§ Order for Committee read.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Deputy-Speaker do now leave the Chair."
Since the Army Estimates were presented to the House last year the Army has almost completed the reduction from its war-time strength to something approaching its peace-time organisation. At the same time, additional responsibilities have been imposed which have prevented the change being accomplished as smoothly as we desired. I propose to mention some of the tasks which are the most exacting in demands on our manpower and resources.
As recently as June, 1948, the civil authorities in Malaya, faced with a campaign to overthrow the administration and to dislocate the economic life of the country, asked the Army to assist in maintaining order. Some thousands of well-armed Chinese operating from bases deep in the jungle were following a systematic policy of murder and intimidation, together with the destruction of buildings, machinery and rubber plantations. Since June, as hon. Members are aware, in addition to the 4th Hussars and other reinforcements, the Guards Brigade has been sent from the United Kingdom. It was naturally some time before these reinforcements could be acclimatised but they are now operating with much efficiency against an enemy who is favoured by every military factor except that of equipment and supply.
In such circumstances, a very high state of efficiency in the use of weapons, in physical fitness and personal courage is necessary. Living conditions for our troops, even when not in action, are not as satisfactory as I should like, though every attempt is being made to improve them, and when they are in action conditions are, I am advised, as bad as can 1406 be experienced anywhere. Nevertheless, in the face of all these difficulties our troops are performing their task with great vigour.
The second important factor which has affected planning rather than manpower and resources but which must, nevertheless, have an increasing effect on our dispositions, is the establishment of the Western Union Defence Organisation. The defence implications of the signing of the Brussels Pact have already been discussed in connection with the Statement on Defence. The signatories, for their mutual protection, have undertaken commitments appropriate to their resources and defence requirements, and it will be a vital part of the British Army's planning, and an equally vital call on our resources, to fill its allotted role in Western Union defence, both in the provision of equipment and in the arrangements for concerted action in emergency.
Already we have provided some of our best and most highly trained staffs for the headquarters of Western Union and for the Chiefs of Staff Organisation which has now been established. Moreover, we have already offered certain types of equipment, surplus to our immediate needs, to assist in the training of the forces being raised by the other member nations. Their needs are so urgent that it may be necessary to draw substantially on our own reserves. In that event, we shall require to increase production to meet our own requirements; but the most valuable contribution we can make to furthering the Western Union Pact is by providing the most up-to-date equipment for our own Forces and by pushing on research and development to ensure that those Forces—and, indeed, all the Forces of Western Union—are assured of every advantage which modern science and production can give.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham) rose—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I beg all hon. and right hon. Members to allow me to proceed with my speech so that they may see the whole picture without interruption, and then we can get on. There is another task, which is not spectacular, but which is vital to our preparations. That is the reconditioning of considerable reserves of equipment and vehicles which remain to us from the war.
§ Earl Winterton
Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman refuses to give way? Then I raise a point of Order. It is most unusual when a question—[An HON. MEMBER: "That is not a point of Order."] It is for the Chair to decide. The hon. Member is not yet the Speaker and I hope he never will be. It is most unusual when someone rises from this bench to put a question to a right hon. Gentleman, for him to refuse to give way. Technically, no doubt, he can do so, but it is a most unusual procedure.
I can only say that it is entirely a matter for the right hon. or hon. Member who is on his feet.
§ Mr. Shinwell
There is another task which is not spectacular but which is vital to our preparations. That is the reconditioning of considerable reserves of equipment and vehicles which remain to us from the war. When the war ended the Army had vast stocks of military equipment scattered throughout the world and stored, in many cases, in the open under conditions totally unsuitable for permanent storage. It was one of our most difficult tasks to take stock of these reserves, to decide what should and could be kept, to dispose of the surplus and to make adequate arrangements for the redeployment and safe storage of the remainder. This had to be done at a time when skilled men were pouring out of the Army in great numbers—as, indeed, it was essential they should in order to restore the civil economy of this country.
We could not delay the release of men in the Army Repair Organisation. They took their places under release schemes in exactly the same way as the fighting arms. But, despite shortages in certain grades, we have, with the assistance of civilian employees and the resources of the Ministry of Supply, done a great deal in bringing repairable equipment in depots back to a state of serviceability besides maintaining in a fit condition equipment in the hands of our troops. However, there is still much to be done. A substantial part of the expenditure estimated under the heading of "Stores" will be devoted to the repair of equipment and the provision of spare parts. To give one instance. In this year and next the Ministry of Supply and the Army will begin the complete rebuilding of 65,000 vehicles 1408 of selected types which came into the Army during the war.
This programme will take some time to complete and is in addition to the normal overhaul programme of vehicles and of the large range of other equipment which needs repair. From some points of view, we should like to curtail this reconditioning programme and extend the production of new vehicles. But that would hinder production for the export drive and to some extent, therefore, this repair programme of vehicles can be regarded as an acknowledgment by the Army of the prior needs of the country's economic recovery. But as equipment gets older and the supply of spare parts more difficult, repair becomes completely uneconomic. This is already happening with many of the lighter types of Army vehicles and the time is not far distant when it will apply to many other types. In future, therefore, there will be a tendency to increase our calls on new production. Nevertheless, demands on the repair facilities will be substantial for several years to come.
All these commitments impose severe demands on our manpower. Meanwhile, the Army must provide for its fundamental tasks of sustaining the minimum essential garrisons in overseas theatres; of providing a reserve in this country sufficient to meet any emergency calls that may arise; of providing the basic organisation for expansion in war including the essential nucleus of Anti-Aircraft Command; of providing a training organisation adequate for the large intake of National Service men and for the Regular recruits; and of meeting all the administrative demands involved in the maintenance of our Forces at home and overseas. In the present disturbed conditions prevailing in many parts of the world, no lessening of these commitments can be assumed. I cannot, therefore, foresee any substantial reduction in the demands which the Army will have to make on the country's manpower.
I must give some account of the work undertaken during the year to reorganise the Army in its peace-time shape. I have already mentioned the considerations which must determine the shape and disposition of the peace-time Army. They may be briefly listed under these five heads: garrisons abroad, reserve at home, nucleus for mobilisation, 1409 training organisation, essential administration.
As regards the first, at one time it seemed that the Army might no longer be required to maintain Forces in Austria and Trieste, but prospects of relief are unchanged and our garrisons have had to be maintained in these two places as well as in the British Army of the Rhine. The strength of B.A.O.R., which contains a considerable proportion of our overseas troops, is being kept under review to see what savings in administrative troops may be made; but here, as in other theatres, it is essential that the fighting units of the Army should be maintained in a condition of strength and efficiency.
The next important function of the Army in all theatres, but especially at home, is to provide the organisation upon which expansion in the event of emergency can be based. It is one of the functions of the Territorial Army to assist in this object, and not least in respect of the speedy mobilisation and expansion of Anti-Aircraft defence, where a large section of the Territorial Army supplements the Anti-Aircraft units of the Regular Army. We are at present in a stage of transition in this field. Should mobilisation be necessary now or at any time in the immediate future, we shall have available until the statutory end of the present emergency, a substantial number of men who served in the war and who have been released into Class W or Class Z Reserve.
These men constitute a formidable reserve of trained manpower; but they have no liability for current training and their efficiency must, therefore, decrease with time. But later, as the effect of National Service becomes fully operative, we shall be receiving into the Territorial Army men with a liability for four years' part-time service after their 18 months' full-time service. This will mean that we shall have reserves of well over half-a-million always available and trained up to date. Thus, as the size and usefulness of the Class Z reserve diminishes, a fresh reserve will rise up to take its place.
I shall mention two points which arise from the transitional nature of- the present situation which I have stressed in the past but about which there always seems to have been some misunderstanding. The first point is that because the call-up, 1410 classification, and allotment to units of the Class Z Reservists in an emergency would necessarily take some time, we have devised the Registered Reservist Scheme at present confined to ex-members of Anti-Aircraft Command, to help accelerate mobilisation of Anti-Aircraft units and formations. The Registered Reservist must already be a Class W or Class Z Reservist, and the sole effect of registration is to make him and his qualifications known to his local unit, so that he can be called, if an emergency does occur, to a unit near his home and to a job already allocated to him without the necessary expenditure of time involved in normal mobilisation.
That is the sole purpose of the Registered Reservist Scheme. It is not intended for those who are willing to undertake training liability—such men can join the Territorial Army—and it therefore has its limitations. Nevertheless, it is a useful scheme in the present transitional stage and I should like to see it being much more strongly supported than it is at present. Perhaps I might now appeal to Members on all sides of the House to assist in making its nature and purpose more widely known and in requesting still more ex-Service men of Anti-Aircraft Command to enrol themselves. The sole qualification is previous experience in an Anti-Aircraft unit or formation: the liability in peace is notification of particulars to a local unit and the liability in emergency is to become an effective part of an A.A. unit a few days earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
§ Earl Winterton
We cannot interrupt. The hon. Gentleman is reading his speech. It is like being in church and interrupting the sermon.
§ Earl Winterton
On a point of Order. I should like to call attention to the most insulting remark made by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and addressed to the Opposition in general. He said, "Why cannot you behave yourselves?"
I think I should say to all concerned that I hope there will be a little moderation and restraint. 1411 The noble Lord was rather provocative. At the same time I do not think that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) should address a remark like that to hon. Members.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Further to that point of Order. I am always glad to set a good example to the noble Lord but he never accepts it.
§ Earl Winterton
Normally, of course, we should not call attention to this fact, but is it in Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, entirely to read a speech? Should not a Member occasionally look up from his notes and appear to be making a speech rather than reading one?
In strictness, it is not in Order to read a speech, but I have a discretion, and there are exceptions.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I may say in parenthesis that I require no instruction from the noble Lord on how to make a speech entirely without notes and at any time I am ready to take him on. If I may say so, since he interrupted, if he would stop performing like a political cockatoo it would help the Debate—and, Sir, that was not in my brief.
§ Earl Winterton rose—
I must ask right hon. and hon. Members to refrain from these personal references, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman should withdraw.
I have made a request to the right hon. Gentleman, and he must be allowed to withdraw.
§ Earl Winterton rose—
§ Earl Winterton rose—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire) rose—
We cannot have two points of Order at once. I understood that the right hon. Gentleman was going to withdraw.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I was not aware that anything I said was offensive but, if it is thought that my remarks were derogatory to the noble Lord, I withdraw unreservedly. Despite this speech, I am a man of peace. I am not of a quarrelsome disposition.
The second point relates to the function of the volunteer Territorial Army. This is to provide the training nucleus upon which the expanded Territorial Army can be formed from 1st July, 1950, onwards. I know that in appealing to ex-Service men to come forward and undertake training liability which must interfere with their leisure time, we may be accused of demanding yet more service from those who have already made a full contribution to the country's defence, and it has been suggested that we should appeal to those who did not see military service in the last war. But our requirement is for trained men because one of the functions of the volunteer Territorial Army is—and I cannot say this too often—to assist in training the National Service men. Meanwhile, of course, the Territorial Army organisation exists and forms the skeleton upon which mobilisation could largely be effected if required. The Territorial Army is not, of course, our sole reserve for mobilisation. We have, besides the Class Z and Class W Reserves, the Regular Army Reserve, the Supplementary Reserve and the various categories of Officer Reserve.
I now invite attention to the administrative commitments of the Army. The maintenance of a modern force, the constant supply of its food, petrol and other supplies, and the provision and maintenance of its equipment and it reserves, are tasks which make increasing demands on our manpower. The more complex the weapons of an army the more varied is its maintenance. The high degree of mechanisation and the increase in the power and number of front line weapons of our Army today necessarily involves a larger administrative tail than that required for the pre-1914 or pre-1939 division. Yet manpower engaged in repair and maintenance of vehicles or in the storage and provision of equipment is indispensable. This is the price we must pay for modern technique and increased striking power, but the result in 1413 the unfortunate event of war is to our advantage.
What progress, then, have we made in organising the Army to fulfil the tasks to which I have referred? In spite of the rundown, our overseas garrisons have been kept efficiently manned and we have been able to despatch reserves to points where they are needed. As regards the training of the Army, this has been affected since the end of the war by two factors—first, the rate of run-down, which caused a very rapid turnover of men in units, and, secondly, the extent of the Army's day to day commitments, which left little time for higher formation training. As a result activity has generally been confined to individual and unit training up to about battalion standard, except in the Middle East Command, where brigade training has been carried out.
I should mention that the conditions of active service in Palestine and Malaya have demanded a high standard of discipline and tactical alertness on the part of the units concerned, to the undoubted benefit of their fighting efficiency. Higher training has so far been confined to study exercises for officers. These have ranged from the annual exercise which the C.I.G.S. has instituted at Camberley with the senior commanders of the Army and his scientific advisers, to tactical exercises without troops on a brigade or divisional level.
The C.I.G.S.' annual exercises have been of great value in crystallising all the lessons of the late war and in developing thought for the future on scientific lines. Lesser theoretical exercises, which have been held, have been of considerable value in keeping military technique alive, but they are not a substitute for practical experience in command of troops. As the experience of the war recedes the need for reviving practical experience in command of formations in training increases. It is therefore our intention to restart training exercises on a formation level this summer and, in the autumn, to carry out a large-scale exercise with troops in the British Army of the Rhine. Towards our requirements for mobilisation we have concentrated, on the personnel side, on recruitment for the Regular Army and the building up of the Territorial Army. There has been an extensive recruiting 1414 campaign since October to obtain the volunteers necessary to the Territorial Army if it is to carry out effectively the reserve training of the National Service men from 1950 onwards. This drive for recruits will go on throughout 1949. There is a big gap to fill, but I am confident that there will be a substantial increase in time for the camping season.
We have, during the past year, been able to make some improvements in Territorial Army conditions. The bounty has been increased so that the average wage earner should not be out of pocket in attending camp; pay and rations are now given for all training over eight hours; and the new rates of pay and allowances announced for the Regular Army will apply equally to the Territorial Army. Most of the nationalised industries have now agreed to grant extra holidays with balance of pay, subject to certain conditions, to their employees who attend T.A. annual camp.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The National Coal Board, the civil aviation authorities, the Bank of England and the Transport Com mission. I also understand that the British Electricity Authority and the Gas Council now have the matter under consideration. We hope for a favourable reply. National Government and local government employees are already safeguarded and, in addition, a large number of private employers have made this valuable contribution to T.A. recruiting.
As regards accommodation, in the current year over 200 new Territorial Army Centres will have been brought into use and the building of over 600 married quarters for permanent staff has been authorised. In addition, a further 98 quarters have been acquired by purchase and some 180 by lease. In the coming financial year this building programme will be continued. Machinery has been set up to assist Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations to acquire property or land and is now beginning to take effect. It is hoped that these measures will considerably ease the accommodation problems.
The obstacles in the way of progress in the expansion of the Territorial Army are, therefore, being removed as far as it is possible to do so. But we cannot hope, nor do we intend to try, to make 1415 service in the Territorial Army so easy and attractive that men will rush to join it for their own personal gain. Our appeal is to those who are willing to give their service to the country in this vital task. Many thousands have responded: they have set a fine example, and I have been deeply impressed by their enthusiasm and devotion wherever I have met them. The Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations, commanding officers of units and officers and men of all ranks deserve the commendation and thanks of this House and of all the country for their voluntary service.
I should now like to turn from the Territorial Army to the question of recruiting for the Regular Army. We should, naturally, prefer to see the Army based on a strong Regular force, adequate to fulfil all our overseas commitments and, in addition, to operate the administrative and training organisation in the United Kingdom. The existence of an adequate Regular Army, together with a strong Territorial Army, might later enable the period of National Service to be considerably reduced. But during the war recruitment for the Regular Army was suspended and the size of the Regular Army is, as a result, today inadequate for it to undertake, without assistance, the task of maintaining our overseas garrisons.
Recruiting is, therefore, proceeding as rapidly as circumstances permit. We are at present working under conditions of full employment; nevertheless, recruiting figures have been good. In 1947 and 1948 the numbers of those recruited for the Regular Army were approximately 40,500 and 34,250. This compares with the figures of 25,700 and 38,500 in 1937 and 1938 respectively. This cannot be regarded as unsatisfactory. But we need still more recruits and we shall need them even more as those men who have enrolled for short Service engagements begin to leave.
To assist in recruiting we are doing all we can to improve conditions of service. I shall not deal now with the question of pay and allowances, since the recent increases in this direction were dealt with last week in the Debate on the White Paper. In any case, it is my opinion that while rates of pay and allowances are important, it is not this matter which needs our attention at the moment, 1416 because we have endeavoured to make the soldier's terms and conditions of service as nearly as possible comparable to those of men engaged in equivalent civil employment, after taking into account the added burdens of Army life.
It is the housing of the Army that needs our closest attention at present. Modern barracks and married quarters are needed in large numbers, both at home and overseas. At home, the increasing obsolescence of our accommodation, the lowering of the age at which marriage is recognised and the acute shortage of civilian housing have given us a heavy problem. Overseas, the redeployment of the Army has meant that many established stations and barracks have been given up and we have moved into areas where we have had to build from the ground up. We have, therefore, provided in the Estimates a gross amount of nearly £29,000,000 for works, buildings and lands, including over £5,000,000 for married quarters. Unfortunately, it will be some years before we overtake the universal shortage of married quarters and provide accommodation to which both officers and other ranks are entitled. But I give hon. Members the assurance that this vital matter of suitable housing and barrack accommodation is being treated with the utmost sense of urgency.
Once the men are in the Army it is, of course, of vital importance that the best possible use is made of their time. We have, therefore, made a thorough investigation of the use of our manpower and already we have applied certain measures which we hope will be effective. However, if in war, men are expected to perform administrative duties, it is obvious that they should be performing those duties in peace time. Nevertheless, we have found that a considerable proportion of the ordinary regimental soldier's time has been spent in what might be called "housekeeping" duties. Some experience of domestic chores of every kind is, of course, necessary for a soldier to be fully efficient. In war conditions it is inevitable that a soldier will have to fend for himself in every detail, and he must know how to do so.
What we are trying to achieve, however, is the correct balance so as to give this essential training while, at the same time, avoiding continuous drudgery. We employ at present many thousands of 1417 civilians, both at home and overseas, to help in these chores, and it is our policy to increase the scope of this civilian employment, especially in this country, where the position is not so good as it is abroad, so as to enable the soldier to spend less time in fatigues and more in training.
That is one aspect of the employment of soldiers—to see that we make the best use of their service; but there is an important complementary aspect; that is, to see that in discharging that service their own position as citizens of this country is adequately safeguarded. The introduction into the Army of large numbers of National Service men has given us additional responsibilities in the field of welfare. The reception of so large a proportion of the country's youth at an age when they are completing their physical development and when they are, in many cases, particularly open to influence, whether good or evil, in moral matters, places a grave burden on all the Services and, especially from the point of view of numbers, on the Army. Welfare must always be primarily a matter for the unit and therefore commanding officers have been made fully aware of their responsibilities in this matter.
As regards education, it is, of course, impossible for the Army, which must devote most of its time to training and essential duty, to provide as much in the way of education for all men as we might desire, but nowadays a man cannot be an efficient soldier unless he is able to tackle his job intelligently. A certain minimum standard of education is, therefore, essential and we have arranged to provide special instruction for those entrants who, whether because they have allowed their school training to lapse or, for some other reason, are of a low educational standard when they enter the Army. We also provide facilities for general education in units and for special courses for men who are willing to work on their own special subjects in their spare time. We have provided Army education centres and Army colleges to assist in this work.
The health of the Army during 1948 has been excellent, and the year has been one of considerable progress in many directions. A new system of medical classification was introduced officially into the Army in April of last year and the 1418 result has been a great improvement in the medical examination of new entrants and serving personnel, and in the facility with which physical standards can be related to particular tasks and climatic conditions. As regards National Service men, recent medical investigation shows that they respond very well to training, that their physical condition improves rapidly after their entry into the Army and that their weight tends to increase during their first weeks of training.
A question of vital interest to the Regular as well as to the National Service man is that of resettlement in civil life. The National Service man, in most cases, will have no special difficulty because he will in future be a normal class of entrant to the labour market. He will, however, be assisted so far as he has become a skilled Army tradesman, by the recent agreement with the trade unions who have recognised 54 Army trades. Ex-Regulars will be given first priority after disabled persons by the Ministry of Labour for vocational training in skilled trades in Government training centres and technical colleges. Special arrangements have been made for a proportion of Civil Service posts to be reserved for ex-Regulars, and I hope to extend this scheme in the future. Such are the main problems of organisation that face us and some of the measures which we have taken to solve them.
Now I must speak of the charges which have been made about the alleged lack of Divisions ready to take the field at a moment's notice. Hon. Members have pressed for more information, and have suggested that if the facts were disclosed they would create alarm and despondency among our friends and bring jubilation to the hearts of our enemies. They seem to imagine that the sole measure of the Army's achievement is the number of divisions ready as a sort of expeditionary force to take the field at the sound of the pistol. Well, there are many Members on all sides of the House with military experience and also staff experience. They can see from the White Paper on Defence and from Vote A of the Army Estimates exactly how many men there will be in the Army during the coming year.
They know, most of them, the number of men required to make up a division and its necessary backing in the field. It 1419 is a simple matter for them to work out what is the maximum number of divisions that could be represented by the Army's total strength. If the sole task of the Army was to organise itself now as an expeditionary force in divisions, I can assure them that their mathematics would produce the right answer and that the necessary equipment is by and large available to arm that manpower in that organisation, and a good deal more.
But what do they want me to do? Do they want me to withdraw all the overseas garrisons to a central point? Do they want me to stop the Regular Army from taking part in the training of recruits? Do they want me to take skilled tradesmen from the tasks of repair and maintenance to which I have referred and to put them into the order of battle to sit and wait for a D-Day which they think is just around the corner? They know very well that none of these things can be done. The Army has tasks to fulfil in the way of day-to-day defence, the policing tasks which in magnitude exceed anything we have known before. They know that if there is trouble in any part of the world overseas where British interests are involved there are available garrisons organised, not as expeditionary forces ready to take part in a major war, but in the manner best suited for dealing with the commitments which face them at the moment and which cannot be neglected.
This does not mean that there are no troops organised on a divisional basis. There are, and hon. Members know there are, but to state their numbers would not only mislead the House and the country in general about our actual strengths but would provide a potential enemy with valuable knowledge about our organisation which I see no reason for presenting to them free of charge. If there is an emergency, as I have explained already, the organisation is there to mobilise the Army according to a pre-arranged plan and to pour into the moulds which already exist the stream of reserves which are now available. Further, our plans are so arranged that from a date in 1950 we shall be receiving fresh streams of Reserves trained up to the minute and kept in training by their reserve training liability. That is the situation, and provided we can proceed 1420 with our present plans I see no reason for alarm.
Furthermore, every day that passes produces a tightening-up of our organisation: more efficient and sustained training; additional trained reserves; a better balanced force; together with more balanced equipment. And, in addition to our requirements in manpower, equipment, accommodation and the like, I regard it as one of my principal tasks to produce in the Army a body of officers and men and women of other ranks who are contented and happy in their tasks and who feel that being in the Army is worth while. - I am not speaking in terms of complacency or undue optimism. In certain matters we have to overtake long years of neglect; in others, while the respect for tradition should be maintained, modifications in custom and in relations are essential. Above all, we must inculcate in the Army the readiness among all ranks to adapt themselves to changing circumstances.
We have no sinister designs and no thoughts of aggression. On the contrary, we believe this country can best prosper in the framework of peace and friendship with all nations, but we cause no threat to others if we remain determined to pursue our own way of life and are resolved to employ the means to retain it. For this purpose, the Army makes its contribution to co-ordinated measures of national defence, and is organising its manpower and resources for use should an emergency arise while, at the same time, we prepare, on the basis of study and intensive research, our long-term plans. For all these reasons we ask for the necessary financial provision.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I think all Members on this side of the House would wish me to associate them at the outset of my remarks with what the right hon. Gentleman has said about our troops in Malaya. Theirs is a very thankless task so soon after a war, and undertaken in a very bad climate. It has not surprised any of us to hear that, as usual, the task is being very well performed. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House would want me to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his zoological references to some of my right hon. Friends on the Front 1421 Bench. I would, however, remind the right hon. Gentleman that several similes spring to mind and that very near the parrot house in the Zoo there is a most combative bird which is known as the talking mynah.
There was good stuff in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I, for one, felt that here was somebody who had some grasp of the main problems. I must confess that 1 recognised many of his proposals as being the subject matter of many of our own speeches over the last three years. None the less, I am gratified to see them, and no less for that reason. I felt less happy when the right hon. Gentleman branched off into what I diagnosed to be a personal part of his speech, namely, the method of calculating the number of divisions. I think that, after our experience in the Army, to ask us to get out a piece of pencil and paper and to work it out that way was putting a very low estimate upon what we have all been doing in the Army over a long period of years
It seems to me that the really vital matter in this question of the Estimates is how it comes about that, with £305 million to spend and 550,000 men in the Army, we have so few formations and units that can fight. That is the fundamental question, and it is not solved by the right hon. Gentleman's arithmetical suggestions. He asks us what we want him to do to improve it in this respect. It will be the object of my remarks, not so much to follow one by one his suggestions and to criticise or praise them as to try to give some broad picture of what we on this side of the House consider to be the main troubles of the Army and to say what we believe to be the best steps to take to put them right.
I believe that everyone who studies these matters would agree that the fundamental question in the Army today is the changes which have been brought about through the advent of national service, and that the problem with which the right hon. Gentleman is confronted is due to the impact of an excessively large call-up upon a Regular Army and upon a volunteer Territorial Army which are both under strength and for whom voluntary recruiting has been far from satisfactory. That is the cause of his present problem and that I believe to be largely the cause of the small number 1422 of troops that can fight. I accept, and give full credit, to the fact that the National Service scheme was essential after 1945. The Government deserve full credit for bringing it in. What I do not accept and am entirely opposed to is that this method of forming an Army should continue indefinitely. It is my belief that if it does continue we shall have a thoroughly bad and ineffective Army at a very high price.
One thing which the right hon. Gentleman said filled me with satisfaction. He said that later on, it may be, if all goes well, we shall be able to have a reduction in National Service, but he outlined no steps as to how he would impel and hasten the necessary voluntary recruitment which would make that possible. That is the main criticism which I have against his remarks. The defect of the present scheme is that, in order to retain the universal principle of National Service and in order to call up everybody, we are taking on more National Service men than we really need and that even then we have an annual surplus, except this year. Last year it was 50,000, and there will be another in 1950 and another in 1951. We have far more men than we want, and that results in deferment, delay of call-up and a bigger gap between when a boy leaves school and the call-up. That gap is an unsettling and harmful period in their lives. In other words, in order to call up everybody, the Army has more men than it needs. That is the main defect of the National Service scheme.
The second difficulty springs from the part-time period of service of these men. In the middle of 1950, these National Service men will start to spill out into the Territorial volunteers who will look after them during their part-time service. By the middle of 1954 the Reserve tank will be full and we shall have our full quota in the Army as a whole. I wonder how many hon. Members realise that when that Reserve is full, and including the Regular Army, and the National Service men during their one and a half years' full time, and the volunteer Territorials, the total number in the whole Army will come to more than one million men. What I ask the House is: Are we quite sure that that is what we want and what we can afford? A million men is a vast number to have either serving or in the Reserve in peace-time. 1423 My fear is that the number is not dictated by any plan or by any conception of the Army we want, but by the desire to retain the universal principle of National Service.
I would also remind hon. Members that equipment is becoming highly complex and very expensive and, in terms of production, needs a great deal of effort. Can we really afford to equip a force of that size, because the capacity to equip should today be a major factor in deciding the number of men required? On mobilisation, a force of that size would take a very long time to equip, and it is my belief that the last half or third of that whole force might well have to wait the best part of a year. During that interval these men could have been on military training and I suggest could have completed their training without any pre-mobilisation service. I suggest that the present numbers are getting rather too big for the country's manpower and for our equipment programme, are in effect larger than the Army really requires and only reflect the desire to retain the universal principle of National Service.
The right hon. Gentleman also made some remarks about recruiting for the Regular Army, and I think he will agree that the fundamental problem and key to the whole solution of the Army's health and efficiency to-day is that the Regular Army should be happy and up to strength. That is where I was disappointed with the steps that are proposed to improve voluntary recruiting for the regular Army. We were told what the right hon. Gentleman's intentions were, but we were given no concrete statement about what would happen. The fact remains that the Army today is very much under strength, and, what is most unfortunate, it is under strength in what constitutes the very backbone of a modern army, technicians and good material for officers and N.C.O's. It is doubly unfortunate that the worst shortage lies in what is probably the most important contribution to the Army's efficiency, and we must remember that these are the very people who are most likely to be attracted by the greater rewards in civil life.
I agree most strongly with the Minister in what he said about the very numerous tasks which the Army has to fulfil—training the National Service men, find- 1424 ing the backbone for overseas garrisons, helping the Territorial Army and keeping some formations in readiness for emergency. The right hon. Gentleman did not point out that, in its present condition, the Regular Army is undergoing great strain and that the situation is very tight indeed. If we continue with this period of strain, where the situation provides no slack at all, it results in constant irritations right through the Army.
Let me give an example. Suppose there is a unit in Gibraltar or further East—it does not matter where—which is hoping to be relieved and come back to this country. There may be a disturbance, say, in Malaya, and troops have to be rushed there. The people who should have relieved the troops sent to Malaya are not available for that purpose, the whole programme is upset, everybody complains that they are not going to get the leave they expected, and there is constant irritation. All that results from having no "slack." It makes countless troubles and difficulties. The only way to make that situation less tight is by stimulating voluntary recruitment. Until we do so we shall continue to have difficulties with the Regular Army.
The second point on which I want to touch in this respect concerns the National Service men during their part-time service with the volunteer element in the Territorial Army. We have a target of 150,000 men volunteers, I understand, and at present we have succeeded in recruiting 70,000. I think that all hon. Members on both sides of the House have done all they could to help the right hon. Gentleman in this respect, and it is my fear lest, so close to a war and after all that has happened, we may be asking too much by hoping to handle it almost entirely on the voluntary system. I know that many who are closely concerned with the Territorial Army are very worried about this matter. No other country that has introduced conscription has ever done it on this system. Maybe we can do it, but I believe that, when the time comes, the volunteer element of the Territorial Army may need a much larger slice of the Regular Army's help, and, if that is required, it will strengthen our argument that we must stimulate still further voluntary recruiting for the Regular Army.
The burden of my remarks so far has been to show that the Army as a whole 1425 is out of balance. We have this large number of National Service men and a comparatively small number who have been voluntarily recruited. Before I pass on to recommendations for readjusting our plans, I should like to touch on some of the reasons to which we attribute the disappointing results of the voluntary recruiting campaign. The first is pay. There has been a good deal of difference of opinion about this matter, and many right hon. Gentlemen have said that pay is not the whole question. Of course, it is not, and we appreciate that, but at the present time, a very great deal of genuine hardship is being caused in the Army because of under-payment. It is constantly coming to the notice of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I have heard some hon. Gentlemen opposite say that we on this side are worried only about the officers. That is a most unfair criticism, but to those who make it I say that the officers are a vital element in the Army, and if the officers are bad the Army will be bad. To get a good Army we must have and pay for good officers.
At present, many good married officers not above the rank of captain or major, and who have no private means, are in debt, not from extravagance, but because it is practically impossible to avoid it. That is a serious state of affairs, and it was terribly unwise that the Treasury and the War Office should have made that "phoney" announcement about better allowances, when, in fact, owing to taxation they were lower than before the war. The recent much-heralded pay increases only created great disappointment and in no way faced up to the real problem.
My second point concerns conditions of service. The right hon. Gentleman started off by mentioning this, but he never told us in what respect he was going to alter the conditions of service. He mentioned it as a problem, but offered no solution. My criticism of conditions of service today is that if he really thinks it necessary to have a Regular short-service Army, he will find it hard to stimulate voluntary recruiting. May I draw his attention to a poster issued by the War Office which stated "Join the Regular Army and Prepare Yourself for a Better Life in Future." I do not know who was the propagandist who designed it, but it hardly seems to me likely to succeed. The explanation below the 1426 poster was that younger men who join the Army would get first-class technical instruction in their trade and that a man could then go straight to his own trade. But does the right hon. Gentleman think that a young man is going to start five years late in civil life and take the chance that he might not get the instruction in his particular trade? The way to do it would be to invite young men to join the Army and to tell them that, if they do not like it, they can go, but that if they do like it and care to stay they will be given a career and then a job. We might thus get 21 years' service out of these young men, and I believe that we could well afford to guarantee jobs to men of 21 years' and exemplary character, without spending an immense amount on recruiting. Thus only can we overcome the bugbear behind this particular matter.
My last remarks about recruiting concern the question of accommodation, and there I think the right hon. Gentleman and ourselves are in complete accord. I would merely say this about accommodation. Married quarters are very short and are of vital importance. I wonder if hon. Members realise what is happening when a man in Edinburgh is selected as a replacement for a job, say, in Colchester. The man in Edinburgh is not willing to give up his married quarters there when he has no certainty that similar accommodation is available for him at Colchester, his fears are justified but he gets turned out by his relief being married. This sort of occurrence is one of the biggest difficulties at the present time, and I would like to see some adequate steps taken to meet the situation right away. Could not some long-term plan be put in hand? We are all in agreement on this; but the uncertainty of year to year planning is a disadvantage, and would not great strength be gained by an agreed plan for five years to put this right? Furthermore, I understand that the War Office has to handle this matter through the Ministry of Works.
§ Brigadier Head
The Royal Air Force have done better and they have nothing to do with the Ministry of Works.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me? Could he 1427 tell me how these married quarters are to be built when the building workers are being called up into the Army?
§ Brigadier Head
The answer to that is that they are not. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have considered getting a plan ready, so that, whatever happens politically, whether we turn him out or not, it would be possible to go on with the plan. It seems to me that long-term plans in this direction would be very effective and worthy of consideration. The burden of everything I have said so far is that, from the domestic point of view, the Army itself needs readjustment and much can be done in the stimulation of voluntary recruiting by doing away with these unpopular things.
There is one other factor which the right hon. Gentleman also mentioned and that concerns external considerations. Western Union is a new commitment. I do not want to go into that question, but I do say to the Minister that Western Europe is interested primarily in the defence of Western Europe, and that its defence is going to be settled in the first few weeks or months of a war. Western Europe is interested in a high state of preparedness. I believe that to be a most important consideration, and I believe that the steps that we are advocating would ensure a more rapid progress towards its recovery. We are now fighting a cold war, and it will go on. If we lose then there will never be a hot war; we shall all be under Moscow.
This continuing cold war will mean considerable and continued attempts to stir up civil unrest in all areas of strategic sensitivity to us or our Colonial possessions. The motto for such a situation is "a stitch in time saves nine," and the sooner we show that we have adequate force, the sooner we shall probably stop that threat. If we can show at an early stage that we have sufficient force, we may well avoid situations which, later, might require three or four times as many troops to handle them. The best antidote to the cold war is to have sufficient troops ready in a high state of preparedness.
My last point on these external considerations is the necessity of linking up these problems of defence with the 1428 problem of our own economic recovery. It is no good asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for so much money if we thereby ruin our economic recovery, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate that the suggested stimulants to voluntary recruiting would cost a lot of money. I suggest that we have got to give back to the Treasury adequate compensation in terms of National Service. We have, therefore, to give that money back by decreasing either the period of service or the numbers of men called up. I do not know which would be the better method, but the Treasury have got to have it back.
That is the general outline of what we believe is wrong. I should like at the end of my remarks to make some concrete suggestions as to what should be done so that voluntary recruitment could be stimulated. First of all, with regard to pay, I suggest that, taking the 1946 code on which some elements are already up 10 per cent., there should be an overall increase of 25 per cent. It would not cost such a desperate amount of money if confined to the Regular Army and if we did not have to put up to the full the pay of those already receiving the 10 per cent. My right hon. Friend, a most eminent banker, has worked it out many times, and makes it a round sum of £15 million. That is not a hopeless sum if we consider what we should get back by way of manpower and service to the country. We think that the conditions of service should be altered so that a man of good conduct can expect to be retained for 21 year's service. I have already touched on accommodation, and I suggest a long-term plan and concentration on married quarters. I would accompany all these improvements with a really good propaganda campaign, not with posters about a better life, and I would put the ceiling of the Regular Army right up to about say 300,000.
But we have got to give something back because that will cost a lot of money, and I do not see anyone getting away with that with the Treasury unless we do so. There are certain immediate economies which could be made. I think that the annual intake of the Army is at present dictated far more by a desire to retain the universal principle of National Service than by the requirements of the Army. We could, I think, immediately cut it 1429 very considerably. Secondly—and the step I have just advocated would decrease the Reserve—I would have an immediate compulsion registration of Class Z Reservists. Let the right hon. Gentleman own up to the fact that his appeal for voluntary registration in the Class Z Reserve has been a howling flop. One could see that through his words, although he is not entirely a novice at trying to conceal these things.
As far as other economies are concerned—and this, I am glad was mentioned by my right hon. Friend—much could be done by employing civilians in barracks. Here would be an opportunity for the good conduct 21-year man. There are lots of people who like the sound of the bugle, to be near the canteen, and to live in a military atmosphere. I believe that, after 21 year's service, if such men were given some chores to do in the barracks they would be quite happy as civilian employees. I have a further suggestion regarding civilians. The right hon. Gentleman probably knows that before the war there was a supplementary reserve unit of the Post Office composed of postal workers whose job in war was almost identical to their job in peace time. They did very little training but when the balloon went up they put on khaki, and there they were. Today, scientific inventions and technical advances mean that many technical military duties and units approximate closely to civilian employment and organisation. Cannot we extend that principle further? Cannot people who in civilian life have to do with say radar be formed into a reserve unit of the Ack-Ack, and cannot people be formed into other specialist and technical reserve units without going through all this business of call-up and training? I should have thought that was a line in which much could be done.
§ Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
Does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think that in many cases, if these people were trained, we would not be able to call on them in the event of a real state of emergency because they would all be in reserved jobs? It would be extremely difficult.
§ Brigadier Head
I am assuming that when the unit was formed it would be decided who should be retained in 1430 reserved occupations. If we retained all the men making radar sets, there would be no one to use them.
Lastly, I wish to make one remark about what we must give back. If we take all this to stimulate voluntary recruitment, we must give something back either in terms of manpower or in the period of service. What we give back would amount in terms of money—if we translate manpower into money—to something which would, I believe, cover the whole of the cost of this scheme. It would mean that we would free our Regular Force to train itself and produce something that could fight. I believe that two men recruited to the Regular Forces would release at least three National Service men. Those three National Service men would be taken out of the cadres provided by the Regular Army by which means we should again be lightening the impact on the cadres. There is always a reason for doing nothing, but I believe that, at the present time, there is every reason for taking drastic action. I do not think that we have all the time in the world to play with, and I believe that our future prospects under the present scheme are very dim. I beg of the right hon. Gentleman to re-examine all this as a matter of urgency.
Not long ago I went down to a command and gave a lecture to some officers and N.C.O.s—not about politics, but about planning—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It was a different sort of planning from that of hon. Members opposite. After the lecture, I was driven to the station by a private soldier. He said, "The Army is not too hot just now." I said "No," non-commitally and full of tact. He said, "Do you think we will have the slightest chance of winning the next war if there is one?" I said, rather pompously, I dare say, "We can anyhow be sure of one thing, and that is that the Army will improve a lot during the course of the war." He paused and then he said, "Why does not someone tell all these Shinwells and Alexanders that it would be much better if they gave us a chance to improve during peace time, and then there might never be any war." I have told the right hon. Gentleman my views and I can add no better advice than that given to me by this humble private soldier.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I feel sure that the concluding remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) about his experience with the private soldier refer to something which has not been entirely overlooked by my right hon. Friends the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for War. After listening to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today, I do not think that he gave the impression that he has overlooked such matters as that about which the private soldier spoke to the hon. and gallant Member. I believe it will be admitted, even by his critics, that in his speech my right hon. Friend gave the impression that both he and those who work with him at the War Office and elsewhere understand the problem and are trying to tackle it. There may be differences of opinion as to whether they are doing it successfully, but I do not think they have overlooked the real problem.
With the general remarks made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite I am mostly in agreement. I only hope that the Debate will proceed on these well-informed and moderately reasonable lines because then my right hon. Friend, or whoever is going to answer for the Government, will have an easy task. It may be, of course, that the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) will introduce a little more bellicosity when he comes to speak, but if his remarks are concerned with those tangible matters to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman addressed himself, then—
§ Earl Winterton rose—
§ Earl Winterton
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have the courtesy to give way. It is a strange thing, but there is a connection between bellicosity and war, even if it is not apparent to the Front Bench.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I wish the noble Lord would allow me to finish my sentence before he interrupts. I was going on to say that perhaps there might be a little more bellicosity from the Front Bench. I hope it is not so, but previous indica- 1432 tions do not lead me to believe that we shall get through this Debate in the atmosphere in which the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton made his speech.
I wish to confine my remarks to matters which I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will consider constructive and helpful. If ever there is a subject in this House that could and should be debated without heat and animosity, it is National Defence. I know the difficulty under our present party system of everybody saying what he has to say in a manner of sweet reasonableness, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will take what I have to say in that way. He was quite right when he talked about the difficulties of the transition period from war to peace. Looking back, as we must, to what happened after the first war, because we can only learn by our mistakes—in fact, I think it was Napoleon who said that the greatest general made mistakes—I am bound to say, and hon. Members are bound to admit, that the transition from war to peace after the last war has taken place reasonably smoothly, and without too much damage to the Army. The House will know that after the First World War, the Army practically disintegrated, and those were the days when it was easier to recruit Regular soldiers than it is today.
I will refer to one passage in my right hon. Friend's memorandum which accompanies these Estimates and gives an illustration of what I am saying. The Army, in addition to its other tasks, took on some which were really not within its province. The resettlement of the Polish troops who fought so valiantly for this and their own country was one of them. That is something which is often criticised by certain hon. Members. If ever the Army has shown that it is willing to resettle those soldiers who fight its battles, I think there is an illustration of it in the way in which these foreign troops have been settled in an alien land.
I now want to say something about equipment. I was a little disturbed—I do not know the real significance of it—at what my right hon. Friend said about the handing over of part of our reserve equipment to the nations forming Western Union. Those of us who have had anything to do with the post-war Army will know that it has distributed 1433 quite a lot of its war stocks to allies, associates, or friendly democratic countries in order to enable them to build up some system of defence, not only for themselves, but for Europe. I should have liked my right hon. Friend to talk a little more about that subject without, of course, breaking security rules, in order to indicate whether our reserves of equipment are as good as he might wish them to be from the point of view of modern warfare, and to say that they will not be depleted to the point where the British Army may find itself, if Regular recruiting is successful, in a comparatively poor position as regards modern equipment. I want to confine my remarks within the shortest space of time possible.
I shall deal next with training. My right hon. Friend is quite right when he says that hitherto, due to a large extent to the transitional period, the training of the British Army has been conducted mainly on a unit basis and up to brigade level. I was very pleased to hear him say that this year we are to have divisional exercises in B.A.O.R., because in Germany at the present moment there is a training ground such as we shall never have in this country. I often wonder how long it will be possible for the British Army to train in Germany in all its specialised training, artillery, tanks and so forth—to train in an area 60 miles square which is cleared of civilians as only Germans can clear an area. The Germans made a training ground in which their armies were trained to the pitch of perfection, as our troops experienced in combat against them during the war. I am sure that if my right hon. Friend is able to arrange some divisional training in Germany this year on any considerable scale—and he has a large number of troops there—he will have done something to reply to the criticisms, ill-informed and otherwise, which are often advanced against the War Office both from the benches opposite and outside this House.
I must also say to my right hon. Friend—and I hope he will take this in good part—that I thought it was a little ingenuous, in discussing the number of divisions fit for training or operations, to make a mathematical problem by dividing the number of troops on paper by the number of troops required to form 1434 a division with its supporting services. I think, on reflection, my right hon. Friend will appreciate that that is really not a correct assessment of this problem. Nevertheless, let me remind hon. Members opposite, when they are so ready with their criticisms, that in 1914. when the whole purpose of the British Army was to provide a British Expeditionary Force, only six divisions were offered in the earlier days of the war to France, our ally, and that in the last war no more than four divisions were available for the British Expeditionary Force in an operationally fit state. I am not at all sure that even those four divisions were able, in relation to all arms, to go into battle properly equipped and ready to fight the enemy.
There is no doubt that, emerging from this Debate as it has proceeded so far, and as I imagine it will proceed, the dominant point is the question of recruiting for the Regular Army. I am sure my right hon. Friend is fully cognisant of the necessity of recruiting a Regular Army, and indeed he has stated on more than one occasion—although I wish that he would state it in terms which I should like, namely the number of men to whom he is appealing to form the Regular Army. The recruiting campaign so far has not been a success. I do not say that it has been a failure. If hon. Members were to refer to figures of recruiting in the inter-war years between 1918 and 1939, they would find that, on the whole, since this war, and with full and well-paid employment outside, the Regular Army of all the three Services—for the moment I am excluding the Navy because they have a different type of recruit—has done very well indeed.
I do not want to set one Service Department against the other, although I think a little competition is healthy, but I go so far as to say that I believe the Army has done much better than the Air Force, although during the war the Royal Air Force were able to skim off the cream of the recruits and the Army was quite often at a disadvantage, so far as National Service men were concerned, by comparison with the Royal Air Force, which in those days seemed to be a popular Service. On the whole, I think the Army has done quite a lot to 1435 popularise itself amongst that very small section of the community which wants to join it.
Nevertheless, I urge that more should be done, and the only question is, what can be done? I think this is a matter on which all parties in this House have to agree and have to go actively into battle to find the recruits. By all means let us make our proposals to the Government for improving conditions, pay, housing and so forth in the Army, although very often in this House I have differed from the point of view which has been put by hon. Members opposite in the emphasis they place upon pay. I think that in the junior ranks, at any rate, the pay has been brought up to a comparable level with that in civil life. If we take the junior officers and compare them with their equivalent in civilian life, in the professional ranks, I do not think they are doing so badly. By comparison with the £400 to £500 a year, which is the average salary amongst men of that age in civilian life, the Army has quite a lot to show.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton that, in relation to many of what one might call the accessories or the amenities of Service life, the Service individual, both officer and other rank, who is married is at a considerable disadvantage by comparison with the civilian. In the matter of housing the Service officer or other rank is not able to pursue his inquiries for housing accommodation with even a chance of success because all too often he does not know how long he will stay in the place where he may for the moment be quartered.
There are other disadvantages, and there is one at which my right hon. Friend might look. When I was Secretary of State for War we considered these matters in detail, but I think the situation has changed. I do not think the rent allowance for married officers is enough in relation to the rents charged for civilian accommodation. Possibly the point put by the hon. and gallant Member about pay might be met in this respect by the Government without great cost or without breaking a principle because there is a principle involved in the matter of pay. It is the policy of the 1436 Chancellor of the Exchequer, accepted by this House, to try to hold wages and prices stable and once that principle is broken by any large-scale increases we may very well be close to the spiral of inflation. Perhaps in the question of allowances and similar matters the Government might do more than they have done hitherto. Indeed, I rather think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has more than once agreed to look into this matter and see whether he can correct what I might, perhaps, call the anomalies.
I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton that 300,000 should be the target for the Regular Army. I do not believe, first of all, that we shall get them; secondly, I do not believe it is absolutely necessary; and thirdly, unless we had war-time conditions it would perhaps be too onerous a burden for this country to bear, not only in the cost but also in the number it would take away permanently from the civil economy. I have said in this House more than once that I think 250,000 should be the ceiling for the Regular Army and if we can get 250,000 comparatively long-service officers and other ranks in the Regular Army I believe we shall have gone a long way—I do not know what my right hon. Friend would say—to reaching the point he seemed to be trying to aim at of reducing the period of conscription and reducing, perhaps, even the number of the National Service intake.
Of course, I know how difficult it is to compress a Minister's remarks on this occasion into a reasonable space of time, but in connection with recruiting I should have liked a little more information as to what is happening about the recruitment of Gurkhas and the Colonial troops. We had a very valuable asset in the Indian Army which we have now lost. Although perhaps some of the Colonial troops are not to be compared with some of the excellent troops of which the Indian Army was composed, nevertheless, I think a lot could be done towards forming some sort of local army which might be very valuable if trouble should break out in those parts. It has been agreed to recruit Gurkhas, both by the War Office and the local potentate out there and, also, I believe, by the Indian Government. I should imagine that my right hon. Friend has been able to recruit a fair number 1437 of these excellent fighting troops, but, knowing what was in the mind of our staff as to the numbers which should be recruited, I want to ask him how near he has got to that target. I do not believe that information would be a breach of security.
§ Colonel Dower
May I intervene to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is recommending that Gurkhas should be recruited for the purpose of garrisons in other parts of the Empire?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I believe that is the purpose of recruiting these troops. Obviously, it is not for retaining them in India or Pakistan.
Turning now to housing, I welcome what my right hon. Friend said about the efforts which he or his Department intend to make for better housing and more adequate housing for officers and other ranks, but I warn him that, like his T.E.W.T.—tactical exercises without troops—figures on paper do not always represent the accomplished fact. My experience while at the War Office, and I was there for two years, was that we got the money fairly easy but we did not get the houses. Whether or not that is the fault of the Ministry of Works, who are the main builders for the Army, I do not know, but I think in this country we ought to claim from the Minister of Health, who is the Minister mainly responsible for housing in this country, a certain proportion of houses for the Services, and particularly for the Army; after all, they are houses in England, and what does it matter whether they are occupied by civilians or by soldiers and their families? They are all part of the community.
Of course, a lot needs to be done overseas, but I believe we are attempting to deal with that. I think much more could be done to provide houses in this country. If it comes to a local policeman or a local sanitary inspector, the local authority provides him with a house, and more than once we see in the Debates which take place in local councils arguments as to whether the sanitary inspector or one of the local government officials should have a house before Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Robinson who are on the waiting list. If the defence Forces are a necessity for this country, they should be housed as 1438 adequately as the civilian forces, police or otherwise.
Finally, I agree entirely with the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton in his plea for long-term planning. The terrible commentary on our pre-war Services problem was that there was very little long-term planning. After the 1918 war, because of that ten-year rule, the Services were the shuttlecock of successive Governments and successive Chancellors of the Exchequer, but I believe—and I speak with practical experience—that in this Government at any rate Chancellors of the Exchequer have recognised the necessity for properly balanced fighting Forces in order that, if aggression should rear its head, we should stand a sporting chance. If my right hon. Friend is at the War Office next year, I think he should give us a little more information on his long-term plan.
Long-term planning, I believe, exists at the War Office. The only thing is that owing sometimes to constant changes in personnel at the War Office, it may get a little out of perspective in the mind of the Cabinet. Nevertheless, long-term planning is the only way to build up a substantial Regular Army, equipment and all the rest of it about which my right hon. Friend has spoken today. He knows that I am not given to distributing bouquets to anybody in this House, but I say to him that, listening to his speech today, I was impressed by the energy and virility which he put into it. Those who understand the problem feel, I am sure, that he is attempting to solve it.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
On many matters which have been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) I am in complete agreement, and I am very much indeed in agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) on nearly every point he made.
One matter has not been specifically mentioned in the Debate today, and that is the actual amount which we are asked to vote. It is practically the same amount as last year, in the neighbourhood of £305 million, and high though that is, it is not the amount of money which we are asked to vote which we are criticising today. We are asking the question whether in fact we are getting 1439 value for that money. The numbers provided for are large, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State suggested that, if we wanted to know the number of divisions or formations which might be raised from those large numbers, all we had to do was to take pencil and paper and make a calculation. I cannot imagine anything more unsound; I would almost venture to say—I hope that it will not be regarded as an abusive term—that I have seldom heard a more puerile statement.
It is not very large numbers that we want; it is not even so many divisions composed of those numbers. What we want is a number of divisions or formations, whatever may be decided on—composed of organised, trained men fit for service. The numbers which we are told are available are in all stages of training, from the youngest recruit to the trained soldier, and merely to divide those by a certain number to arrive at the number of divisions which may be available would be a waste of time and give a false impression to people who may be ignorant on the matter. One cannot help wondering whether the present system can ever provide the trained men ready for service that we must have.
We want to know whether in fact we have any real plan for providing the operational units and formations—I say "operational" advisedly, because a collection of units used merely for training purposes is definitely not useful—and whether we have any plan for their expansion on mobilisation. Paragraph 30 of the memorandum on the Army, which deals with training, refers to the system adopted in 1948 of training all recruits in arms basic training units, and then in the units of the active Army with which they will serve. We should be interested to know what are these arms basic training units? Is it not a fact that they are nominally units of the active Army? The Secretary of State, in answer to a Question which I put to him yesterday, said that there were 19 of these nominal units of the active Army which were used for training purposes.
How are these units composed? Are they not composed of a few instructors, a skeleton of other ranks and a lot of recruits in various stages of training, or in some cases of a number of N.C.Os. 1440 drawn from all parts of the Army? Surely it would be better to reconstitute some of the units which are in abeyance and to make them recruit training units or N.C.O. training units, as the case may be, and only transfer the recruits from them to active units when they have been fully trained, and when these active units will consequently be more than units in name.
When they go to the units of the active Army in which they are to serve, how long do they stay in them? Are they not being constantly transferred, and how often are the units to which they go the regiments to which they belong or to which they conceive they belong. Is not the infantry group system as it is now being worked, destructive of regimental and county esprit de corps which is of such tremendous value in the British Army? At present there are very few units with a complement of trained personnel and fit for service, and fewer still which have had training as units. I was glad to hear, as I am sure other hon. Members were glad to hear, that in the Rhine Army there are to be definite exercises with troops this year, because I think that training with troops has been conspicuous by its absence for some time past.
What is the number of Regulars aimed at by the Secretary of State? We have heard various numbers suggested-250,000, and 300,000, as was suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton. What is the number that the Secretary of State is aiming at? We have never been told. Whatever it may be, I think that it must be agreed that we are seriously short of that number both in officers and other ranks, and unless we have adequate numbers of trained Regulars the whole of this scheme must fail.
Can it be wondered at that there is a shortage when there is a great decrease in the Army's pre-war attractions—and some people forget that the Army had very considerable pre-war attractions. On the whole, contrary to what has been said to-day, the Army was not too badly housed, and the old permanent barracks had a very fair allowance of married quarters. Many of these have been vacated and are now used for other purposes, while the troops are living in hutments, and so forth; but there is a decrease in the pre-war attractions of the Army.
1441 Nowadays, no one and no unit can be sure of staying in one place for more than a short time. There is a very high proportion of the Army serving abroad, and not serving in the old established stations, some of which were good ones, but serving in new stations, and very often under uncomfortable and inconvenient conditions. Then there are a large number of those at home living in hutments or temporary quarters, and married officers and other ranks at home are very often either badly accommodated, or sometimes have no accommodation at all.
I heard of a case the other day of a cavalry regiment of the Armoured Corps stationed in the North and in a hutment camp, built, of course, since the War, and its married people were accommodated—such of them as had married quarters—in a town some 20 miles away. Every afternoon, at a time when married warrant officers and N.C.O.s might be wanted in the camp, not so much for duty as to be among the men to see what was going on and to help with the life of the regiment, they were all paraded to go off to their married quarters in this town 20 miles away. Similarly, at an uncomfortably early hour in the morning, these men were collected and brought back to the camp. That is not comfort, and it is not reasonable. In these hutment camps, why should not pre-fabricated houses be provided? They would be at least as permanent as the hutments in which the troops are living, and it is perfectly possible to make married people comfortable in them.
Then there is the question of pay and allowances of which we have heard today. I was very disappointed to hear the Secretary of State say that there was no question at present of raising the pay and allowances, but they have nothing like kept pace with the rise in the cost of living, or, if you like to put it in another way, in the fall in the value of money, which has been so remarkable. As regards allowances, there is the iniquitous system of deduction of Income Tax from allowances. In former days, allowances were not great and not always sufficient to provide what they were provided for—lodgings, or whatever it may be—but at least the man or officer got the money, and could use it for the purpose for which it was intended; but now he has Income 1442 Tax deducted from it, which results very often in the case of officers drawing allowances that they are considerably worse off under the present system, the allowance being quite inadequate for the purpose for which it was given.
It is the old story of the Treasury giving with one hand and taking away with the other. It is a very sore point with the Army and the Navy, and it has been a sore point in all the Services ever since I can remember, and that is a long time. There is no gratitude on the part of the country and certainly none on the part of the Treasury to those who serve it in peace and in war, and who undergo hardship and danger in their country's service. There is no gratitude to them; there is only a cold calculation of what is the very least that can be done for them. In calculating a single officer's emoluments, his lodgings, light, fuel, etc., are taken into consideration, but his lodging may be, and very often is in war time, on the cold bare ground. Sometimes it is so during exercises in peace time, and his light may not be anything at all but the light from the moon; but he does not get now what he used to get when in camp, on service, or in bivouac, and that is field allowance to make up for it.
Very great improvement must be made in pay and allowances for the Regulars if the necessary numbers are to be obtained, and. I would suggest, not only obtained but maintained. I suggest that the allowances ought to be free of Income Tax, so as to leave the full amount free for lodgings or for whatever it is given. Steps should be taken for adjustment of the rates of retired pay and pensions, and particularly the restoration to those who have not had any return of the 91½ per cent. deducted under the Royal Warrant of 1919 from their retired pay. It was deducted on account of the alleged fall in the cost of living, and it was promised in the Warrant that it should rise and fall as the cost of living rose or fell. Well, the cost of living rose again, but it was never restored. It was restored to those drawing the lower scales by the two Pension Increase Acts, but it was not restored to those on the higher scales, which are not very high but only a matter of some £700 a year and upwards. It was a clear breach of faith on the part of the Treasury that that 91½ per cent. was not 1443 restored in all cases. Such adjustments and restorations would give confidence to those serving.
Lastly, and I entirely agree here with my hon. and gallant Friend, it is absolutely necessary for men with good Army records to be guaranteed good employment by the Government when they finish their time. I say "good men" advisedly, because all men are not equally good. Perhaps it is one of the good points of nationalisation that it should be possible for the Government to employ ex-Service men in these industries. I also suggest that good Army service should count for pension purposes in such Government services as the police and the Post Office. If we want to get Regular soldiers, we should give them a decent dress for ceremonial occasions and for walking out purposes. I will not go into that in detail; but there should be a decent dress for all soldiers. Everyone has a best suit except the soldier, who has to live in his working suit all day and very often sleep in it at night. When a Question was asked the other day about recruiting, I reminded the Secretary of State of what happened in 1921. From the moment that full dress was restored in that year to the Household Troops in London there was no looking back in their recruiting, which had by no means been satisfactory up to that time.
In the statement on Defence, we are told that the Western European Commanders-in-Chief Committee is studying the problem of defence in Western Europe. Our example will be of the utmost importance in this connection. The Secretary of State told us that we were providing, and I was very glad to hear it, up to date equipment in considerable quantities to the Western European powers. But more than that is required if we are to take our part in Western European defence. Have we adequate organised forces to offer towards that defence, bearing in mind that our aid—and the Secretary of State appeared to throw cold water on the idea that we ought to have something in the nature of an expeditionary force—must be immediate if it is to be of any use?
Have we any plans for Empire co-operation in matters of defence? Is not the C.I.G.S. still the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and does he function as 1444 such? Has he submitted plans for cooperation with Empire troops, both Dominion and Colonial? As we know, the Empire Forces rendered enormous assistance during the war, but unless I am mistaken there was no undertaking in advance by any of the countries as to the precise amount of assistance which could be counted on in each case. Surely we should aim at getting agreements in advance under which the minimum amount of aid to be rendered is laid down in each case. I think we have a right to know that.
Has the situation arising from the loss of the Indian Army been taken into consideration? If it has not been taken into consideration, it certainly should have been? That has been a tremendous loss, which has upset the whole balance of our power in the Middle and Far East. We have a Gurkha division, and I am delighted that we have been able to save something out of the wreck. Some agreement might be made, at any rate with Pakistan. What about West African troops, which were very valuable indeed during the last war and displayed fighting qualities that surprised a great many people? Are we taking them into consideration? Is there to be any development of these troops?
It is obvious, if we are to increase the Regular troops, that an examination must be made into administrative duties. I was glad to hear the Secretary of State say that although a great many administrative duties are necessary, an examination is being made into these duties. It is necessary that an examination should be made into staffs, especially administrative staffs, and that means not only officers, but clerks, orderlies, drivers and all the hangers on. There should be an examination of all non-combatant and semi-combatant services, departments and individuals. I would merely mention, as I did on a previous occasion, certain non-combatant or semi-combatant corps for examination and consideration, such as the Pioneer Corps, the Education Corps, the Catering Corps, the R.E.M.E., R.A.O.C. and R.A.S.C.
I was glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend suggest that some of these might be recruited on a militia or Territorial basis. That would particularly apply in the case of the Pioneer Corps, which is a new corps. The original companies in France at the beginning of the 1445 last war were very largely formed from roadmen in the employment of the county councils. They were mostly old soldiers who were formed quickly into companies. The same sort of thing could be done again. They are not highly trained troops, but men who work on the roads and in other capacities. Skilled men might well be enlisted in R.E.M.E., the R.A.O.C. and similar corps. Many details would have to be worked out, but the scheme is a possibility.
There is a considerable item in the Estimates for Press officers. From the Chief Press Officer downwards, can it be said that they add to the efficiency and fighting value of the Army?
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
There is a very large item for civilian labour. I suggest that the civilian labour might be very largely decreased and transferred to civilian purposes. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say what some of us have been urging for a long time, and that is that welfare must be the primary concern of commanding officers. He said that as if it were a new idea. The welfare of the Army was first-class before the war, and welfare has always been the concern of the commanding officer and officers of the unit. A good unit has very good welfare services indeed. There ought to be no specially paid welfare personnel. I was very glad to see in the memorandum that much use is being made of the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen's Families Association and other similar bodies. These are admirable institutions that have done excellent work in the past, and they will certainly do excellent work again.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that is the Territorial Army. The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor have always gone on the principle, possibly due to the Treasury, of giving improvements in conditions a little at a time, the assumption being, I suppose, that a little lasts longer that way. They had better make up their minds that they have to improve the conditions of the Territorial Army, and that the biggest thing they have to face up to is this question of leave for camp. It is absolutely necessary that both employers and employees should know exactly where they stand about that. Because some patriotic or prosperous firms, like 1446 the big brewers, pay their employees the difference between their wages and earnings in the Army when they go to camp, it must not be imagined that the smaller employers can do the same, because they cannot.
If only the right hon. Gentleman would agree to make two conditions, that attendance at camp is made compulsory on both the men and the employers and that any difference in pay shall be made up by the Government or by the taxpayer, as it is in the case of Government employees who go to camp, we shall get the recruits. It is all very well for the Government to say that they are setting a good example by letting their employees go to camp and have their pay made up, but it is being done at the expense of the taxpayer, and if the taxpayer has to pay for that, he might just as well pay in the case of those in private employment. If the right hon. Gentleman does not face up to this question, and he has always skated round it, he will never get the recruits he wants. I hope that these points, and not least the last one I have mentioned, will be given attention by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
I doubt whether a Territorial camp in which the men drew different rates of pay according to their civilian employment would be a very happy one. I will not go into that question because there are other points I should like to pursue. I want to take the opportunity of thanking the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) for a most admirable contribution to this Debate. He put, quite admirably, nearly every point we in the Services group of this party have been pressing for during the past three years. I sincerely hope, now that we have so eminent a recruit to our ranks, the Government will pay more attention to our suggestions. I should particularly like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member on his remarks about the disadvantages of National Service. It is the first glimmering we have had from the Opposition that we need to reduce National Service as soon as we can and indeed, to get rid of it altogether as soon as possible.
There were only two points on which I disagreed with him. The figure of 300,000 for the permanent army is rather 1447 large. We have always gone on the basis of 250,000. Secondly, although I entirely agree about the need for increasing the remuneration generally of the Regular forces in order to get sufficient Regular recruits, and not to have to rely on the very inefficient way of doing it through National Service men, I do not know that an increase of pay on the basis of 25 per cent. is the best way of doing it. With those reservations, I should like to associate myself with everything he has said. Indeed, he having said so much for me enables me to concentrate in my speech upon one particular aspect on which he touched and on which I should like to enlarge. I refer to our problem of defence as part of Western Union and of the Atlantic Pact.
The first priority strategic job we have to consider is how to prevent Russia over-running Europe before America can get here. That seems to me to express in the simplest terms our No. 1 priority in the defence field. In a Debate in another place it was suggested that air could do this alone. I do not agree with that. Air alone may prevent another war occurring. The knowledge that on the very day another war commences there are going to be atomic bombs on most of one's largest cities is a very strong inducement not to start a war. That is the inducement which has operated so far, and I only pray that it will go on operating. But once the war is started I do not believe that air can do it alone, although I would agree entirely that it is absolutely essential that we should guarantee and maintain air superiority. I hope that it can be arranged that we will have more American visiting squadrons stationed in Europe, and that air fields for the reception of the American air force will be prepared in advance.
Once there is air superiority advantage can only be taken of it if there is the right kind of force to operate under it. According to the best information that I have been able to get, the Russians have about 30 divisions in Germany—I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton that it is important that we should talk in terms of divisions rather than numbers of men—and of these probably eight are armoured divisions. Behind that the Russians have 1448 a mobilisation strength of some 300 divisions and an eventual strength of 550 divisions. Neither we ourselves nor Western Union can possibly hope to compete with those sort of figures. It would be suicidal to attempt it. It would wreck the economy of the West. Therefore, we want to find other means of meeting that sort of threat. Where one has air superiority, the real advantage is that it is very difficult for the enemy to move about. Their formations can be broken up and their mobility paralysed.
This does not however apply to Russians to quite the same extent as other armies. The Russian soldier is amazingly tough. He can do without what other people cannot do without. The Russians have succeeded in maintaining more dispersal in movement than any other army has succeeded in doing. During the last war they were able to advance almost miraculously in face of the German air superiority. Nevertheless, if we have air superiority, our opponents are under a great disadvantage, and we have a great advantage provided that we are able to move and concentrate rapidly. We can get local superiority, even though overall we may be in great inferiority of numbers. We can concentrate and fight and disperse and concentrate again. A force to take advantage of these conditions must consist of highly trained, highly mechanised, professional troops. Nothing else is any use.
Fundamentally our job will be to fight a rearguard action, to fight a retreat. This always requires far better troops than an advance. It is a far greater test of training. We shall have to give the French time to mobilise behind the Rhine and Belgians and Dutch time to mobilise too. This highly trained, mobile, armoured force will then have to pass through the less mobile French and Benelux infantry and become available as a mass of manoeuvre because, as we saw in 1940, unless there is a mobile mass of manoeuvre behind, an infantry line is useless. It is this highly trained mobile force that Europe lacks today. There can be many opinions about its size, but I suggest it could not do with less than 20 divisions.
What is the position at the moment? There is a tremendous difference between numbers and divisions. I would put it as 1449 a difference of probably about a year. Assuming there has been initial training; assuming the equipment is available; assuming you are not burdened by training recruits; assuming all this it will still take about a year to make a trained division. At the present moment, as far as I have been able to ascertain, the available divisions in Western Europe are about as follows—the French before the war had 30 divisions in the peace-time army expandable to 90; today there are 5 in France and 2 in Africa. Before the war Belgium had 6 divisions expandable to 23; now they have got at most 3 and the Dutch probably about 2. I do not know what our figures are, but I will not go into that. It is very clear that in terms of immediately available divisions there are at this moment very few available.
§ Mr. Paget
That depends on different countries, and it depends on whether they are armoured or infantry divisions, but the average figure, including auxiliary divisional troops, would be about 16,000 to 20,000, though it depends on different circumstances. The main reason for this absence of divisions—and until the troops are on a divisional basis they are not available for fighting a war, so that they have to be got into a divisional basis—is the extent to which the Regular and trained troops are immobilised all over Europe training conscripts. This gives emphasis to the wrong priority. As far as the defence of Western Europe is concerned, it seems to me that this conscript idea, which is primarily to provide reserves, is a wrong priority, because it is not much use having reserves after Europe has been over-run.
Further, the reserve problem is not what it used to be, because we have the great American reserves that will come in. America to a very large extent fulfils what used to be the reserve problem. If we can hold the fort there is plenty to come into the fort. Therefore, I feel that emphasis should be• laid on immediate preparedness of an immensely efficient force, rather than on over-concentration through conscription on building reserves. The first priority should be the provision of some 20 super-equipped and trained divisions in Western Europe. Our contribution to that will 1450 probably have to be a fairly high one. The French, Belgians and the Dutch must get their general mobilisation going quicker than we need to. They will have to provide most of the second line. Therefore, we should provide a fairly large proportion of the first line and I venture to suggest that the number should be about eight to ten really first-class professional divisions.
§ Earl Winterton
This is exactly the point that has concerned many of us on this side of the House, and we have felt, apart from partisan or political feeling, that that should be pressed from all parts of the House upon the Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman is dealing with the only thing that matters in defence today.
§ Mr. Paget
I do not know that we got the assistance we should have had from other parts of the House in former years.
Home defence is the second priority. By home defence I mean the need for having a widespread army of what might be more or less termed garrison troops, so that any attempt at airborne landings or the establishment of bridgeheads will meet with immediate resistance as will any attempt to expand them. That and that alone is the function of National Service, for which one ought to have conscripts. I have taken the view that six months is quite enough for basic training, and those conscripts should be no burden at all upon the professional army striking force. They should be organised in training battalions officered from the O.T.C. as junior officers with junior N.C.O's. from the Cadet Corps. Colonels, company commanders, adjutants and senior N.C.O's. should be pensioners who have come out of the Regular force.
The training organisation should be separate from, and no longer a burden on, the professional army. When they have done their training, those men should go into the Territorials. They will not be professional troops or troops of manoeuvre but garrison troops able 1451 to provide immediate resistance in the event of a landing. They would also enable the professional army to be built up after the war commences. As to commitments, Germany and Austria should not count as commitments because they are just grand training grounds for the Regular Army. The more the Regular and striking force is in the direction where it will be needed, the better. Trieste and Greece—that is not large.
Then we come to Colonial commitments. I am surprised to find those described as commitments at all. At the end of the war I believe we had between 120,000 and 150,000 African troops, and very good troops they were. Now we are told that internal African security is a commitment. It ought to be exactly the reverse. Africa is an enormous source of unemployed manpower. Indeed I would say that experience in military service has proved the most effective method of education. The African who has served in the Forces is an admirable influence when he gets back to his village; he has learned a lot of things. I urge the Government to look to Africa as the source from which their Colonial commitments will be met. I hope they will really push ahead with creating a Colonial Army.
One further suggestion: I do not quite know what our Middle Eastern bases will be, but for the Middle East the Government should consider seriously the creation of a foreign legion. France did that highly successfully when she suffered from shortage of manpower. We are suffering from a shortage of manpower now, and among Central European people who have come from behind the iron curtain, because they hate it, there is a tremendous potential of fighting men who would have their hearts in the job. I believe it would be a good idea, both for them and for us, if we offered them employment in a foreign legion, and I hope the Government will consider creating one.
One final thing. I believe that all costs today must be translated into man hours because man hours are the real unit of cost. Getting the Army on to a professional basis, creating a Colonial Army, even creating a foreign legion—these are the methods which are the least expensive in man hours, and in reality take 1452 least from the wealth of this country. I do not know how it works out in budgetary figures but man hours are what really matter, for man hours are the real income of this country.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Sir Harvie Watt (Richmond)
I hope the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his interesting excursion into some of the wider matters of defence on which I find myself in almost complete agreement with him. I would rather take a narrower line.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said that he hoped this Debate would concentrate largely on recruitment for the Regular Army. I hope it does more than that, because it is just as important that we should consider the question of recruitment of the Territorial Army. I am profoundly depressed by the present situation, and the speech made this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War did nothing to reassure me. We have to remember that a six months' campaign was started in October to secure the enlistment by the end of March of 150,000 officers and men. We have nearly reached the end of that campaign and there has been something less than half that target reached. That is profoundly disturbing to us all, and we must try to see how we are to get round those difficulties.
In my view, the results are due not to one factor but to many, and the three most important factors are first, what is generally called war weariness. Most men who served in the Forces during the war say, "We have done our bit and we have had enough of it for the time being. We will do it again if we have to, but we will not do it now." They are too busily engaged in making up for those years they spent in the Fighting Services. Another strong factor which is operating, particularly with regard to the Anti-Aircraft units, is the fact that many men and women who served in the Anti-Aircraft units during the war have no certainty that their services then were properly appreciated. The disastrous decision not to grant them the 1939–45 medal is having a marked effect. I remember very well, and most hon. Members will, too, how in 1938–39 the spokesmen of the Government side and, indeed, of the War Office and 1453 all military authorities, said that men and women ought to join the Anti-Aircraft Forces because it was a public service of prime importance. Many were induced to join as volunteers because they felt they were doing a real public service, but as soon as the medals came to be distributed they found that that public service had not been quite so important as they had been led to believe.
I find that the same statements are being made now by the Government and by leaders on my own side who are doing their best to induce recruits into the Anti-Aircraft units. They say that this is a matter of prime importance and of great public service. However we are not getting the results, and very few men and women who served in those units in the war have since rejoined. In a certain brigade I know, a return was taken and it showed only two officers and 20 men in the whole brigade who had served in Ack-Ack units during the war. I think the Minister ought to forget some of the arguments made at that time and make this medal available to those men and women who served in the Anti-Aircraft units during the war.
A third factor which is affecting recruitment to the Territorial Army is undoubtedly conscription. That has affected the volunteers very much, because the 18 and 19 age groups which formed a large part of the Territorial Army before the war are not now joining in view of the National Service they have to do. What effect that National Service will have upon the future of the Territorial Army is not yet certain. I am convinced, however, that if some concessions in service could be given to those age groups, not in respect of the 18 months which they must serve in the Regular Forces, but in their subsequent service in the Territorial Army, it would have a profound affect upon recruiting.
Before dealing with one or two minor suggestions to the Minister, there are two rather broad proposals I will make with regard to the direction and administration of the Territorial Army. First, there ought to he a proper directorate of the Territorial Army at the War Office. That is no novel suggestion. Before the war there was a Director-General of the the Territorial Army with a seat on the Army Council, and he had Territorial advisers. That system worked extremely 1454 well and it ought to be reintroduced and even extended, but we must make sure that the Director of the Territorial Army, or his position, is not used just as a stepping-stone to further promotion. The fact that we have had so many appointments of that kind since the war has had a bad effect upon the Territorials. In making these appointments we ought to have people who know and understand the problems of the Territorial Service. There have been far too many examples of men who did not properly appreciate these difficulties. In General Herbert, the new Director of the Territorial Army, we have a first-class man who knows the T.A. I hope he will be allowed to stay and be up-graded in his job, because that would make a tremendous impression on everyone.
The second broad suggestion I put forward is that I think there ought to be an inquiry into the operation of the Territorial Army Associations. I am not satisfied that, as they exist at present, they are fulfilling the functions they ought to fulfil. There is no doubt that in the old days before the war these associations performed a fine service, but the situation has changed with conscription. And not only with regard to conscription. With a proper directorate at the War Office for the Territorial Army, many things like drill halls, personal equipment, clothing, stores, and so forth, could be issued, not through the Territorial Army Associations, but direct to the Unit. At present personal equipment and clothing are obtained by the Associations on indent from Ordnance and then issued out to the units concerned. Why should not that operation be made in one through a Territorial directorate? It would cut out many of these dual operations and the two channels of command. I found on many occasions that I was passed to an Association through a military channel, and the result was a great deal of "passing the buck" and of frustration on the part of the commanding officer.
Thirdly, with regard to Territorial Army Associations, any inquiry should consider the question of age limits. A great many men now serving on those Territorial Army Associations would undoubtedly have fallen under the recommendations of the Cohen Report. In making these changes, one would get a far more virile and active association— 1455 if one must have an association—and far more active Territorial advice by bringing in more Territorials in as advisers to co-operate with the different formations. I do not think there is any difficulty in that way.
If we could streamline the organisation of the Territorial Army and Associations by having an effective directorate, we could dispel a great deal of that apathy which has affected everyone despite all the addresses and appeals made by our political leaders—the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wood-ford (Mr. Churchill) whose speech, incidentally, came too late. He should have been the first, or at any rate near the beginning, because no man, whoever he may be, can revive a flop. And that is what this recruiting campaign has been. It would not have been a flop if there had been proper Territorial advice at the top, because, if there had been, that campaign would not have taken place during the winter months.
Past experience has shown that the best periods for recruiting for the Territorial Army have always been from March to camp and for a short period afterwards from camp to October, but that the very worst months for recruiting are October to March. That is the very period in which we have had this great recruiting campaign in the last six months. Publicity and propaganda for the Territorial Army have been quite ridiculous. The publicists do not seem to have had any idea at all as to what the requirements of the Territorial Army were. Again, with Territorial advisers this would have been different. If we had handed out all this publicity with Territorial advice to a first-class business firm, with proved ability to sell any commodity, we would have done a great deal towards killing the apathy towards the Territorial Army.
There are two other minor matters which I should like to mention. The first concerns the bounty. One or two hon. Members have said today that they thought the bounty was approaching the right figure, but I disagree entirely. An approach should be made to the Treasury to bring the bounty up to, at any rate, £15, because that would be comparable to the bounty before the war, 1456 having regard to the value of the £ and the high cost of living. I see no reason why this bounty, whatever figure it is, should not be paid to the officer as well as to the man, for he is just as entitled to it.
And now to my final point. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) spoke about the Territorial Army and the giving by employers of time off with pay for men to attend camp. It is quite unfair on employers, whoever they are, private or nationalised, to expect them to give men time off and to make up their pay at the same time. This is not a private responsibility; it is a national responsibility, and the State should pay for any make-up of pay which is required. It may sound all very well to say that people who provide extra pay for Territorials going to camp are great, patriotic citizens, but it is not their private responsibility. It is ours, and we should accept it. I am quite certain that if some of the suggestions I have made could be considered and implemented by the Secretary of State, they would have a very heartening effect, not only upon recruiting, but upon the Territorial Army as a whole.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
I am grateful for the opportunity of following the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Richmond (Sir H. Watt) because, as has happened before with previous successive speakers, we have a lot in common in our approach, particularly to the question of the Territorial Army. But it would appear that the hon. and learned Gentleman is a little confused about the status and structure of the Territorial Army. First, if I understood him aright, he says that there should be a properly established and recognised Directorate-General of the Territorial Army, that the rank of the Director-General should be up-graded one rank so that there will be less transience of Director-Generals and more permanence, and that the Director-General himself should have a seat on the Army Council. The hon. and learned Gentleman followed this by saying there were certain faults in the administration of the County Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations, and that if we promote and confirm the 1457 establishment of a Director-General it might be possible to by-pass the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations by depriving them of some of their administrative functions.
It seems that the hon. and learned Gentleman is asking for two things which are not parallel. A case can be made out—it is the one to which I personally give most weight—for the complete revision of the T.A.F.As. [HoN. MEMBERS: "What is that?"] The Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. If hereafter I refer to them as T.A.F.As., which is common parlance among Territorial soldiers, I hope nobody will object. A case can be made out for the complete abolition of T.A.F.As. as they are at present constituted, because it can be argued that this new post-war military organisation makes, in fact, all three branches of the Army part of the same military organisation—that is, the small Regular contingent, the National Service man and the Territorial soldier, who after this year will in the main be the ex-conscript; these three are part of a citizen Army. All the branches of the administration of each section of that Army should come under the responsible heads of the Departments of the War Office. This is a case that can be argued and upon which, I think, considerable force can be put. But if we promote and establish the department of the Director-General of the Territorial Army on the pre-war basis, it presupposes in my submission, a continuance of the pre-war organisation of the Territorial Army.
I should like to discuss the nature of these county associations, because I believe there is an awful lot wrong with them which is having its effect upon the morale and the rate of recruiting, and also the ultimate function of the Territorial Army as a whole. I have the profoundest respect for the majority of people I know who serve on a county association. They are men of good intention and good will, prepared to give considerable time and energy—and, in many eases, money—in order to keep things going. It is no intention of mine to attack them as individuals. But the hon. and learned Member for Richmond is right in saying that the first criticism of them is that so many of them are so old, and that in trying to raise in a county association questions of modern equip- 1458 ment, strategy and tactics one finds that members who sit in responsible positions really do not know what one is talking about. The Secretary of State ought to examine their constitution from that point of view if he intends to persist with them.
Secondly, there is an aspect which is a little disturbing when one realises the new, completely democratic nature of the whole of our Fighting Forces, and particularly of the Army. These associations were built up in the inter-war years on an entirely different conception of the Army and Territorial Army, but, as they are made up mainly of business men who have the time, money and energy to devote to them, they are often socially completely out of touch with the task of recruiting and the men whom one must interest to get them into the Territorial Army.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says "Rubbish." I am very glad to have his attention, but if I had his complete agreement on everything I was saying, I should feel that there was something wrong in my approach to the problem
I believe that now these county associations stand between the desire of the Secretary of State to realise his recruiting target for the T.A. and the realisation of that hope, and that they must be recast on an entirely new basis. The chain of administration must be direct, from the War Office down to the serving unit—or else the personnel of the county association must be changed so that far more weight is given to the word of present commanding officers of Territorial units and the feeling of the association is much more in keeping with the demands of today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have to be very careful and should, perhaps, leave that subject in case I fall into the fatal error of having hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite agreeing with me too much. If the noble Lord, who is mumbling at me, wants to interrupt, I will give way.
§ Earl Winterton
I said I thought it was rather beneath the dignity of the Debate and of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's war record to say what he has just said. Surely, what we are all trying to do is 1459 to reach agreement in a matter of the highest importance to the State.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
If the noble Lord's statement and intervention is absolutely a reflection of his view, then I feel that his conduct during the course of my speech and other hon. Members' speeches has not been in complete conformity with it. In fact, all of us come to this House and participate in these Debates from the motives which he expresses, but it often happens that hon. Members who are in disagreement on particular points of view, cannot suppress their disagreement and constantly mumble interruptions. In my opinion, that does not contribute to the dignity of the Debate.
I want to refer to the general line of argument deployed by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). The theory upon which he was working is one which I totally reject. That at this stage we should come to this House, not to talk in terms of making general provision for the security of these islands, against a background of doing everything possible politically to make war less and less possible, but to face the specific problem which he has expressed of planning a war which he appears to consider imminent and inescapable, seems to me entirely the wrong approach.
§ Mr. Paget
I certainly do not regard the war as either imminent or inescapable. All I want to emphasise is that it is the only possible war, and that if we are not prepared to defend ourselves from that, there is no point in having an Army at all and we would be able to go, into the very happy position of universal disarmament. There is no other danger.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
I am prepared to agree with that view, that the war the nature of which is expressed so tersely and clearly by the hon. and learned Gentleman is the only possible war. But I do not consider that the speech to which we have listened, particularly the phrase of which I complain, helps at all to put off the possibility of that war. In fact, the tendency in these Defence Debates is to exacerbate an already dangerous situation by persistently giving too 1460 much point and emphasis to a possible immediate line-up of military forces.
I wanted to say that, because it would appear, not only from the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, but from many speeches made here, that in the very near future we and the other nations of Western Europe are going to be engaged as the bulwark, the front line, in a third, cosmic war. I do not believe that that is an immediate possibility, and I think that we have an urgent duty to do everything we can to dispel the alarm and despondency which exists among all our people at the constant presentation of this as an imminent menace. I recommend my hon. and learned Friend to take his brilliant mind off this functional question of making military forces more and more efficient, and apply it more to the broader political question of making war less and less imminent.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
Naturally, I am sure the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington) will forgive me if I do not follow his speech in detail, beyond saying that I agree with one or two of his points and very much disagree with one or two others, but I think he recognises that that is inevitable.
I wish to apologise to the Minister beforehand and to tell him that I have to go to Scotland tonight and shall not be here when he replies. There is no discourtesy to him but I apologise now because he is present. I should like to emphasise what has already been said and cannot be said too often, that the crux of the whole of this situation is the Regular Army. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir H. Watt) emphasised the need for encouraging recruiting for the Territorial Army and we all agree on that. But however many recruits are obtained for the Territorial Army, unless we have the Regular Army to train them we may as well save the time and expense. I am not speaking as a Regular officer and trying to boost the Regular Army at the expense of the Territorial Army. In case anyone should think that I am doing so, may I point out that I was a Territorial for five years before I became a Regular officer? I was glad to hear my hon. and learned Friend emphasise that 1461 we should have a proper Regular Army for training the mass of National Service men.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), in what I thought a brilliant speech, went into the question of National Service men in considerable detail and suggested what ought to be done about that. I do not propose to go into it in detail, but I feel that having 500,000 men in khaki and yet not having an effective fighting force, is a very unfortunate situation indeed because 500,000 men taken from the country at this time is a large number. The situation is that not only are they lost to industry but the only possible reason for taking them away from industry is that we should have an effective fighting force and we have not that either. Therefore, there is a net loss which we cannot afford at present.
Another point which needs emphasising is that I do not believe that the Territorial element and the National Service element will ever mix in a harmonious whole. It has never been tried by any other country and I do not believe it would be successful here. In the Territorial unit there is what I will call a club element. They have their own social life, they are enthusiastic and keen and represent their neighbourhood wherever it may be. They have their drill hall—I still call it a drill hall and not a T.A. Centre, as everyone will call it a drill hall whatever the right hon. Gentleman proposes—and that is a social centre and a centre of brotherhood which is one of the most essential features in the Territorial Army. To empty into that large quantities of semi-digested National Service men with an element of discontented boredom, is the wrong way to go about the matter.
I believe it was my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) who mentioned the universal unpopularity of the group system in the Regular Army. The group system is disliked by every Regiment in the British Army. We have this dreadful system whereby as little as possible is made of emphasis on the "territorial"—I am not now talking of the arm of the Territorial Army as a force but the literal "territorial" Army—for recruitment. In Scotland it is of double importance in recruiting in the Highland and Lowland 1462 areas. It is not enough to say that a man will be in a Highland or Lowland group. Cross postings are going on in the Army today on a most astonishing scale. That may be inevitable under the present set up. To give an example, a short time ago in the Regular battalion of the Black Watch there were 250 serving Regular soldiers and the rest were made up of National Service men. The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in saying that training units are only in this country because this is a training unit and is in Germany. There are 250 serving in that Battalion. There are 1,500 Regular soldiers of the Black Watch in Regular service today and only 250 of them are serving with the Black Watch. That is a deplorable state of affairs if we want to encourage recruiting in the Black Watch area.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does the hon. and gallant Member regard this as the reason why there was less response in his constituency to the recruiting campaign for the Territorials than in any other place in Scotland? Could he tell us the number who joined the Territorials in his constituency?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I should like to confine my remarks to the Regular Army and cross postings, but the hon. Member will find that recruiting for the Territorial Army in the Black Watch area was very high. The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) said that the hon. and gallant Member for Perth had addressed recruiting meetings and that therefore the response in that constituency was the lowest in Scotland. I do not mind the compliment. It is quite nice, but (a) I have not addressed any recruiting meeting and (b) the response was very high.
I beg the Minister to realise the feelings of a large number of Regular soldiers many of whose fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers have served in the Black Watch. I am not saying this in a spirit of boasting because in England, Wales and Northern Ireland no doubt the same could be said. These men believed they would follow their forebears but now only 250 are lucky enough to carry on in the Black Watch. This has a most unfortunate effect on recruiting, and I hope we shall have an assurance from the 1463 Minister that he will look into the matter, because it is important.
I turn to another famous Scottish Regiment which is nearly as famous as the Black Watch, the Royal Scots Greys, one of the greatest Regiments in the whole history of the British Army. It used to be considered the most Scottish of almost any Regiment in the British Army. Today I am told on reliable authority that the number of Scotsmen in the Royal Scots Greys is 13 per cent. More alarming than that is the figure given to show the number of old fellows in that Regiment who are Scotsmen and the number of young men who are not Scotsmen.
§ Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Is that because there are Scotsmen in English Regiments or insufficient Scotsmen to go round Scottish Regiments?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I was coming to that important point. The older warrant officers in the Regiment are 75 per cent. Scotsmen. The next line, sergeants' mess, excluding warrant officers, are 30 per cent. Scotsmen, and the young Regular troops in the Regiment are 20 per cent. Scotsmen, but the National Service men are only 6 per cent. Scotsmen. Quite recently a large number of Scotsmen enlisted in Scotland for the Royal Armoured Corps and were sent to the Inniskilling Dragoons. That is a very great help to the Inniskilling Dragoons I have no doubt, but it is not a very great encouragement to Scotsmen who wished to go into the Royal Armoured Corps that they did not go into the Royal Scots Greys which, after all, is the Royal Armoured Corps Regiment for Scotland. It is a most regrettable state of affairs.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) asked if it were a fact that there were not enough Scotsmen to fill Scottish Regiments. That is a fact but not so far as the one Scottish Cavalry Regiment is concerned. That could be and always was recruited under its own steam in Scotland most satisfactorily and the percentage of Scotsmen in it was very high indeed. Why should we denationalise the Royal Scots Greys when the Government are so keen on nationalising everything else? I very much hope that the Minister will give his assurance that he will look into the ques- 1464 tion of the recruitment of soldiers in Scotland for the Royal Armoured Corps and will direct that they shall go into the Royal Scots Greys. If there are too many, let the other regiments have the privilege of having the odd Scotsmen who are left out.
I wish to mention a matter I have mentioned in this House before and about which I feel very strongly. That is the question of the Gurkhas. I am not talking of the men of the Gurkha Regiments at the moment but of the situation of British officers of the Gurkha Regiments. I have had correspondence with the Minister and he has very courteously gone into the matter in great detail, but I am still very dissatisfied, as also are the British officers of the Gurkha Regiments, with the terms they have been offered and on which they are expected to serve. I do not wish to take up time in going into detail, but there is the question of British Income Tax and the fact that they have to look after families at home and educate them while they always serve overseas, usually in bad climates. These are points which urgently need alleviation because the situation and feelings of the British officers of the Gurkha Regiments are most unhappy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that he will look into the matter again. There are not very many of these officers but they are doing a tremendous job and we have great need of them. While I would not say that we want to go on our knees to the Maharajah of Nepal to give us more recruits, we should make these men happy and contented and let them know that they and their families will have a square deal.
I wish to deal with the question of discipline. The memorandum says:The improvement in discipline throughout the Army noted during 1947 has continued during the past year.I am very glad to hear it, it had need to. The basis of a good Army is good discipline. I run the risk as usual of being referred to by some of the more lighthearted elements in the Press and elsewhere as Colonel Blimp. I do not mind a bit. I may have the figure but I have not the moustache. But it is a fact that the basis of a good Army is good discipline and that the real basis of discipline is the confidence of every man serving in the Army in his superior, 1465 the officers in their superior officers and the men in their officers. We have to tackle that problem. I make no bones about it; we have allowed the quality of the officers of the British Army to decline. I may be considered to be taking up a class bias but I am not.
It is a fact that if we have men born and bred to be officers of the Army in a regiment in which their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers served and fought, we shall get a better quality officer than any other means can devise. That is not to say that everybody should not be given a chance of a commission even though he has not got that background. I plead that everything should be done to get young fellows with that background and breeding to come into the Regular Army where for many generations their forbears have done wonderful work. I am not trying to plead the cause of a particular class. I am merely trying to say that there lies the best quality of officer that we shall ever get. There have been many with faults. There have been duds, just as there are in every walk of life. But, by and large, there has been a great weight of service given for practically nothing for generations in the Regular Army by officers and their sons who have followed them. I wish to see them restored to their position. The other ranks look to that type of officer more than to anyone else to make them feel that they are at home in the regiments which these men know so much about. It is the other ranks who want these men to be their officers.
I wish to make one other point on the question of discipline. It is a great mistake for us to be led into thinking that a strictly disciplined unit is unhappy. Exactly opposite is the case. Provided the discipline is fair and just nobody objects. Nobody minds strict discipline. We want to be sure that we get it. It is a fact proved in many wars, including the last two great wars, that the best drilled and the smartest units in peace are the finest fighting units when it comes to battle. That is good enough proof that we should have the highest possible degree of discipline. We cannot have discipline if the officers and men are allowed to go about looking. sloppy. That will never do.
A typical thing which has done as much to cause sloppiness in the Army as any- 1466 thing else is the introduction of that hideous thing called the beret. I am not going to refer to individuals, but I will say that the beret in the British Army was invented for a sound purpose. It was introduced for the Royal Armoured Corps as a headgear suitable for armoured fighting vehicles. But since then it has spread all over the Army, and now we see people slopping about in headgear that is a disgrace to anybody, let alone a British soldier. It is high time that the standard of dress and turn-out of British soldiers walking about the streets was stepped up tremendously. The Brigade of Guards and all the other good units in the Army are strict on the subject of turn-out. It used to be the case that the soldier who saw a man from his unit walking about sloppily dressed in uniform would go for him himself and say, "You are letting the regiment down." Does that happen today? If not, it is time that it did. That type of feeling should be encouraged. For wear in peace time this sloppy bit of cloth is a great mistake, except in the case of the Royal Armoured Corps. I hope that we shall see the end of it.
For goodness sake, let us have done with the bedside lamp mentality. Every Regular officer has always wanted to do his best for his troops. But now the Government hold out the prospect, "If you join the Army you will get a bedside lamp and you will have a nice job which you will learn." We should encourage men to join the Army to become fighting soldiers. The fighting man is far more important than the chap in support behind. All the emphasis appears to be on the chap with the spanner. Recruiting pictures say, "Join the Army and learn a career," they never say "Join the Army and fight and learn how to prove yourself." That is a wrong mentality which will do a great deal of harm.
I hope that I have not exaggerated. I know this to be true, and I feel it strongly. My pride in the British Army means that I want to see it as it used to be—the greatest fighting force in the world, in spite of its size. All this idea that the British do not know anything about soldiers but are wonderful sailors is wrong. The greatest commanders this world has ever seen came from these little islands—Montrose, Marlborough, Wellington, Sir Douglas Haig—
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I would point out to the hon. Member that Julius Caesar's visit here was a very short one.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Yes, but I do not suggest that he was a great commander who came from these islands. Those I have mentioned were great men. We always hear that the French, the Germans, the Russians and everybody else are such magnificent soldiers. They are, but so are the British and they will continue to be if the War Office and the Ministers responsible will back them up and make sure that the soldier gets the best possible deal. We owe it to him and he will never let us down.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I have been wondering whether a nonmilitary layman like myself might dare venture into a Debate which has been carried on so far more or less by Army officers. But after listening to all the speeches already delivered, I would say that there has not been very much difference in their tone. Both the Conservatives and my hon. Friends on the Labour side seem to have agreed on one thing, and that is that the enormous amount to be spent on these Fighting Services is not by any means too large. If there has been any dispute at all it has been about the way in which the money shall be spent. I was most intrigued with the arithmetic of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I know nothing about military affairs. He appeared to put forward the theory that there are in Central Europe 300 Soviet divisions.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman stated that there were 300. If there are 20,000 men in a division, I thought that it was very alarming if the Russians had six million men in Germany at present. Apparently I was wrong.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I have noticed in this Debate something akin to what we 1468 heard about Hitler and his troops in 1938– 1939. I am sorry that there are indications emerging just now, especially from a speech by Lord Vansittart in the other place yesterday, that the people of this country must again be deliberately frightened that another enemy must be fought. I have one comment to make about recruiting Colonial troops. I do not understand why the white races have not learned their lesson in this connection. They cannot hope for much longer to enrol coloured men to fight the white man's battles. On that score I must pay tribute to our Government for the way in which we came out of India, leaving behind us a great deal of goodwill on the part of the Indian people toward the British. The Dutch, on the other hand, are making a fundamental mistake in not clearing out of Indonesia and creating a similar amount of goodwill among the Indonesians towards them. The day is fast approaching when the white races will not be allowed to use coloured folk to do their fighting. I thought that would have been said by someone else from this side of the House already.
I was interested in the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). He appears to have come to the conclusion, which some of us reached long ago, that military conscription is wrong. It is strange that military gentlemen are at last condemning conscription. When it was introduced we were told that conscription meant equality of sacrifice, but if I understand the position correctly we are now only calling up about 50 per cent. of the men eligible for conscription. The idea about equality of sacrifice therefore does not stand.
It is one of the most revolting things I have come across in my lifetime to witness the Government putting women into military clothes. That has occurred in the lifetime of most hon. Members present today. And now we are told that women may join the Army and wear military uniform for 22 years. I have several questions to ask on that score. Are these women soldiers in the British Army to be allowed to get married? More than that, if they become officers, will they be provided with married quarters? If they get married quarters will they be able to take their civilian husbands to those quarters just as officer 1469 husbands are now entitled to take their civilian wives? I am not sure that the War Office have thought out this problem. The natural thing, of course, is for a woman to get married and have children. What will happen if hundreds of married women officers in married quarters with their civilian husbands have thousands upon thousands of children? Having known the Secretary of State for War for so many years, I was intrigued to note that he, above all others, claimed to be such an authority on military affairs. That is one of the greatest changes that has taken place in this House.
The other day I raised a question with the Minister of Defence, who brushed me aside very unceremoniously. As is known, His Majesty's Government are conscripting our lads for the Forces. We are collaborating with the American Government for defence purposes, and I am told authoritatively that the American Government did not call up any conscripts in February of this year, and will not call up any this month of March either, and probably no more after that. As they have a population three times as great as ours, why is it that our young fellows are conscripted and American lads are not? I would like an answer to that question, because it is very appropriate to these Estimates. I am glad that the Minister of Defence has just come into the House, because it was he who brushed me aside so unceremoniously the other day. Perhaps he has forgotten that once upon a time he and I preached the same gospel of peace from the same platform. Unfortunately, he has departed from that gospel, but I suppose we shall have to forgive him for that.
Some time ago I was fortunate enough to rally about 100 right hon. and hon. Members in support of a Motion asking the Government to do something about deserters in this country. I was told that there are about 20,000 of them. The Government must really look into this problem of thousands of men roaming the country without ration cards. Without ration cards they must steal to live. I am sure that part of our problem of crime can be attributed to that fact. I am not an authority on military affairs, but I would like to know whether the Government have made up their minds finally about these deserters.
1470 What annoys me in a Debate like this is the complacency shown by Members of all parties towards the colossal expenditure and waste of manpower at a time of such economic difficulty. My view is that foreign affairs must begin at home. If this country were strong economically and financially any other Power which wished to attack us would be more afraid of doing so than if we put 300,000 raw conscripts into military uniform. How does it come about, therefore, that the House is willing to accept the proposition that 750,000 men and women can be dressed up in uniform, most of them doing nothing, and one million other people can be employed in factories and warehouses to attend to their wants—a total of 1,750,000 people wasting the nation's substance?
Finally, let me say something to my colleagues on this side of the House. It is strange that in my lifetime—and I have lived longer than most—that as capitalism is walking out over a large part of the earth's surface so militarism is moving in to take its place. I am as much afraid of militarism as I am of capitalism. The military machine is eating by far too much of every nation's substance; and the day will come, I hope, when a man or woman dressed in military uniform anywhere will be regarded as an offence against decent society.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I hope the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) will forgive me if I do not follow him too far in his argument. We all respect the sincerity with which he puts forward his case in this House, but perhaps he will allow me to remind him that had it not been for the fact that in the past sufficient men volunteered for the Regular Army, it is unlikely that he would have been given the opportunity this evening of expressing his views here without let or hindrance.
The speech of the Secretary of State for War was an improvement on that of the Minister of Defence, in last week's Defence Debate. The Secretary of State for War did at least tell us something. I could have wished that he had told us a good deal more; I could have wished that he had made rather fuller reference to events in Malaya, where British troops are in action and are suffering casualties; I could have wished that he had referred 1471 to some of the problems of finding new bases in the Middle East, following the withdrawal of our troops from Palestine.
As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) said, the crux of the whole problem is the provision of a sufficient number of recruits for the Regular Army. This is the key to the Army's difficulties, and it is to this that the Secretary of State for War should address himself.
It is fairly clear to Members in all parts of the House that unless the Regular Army is adequate in size our National Service men cannot be properly trained, the Territorial Army cannot be provided with a sufficient number of qualified instructors and, we cannot possibly carry out any of our commitments overseas. It is not enough that the Regular Army shall provide trained instructors for the Territorial Army or that the Regular Army shall train the National Service men. The Regular Army by itself must be large enough to carry out operational training at all formation levels, because it is that Army which is the striking force in the event of sudden hostilities. We shall never get the right type of men to come forward for the Regular Army unless there are considerable improvements in pay, allowances and general conditions of service and unless we offer to men in that Army a career in the widest sense.
May I deal, first of all, with the question of pay and allowances of officers? The new pay code of July, 1946, made very sweeping changes. Certainly, basic rates were increased, but the most outstanding change was that allowances, for the first time, became subject to tax. The net result was that a large number of married officers were worse off than they were before the new pay code was introduced. Prior to 1946 the gross value of the various allowances for a married major living with his family was £234 a year. All of it was tax free. After the new pay code was introduced the same major received £228 gross and £147 net. It is true that there are what are called temporary supplementary allowances, given to officers who were drawing marriage allowance before the new pay code came into force. But it operates upon an ever-decreasing scale. It was worth £40 net in 1948. It goes down to £20 in 1949, and I understand that by 1472 April, 1950, it will have disappeared altogether. Although in the White Paper which accompanied the new pay code it was stated that the increase in the pay and allowances would cost the Treasury £798,000, that same White Paper very conveniently omitted the fact that the revenue accruing to the Treasury now that allowances were subject to tax amounted to no less than £425,000, which puts the whole picture in a considerably different light.
So far as other ranks are concerned, let us be honest. The fact that for good reasons or bad the wage-freezing agreement has been largely torn up—wage increases in industry have become almost a weekly occurrence—has put the pay of other ranks in a considerably less favourable light. Although there have been certain increases in Army pay these are by no means in proportion to the great increases of wages in industry. The Army has become correspondingly less attractive. Moreover, the recent grant available to ex-Regulars in order to help them to defray the cost of training for civil employment, a scheme which was announced two or three weeks ago, are "subject to financial necessity." That is a very odd attitude to adopt. The Regular soldier who has saved enough money to start him off after his service in the Regular Army is finished does not get any help at all while the man who has not saved any money is apparently to get financial assistance. This is the old story where the thrifty is penalised and the spendthrift rewarded.
In these circumstances, although I do not intend to over-emphasise the question of pay and allowances as incentives to recruitment, it is not surprising that recruiting figures for the Regular Army are far from satisfactory, as the Secretary of State for War admitted. The Government must make up their minds whether they want an efficient Regular Army or not. If they do, they must provide the necessary finance. They are always trying to persuade the electors that they are giving everybody in this country something for nothing, but in regard to recruiting for the Regular Army the Government are in the reverse rôle. They cannot get recruits for the Regular Army on that basis. They must offer prospective recruits rewards and advantages to come into the Regular Army as a career in preference to employment in industry.
1473 Precisely the same arguments apply, in a slightly different way to the Auxiliary Forces. Reference has been made by one hon. Gentleman to some of the problems of the Territorial Army and to the recruiting campaign. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir H. Watt) referred to the fact that the period of the year chosen for the recruiting campaign for the Territorial Army was not particularly happy. Speeches about patriotism alone are not sufficient. They have to be accompanied by something else, by some real incentive and some real evidence that the Government mean to help in a practical way. We are all trying to help the Government in their recruiting campaign both for the Regular Forces and for the Territorials. Let me say in parenthesis how fortunate the Government are to have the help of the Opposition on this occasion. How different was the position before the war when hon. Gentlemen opposite were sitting on these benches and were doing everything they could to prevent recruitment for the Army. However, we will let that go by and allow their misdeeds to be forgotten, and we shall congratulate those hon. Gentlemen on having at long last seen the light.
In relation to the Territorial Army I want to suggest one practical way in which the Government can help. Would the Secretary of State for War look into a number of complaints which have been received by his Department from the Territorial Army Association concerning local food offices which refuse licences to Territorial units, thereby preventing them from providing meals for men who must necessarily attend drill halls in the evening, coming straight from work? I hope that the Minister can look into that grievance, which is both genuine and deserving. I can give the Minister some of the details if he wishes to have them.
Complaints have also been received by hon. Members on all sides of the House about inadequate capitation grants for Army Cadet Force units. I can quote from my constituency an example of a unit which is probably typical of many Army Cadet units, where the capitation grant is roughly £130. The area happens to be rather spread out. The quartermaster, welfare officer, sports officer and others have to keep contact with companies either by post, in which case 1474 stamps have to be bought, or by telephone, in which case the calls have to be paid for. Company commanders are in a precisely similar predicament in contacting battalion headquarters. There are huts in outlying villages used as platoon headquarters. In the winter months these huts have to be heated and lit. The bill for fuel and light must be met. A sum of £130 is quite inadequate. I know that during the last year or two that sum has been overspent. Many officers have defrayed small sums out of their own pockets. I think that is wrong. It suggests to me a rather niggardly, piecemeal policy of penny wisdom and pound foolishness. Perhaps these are details, but added up they tell their own story.
Lastly, I hope the Financial Secretary who replies will say something about the commitments of the British Army in relation to its present size. Has nobody worked out what is the required size of the Regular Army in the light of the commitments which the Government have undertaken? All I can discover in the Memorandum accompanying the White Paper (Cmd. 7633) is paragraph 8, which states, in rather forlorn language:It must not be forgotten that, with the present shortage of Regulars, even with 18 months National Service, the Army is at present stretched to the limit to carry out essential tasks.What does that mean? Is it meant to encourage some of our friends on the Continent with whom Field-Marshal Montgomery is conducting staff conversations in an attempt to work out a defence plan for Western Europe? Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether he is quite satisfied that no further reinforcements are required in Malaya? Can he also tell us if he is equally satisfied that the garrisons at present stationed in the Middle East are adequate to fulfil their functions in certain circumstances? These are some of the things we want to know.
On the question of Western Union defence, surely, the Government are entering into certain definite commitments, because neither Western Union, nor the Atlantic Pact makes any sense at all unless each of the participating countries make some fairly substantial contribution to the common pool? What contribution are we making to Western 1475 Union defence in a military sense? We must be making some new and definite military commitment; otherwise, why are we participating at all? This being so, what does the White Paper mean by the phrase that the Army is "stretched to the limit" of its capacity to carry out its essential tasks? British troops earmarked for the defence of Western Europe cannot be switched to the Far East in a sudden emergency. Or was the cartoon in the "Evening Standard" correct in suggesting that Western Union is based on a large number of generals with no troops?
I hope the hon. Gentleman can clear up some of these points, because, as with the Defence Debate last week, so with the Army Debate now; we do want to know whether or not there is an overall plan. It is no good shelving these questions because they are inconvenient; they must be faced. I beg the right hon. Gentleman, in conjunction with his colleagues in the Service Departments, to realise how grave is their responsibility in these days, and to enter into their task with a vigour, energy and speed that is commensurate with the gravity of the times in which we are living.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Swingler (Stafford)
I am not going to follow up in detail the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. MottRadclyffe), though I intend to comment on the major issues which he has raised, and, in particular, those in respect of the pay of the Armed Forces and the whole question of a striking force.
To begin with, however, I should like to comment upon an interesting tendency which is new in these Debates. It seems to me that we are all becoming anti-conscriptionists now, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) had some reason for giving himself a pat on the back, in view of the general spirit of this Debate today and of Services Debates recently. Not very long ago, practically everybody agreed that conscription was a necessity, and a large majority of people suggested that it was a permanent necessity. [Interruption.] Yes, that was certainly true, and I could quote examples from speeches suggesting that it should be the permanent basis of the Armed Forces. The general tendency now is to emphasise 1476 all the disadvantages which we are suffering, in regard to the effect of Regular recruitment, Territorial Army recruitment, and in other ways, from the continued existence of National Service with a fairly long period, and to suggest that we should get rid of it as quickly as possible.
Not many days ago, I was reading through some of the Debates on Army Estimates that followed the first world war, and I jotted down one very interesting quotation from a speech made by the then Secretary of State for War, who said:Undiscouraged and undeterred by our failure to convert others, we have proceeded to set an example ourselves. Alone among the nations, we have decided to abolish compulsory military service, and I venture to think that this action … deserves additional recognition from those who have so vehemently demanded it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1920; Vol. 125, c. 1340–41.]That was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) introducing the Army Estimates in 1920, when he was asking for £75 million and for an Army 220,000 strong. It is a strange contrast, when we look at the manpower and money involved today and the attitude that has been taken to the Defence Forces in the three or four years following the Second World War, compared with the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman in 1920, when he was "undiscouraged and undeterred by failure to convert others" and held it out as a virtue that this country had abolished compulsory military service unilaterally.
I was most interested in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). In the course of the last few years, he has made many interesting speeches on defence matters, and I think some of us on this side of the House who follow these things recognise that his speeches are particularly well-informed, and, in fact, in some circles, are regarded as being authoritative. Therefore, I listened very carefully to him—and I am sorry he is not in his place at the moment—when he made his contribution to the Defence Debate and also the contribution which he made to our Debate today. I want to make one quotation from his speech in the Defence Debate last week in order to comment upon it and upon the way in which he also developed the same theme in our Debate 1477 today. Summarising his principal point, he said:In the middle of a time of great economic stress, when we are struggling for our economic recovery, and in the middle of a foreign situation which demands the preparedness of our defences, we are being asked to give to the right hon. Gentleman £750 million and 1,500,000 men, including those in the factories. That is a very considerable amount of money and manpower to grant in these days. The question which the House should have answered today is this: with that money and those men, why have you produced so little that can fight."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 625.]In a rather longer speech today, the hon. and gallant Gentleman said the same thing, but I feel that, in fact, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in his opening speech answered the question.
This is the answer to the question why so few fighting men have been produced by the expenditure of such an enormous quantity of money and manpower. It can be given in one word—commitments. That is one of the subjects which we have been discussing in the whole period that has passed since 1945. The answer is that if so much of the Army has to be used, including National Service men, to police far-flung territories, and if we maintain a system of National Service whereby so much of the Army is tied down training the recruits, what have we left? All the territorial commitments in widespread territories have to be garrisoned and policed. Then there is the further commitment of National Service. A big proportion of the Regular Army is tied down training National Service men. The argument accepted on all sides when the Bill was introduced in 1947 was that we must have National Service in order to get trained reserves for the Army. But it means that a certain section of the trained men in the Army are tied down training a large number of other men, and are not in formations that are mobilised or operationally fit.
The reason why we have so little fighting power, so small a striking force, is that that is what is left when all the policemen in the garrisons and all those under training and engaged in training are subtracted. That is why the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton comes to the conclusion that we must abolish National Service in order to get a striking force.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) suggested that we were in a position to abolish National Service at this stage. He was in agreement with the Secretary of State for War who said that the long-term plan was a gradual reduction.
§ Mr. Swingler
I am very sorry if I have misrepresented what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said last week and this, afternoon, but he did suggest that National Service was a millstone round, the neck of the Army. Anybody who reads his speech could only draw that conclusion. I could dig out a speech which he made in December, 1947, in which he suggested the same thing, that the continued existence of National Service was tying down too many of the trained men in the Army, and that that was a big disadvantage because they were the men who should be in formations which were fighting fit.
We are faced with three alternatives when we consider this position. In order to get more fighting power, we have either to have more men than we have actually got in addition to all those training or under training, or else we have to withdraw some of the commitments or abandon National Service. Another suggestion made by hon. and gallant Members opposite is that we ought to have a much shorter period of National Service in order to free many of the trained men who are now tied down training National Service men for a period of 18 months. I wish we had had the support of those hon. and gallant Members at the time when we on this side were insisting that we should have the shortest possible period of National Service. I voted for the continuance of National Service because I thought it was necessary, but I pressed for the shortest possible period of such service on the ground that National Service should not be a means of bolstering up the main Army, but should be a means of training reserves. But for that we require the minimum period. That gives the greatest economy because we have not so many of the Regular Forces owing to the fact that they are tied down in training establishments instead of composing the formations about which hon. and gallant Members opposite talked so much.
Would the hon. Gentleman say whether he was equally impressed with the argument by the Minister of Defence that 18 months was the minimum necessary on one day and 12 months 48 hours later?
§ Mr. Swingler
I am sure that the 12 months is right; if anything, it might be even too long. Again, I could quote the authority of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton for saying that we ought very seriously to consider a National Service system based on six months. The whole tendency should be towards the most economical period. If we want National Service, and agree that it is necessary to have trained reserves in order to have a floating body of men in the Army which we can send hither and thither to bolster up the Regular Forces where there Is a gap, then we want a minimum period of training. When we consider the whole question of the fighting power of the Services generally, it is quite clear that we have to make certain assumptions in regard to the size and composition of the Armed Forces, and how much money is to be devoted to them. Obviously, it is different if we think there is going to be a major war in the next 12 months, different again if we think that a major war will not come for five years, or that there is not going to be one at all.
We cannot have an Army which is thoroughly operationally fit and on a war basis and at the same time have it on a peace-time basis. We run certain risks either way. If we maintain it on a war basis with masses of fighting formations and so on, the risk is the economic ruin of the country under present circumstances. On the other side, we always have to run certain risks, as is so frequently pointed out by hon. Members opposite, of military unpreparedness. In Debates on this subject, there is very often an air of unreality because we do not bear in mind all the time the balance of manpower in the country. We must remember that we are not meeting the vital manpower needs of industry, and that we are having battles on the economic front. What is the good of maintaining a colossal Army if the nation has feet of clay?
We are often told of military unpreparedness by hon. Members opposite. As 1480 we have seen elsewhere, great masses of expensive armaments and fortifications all tend towards ruining the country economically, demoralise it, and they are no good if there is nothing to back them up. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton referred to the fact that today we have an Army of over 400,000 men. We have recently had the figures of the United States Army given to us. On 1st July, it will have 677,000 men, 92,000 in Europe, 5,000 in Trieste, 170,000 in the Far East, etc. That is the figure for the United States Army compared with 400,000 for the Army of this country, which has only one-third of the population of the United States. By that standard, it is seen that we have, proportionately, a very heavy burden to bear.
I want very rapidly to turn to another subject on which so much of our discussion has been concentrated, and which was also dealt with by the hon. Member for Windsor. It is the question of pay. In all these Debates we have heard a lot about the question of pay, as if that question had been neglected by the Government, or that what the Government had done was something discreditable. Hon. Members opposite are continually talking about the need to increase the pay for soldiers and for people in the Armed Forces generally. I want quite quickly to look at some of the history behind this topic, because I think we should get this question of pay into a proper historical perspective and see the way in which it was generally dealt with, so that we may judge how good or how bad is the record of the Government on this question. I learn from those who are expert in the subject that in 1919, after the First World War, certain rates of pay for the Army were laid down, to come into effect in July, 1920. One of the things provided for was that the pay of officers should vary according to the rise or fall of the cost of living. As, generally speaking, the cost of living was declining from 1919 to 1924, the pay for officers actually went down.
In 1923 an Amendment to King's Regulations was introduced which laid down that the Army Council had the power to vary from time to time the conditions of service, including pay, for new volunteers entering the Armed Forces. They could not affect those who had already volunteered and joined, but they could 1481 vary conditions, as they thought fit from time to time, for those men coming into the Army. The idea of the Government of 1923 was, in fact, to introduce a reduction in the rates of pay, but that was scotched by the minority Labour Government which came into power in 1924.
In 1925 the rates of pay in the Army were reduced by more than ten per cent. of the 1919 rates by a new pay code which came into operation on 26th October, 1925, for new volunteers. Six years later, at the time of the financial crisis and the election of the National Government, cuts of about 10 per cent. of the 1919 rates were introduced for all those who had not been affected by the 1925 cuts. Those cuts were gradually restored over the period 1934 to 1935 and in 1938, under the Army Order 169 of that date, a rise in pay by time-promotion was given to officers. Looking over that period, as I have done very briefly, we see a series of reductions or attempted reductions in the rates of pay for the Army which were fixed in 1919 and which nobody at that time described as being over-generous.
I would point out to hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite that these reductions in pay made in the inter-war period were, without exception, made by Conservative or predominantly Conservative Governments. Since this Government has been in power, since 1945, a new pay code has been introduced for the Armed Forces. Nobody would describe that pay code as being ideal, but I think we can say that the new code represents a substantial advance on anything that the Forces have previously had in peace-time. It is based upon a comparison between the payment of soldiers, sailors and airmen with that of people in civilian occupations. I would not suggest that there is no room for improvement on this question of pay, but I think hon. and gallant Gentlemen should be a little careful in shooting at the Ministers of this Government who have introduced this new code, comparing favourably with the past, in view of the record which there has usually been in peace-time in regard to the pay of Forces—and those particular Governments before the war were those for which the party opposite were responsible.
I have another point to make. We have frequently discussed why we do not 1482 have sufficient volunteers for the Regular Forces. We all know that it is due to a combination of factors, one of which is full employment, a second of which is the natural reaction, psychologically, after a long war, and a third of which is certainly some unattractive features about the Service. But we must be careful as to the conclusions which we draw. Hon. Members agree that a certain additional number of volunteers are required to man up the Regular Army and that that is something very vital, and they draw the conclusion, therefore, that there must be increases of pay in order to induce people to join.
I do not think all those hon. Members would immediately agree, however, that as it is vital that we should have, for example, more agricultural labourers, more coal miners, more textile workers, immediately the conclusion should be drawn that we should go on putting up the wages in those industries until we get a sufficient number of people to man them up. It is not the conclusion they draw that it automatically follows that we must go on increasing pay until we get a sufficient number of people volunteering. I believe that soldiers should have the best possible conditions, but I do not believe in the idea of bribing people to enter the Army, of making it a kind of élite, and I believe there are a lot more things the Secretary of State for War ought to get on with as well as looking into the question of possible increases in pay.
I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton did not return to the Chamber until the middle of my speech. I should certainly be accused by you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, of idle repetition if I went over my speech again, which I am strongly tempted to do, because so much of it was by way of a compliment to the hon. and gallant Member. I have endeavoured to comment upon what he said. As he has now returned, and as I was earlier challenged on this point, I want finally to emphasise one point I have already made. I believe that the tenor of the views which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has been advocating for some considerable time is that we must abandon National Service because it is a millstone around the neck of the Regular Army, and in fact what he has been saying—
§ Brigadier Head
I must apologise for my absence earlier in the hon. Gentleman's speech, but I responded to an S.O.S. to go and look at the report of my speech, which I believe in some quarters, was in parts unintelligible. I believe I am not very distinct as a speaker. I apologise to the hon. Member for my absence but he is absolutely wrong in what he says. Perhaps he was not in the Chamber when I made my speech. The whole tenor of my speech was that if we could stimulate volunteer recruiting into the Regular Army, we might to a reciprocal extent be able gradually to reduce the period of National Service, but I never mentioned the word "abolition" at all.
§ Mr. Swingler
I wanted to get the point clear, because looking at the many speeches which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made—and I think this affects other hon. Members as well, certainly the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in the interpretation he made—the hon. and gallant Member gave the idea to many that he was suggesting the earliest possible abandonment of National Service on the ground that National Service was a commitment for the Regular Army—it was another thing like a territorial commitment which tied up a large number of men who would otherwise be operationally effective in formations, and that, therefore, it should be disposed of at the earliest possible date. I am glad now to know that the hon. and gallant Member thinks we should stick permanently to the idea of National Service. I think that is what he said, but he said that we should reduce the period of- National Service. He now says that what we have to do it to get a better Regular Army, in order to be able to reduce the period of National Service.
§ Brigadier Head
May I intervene again? I do not want to repeat my speech and I refer the hon. Member to HANSARD tomorrow. In about three words, what I said was that we should increase Regular recruiting and turn off the flow of National Service men reciprocally, either by a numerical reduction or by a reduction in the period of service—one or the other. There are two alternative methods and it is very hard to say which is best. My point is: let us see how Regular 1484 recruiting goes up before we do that. The whole tenor of my speech was that there are too many National Service men at the moment and too weak volunteer Forces. We must adjust the balance.
§ Mr. Swingler
So the hon. and gallant Gentleman believes that we have to get rid of the selective call-up. He says that we have too many National Service men, and the Army cannot absorb the full amount of the call-up, and therefore we have to have either a more discriminating call-up of National Service men or reduce the period of service. I wish that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, seeing that he holds those views, would support those of us who have advocated a shorter period of National Service. That is the only reasonable conclusion which he can come to, and therefore he should certainly support the agitation for a shorter period of national service which is the only solution of this problem of the unbalance of National Service men and Regulars in the Army. I have already taken too long and I will not, therefore, continue this argument.