I listen to our military experts on both sides of the House agreeing with one another and, generally speaking, I find them dubious as to the efficiency of the measures put forward.
When I contemplate the question of defence, I look at it from the point of view of the ordinary people of the country, of whom I am one. I wonder, will this Bill really defend us against military attack? I am afraid I have come to the conclusion that so far as so-called defence measures are concerned, there is nothing in existence at present really calculated to defend the women and children of this country. We had the conscription Measure before this House. I voted against conscription, not because I am a pacifist but because I did not think that the Measure in question was calculated to defend this country or its people. Now, something like a couple of years after, it is becoming generally recognised on both sides of the House that the Measure was a mistake. Indeed we have had hints thrown out from all sides—my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) hinted at it—that what we really want is a Regular Army and that this Bill will not do the job.
2426 Then again, recently we had a Debate on the Atlantic Treaty and I was struck by the fact that speaker after speaker, nominally supporting that Treaty, was casting grievous doubts on its probable effectiveness. We were told that it was not enough, that we must have a Mediterranean Treaty, that we must have a Pacific Treaty. And looming over all this, we all know that private discussions are going on between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on defence measures. We do not yet know what the outcome of those discussions will be. It seems to me that until the country has some real plan placed before it for defending the people of this country, technical Bills of this sort are of little use.
I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House can agree with one another on technical matters, but as far as the basic question is concerned, I am coming to the conclusion that up to now the Government, assisted as they have been by the Opposition, have not been able to devise a real method of defending the people of this country. For that reason I regard a Bill of this sort and the discussions we have in this House as misleading and hypocritical as far as the people of this country are concerned.
Quite frankly, I do not believe it is possible to defend the people of this or any other country by force of arms and by military and so-called defensive measures. Tonight, my proposition to the House and to the Government is this. Stop putting words into Bills; take the advice, for instance, of the Minister of Health who, on the question of analgesia, said it was absolute nonsense—or words to that effect—simply to pass Bills and to put words on paper. The problem is really a practical one. Where is the machinery and the men, and how are these things being used?
So far as defence is concerned I have come to the conclusion that there exists a state of complete chaos, that there is no plan or organisation. The Secretary of State for War, in one of the first speeches he made, pointed out to the House the serious condition of the Armed Forces. Until I get some definite proof that conditions in the Army are being put right to make it a fit place for ordinary, decent men and boys to go into, I say 2427 that all this talk about defending the country with Bills and methods of this sort is completely nonsense. It is wrong that we, as the House of Commons, should be deceiving our people and pretending that by these methods some sort of defence is possible. We had much better admit that this method is not a practical one and turn our attention to something more sensible.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) referred to hon. Members on this side of the House as "Blimps"; but the hon. Member fits the character not of Colonel Blimp, but of someone even further back than that—the grand old Duke of York.The grand old Duke of York,He had ten thousand men,He marched them up to the top of the hillAnd he marched them down again.That is the military strategy of the revolts which he has led in the Labour Party, but after his speech tonight I can assure him that he will qualify for one of the vacant posts of Parliamentary Private Secretary.
I want to oppose the Bill but as I have only a few minutes at my disposal now I shall have to make my further points on the Committee stage. The hon. Member for East Coventry referred to Lord Haldane. I want to remind the House that Clause 1 deals with Amendments to the Act of 1907 and that it was in 1907 that Lord Haldane brought forward his Territorial Bill. At that time the Labour Party, including the father of the present Secretary of State for Air, said, "This is not our point of view and we are opposing it as a step towards militarism in this country." Then they said, "But you must have the Territorials, because if you do not you will have conscription." Now, 40 years later, we have had both.
I do not know what evidence the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) had about the Atlantic Pact but I think he was wrong and was exaggerating, because we shall have to pay a bigger price than this for the Atlantic Pact. The Bill is unrelated to that Pact. If our defensive measures are in a vacuum—to use the phrase of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton 2428 (Brigadier Head), who referred to £760 million spent on a vacuum—what is its relation to our military defences. Throughout the Debate we have had an extraordinary degree of contradiction on the Government Benches and very little explanation of the Bill. The honest point of view of the old type of soldier, I can understand. I cannot understand the point of view of the hon. Member for East Coventry who complains in the "New Statesman" that all these defence measures are costing a lot of money and then comes and supports a Measure which will add further to military expenditure which is to be put on the back of the workers of this country.
§ Mr. Crossman
Would my hon. Friend tell me in what way this Bill will add to the expenditure? I argue that by having Reserves we would be able to have a more effective Army.
§ Mr. Hughes
I presume that it means more Territorials, and more Territorials will need more arms. It is mystifying to me if this Bill will not impose extra financial burdens on the people of this country. I suppose that on the Committee stage we shall elucidate what it actually means. I want to protest as strongly as I can at the creation of a mosaic of militarism in the Labour Party. The workers do not want it. In a critical stage of the Russian revolution, Lenin was told, "The workers have not voted for peace." He said, "They voted by their feet." They are not voting for conscription measures by marching into the recruiting office. Although the Labour Party may create this gigantic military machine, let them beware lest it is used later on by a Tory Government when one comes into power.
I am sorry that the Minister of Defence is not present. I wanted an explanation of the note on the Bill which says that the name of the Minister of Defence has been substituted for that of the Secretary of State for War and that the name of the Secretary of State now appears as a supporter of the Bill. The Minister of Defence has gone to the front and the Secretary of State for War is at the back. I wish the Minister of Defence would stay at Hong Kong and I hope his going there will be some consolation to the Scottish soldiers going out to Hong Kong. The place where Ministers of 2429 Defence should be is where there is likely to be a war and they should stay there until it is finished. I wish him every good luck in Hong Kong, but I hope he will come to the conclusion that the most sensible thing is to send the men home and that when he comes back by way of Aquaba he will be doing the same thing there.
The only way to reduce expenditure is to reduce commitments and there is a far stronger sentiment for that inside the Labour movement which is critical of this expenditure and which is critical of spending £760 million, and God knows what it will be next year. I hope we shall see some opposition to the Bill and, although I cannot be associated with my hon. Friends in the Division Lobby, I hope that at some stages we shall put up a really critical Socialist point of view and will tell the Government they are going the wrong way, the way the old Liberal Government went, and that the workers will create a movement which will say, "We are not going to follow you into another war; if you are going into another war you will be dead and damned."
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
I did not expect the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to be in favour of this Bill. I regret that his speech was so short, as he always amuses us, but nothing he said suggested that he had read the Bill carefully.
The main object of the Bill according to the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate, is to replace some of the antiquated mobilisation machinery. I support the Bill in so far as it does that, although I do not think it goes the whole way. Whatever my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) has said, for my own part I think I do understand the principles that lie at the back of this Bill. It is because I think I understand them that I support this Bill and would ask my hon. Friends also to support it.
I have just said I do not think it is going completely to fill up all the gaps in the present mobilisation machinery. I do not think that claim has yet been made for it, but I would remind the Government that merely to take machinery that proved itself in 1938 and 1939, is not 2430 necessarily to provide completely up-to-date mobilisation machinery in 1949. I make that point, but I do not wish to develop it now. There will be occasions later on when we should do that. As has been pointed out, this Bill makes no provision and does not refer in any way to the Home Guard. It has no reference to the problem of calling back men on Class "Z" Reserve if ever they have to be called back.
I would go so far as to say that, with one exception, this Bill does not actually increase the liability to recall of existing volunteers in the Territorial Army, or indeed of any volunteers in the Armed Forces. The real extra liability which it imposes, as I understand it, is the liability on the National Service men during part-time service when they are posted to the Auxiliary Forces, to be called up for actual military service before embodiment. The other liabilities referred to in the various Clauses of the Bill are, with one or two exceptions, already undertaken voluntarily by volunteer members of the Forces, whether they be Regulars or Territorials.
The discussion on the Bill has naturally ranged somewhat widely. We have had the usual arguments about pacifism which I found were adequately dealt with by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. We have had the usual intervention by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) who tries to wrap himself up in a white sheet—not always the same white sheet—when he is talking about National Service.
§ Mr. Low
I wish to correct one impression which he made. I think he must have slipped slightly in his memory of something he said before. As I understood it, he tried to persuade us that, so far as he is concerned, and so far as the whole of his party and the Government are concerned, National Service is not justifiable merely for providing a trained Reserve. He says that National Service is wanted because we have gaps in the Regular Army.
§ Mr. Crossman
What I said was that I did not think we would ever get hon. Members on this side of the House to vote for it purely on that argument. It was an argument in favour of National Service that we simply had not enough 2431 troops and so they voted for it. I think there is something to be said for a national Militia and a trained Reserve.
§ Mr. Low
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has half corrected himself. I wish to remind him of something which he said on an earlier occasion:I can and I do accept … the necessity for a period of one year in order to provide a trained Reserve in this country for national defence; I cannot accept the principle, which is not accepted by any European democratic country at all, that conscript soldiers should be used for garrison work overseas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 1869.]That is a very different thing. It may have been that I have misunderstood him.
§ Mr. Crossman
Though I hold that view, I think I am in the minority on this side of the House in holding it.
§ Mr. Low
That is interesting. I understood the hon. Gentleman always tried to persuade us that he had been successful in converting hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to his own views. We also have had the usual slight difference of opinion between the former Secretary of State for War and the present Secretary of State. There was an argument, in which I do not propose to join, about who was responsible for the present rate of Regular recruiting. I agree that the present Secretary of State has not yet joined in the argument; he has not had a chance. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) must take a little responsibility for the measures taken for Regular recruiting since the war. We are troubled about the progress of recruiting, but this is not the time to go into the whys and wherefores of that.
I have noticed—and I have experienced it myself—that there has been great difficulty in understanding all the intricacies of this Bill. I think that one or two hon. Members who have spoken have found the same difficulty, but I do not think that anybody has made the same mistakes as the man who wrote the editorial in the "Manchester Guardian" yesterday. I very much much regret that a famous newspaper such as the "Manchester Guardian" should have so misled its readers, because that is what it comes to, into thinking that this Bill is imposing a lot of new and rather outrageous liabilities 2432 and that this Bill will provide conditions which will be "a death blow to the Territorial Army." I think that it used those actual words. That really is in no way justified.
Further, I much regret that this newspaper has published words which indicate that in its opinion this House will really take very little interest in this Bill because it refers to men who are not in the Army or the Territorial Army, but to young men under the age of 18 or 19 who, because they cannot make a noise and turn themselves into pressure groups, will not be able—so the implication of the words used goes—to persuade us to look after their interests. We on this side of the House and the Government—I join them with us in this—are perfectly aware that we are responsible for young men as well as old men who can make a noise. I much regret that this newspaper should have used these words.
This Bill concerns two important and perhaps major controversial points. One has to do with cross-posting, which I will deal with at the end of my speech, and the other concerns the power which the Ministers have now to call up men before Proclamation and embodiment. Before I come to those matters, I wish to say something about the powers and constitution of the Territorial Army Associations, and something on certain general considerations.
First, as to the Territorial Army Associations, it is rather remarkable that associations whose constitution and powers were fixed in 1907 should still be working so well. That is certainly a reason for the tributes which have been paid to Lord Haldane. We are all anxious that their activities and constitution should keep in touch with the changing conditions in the Army and in civil life. I believe that the Secretary of State would agree that many of the new powers and duties under this Bill are really only putting in statutory form what exists in fact today. For instance, I think he will agree that there are on most of the associations representatives of local authorities, trade unionists and others whom he would like to see there. I think he will agree that he will not make many changes by this Bill though he may enable mistakes and shortcomings to be omitted.
Now, I wish to stress what has been said by several of my hon. and gallant 2433 Friends who have great experience in these matters. It is terribly important to preserve the county and the local connections. When we discuss the matter in Committee, we ought to look carefully into this power to amalgamate county associations. We have been told that the secretariat, the administrative machinery, has already in fact been amalgamated in many cases, and that surely may be enough, but the House would like an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he does not intend to use these powers of amalgamating associations, so as to turn the Territorial Army into a regionally administered and controlled Army. I think that would be a pity, because it is not what the House or the country wants, and we should like an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to do it. If he does not intend to do it, and he gives us that assurance, we may like to see some assurance to that effect in the Bill; we should like to discuss it further in Committee.
Now, one or two general considerations; first of all, there is the question of consultation. Was the Council of Territorial Army Associations not taken into full consultation? We have heard that they were consulted shortly after the war, and I understand that they had a meeting in March this year. Why was not this Bill put in front of them then, or, if it was not available then, why was it not postponed and placed in front of them during the Summer or at their meeting in July? This is one of the advisory bodies which the Government have to help them in doing this job, and I think it is a pity that they were not kept fully in consultation throughout.
Then, there is the matter raised by some of my hon. Friends concerning the pay given to Army Reservists in the light of their extra obligations. I hope we shall discuss this matter later on, and that the right hon. Gentleman will give us an indication of what he has in mind at the present time. There were also the important matters referred to particularly by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) concerning the Sea Cadet Force and the part which the Admiralty is to play in this Bill. I was very glad that my hon. and gallant Friend had the opportunity of making these points.
There was also the point made by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton), 2434 who seemed to lay too much emphasis on the possibility that the Class A Army Reserve might soon lead to the reduction or abandonment of National Service. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain to us how this Army Reserve is to help in that respect, because it does not seem to me that anything in this Bill will swell Army Reserve "A" for five years, and possibly many years after that. I see the point made by the hon. Gentleman, but I think it can be given too much emphasis.
§ Mr. Shackleton
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? He has given to it too much emphasis. I merely suggested it was precisely the direction in which we wanted to go in future, and I hope he will not think there was any other suggestion than that.
§ Mr. Low
I wanted to get that point clear, because it is important that nothing misleading should go out from this House.
Now I come to my two major points, and the first is the power to call individuals up for actual military service in the event of attack or apprehended attack. I wanted to put questions to the Secretary of State because the Bill allows him the selection of the individuals to be called up. The power that existed before was only to call up men who had volunteered to come forward, and it may be that this power will in future be used for calling up only these people who have said that they will voluntarily be available for early call-up.
Since this is a very large power, we must find out from the right hon. Gentleman, either now or during the Committee stage, how he proposes to use that power. It can be used with proper safeguards, not only to the advantage of the country but also with complete fairness to the individual. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman will see my point. There are two men of the same unit, living side by side, working in the same factory or competing in the same line of business, and he calls up one and only one. How is he going to work out which man should be called up; how will he avoid great bitterness arising between them? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can put our minds at rest now, but that is a matter which we must reserve our right to go into very closely when we reach the Committee stage.
2435 Now I come to the point on which there has been a very wide discussion and a large measure of disagreement between hon. Members even on the same side of the House. It is the power given to the right hon. Gentleman under paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 5 (3). The Secretary of State for Air said that he would give consideration to arguments against the power in paragraph (a). I wish to give the background as I see it, a background which I hope will not encourage the hon. Member for East Coventry to believe that I am merely a Blimp. I rather share my hon. and gallant Friend's attachment to that word, but I think I know what the hon. Member for East Coventry is trying to make us out to be. If he listens to the arguments, I do not think that his accusation can really be justified.
It is important to remember that the Territorial Army now and in the future—and, I believe, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force also—will depend for its efficiency on volunteers, and almost entirely on volunteers. It is they who, when the ranks are filled by National Service men, will set the tone and efficiency of units. It is, therefore, most important to bear in mind the interest of those Territorials and the spirit in which they volunteer. I believe it is true to say that the tremendous local and county attachments and associations that existed in the early days of the Territorial Forces, and, indeed, between the wars, have now had added to them a much wider accepted loyalty to regiment as we understand it in the Army. Whereas in the earlier days the loyalty of a Territorial unit was to that unit and to a particular place, in the last decade or so a wider loyalty has crept in to their regiment—to the regiment of the Regular Army to which the unit is affiliated. Whereas before, it was "esprit de town" or "esprit de county" which mattered, particularly to the unit, we have now both "esprit de county and town" coupled with esprit de corps in its proper sense.
The local interests, however, are still very important, and there is no doubt that, in the case of very many units, the troops, platoons and sub-units are formed from men working in the same factory or living in the same town, and that local interests bind those men together. That may be an important factor, 2436 not only in recruiting but also with regard to the efficiency of the unit and sub-unit. I realise that although I can build up this picture, I will not completely satisfy those who still think that there should be a right to cross-post.
I put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. What he is asking for is not a power to cross-post in wartime after casualties have occurred, or to transfer—he will get that under other legislation—but for power to cross-post or transfer immediately he calls up these men for actual military service before casualties. In other words, he is really saying to the man that he recruits to the Territorial Army, "Look here, I want you to come into this unit, to make yourself efficient and to play your part in making the unit efficient, but when you have done that, and when I actually call you out to do some real work, apart from training, then I warn you I may be going to send you somewhere else." That seems to me to be mad. It is madness not only from the recruiting point of view, but from the point of view of the efficiency of the Territorial Army.
Let me make this point by reminding the House that at the beginning of a war the Territorial Army must always suffer from deficiency in training but, more important, from deficiency in administration and discipline. What it lacks in administration and discipline it makes up—or it has made it up at the start of previous wars—by the fact that the officers and men have known and trusted each other. They have a knowledge of and a trust for each other which has come out of having lived together or worked together, and almost having grown up together. Those are very valuable things.
The right hon. Gentleman wants this power to post from one unit to another within the corps. I think he may be able to argue that, for a variety of reasons, he is justified in asking for that power. I hope he will also say that he will not use that power unless it has to be used; and, like the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air, that he will try not to use it with fighting units. I think the fighting unit is the equivalent of the flying squadron. The Secretary of State for Air said he would not use the power for the flying squadron and I should like to hear 2437 from the right hon. Gentleman, either now or later, that he will try not to use it for fighting units.
In the case of some of the technical units there are other considerations, and it was those considerations which attracted the attention of the hon. Member for East Coventry and which were in the mind of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner), but as to transfer from corps to corps I would say this: I believe we are gradually building up in the Territorial Army a definite loyalty to regiment—a loyalty which goes hand in hand with loyalty to town and county. I believe it would be a pity to deal a blow at that loyalty at the same time as we may have to deal a blow at the others. Moreover, I say it is unnecessary.
After all, in future years, when the right hon. Gentleman has the National Service men, he will be able, when they start their part-time service, to post them to fill the gaps. The right hon. Gentleman will have them coming in every year and he should be able to maintain a balance in his Army. Between now and that time he may say there will be unbalance in the event of an emergency. If that is his argument, I say it is very surprising, if he wants to take the power to cross-post and transfer for that reason, that he has not taken it over those who are already in the Territorial Army—80,000 of them. It is those men who would be of real use, if that is his argument. I do not believe, however, that that argument holds water and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to think again, very seriously, about this power to transfer people, against their will, from the corps in which they have enlisted to another corps outside.
I am sorry that I have slightly overstepped my time and I will finish on this note. I think that at the back of the right hon. Gentleman's mind there is a fear that there is unbalance in the Forces due to bad recruiting—recruiting which we all want to see improved. But I think there are other steps which the right hon. Gentleman can take to try to right that balance while recruiting keeps him short in numbers. I hope he is looking to the possibility of using Class "Z" Reservists in his mobilisation machinery without necessarily giving them any peace-time training obligations. I hope he is also looking to the possibility of improving 2438 Territorial Army recruiting in any way that he can.
So far as the Territorial Army is concerned, I want to close on this note. Before the war 50 per cent. of the recruits each year came from the age groups 18 to 23. In general, those age groups are not now open to him. Can he alter the regulations so as to allow people to join the Territorial Army before they are called up at 18 to 19? If he did so, he would fill many of the gaps in the Territorial Army. This Bill, as I said at the beginning, is a Bill which I consider a necessary addition to the mobilisation machinery. That it does not complete the setting right of the mobilisation machinery is no reason for voting against it. That it goes some way towards helping this country's preparedness is, in my opinion, a good reason for my hon. and right hon. Friends to give their support to it.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) has made a most useful and constructive speech. I am only too ready to respond in the same spirit. This matter of national defence is not the concern of any one party. It is common to all parties, and I would go so far as to say that it is quite impossible even for my pacifist friends, however sincere they are in their opinions, however strongly held are their convictions, to ignore the needs of national defence. I cannot conceive that there is anybody in this country—any sane person, at any rate—who would wilfully and with malice aforethought ignore the requirements of national defence, having regard to the unsettled and disturbed state of the world. Of course, it is possible to remain in the background, and to allow the quarrel to proceed, and, so to speak, to take pot luck; but that is not the method which is appropriate to the mentality of rational beings.
I propose to leave that aspect of the subject there—except to say this: that it must not be assumed by my friends who hold those pacifist opinions that sincerity is peculiar to themselves. I may say that because there happens to be a measure of agreement among the parties in this House—at any rate, between the two main parties—on this subject of national defence, there is no reason why 2439 the minority should be unduly suspicious. There may be good reason for unity and agreement in face of what we believe to be—I put it no higher than this—the possibility of conflict, which we are all anxious to avoid, whoever we are, and wherever we sit in this House.
Despite the very able effort of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Air in his opening speech, when he endeavoured to explain the provisions of this Bill meticulously, there is apparently some misunderstanding. I want, if possible, to clear away this misunderstanding. What is it this Bill proposes to do? It is not a Bill of a major character, but it is none the less important. It is—to use an expression which came from the lips of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) a mosaic——
§ Mr. Shinwell
It would suit me to use the expression "mosaic." This Bill is part of the mosaic of the military and defence organisation of the country. It may be a small part, but without this part——
§ Mr. Shinwell
I beg my hon. Friend, whatever else he does, not to mention any of my ancestors. That, so to speak, is intruding a personal note. At any rate, we claim no more for this Bill than that it is part—albeit a small part—of the essential prerequisite to the building up of an adequate defence organisation. It proposes to deal first with the powers and composition of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces associations, and following upon that it deals with three categories in the three Services. First of all, there is the volunteer auxiliary applicable to the three Services. In the case of the Army, it is the volunteer Territorial, in the case of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and in the case of the Navy, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. It also deals with the National Service elements, not during the period of their 18 months' full-time service, but with the period covering the four years during which they undertake their Territorial Reserve liability. Thirdly, it proposes to deal with the regular Reservists, in which all the three Services are concerned.
2440 I shall deal first with the composition of the Territorial and Auxiliary associations. From both sides of the House I have been asked why did we not consult with the Associations. The fact is that members of the Associations have been well aware of the preparations for the construction of this Bill, and at any time they could have made representations. When I am asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Blackpool why we did not present them with a copy of the Bill and ask for their opinions, my answer is that it is not customary for the Government to send a Bill to any outside association and ask for their guidance.
§ Colonel Ropner
I do not think that the county associations would recognise this statement as bearing any relation to the truth.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am extremely sorry to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman speak in this fashion, and if I had the time and were in the mood I should reply to him in appropriate fashion. But we had better leave it there. At any time these associations could have made representation, and in any event they could have made representations after the Bill was introduced, but so far, I am informed, no representations have been received. Let me go further than that. If these associations, whose activities I applaud and whose guidance I am only anxious to receive as indeed are my colleagues, care to make representations before the Committee stage is reached, they will receive most careful, and, if I may use hackneyed language, sympathetic consideration.
§ Mr. Shinwell
We can leave it there, because no doubt the matter will emerge in the course of the Committee and subsequent stages of the Bill. I must now point to one of the main provisions contained in the Bill. Perhaps without further ado, I might read to the House the provisions to which I refer. They are contained in Clause 2 (2), which says:Any such scheme"—2441 that is, relating to the reorganisation of a Territorial and Auxiliary Forces association—Any such scheme shall provide for the appointment as members of the association of such number of members or former members of His Majesty's military forces as may be specified in the scheme, not being less than one half of the whole number of the association,and so on. This is a provision which we find for the first time incorporated in a Bill of this character. It means in effect that after the scheme indicated in the Clause to which I have just referred is applied, not only will officers in the Territorial Army be represented on the association or associations as the case may be, but members of the rank and file also. That is a very near approach to what is called the democratisation of the Territorial Army.
In addition, we have provided, as has already been indicated, for the incorporation, as full and accredited representatives on these associations, of employers and employed. I agree with what has been said about the desirability of securing the full assistance of the trade unions. Already we have received considerable assistance from them. As regards amalgamation of associations, I can give this assurance: although we are anxious to promote amalgamations wherever they are geographically or otherwise necessary, it is not our intention to ride roughshod over the associations. There is no question of compulsion.
On the subject of the categories to which I have just referred, we are anxious to regularise the position. What is the actual position at present? I am dealing with the Army because I think that the analogies will be obvious to everybody if I explain the position in that Service. The Territorial volunteer, of whom little notice has been taken, accepts when he enlists the liability to be called out for service in the United Kingdom before embodiment and without proclamation. That is the position. There is no compulsion about it at all. There has been an impression that we were imposing a new liability; the liability has been accepted without compulsion. It is purely a voluntary liability.
On the other hand—and here is the anomaly—the National Service man, after he has gone through his active service 2442 of 18 months and has come into the Territorial Army, as is provided in the National Service Act, is not called upon to accept that liability. It may be that he is called up for 15 days a year over a period of four years to undergo training, but we have no power to call him up for service in the United Kingdom before embodiment and without proclamation. There is an obvious need for aligning the National Service man with the volunteer Territorial who has already accepted the liability and for whom there is no statutory liability. That is one of the purposes of the Bill. Everyone who understands the problem will applaud the proposition that the Government are making in this Clause.
I come now to the other categories of Reservists. We have two classes of Reservists. I shall start with the second class because the second class provides the reservoir from which we find the men for the first class. The second class is Class B. The Class B Reservist receives a retaining fee of, I think, 1s. a day. He is not called up for training. I take note of the point made by an hon. and gallant Member that we may have to consider the question of a refresher course at some time or another. The matter has been considered but I would not care to make a commitment at this stage because it requires a great deal of consideration. The man in Class B cannot be called up for service overseas without proclamation, but if he volunteers—again it is voluntary; there is no compulsion—to join Class A Reserve, for which he receives another 6d. a day as a financial inducement, he can be called up out of Class A Reserve for service overseas without proclamation.
We are anxious to build up Class A Reserve. At present the ceiling for Class A Reserve is 6,000, and we propose to raise that ceiling to 30,000. Simultaneously, we propose in the case of the Air Force to build up the ceiling to 45,000, which puts it on the same footing as the Army, and in the case of the Navy to build up the ceiling to 25,000. That is a contribution, however modest, to the building up of our Reserve Forces. I would remind hon. Members that all the while we are in possession of a huge category of Reservists—it is true that they are getting older and perhaps less useful, but, nevertheless, it is a huge category 2443 of reservists—in Class Z Reserve and also Class W Reserve. In addition we have the Supplementary Reserve which we are building up to 15,000. That, in our judgment, particularly as it consists of the technical arms, will be adequate to our purpose.
I now come to the question of posting. Reference has been made to the position in the time of Lord Haldane, but the Army has been modernised since. In the time of Lord Haldane, with very great respect to his high qualities and the great work which he did in the building up of the Territorial Army, there was no Anti-Aircraft Command. There is nothing tribal about Anti-Aircraft Command. I do not use that word in an offensive sense but as an explanation of the position. There was no Royal Armoured Corps in the time of Lord Haldane, and also no R.E.M.E. We have gone a long way from the days when we relied entirely on the infantry regiment or the cavalry regiment. The two eras are not comparable. When we are discussing them we are discussing quite different things.
Hon. Members must therefore turn their attention to modern technique and modern needs in relation to the requirements of the three Services. In these circumstances we must have power to post men before embodiment in certain eventualities. What are those eventualities likely to be? The question is raised of what is meant by "apprehended attack." It is difficult to define what is meant by "apprehended attack" but it is for the Government of the day in their wisdom and at their discretion to determine whether there is a condition of "apprehended attack." We must rely on the Government in a matter of that sort, and if the Government, having considered the position, decide that men should either be posted within a corps or transferred from one corps to another, obviously the Government are the best judges of the position.
All the same, I am willing to agree that it might be going rather further than we orginally intended and might create further complications if we proceeded beyond the proposition that men should be posted within the corps or within the group, because the group is analogous to the corps, from one unit to another. On the subject of transfer from one 2444 corps to another, it might be possible for my right hon. Friends and myself to devise some words which will meet the criticism that has been levelled against the proposal in the Bill. I hope that will be satisfactory.
Now I come to a few general propositions. One is the criticism levelled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger). It was a friendly criticism and quite proper in the circumstances. I make no complaint. Then the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) and the hon. and gallant Member for Legge-Bourke[Laughter]—I got him on the wrong leg that time. I was about to say that the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) indulged in some muddled thinking, but apparently I followed the same course and in the circumstances I can forgive him. All these referred to what is called the failure to recruit for the Regular Forces and for the Territorial Auxiliary Forces. In fact, as we have pointed out over and over again, recruitment for the Regular Forces is on a higher level than it was before the war.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is not as good as it should be, but when we take into account National Service—because we are tapping a large reservoir for National Service requirements—and the circumstances of full employment, on the whole we are doing well.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) does not want an Army at all, so I leave him entirely out of the picture. If we had the best defence Force in the world he would still object although, no doubt, he would wish to be defended on the appropriate occasion. Moreover, as regards the building up of the Territorial Army, I do not pretend to be satisfied about the position, but again we have been competing with National Service and with other factors. The reponsibility does not lie altogether on the shoulders of those associated with the War Office; the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces associations must accept a share of the responsibility.
As I have said, this is not a major Bill although there are certain important 2445 aspects which cannot be overlooked. I give an assurance to hon. and hon. and gallant Members interested in the provisions of this Bill that, when we come to the Committee stage, we will endeavour to meet all their criticisms so that in the long run we can reach complete unanimity, and I ask the House to agree to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Captain Marsden (Chertsey)
This is a Bill which for my part I accept as one that will facilitate the general getting together of our Auxiliary Forces in time of danger or apprehension of war. Although there are several things in it which might well be corrected and improved during the Committee stage, it is a relief to find in this House general acceptance of a Bill of this kind.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the whole House for Tomorrow.—[Mr. Snow.]