That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 467,000, all ranks, be maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possessions of His Majesty's Crown, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1951.
§ Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I want to emphasise some matters which we raised in the Debate last week and also mention one or two others which were omitted. The first thing I want to do is to ask the Minister if he will do me the honour of reading what I said in the Defence Debate on the question of Colonial troops and also on the garrisons at Malta and Gibraltar. I would also ask him to pay particular attention to the corroboration of what I said which was supplied by many speakers in the Army Estimates Debate last week, but particularly the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) and 73 the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I hope that the Minister's eye will travel one paragraph further in the Defence Debate so that he may read what I said about the anti-aircraft defence of Great Britain, because I verily believe that a saving of manpower is possible there.
I want for a moment or two to review the task of the Army as I see it at the moment. It is, first of all, to meet the commitments of the "cold war" and, secondly, and of equal importance, to organise a structure which is capable of being expanded in the unhappy event of open hostilities. I would not criticise for a moment the way in which the present Army is carrying out its duties in the "cold war," but I and a great many other hon. Members are very much perturbed about the ability of the present Army to expand rapidly. Any preconceived ideas as to the time which will be available to us in which to expand should, in my view, be thrown overboard, because I agree with what General Eisenhower said that we shall have a maximum of 60 days in which to find ourselves at full fighting strength.
I shall not go into all the arguments adduced in regard to the lack of formations in Great Britain, but will simply say to the right hon. Gentleman that, based on my experience of three years of training higher formations on an intensive basis for overseas, one cannot take a training battalion which has been charged for a considerable period with the elementary duty of acting as a drill-instructor—for that is all that they are doing—and expect them to expand at a moment's notice, to take their place in a higher formation, and be fit to go to war.
It just cannot be done, and I see a very grave danger here. There are people who when they get to higher rank are apt to forget what it was like to serve in a battalion. I will quote one example of the sort of difficulty which I experienced as the officer commanding a Territorial regiment. Just to move men in vehicles from point A to point B in broad daylight—let alone at night—and expect them to find their way takes training and a certain amount of time. That is a very elementary example, and there are thousands of others.
74 I believe that something has to be done in the very near future. There must be a new approach to the whole of this problem. I want to make some suggestions, but time is short today, and I should be very pleased if I might discuss the matter at some time in the near future with the right hon. Gentleman or the Under-Secretary of State for War. I want to know whether a mobilisation scheme has been written. I hope it has because quite frankly, it was on the very excellent way in which that scheme had been written up and the trouble taken over it before the war that the expansion and absorption of Reservists went so smoothly in 1939. Are all the telegrams written out, addressed and ready to be sent off as they were in those days, and are the stores of clothing and equipment all labelled and ready in the various stores as they were at Tidworth in 1939, when men walked in at one end of the shed as civilians and walked out at the other looking like soldiers and when 2,000 to 3,000 men were fully equipped in 24 hours? Is that sort of mobilisation possible today? If it is not, something should be done about it.
I think there is a certain difficulty in relation to Reservists. In pre-war days one knew who the Reserves were, but today it is not so easy. Something ought to be done about that. There is another point which is also a hobby horse of mine. The hooves of hobby-horses are clattering down the Chamber at the moment. I shall go on putting these points forward because I know I am right. After all, I spent 30 years doing this so I ought to know a little about it. I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman will alter the present policy in regard to week-end staff courses, not, as I was misrepresented as saying on the last occasion, staff college courses.
Many brilliant staff officers who operated during the war have come to me time and time again and said, "May we please have a few week-end courses in order to keep us up to date?" That request has twice been refused me, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will go into this matter, because one of the things from which we suffered as regimental officers in the early days of the war was the lack of trained staff officers, particularly in the junior ranks. I am sure that any Territorial officer 75 would agree with me over that, and I hope the matter will be looked into more seriously this time.
I am now going to trespass on what is not necessarily or entirely a political point, but, nevertheless, one which I think ought to be stated. I honestly believe that the present organisation of the infantry division is wrong. It is organised today on the same basis as in the latter days of the war when we were rich, people, when there was any amount of equipment and manpower, and when we were able to hold a continuous line in depth. We are now comparatively poor as regards equipment and manpower, and the conception of holding a continuous line has gone.
There must be a new conception, that is to hold defended localities, to sweep, the intervening space with intense fire and for the units to be extremely mobile (a) in order that the holes that appear may be caulked, and (b) that troops may be switched from one side to another. I remember that when I tried to get two battalions of ordinary organised infantry into lorries in order to get them to a place in a hurry it took nearly seven hours, even though the distance was only 10 miles. Infantry have to be trained on the basis of motor battalions before one can get that kind of mobility and flexibility.
In regard to that, it is vital that there should be no reduction in the number of wireless sets because on wireless sets depends flexibility and mobility. Men can be got on the move on warning orders and given executive orders while on the move. That is the way to get rapid movement and flexibility. I was rather disturbed when I saw that there was a reduction in the Vote dealing with wireless sets. I have known, in the latter days of the war, senior officers who refused to use a wireless set. They mistrusted the thing and thought it a modern invention. I believe that they would quite readily have gone back to the days of "gallopers." I warn the right hon. Gentleman that there will still be opposition to the use of wireless sets, but I hope that he will sit on such opposition very heavily, and that if he wants advice on the matter he will go to people who operate wireless sets and who can use 76 them all day as if speaking in the ordinary way.
I hope it will not be thought presumtuous of me to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the magpie characteristics of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. What I mean by that is that they may retain in their stores valuable equipment for which the troops have been asking for months. One can indent for certain equipment until one is blue in the face and yet get no reply. I will tell the House what actually happened in 1939. A part of my regiment was going to fight in France, and on their way out of the tank park they saw some packing cases being broken open. Out of those cases were taken telescopic sights for which they had been indenting for nine months in order that they might practise with them. They were handed those telescopic sights, which had been in the ordnance stores at Tidworth for over a year, when they were actually on their way to the front. I hope that somebody today will go through store dumps with a fine-tooth comb.
We are all agreed on the question of recruitment to the Regular Army and I do not propose to go through the arguments which have already been adduced in regard to pay. But I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should not merely take the opinion of people in his own Department as to this matter. I implore him, when he visits units not only in this country but all over the world, to get the views of the men on the spot in regard to these matters. He will find that there will be warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s who will tell him and prove to him that after the 1946 rise in pay they were actually worse off. I know some commanding officers who have lost 10s. a day.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take the evidence of the commissioned officers and N.C.O.s who have been affected and not the evidence of the Treasury officials whose job it is to see they do not get the money. I know the Treasury officials have to balance their accounts, but for years it has been the story in the Army that they give something with one hand and take it away with the other. I believe that if they were raised considerably we should get the recruits.
77 By the way, on a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may candles be brought in?
With regard to this matter of higher ranks and promotions, the Socialist Government have continued the policy originated by the Coalition Government of providing equal opportunity for promotion for everyone. I have been wholeheartedly in favour of that; but there is a danger in certain aspects of Socialist thought that the next step is to abolish rank. There is already beginning to exist a feeling that officers must be paid the same as the men and that the officer must have the same amenities and pay. That is very dangerous. What is the good of giving equal opportunity and then abolishing the thing for which that equal opportunity is given?
There is no greater responsibility for any man to bear than to have in his hands lives of his fellow countrymen. I suggest that for that alone, officers deserve extra amenities and pay. The matter was very well put in the film "Morning Departure" when Number 2 in the submarine said to the commander, "I am very good at carrying out orders but heaven forbid that I should ever be the one to have to make up my mind as to what are the right orders to give in a situation such as this." The extra pay is given to the man who, in a desperate situation, is able to make up his mind as to what the orders should be. That has often to be done when men are very tired and very hungry.
The Under-Secretary of State was gracious enough to say in a speech that he would welcome suggestions with regard to discipline and turnout. I thoroughly agree with what he said about turnout and cleanliness. I hope he realises that the question of discipline is simply one of teaching the individual to be able to discipline himself in order that he may control his body with his mind while he is undergoing the greatest test to which any human frame can be subjected. He is often hungry and dog tired, and he then has to be in a position in which the commands of his brain will be obeyed by his body in order that he can save not only himself but his comrades as well. That is the only object of discipline. If it is employed for any other object it is being abused. It is only by getting the mind to practise controlling the body in 78 times of peace that it will do so in times of great stress and strain. There is no counterpart to that in civilian life.
I was a little shocked to hear the new Secretary of State saying that when his predecessor visited the practice camps of anti-aircraft units last year, air co-operation was found to be complete. I would remind him of the story of the Bren gun which used to follow the Secretary of State for War about prior to 1939, and how he was kept dallying in the cookhouse because it had not yet arrived from the station. Let him beware of that. As poacher turned gamekeeper, I fully realise that these things are done. When the right hon. Gentleman said that there was complete air co-operation I happened to make some inquiry. I discovered that, on at least one occasion out of a whole fortnight, the only day on which an aircraft was seen at a camp was the day on which the Secretary of State visited it.
I was very glad to hear that a welcome is to be extended to National Service men coming out of the Army. That welcome would be wholehearted, spontaneous and effective in places where there are good drill halls. I am lucky in my constituency. I know of beautiful drill halls all over the country, built in the days of Tory misrule. Will the Secretary of State, for his own benefit and that of everybody else, make inquiries and discover how many drill halls there are? Before June or July when these men come from the Army, will he take immediate steps to see that there is some place for them at which they can be welcomed?
I regret that there does not appear to me to be any concrete plan for altering the present situation with regard to the Army. We have been going on this basis now for nearly four years, and time is running out. With the run-down of the Regular Forces going on at its present rate, we shall be in queer street by 1952. I pray the right hon. Gentleman to realise that something different has to be done. I should be more content if I thought that in any of the speeches made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, there was some idea of a new plan for dealing with this situation, which has been described so ably by many speakers from both sides of the House. I do not believe the solution is to continue as we are doing now. If we go on like this until 1952 we shall be in the soup, and very thick soup at that.
79 The right hon. Gentleman has an advantage over his predecessor. Whereas his predecessor had a sailor in command of the Ministry of Defence, he has a soldier of at least two and a half years service at the War Office. I, therefore, trust he will be able to get more consideration for the Army than it has had in the recent past from the Ministry of Defence.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
I should like to follow the remarks which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) put so cogently with regard to the rapid extension of the Army in the event of an emergency. At the moment, it seems that the Government have put all their money on there being no emergency for some years to come. What is to happen in the course of the next year or two? Territorial Battalions and units will be receiving National Service men from June onwards. If, in the meantime, an emergency comes, those units will be wholly incomplete. No doubt it will be possible, and no doubt plans have been prepared, to make them up from men who have been released from the Forces and who have not taken up voluntary engagements.
We understand that that will happen, but of course it means that in the meantime there is no immediate Reserve ready for action. Can the Government tell the House how long it will be before these Territorial Reserves are really ready for action in the event of an emergency? How long will that be? I suggest that these Reserves will be infinitely more useful and much more ready in accordance with the extent to which they are composed of volunteers—probably mainly composed of volunteers, but if possible wholly composed of volunteers. To what extent can that be done?
One of the first things which must be examined very closely is the method by which the arrangements will be made for the release of the National Service men into the Territorial units. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing has said, this is of paramount importance—this question of the spirit in which these National Service men go into their part-time duties. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that much devoted staff work had been done on this subject, and 80 indeed that is so. I understand that a complete survey has been made and that Territorial units have been told of the entrants they are likely to receive within the next year. Indication has even been given of the various corps and services which they may be expected to enter. They have gone into the most minute detail. As is indicated in the White Paper on the Army Estimates, when releases are being made,batches of National Service men will pass to the Territorial Army every fortnight.I believe the Ministry have gone to such great detail that instructions have been given to the effect that these men are to arrive between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on a given day each fortnight.
The question which immediately presents itself is: Will this be an efficient arrangement? Responsibility is being placed wholly on the despatching units. Possibly that is quite right, because the despatching unit can be more effectively disciplined, but there is a danger that the despatching units, particularly if they are overseas, may tend to over-insure. We may find that men are being despatched to their depots and are hanging around the depots for 10 days or perhaps even a fortnight before this particular day in the fortnight when they are to be released. I fully appreciate the difficulties involved, but I wonder whether the men who are being released will arrive in the very best spirits if they are kept hanging about the depots for a certain time before they are sent for their release to the headquarters of the Territorial unit. It does not seem to me that such a method would predispose them very much for voluntary service.
It may be said that by the time they are despatched to the Territorial unit they will have made up their minds whether or not to volunteer, and that raises a point about which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say something tonight. Is it the case that a National Service man can volunteer only during the period of his whole-time service? Under Section 3 of the Act of 1947 all that is said is:… accepted by a Service Authority as a volunteerduring the period of whole-time service. Surely a great proportion of National Service men will not know what their commitments in private life are going to 81 be. Many of them will be going back as apprentices to various professions and others will be embarking on entirely new jobs. They will not know, during their whole-time service, what their civilian commitments are going to be. The tendency will be for them to say, therefore, "Let us get out first and have a look to see what time we shall be able to spare."
Another factor, of course—and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to confirm this—is that different units will make different demands on their National Service men. After all, there is a fairly flexible requirement imposed on National Service men. It is anticipated that they will have to put in five days—20 parades—out of camp in addition to their 15 days in camp each year. How that five days out of camp is arranged by the unit will vary to a very considerable extent, of course, with the nature of the unit. The National Service man will, therefore, wait to see what are the requirements of a unit before he makes up his mind whether he wants to be a volunteer and to have a larger responsibility and a larger obligation, or whether he wants simply the minimum that the unit will impose. That is why I urge very strongly that National Service men should be given the opportunity to take on volunteer responsibilities after they have been released from their whole-time service.
I find that Territorial units are not absolutely certain if the National Service man will be entitled to the full bounty, whether he volunteers during his whole-time service or afterwards. I thought it was fairly clear that the National Service man who volunteers during his whole-time service will be entitled to the whole bounty, but I find that it is not regarded as absolutely clear and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make it clear today. I hope he will also say whether the man who volunteers after his whole-time service has been completed—if the right hon. Gentleman permits him to do so—will be entitled to the full bounty.
There has been another obstacle to recruitment to the Territorial Army—the obstacle of the way taxation is being handled. I should have thought that the War Office and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have got together and made quite clear to the tax inspectors 82 and collectors exactly what the incidence of taxation would be and what would be the P.A.Y.E. group of the various people in the Territorial Army. I find that that has not always been the case, however. Notices have been sent out to members of the Territorial Army informing them that their P.A.Y.E. group has been changed because it had been assumed that they were to be paid what I believe the Army Reservist receives as pay. I hope that will be corrected at a very early date and that that sort of thing will not be allowed to recur, because it infuriates the volunteer and it will discourage further recruitment.
It would, of course, be very much better if the bounty payments to the Territorial Army—that is to say, the £9 plus the 30s. to which a man is entitled—were wholly exempted from Income Tax. We do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to say anything definite about that tonight, but I suggest that he should anticipate the Chancellor's Budget statement by making representations to the Chancellor on that subject so as to make quite certain that it is taken into consideration. It would certainly have a very great effect and it would simplify in the mind of the ordinary man who has to pay his taxation through P.A.Y.E. what are his commitments and what he will get out of his service.
I return to the point from which I started. It seems to me that the most important thing of all for the Territorial Army is that there should be the maximum number of volunteers. I believe we shall get that number only if we allow people to volunteer not only during the period of their whole-time service but also afterwards. We must allow the volunteer to see what it exactly means to be a volunteer as compared with being just an ordinary National Service man. So I have no doubt that commanding officers will say, "Come along. Attend a few parades and a few socials, and then decide for yourselves which of the two you will be." I have no doubt that in many units it will be the exception rather than the rule to have National Service men rather than volunteers. This is the aim to pursue, and I believe it can be achieved by good administration, and by explaining exactly to the National Service men before they leave their full-time commitments, what are the advantages of Territorial service. 83 In this way we shall create a proficient Reserve.
I conclude with one more question. How soon is it expected to be before the Territorial Army will be complete and ready to be called out in its complete form?
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
I feel that the time is approaching when we should know. What is the Army which is being built, when is it going to be built, and what is it to be built for? I appreciate that these are rather general questions—
§ Mr. Paget
After the First World War we had the 10–year rule, that is to say, that the preparations of the Armed Forces should be upon the basis that we should not be engaged in a major European conflict during the ensuing 10 years; and that was moved forward one year each year. It seems to me that we are doing something like that on a rather hand to mouth basis. It may be some exaggeration to say that the information which we receive each year from the Estimates can be summarised by saying this: we have not got an Army that can fight this year and we shall not have an Army that can fight next year, and that progresses from year to year. [Laughter.] Well, we really have got to think out what is the shape of the Army that we are going to have and when we are going to have it.
The present sort of situation, I feel, is probably inevitable. When we run down a great Army and have to create another one, there is a period—and it has to be a fairly long period—when we have not got an Army which can take part in a major conflict, and when we know we are not going to have an Army that can take part in a major conflict, for some time. But there must be a termination of that period, and the first thing which we want to know is simply this, What is the contribution which we are going to be expected to make, and which we ought to make, to the defence of Western Europe? I believe that is a contribution which has to be expressed in terms of divisions, and in terms of divisions which are immediately ready.
84 Here I should like to reinforce what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) with regard to the composition of divisions. Our continental Allies will have larger ground forces than ourselves. We have to make other contributions. From their geographical position they will have a lot of fairly immobile troops—walking troops—instead of mechanically borne troops. It seems to me our contribution must be, and should be almost entirely, of mobile troops, because that is what European defence will require from us.
I am inclined to think the mobile division which tends to be the old infantry division put into trucks, is still tied up with the organisational ideas that were appropriate to an infantry division. In the first place, I believe it is much too large. I think that the mobile division should be much smaller than the old infantry division. I think the Russians have the right idea there, and I believe their smaller divisions are much more proficient organisations today. Secondly, if they are to be effectively mobile, it is not sufficient just to have trucks. We must have armoured troop carriers which can make them mobile right up to the point of fighting, instead of some miles back.
That is an aspect of the matter that wants considering to a very considerable degree, but the most important aspect of these divisions is, I think, that they should be here: we cannot defend Western Europe with divisions which are not there. If the divisions which we create are designed to cover not only the defence of Western Europe but all our Colonial commitments as well, then it is open to the Russians at any time, by creating trouble in outlandish corners of the world, to disperse all our forces and to weaken the whole position here.
It seems to me, therefore, that there must be—and I raised this consideration in the previous Debate—a force, which need not be large, and a much less expensive army, to deal with Colonial commitments, and which should be raised and kept in Africa or elsewhere and should be sufficient for covering its area; and the divisions which we raise here should be retained in Western Europe. Further I suggest that those divisions ought to be under the 85 command of a Western European High Command, whatever form it eventually takes, and in the same way there should be, as there will have to be, German divisions under that same command. Because Germany must not have an armour industry—from a defence point of view it would be far too vulnerable and from a security point of view it would be highly undesirable—these should be armoured with American armour, supplied with French services, and form part of that army of which our divisions were units. Divisions of Germans serving on equally honourable terms with the divisions of Englishmen in the army of Western Europe, would be a danger and a threat to no one.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. and learned Gentleman is elaborating an argument for bringing Germans into this army he is talking about. Would he go so far as to bring in the Japanese, too?
§ Mr. Paget
That is dealing with quite a different problem somewhere else. I am dealing with the problems which are at home at the moment, and I do not wish to go on indefinitely fighting the last war. I hope that we shall not have to fight any more wars, but we shall only avoid doing so by being sufficiently strong to discourage anyone else from starting one. I am perfectly certain that we shall not start one; we have no intention of doing anything of the sort.
May I conclude by saying that I do not expect an answer now? I am not putting this forward as a criticism. In this change-over period of running-down one Army and raising another, there had to be a period of comparative helplessness. When is it coming to an end; what is the shape of the Army which we are desiring to build, and when shall we have it? When shall we have—and until we get it through Western Europe we cannot really know—this model which we have to create?
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I find myself in very considerable agreement with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and in very great agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer). The Debate on the previous stages of the Army Estimates was, I think, notable for 86 the fact that whereas many points were raised by hon. Members, particularly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), and some of them were of not inconsiderable importance, the Under-Secretary of State for War in his reply seemed to me to fail to deal adequately with any of them. He skated round a good many; he mentioned several, but with others he did not deal at all. I wonder whether that was because he was unable or unwilling to deal with them and to make a statement about them, or simply because the Government have no policy at all regarding these matters.
One of the most important matters has been raised by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton and by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing on the question of what part we are to play in the defence of Western Europe. I feel certain that the part we are to play is not merely to be obtained by talking about it. I hope very much that the part we play is not to be merely to provide equipment for our allies, although that is an important matter. I am not now going into the question of the composition of formations or divisions which we may employ if we are to get wholehearted co-operation from our allies in Western Europe. We must remember that they were all defeated and occupied countries in the last war, and that they start from scratch. We must be prepared to provide a British contingent.
In the former Debate on the Army Estimates, I and various other hon. Members asked: "Have we a definite plan for what is going to be the strength and composition of our contingent for the defence of Western Europe?" That is a very important point. We cannot possibly take chances and go on living from hand to mouth, just saying, "Oh, well, when the time comes, of course, we shall do something about it." We must have a definite plan, and for that plan we must have proper organisation and proper readiness. I hope that we shall get a definite statement from the right hon. Gentleman about that today.
Another point which was raised was our lack of any organisation for war; that is to say, organisation of the available trained men in Service units and formations. I myself raised the question 87 of the formation and use of recruit training units for the elementary training of the men called up. As my hon. and gallant Friend said, we cannot expect a unit to be ready to train as a unit when it consists only of cadres of Regular instructors and a large number of recruits, not even at one stage of training but in various stages of training from the elementary upwards. I would say that the use of what are nominally Service units, which would appear in the Army List, if there was one, as Services units for recruit training purposes, is definitely unsound. It is impossible for such a unit consisting only of a cadre of instructors and a lot of recruits to be trained as a unit and to take its place with other units in the higher formations and be ready for war for a considerable number of months.
There is one matter of detail which was not referred to the other day. It would cost no money, and it is a matter which I think should be gone into and reformed. That is the method of calling up National Service men. Unless I am misinformed, which I do not think I am, they are called up fortnightly—fortnightly driblets of recruits coming into barracks and into training units. That is a completely uneconomic way of dealing with these recruits. A fortnight's intake comes in. During their first fortnight they are probably vaccinated, and, with various things of that kind, have hardly started training at all. They are in an elementary stage of training when another fortnightly lot come in; but they are just a little too far ahead for the new entry to be placed with them, and that is a waste of time.
It is also far more expensive and extravagant in the use of regular instructors. It requires many more instructors to deal with these fortnightly driblets than if these recruits were called at two- or three-monthly intervals, and formed straightaway into squads with the necessary instructors. The system of fortnightly calling up appears to be done only for the convenience of the Minister of Labour, and I suggest that it is an uneconomic and unsound way of calling up the National Service men.
Another point raised was that of regular recruiting and the supply of Regulars in the Army. The Memorandum on the Army Estimates, and the 88 Secretary of State for War himself deplored the downward trend of regular recruiting and the lack of Regular soldiers. He emphasised the increasing difficulties likely to come along in 1951 and 1952, yet none of the suggestions made for dealing with that situation, such as questions of pay, conditions, bounties, uniforms, employment after discharge or transfer to reserve, pensions reform and prospects mentioned by various hon. Members were adequately dealt with. Some were mentioned and skated round, and any question of an increase in pay was rather dismissed as impracticable. There was no question of dealing with some of the other matters at all.
The Secretary of State himself appeared to have no ideas on the subject of how this deficiency of Regular troops was to be dealt with, beyond perhaps an improvement of married quarters—which, I would say, was welcome on all sides of the House. We hope very much that that will be proceeded with, and that it will be effective; but it will not be effective by itself, and will not produce the necessary Regular recruits that we want. Apart from that, so far as we can make out, everything will continue to drift, and the Secretary of State presumably hopes that things will be better, that some turn for the better will come along in 1951 or 1952, but gives us no idea how that turn for the better will be initiated or will take effect.
Not one word was said by the Under-Secretary about Empire co-operation. I suggest that this is a tremendously important point. Do not the letters C.I.G.S. still mean Chief of the Imperial General Staff? Is there still an Imperial General Staff, and is it functioning? Is it not a matter that ought to be referred to by any Secretary of State for War in a speech on the Army? What are the military relations with the other great countries of the Commonwealth and the Empire? I suggest there should have been some reference to that, as there should also have been a reference to the suggestion that there might be a very material increase in the numbers of African troops to take the place, to some extent, of the Indian Army which we have lost.
Very little was said about the reduction of War Office and headquarter staffs. I think it was said to be under 89 consideration. Again, very little was said about possible administrative economies. I do not hesitate to say that the staffs, not only of commands, but of lower formations also, are double what they used to be not so very many years ago. Is there any reason for that now in peacetime? Very many services and departments are greatly swollen in numbers compared with what they used to be. The question is not "What is desirable?" I can well imagine that from some points of view many of these great increases are necessary. But what is essential? In these days we cannot afford anything that is not essential. By all means let there be a potentiality of expansion in case of war, but let us have the minimum that is necessary and essential now in peace-time.
The Under-Secretary rather assumed in his speech, I think, that when I referred to the possibility of economies in various non-combatant or semi-combatant Services and Departments which did not directly affect fighting value I was referring to technical services such as, for instance, the R.A.O.C. or R.E.M.E. Certainly I was not referring to them. I am very well aware that those technical services are very necessary. But it is another question whether some economies could not be made in those services by means of enlisting already skilled men, either on a militia or a Territorial basis, which would be cheaper than having them full-time Regulars or National Service soldiers.
I did refer to the Army Educational Corps, but my suggestion most certainly was not that it should be abolished. My suggestion is definitely, however, that it might be reduced. It is very much increased in numbers compared with what it was in peace-time not so many years ago. Everybody recognises, of course, that it is necessary to deal with what I might call primary education so long as so many men come into the Army who, for one reason or another, have not been properly educated in their schooldays. They must be educated up to the stage at which they can assimilate their military instruction, if nothing else. But whether higher instruction than that is necessary, or whether we can afford it, is another matter altogether.
90 The Under-Secretary said in his speech that many of these matters were under consideration, or being inquired into. Exactly the same thing was said in the Debate on the Army Estimates last year—that many things were being inquired into. Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing, I suggest that what we want now is not inquiry into these things but decision to take action, and very early action, to deal with them if the Army is to be fit for its responsibilities in the very near future.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
I am sure that we are all greatly indebted to the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) for initiating this Debate. He asked the Secretary of State to read his speech in the Defence Debate, and I am sure the Secretary of State will do so. I have been reading a comment by a would-be Member of this House on the very speech to which the hon. and gallant Member referred. I have before me the comments of a former Member of this House, Commander King-Hall, a gentleman whose views on these matters we all treat with respect. He referred to the speech in which the hon. and gallant Member outlined the views which he today commended to the Secretary of State. I think that this quotation is very relevant. It will at least show the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the speech he delivered in that Defence Debate was taken account of by interested military opinion in the country.
It appears that his speech on Defence has created a certain amount of depression, to judge from what Commander King-Hall says in his "National News Letter." He says:I defy anyone who reads this Debate with care and attention to find in it a hint, let alone a clear statement about what we are trying or hoping to defend.I believe that in appealing to the Secretary of State to clarify this position the hon. and gallant Member and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) have directed the attention of this House to a very important question. I believe that the Secretary of State has a duty to clarify the situation in his reply to the Debate today, because we are all asking exactly what rôle will the Army, for 91 which we are voting this formidable sum of £304 million, play in the next war?
Commander King-Hall goes on:Members of Parliament of all parties appear to be under the delusion that if military arrangements are made to defend certain frontiers or areas against the possibility of an armed attack by the Russians that is the end of the matter, and we can all sleep safely in our beds.Then he comes to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing, and says:A typical example of this 19th century—or perhaps I should write 18th century—attitude to defence was the remark of the Brigadier who sits for Worthing. He said: 'The planning and the organisation for the possibility of a "hot" war has to be proceeded with while active operations are being put into effect in the face of a "cold" war. The two things are, of course, totally different, and therefore there is a dual form of planning in progress'.I should like to know whether there is a "dual form of planning in progress," and exactly what it is. Unfortunately, not only were these criticisms directed against the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing, but against the Minister of Defence.
I ask the Secretary of State to deal with this criticism.Unfortunately, there is every reason to suppose that this astonishing and alarming mental attitude is shared by 90 per cent. of the gallant Member's colleagues, including the Minister of Defence himself. If I do the Minister of Defence an injustice, I can only invite you to read the speech and see if you can find buried among its platitudes any evidence that the Minister of Defence knows what he is trying to defend or how he is trying to do it.We are entitled to ask the Secretary of State to give us some outline of his conception of the Army's role in some future war.
I ask the Secretary of State to consider seriously the questions that have been put to him. We have had arguments showing that we need a vastly larger Army if we are to take part in a possible Continental war against the Russians. I think that Members are once again making the same mistake of thinking in terms of the previous war.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I am certain that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer)did not suggest, and I certainly did not suggest, that what was wanted was a vastly larger Army. We suggested that we wanted an Army organised for war. We have 92 more men now than we had at the beginning of the 1939 war, but very much less organisation.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I always listen to the hon. and gallant Member with great respect. He has touched on the essentials of this problem. What kind of Army can we send to Europe in the event of another war, and how can it be equipped for modern methods of warfare without burdening the finances of the country? I ask the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield to realise the sort of thing we shall be up against in the event of having to send an expeditionary force to the Continent. This is an estimate, by this informed correspondent of military affairs, of the kind of Army that will be needed. He states:What we need is a West European army and air force. The staff at Fontainebleau have decided that in order to defend the West against possible attack by the 120 divisions which the Russians have in a state of mobilisation, we require 40 divisions and 35 air groups.We are talking of sending an Army to take part against the Russians who have 120 divisions. I do not see how we can face up to that problem without an enormous additional military expenditure, and without an enormous drain on the manpower of our essential industries that are trying to meet the nation's requirements.
If we are to build up this new Army, from where will the manpower come? It cannot come from agriculture, because agriculture needs all the men it can get to grow more food. It cannot come from the mines, because the mining industry is already depleted in manpower. I hope it is not suggested that it should come from the building industry. I hope the Secretary of State will say exactly what section of the population is to provide the manpower to build up this formidable new Army. Let us make no mistake about it. The Russians have a comparatively inexhaustible source of manpower, and if we are thinking of tackling them we are up against a very big job indeed.
We have to remember that Hitler, with all his powerfully organised German Army could not do it. Now, apparently, we are to turn to Western Europe to see if she can be organised in such a way as to meet these 120 Russian divisions that 93 are presumably ready for an attack on the West. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) comes along with the suggestion that we should now organise the Germans. When he made that suggestion in the last Debate I asked what we fought the last war for, and when I analysed his proposal in an article, the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) said how Goebels must be laughing in hell at the very thought of Germany being organised in the West to attack the Russians in the East.
I ask the hon. and learned Member whether he is going to bring the Japanese into this international army to fight the Communists. It must be remembered that presumably the Communists must be fought not only in Europe but in China as well. The hon. and learned Member is faced with the proposition that after fighting a great war to prevent Hitler destroying Russia and the Japanese overrunning the East, we are now in a position of having to organise the Huns and the Japs to take part in a global war.
§ Mr. Paget
It may be that it is as important at one time to prevent the Russians over-running the Germans and the Russians over-running the Japanese, as it was before to prevent the Germans from over-running the Russians and the Russians from over-running the Japanese. It is a question of time. What we want is peace. Peace means a stable world. Wherever frontiers are at the present moment, we want to make them stable.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. and learned Member's conception of making a stable world is to organise the Germans, the Japanese and the natives in Africa to wage war on the gallant ally on whose side we fought only six years ago.
I suggest that we are up against difficulties and contradictions that cannot be solved, when talking about the number of men we can put into the field and the preparations we have to make in the event of taking part in a world war against the Communists. I do not see how we can possibly get the manpower without taking labour away from our essential key industries. All the arguments in this Debate have been on the assumption that there is no Air Force. Can it be imagined how we can move this gigantic Army without the Air Force? It 94 is indiscreet to mention the atom or hydrogen bombs. They are put, as it were, into water-tight compartments, and the result is that we are in a state of absolute unreality.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War how his own constituency of Dundee can be defended by the Army in the next war. From what we have heard in the course of these Defence Debates, it would appear that in the first month of the next war we are going to be submitted to the merciless bombing. Such an exponent of air warfare as Viscount Trenchard said we must be prepared for 20 million casualties in the first month. If our industrial areas are completely disorganised through bombing, how is the Army going to be moved about, and how is the intricate organisation set up to deal with manpower to function under those circumstances?
I think it was Bernard Shaw who once said that the military people were always rehearsing for something that never was not likely to happen and if it did come off, was not likely to be anything like the rehearsal. The fact has to be faced that in the first month of the next war there will be such an enormous complication of events in this country, that it will make all the theoretical plans absolutely ridiculous. I invite the Secretary of State for War not to take refuge behind platitudes, and not to dismiss me as a person who does not matter. These are the questions which are being asked by the people. They want to know how the Army is going to be moved about, and how it is going to be supplied. How are the munitions to be despatched to the Army and how are the civilian population to be kept down following the absolute chaos that must inevitably result if an island of 50 millions is mercilessly bombed from the air?
I should like to put another question to the Secretary of State for War. Can he tell us something of the preparations which are made for bacteriological warfare? That is a subject which is never mentioned in our Debates, and we are entitled to hear something about it. We should like to be told of the preparations that are being made, though I assume that it will be out of order to refer at any length to the subject.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I do not know whether the item occurs 95 in the Army Estimates, but the hon. Member is only entitled to deal with those matters which appear in the Estimates or which relate to them in some way.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I presume that some authority is interested in bacteriological warfare, and all I wish to ask in passing is whether the Secretary of State knows anything about it. If he does not know anything about the subject, what on earth is he Secretary of State for? Perhaps he will attempt to enlighten us. It is part of the duty of the Secretary of State for War to be slightly interested in war with a kind of interest in the Air Force and the Navy.
I can understand that Rules of Order in this House do not permit of questions sometimes being carried to their logical conclusion, but I should like to ask my right hon. Friend if he can tell us anything about the plans for dealing with sabotage in the Army. It is rather a curious thing that while the Communists are being cleared out of the highest posts in the Civil Service, particularly in the Ministry of Supply, they can still go into the Army, and are even conscripted into it. What measures are being taken to prevent the Communists entering the Army? It is ridiculous that the Communists in the Army should be aware of all our secret weapons of which, no doubt, they make careful note. If we have a new gun or a new kind of tank, how are we going to keep knowledge about it from the conscripted Communists?
I asked the previous Minister of Defence about this, because it seems wrong, not only that should the Communists be allowed into the Army, but that they should be conscripted into it, and, in addition, have access to our secret weapons and secret plans. Thus they are in a position to hand information about them to a potential enemy. There has been a great deal of criticism of the way in which some of our secrets have been conveyed to the enemy. Would the Secretary of State tell us if he is in a position to find out if the Russians have 120 or 150 divisions, and if so, how does he get that information? When a person called Dr. Fuchs betrays the country by acting as a spy, and hands over important military secrets to the Russians he is regarded with horror, but are we at the same time spending our money in bribing 96 or trying to bribe Russians, Poles, Hungarians and others to betray their countries?
Those are some of the questions which I want to put to my right hon. Friend, and I hope his answer will contain an element of realism. I hope we are not going to have a series of platitudes. My right hon. Friend is a man of very broad intelligence and gifted with a great imagination. Will he take this opportunity to tell us exactly the role the Army is going to play in the next war, and whether he can possibly equip all these divisions without making nonsense of his Socialism? Can we go on spending millions year after year without starving the social services and reducing the standard of life of the workers of this country? I suggest that that problem is insoluble, because if we are going to pile up all these millions year after year we are going to drive the standard of life of the British worker steadily down. I do not know how that can be reconciled with the professions of Socialism of the British Labour Party.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
It seems to be my fate in many of these Debates to follow the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I have not followed him on all occasions, because he has already made six speeches on the Defence Estimates, and he has still time to make a seventh even after today. I do not think he will expect me to follow him in his remarks, but his argument to the Secretary of State, which implied that Communists should not be conscripted into the Army, is ingenious, because if it were made a rule that no Communists were to be conscripted into the Forces surely he would swell the ranks of the Communists very considerably indeed.
I am always struck by the way in which the hon. Gentleman mixes up a certain amount of some fanciful Celtic thought with an underlying current of a good deal of unconstructive sense, and my feeling is that he spends most of his time tearing up whatever anybody is trying to do without making any suggestion as to what should be done. The logical deduction from that is that the hon. Member would like to see us completely unprotected in the future, and the logical result of that would be a Communist regime in this 97 country. If that is what he is after, he must tell his constituents, but if he is not after that, he is wrong continually to disparage everything we are doing to try to retain our safety and independence in the future. To ridicule those things, without putting another suggestion in their place, is quite easy; in fact, it is easy to be a fairly destructive denigrator of all the defence preparations in the country. I hope that the hon. Member, with his very fertile brain, will sometimes sit down and think out the logical result of all that he advocates in this House regarding defence. The result may keep him awake for a night or too, realising the political path that he has taken in this House.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. and gallant Member has made a very fair point. In this Debate we are dealing purely with the Army Estimates and I would not be in order if I dealt with what I believe would be a constructive programme of real defensive measures, not a romantic and sham defence, for the people of this country.
§ Brigadier Head
The hon. Gentleman will have a chance of telling us what his recommendations are upon the Civil Estimates which will come up later.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) gave the House some very good suggestions of a practical nature regarding the Army, and perhaps the Secretary of State will have an opportunity of referring to one or two of them. At any rate, I hope he will be sympathetic to the wireless suggestion, in view of his very considerable experience of that instrument during the war. If he had been a real galloper, he would have put a considerable strain on the horse-flesh of Britain.
Sometimes we attempt to let the Royal Air Force intrude into this Debate. I would commend one or two suggestions to the Royal Air Force speakers who are waiting to start their Debate. I would first suggest to the Secretary of State for War that he keeps his eye on the question of air co-operation between the Services. The matter has already been mentioned here, particularly in regard to anti-aircraft operations. I know the experience of the late Secretary of State for War in regard to aircraft. The Army may 98 have a reputation for eyewash and is much criticised, but I suggest to those members of the Royal Air Force who are feeling "cocky," that we can accuse them of "skywash."
When I hear the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in these Debates, I wonder what he is doing over there. There was one point which I thought he overstressed but which was of importance in considering Army matters. Some Members seem to want an Army on the "never-never" system. We are always going to have an Army two years ahead from the date of the Estimates. That attitude is projected from one year's Estimates to the next, and so on. That is the danger of the present system and that is the central thought of most of the criticisms on this side of the House. Our worries and our repeated questions to the predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman—and there have been three since the war finished—have been more or less identical with that criticism. I think most of my hon. Friends will agree that in none of the Debates have we ever had a really constructive suggestion about how the difficulties which we have outlined are to be met. We have seen suggestions outlined by us three or four years ago, at last creep into the Memorandum on the Army. That is a small triumph but it is as far as we have got.
At the risk of repetition I would say once again, that if we were to boil down all our remarks about the Army into one distilled drop of criticism, it would be that we are most worried by the over-dilution of a small and decreasing long-service element into a too large short-service element. We have been saying that since 1945. I should like to put a number of figures before the House. This is the last opportunity we shall have before the 1951 Estimates. The average rate of recruiting between 1928 and 1937 was 27,000 a year. Today it is 23,000 a year. At the present rate it will be 17,000 for the coming year. That is a decreasing curve for the long-service men, who are the whole basis of the Army. The second point is that wastage is increasing all the time. People are coming out and are not re-engaging.
The future outlook is that the lack of Regular recruitment will be intensified by increasing wastage. Let us not forget a 99 small but important fact. The War Office have had a "bisque"—to use a golfing term. It is that since the Indian Army was wound up, many officers and men from it have come into the Regular Army, which has made the wastage position look a little better than it really is. I should like to quote from the right hon. Gentleman's own memorandum. This is what he says about the Regular Army:Moreover, the Army can never be fully efficient and the National Service men be properly trained and economically employed unless the Regular element is appreciably increased.At present the Regular element is not being appreciably increased. Moreover, it is appreciably diminishing. The future outlook is not merely unsettled. It is extremely stormy. That is what we have said and shall continue to say. The only constructive answer we have had on this matter concerns married quarters. The War Office say time after time that they are going to review conditions of pay—the perfect F-branch answer of the War Office.
The right hon. Gentleman must face up to this matter. Unless he does so, in two or three years' time matters will be in such a jam that he will have to do it. Then it will cost much more and it will be less effective. A little bit of pay now would be worth much more at a future date and would be much less dangerous. I know all the arguments against it: the whole of the Civil Service has a wage freeze; the whole country has a wage freeze; think what hon. Gentlemen opposite would say about putting up the pay of the Army. The point about it is that the Army has never kept pace with wage increases, and at the present time is a community that cannot strike or do anything like that, and is living in great hardship, penury and difficulty. I am not exaggerating. It particularly applies to those with responsibility. If you "do them in the eye" and neglect them, they will go.
That applies particularly to the good ones, who can get better rewards in civil life. If the good ones go, not only do we get a bad Army but the position is dangerous, even in the interests of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The cadre which is then going to train the National Service men, which means half the youth of England, will get less and less 100 efficient, waste more and more time, and give the young men a worse start in life. We must give those good officers a reasonable standard of life to enable them to live up to their responsibilities. We must ensure that they stay on in the Army, and give the recruits the full benefit of the training they have had, to make them efficient. It is a cheap form of investment.
I do not accept the answer that we cannot give them any more money, nor do I accept the objection that it will cost more. We are told that if these suggestions are accepted there will be a vast increase in the Budget. If we spend a bit of money on this small, Regular element we may have a slight increase in the Estimates for a year or two but we shall get a big return when the properly trained National Service men go back to industry. It will more than repay the extra money.
Whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may feel about the Armed Services, if we go on as we have done from 1945 up till now the curve will become sharper and the difficulty of putting it right will become so acute that we may never be able to do it. I believe that hon. Gentlemen who have studied this will agree that at the moment the Regular element of the Army is very sick indeed, and if they do not give it a pill with a golden coating, it will get so sick that the Government will ruin the Army, endanger the country, bore the National Service men and give them a bad start in life; and as time goes on the Government will pay for it in terms of Western Union not working and a more advanced Russian policy.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that there should be different rates of pay for the Regulars and the National Service men?
§ Brigadier Head
Yes, certainly. We have always said that the long-service Regular element should have a higher rate than the National Service short-service element.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Strachey)
We have had a very interesting Debate in which a very large number of points have been raised, and I will try to cover the maximum number of them. The 101 hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) began by asking me to pay attention to some passages in his speech in the Defence Debate. Let me assure him that I have taken note of those passages. I will not refer today—because it would not be worth speaking briefly on it—to his passage about the use of Colonial troops and garrisons, but that is certainly a thing which all of us ought to consider very carefully indeed.
His second point was about A.A. command and A.A. defence generally. A newcomer to these matters is struck by the enormous burden which anti-aircraft defence puts on the manpower of the Army, but it would be a bold man who would move drastically to reduce what our staffs tell us is the necessary minimum of anti-aircraft defence today. I might be inclined in some ways to share his impression that the best defence against aircraft is not necessarily from the ground, but, on the other hand, this is a highly technical and highly scientific matter and we must not conclude that all the progress is being made in the air. Very important technical and scientific progress is being made on the side of anti-aircraft defence, and I do not think that we could possibly shirk that burden, heavy though it undoubtedly is. He said he could give us some suggestions for discussion, and we would welcome that.
The hon. and gallant Member then passed to mobilisation plans. I can assure him that a very great deal of thought—I have already seen the fruits of that thought—has already been given in the War Office to that matter, and that the preparation of that planning is well-advanced today. He spoke of week-end refresher courses for staff officers. I understand that the objection to that is that they are very expensive, but I am very willing to reconsider that matter and to look into it personally, because I think it has obviously got something in it.
He then passed to the question of the organisation of infantry divisions, their mobility and motorisation, and wireless and radio equipment, and expressed concern whether we were providing enough in the way of radio and wireless equipment. That matter was also referred to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). I am assured that that is a field of re-equipment where we have made considerable 102 progress in the past two years, and the past year especially. The only reason why the Vote is not quite so large this year in that respect is that we are further behind in some other elements of re-equipment and are bringing these up into line with our new radio equipment, which is beginning to flow in to a perceptible degree. I assure him that it is not a matter in which I am likely to take a "galloper" view because one of the few glimpses I ever had of the Army in operation was when I saw the hon. Members for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) and Stratford (Mr. Profumo) in a haystack on Christmas Day, 1942, engaged in Army/Air co-operation on the radio and talking all day on the wireless. I was extremely impressed by the absolutely indispensable character of wireless aids in every form of modern military operation.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman then suggested that I should be making visits to units of the Army stationed all over the world. Certainly there is nothing I would rather do if I were able, but in the present Parliamentary situation I can only suggest that I take him with me, otherwise I am afraid that some of my hon. and right hon. Friends might not look with an approving eye on it. He also raised the question of pay and especially pay for the Regular element in the Forces. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton also mentioned it. Let me assure them that this is simply a question of what we can afford. I would also re-assure the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing in regard to his suggestion that we had been right in following the policy of the Coalition Government on the matter of levelling up to some extent the pay of lower ranks. Yet he would think that we might have dangerous and mistaken views of going too far in that direction, and he actually said that he thought that some of us might be in favour of abolishing rank.
Let me reassure him on that matter. No one on this side of the House, certainly no Socialist, could possibly take the view that rank in the Army or any other walk of life should be abolished, or that equal pay should be introduced in the Army or in other ranks of life or human endeavour. If he studied Socialist theory, he would see that that was very far from our views. We have always taken the view that more skill and more responsible work must, certainly in the 103 present stage of human development, be paid at a higher rate, and all Socialist theorists that I know, with the exception of one prominent one, have always taken that view and set their face strongly—
§ Mr. Strachey
Bernard Shaw is the only one I know who took the other view, and I cannot, in this matter at any rate, call him a responsible Socialist theorist. All Socialist theory worthy of the name takes the view that what we are opposed to is not inequalities of income but unearned income. That is the essence of the matter. We certainly believe in the senior officer, with his heavy responsibilities, having a different grade of pay from the new recruit, in exactly the same way that the manager or the highly skilled technician in a works has a different rate of pay from the boy who joins that works as an office boy or to sweep out the sheds as his first job. There is surely no difference in that as between Service and civilian life.
The hon. and gallant Member asked me about Territorial Army units without drill halls. That matter gives us some concern, but, fortunately, we have made much progress in the provision of these Territorial Army centres in the last year, and we hope to make rapid progress in future.
The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) said that until the Territorial Army proposal, of which I spoke in the previous Debate, came into force we had no immediate reserve. Surely things are not as bad as that. There is the main Z Reserve, which consists today largely of highly trained men who have had war service. However, it is a wasting asset, and to replace it the new Reserve will be built up. As the men flow out of National Service into the Territorial Army or Supplementary Reserve, they will form the new Reserve Army. The hon. Member made a number of points about the way in which the modification of the Territorial Army structure and building of the Reserve Army would work, and said that there must be great flexibility, with which I agree. I am sure we shall have a certain amount of trial and error, and although we shall not get it perfect at the start, we have a sound basis on which to work.
104 The same hon. Member asked me about bounty, and I agree that we want an announcement at any early date of the exact terms and conditions of the National Service man who thinks of volunteering—becoming a Territorial Army volunteer—and especially of the bounty. All I can say today is that there will be such a scheme but I cannot this afternoon make an announcement as to its exact terms.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
Can the right hon. Gentleman make clear the point I was trying to bring out, that it will be possible for the National Service man, after his release from whole-time service, to volunteer and be treated as a volunteer?
§ Mr. Strachey
We shall encourage him to volunteer, but I cannot give the exact terms and conditions of the county and the other terms and conditions under which he will volunteer, although I know there is a need to give that at an early date.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me for interrupting? He said a moment ago that the new structure of the Territorial Army was to replace the Class Z Reserve. Surely he realises that the men on the Class Z Reserve have not been allocated to any unit and, therefore, do not form an organised Reserve. I thought that had been generally understood, but the right hon. Gentleman seems to be overplaying the value of this Reserve.
§ Mr. Strachey
It will do more than replace it. It will improve on it, though, as I said, it consists to a large extent of men who have had war service.
§ Mr. Strachey
I agree that it will take longer to organise.
I will look into the point about P.A.Y.E. made by the hon. Member for Dumfries but I cannot give a definite answer today. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) put weighty points, as he always does, and asked me vitally important questions such as, what is the purpose for which we are raising and perfecting our Army? I can only repeat what I endeavoured to say on my speech on the Estimates, because it remains the case 105 that there are two purposes which we have to meet. There are our immediate overseas commitments which we cannot possibly escape, and there is also the necessity to prepare to make a worthy contribution to the defence of Western Europe and so prevent the outbreak of another war.
Those are the two purposes for which we are asking the House to provide this substantial sum of money. The hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes), as it seemed to me, totally misrepresented that and suggested that the second purpose for which we were using these Armed Forces, and perfecting them as we can, was to join with some others in a possible attack on Russia. I should like not only to deny that forcibly but also to point out to the hon. Member and to the House that the size of the Forces which we can raise at this time makes any such suggestion extremely unrealistic, to put it no higher than that, and that there is no question whatever about the Armed Forces we have in existence or in preparation which could lend colour to that suggestion in any way.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton legitimately asked how long it would take to do this. I agree with him, and with other speakers who made the same point, that time is of the essence in this matter. Nevertheless, it is not a question of being totally unready at one date and, after that date, having everything perfectly ready. We are already making some contribution to the defence of Western Europe, and it is a question of raising that contribution as rapidly as we are able, taking into account all the other calls on our resources. That is one of the main tasks to which we are bending all our efforts.
Now I must refer to some of the points made by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys), many of which were valuable. With respect, I differ from him in one statement he made, namely, that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State failed to deal with the points he made in the Estimates Debate. The House will remember the full reply at considerable length which my hon. Friend made, and a satisfying winding-up speech most hon. Members found it. So I could not agree that he did not deal with those points, and I could not help feeling that it was only because he dealt 106 with them in a way with which the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not agree, which is different from not dealing with them at all.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
May I interrupt for one moment? What I said was that the hon. Gentleman did not deal with some adequately and that with others he did not deal at all.
§ Mr. Strachey
Of course, that is a matter of opinion and I think that what the hon. and gallant Gentleman really means is that he did not agree with the answers he received. Again, he asked this fundamental question, which has been asked by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton in another form: What is the part designed for the Forces, active and Reserve, which we are endeavouring to raise, not for our immediate overseas commitments but in case of emergency? That part is to make a contribution to the defence of Western Europe and to hold a part of that line. Those Forces which can be made available on the outbreak of war are important but so also are the reinforcements that can be sent out month after month after the outbreak. That, without the slightest equivocation, is the rôle for which we are preparing armed land Forces, and other Forces, too, today.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked whether we had made definite plans for those purposes; and what was the purpose of Western Union and the Atlantic Pact and all those elaborate preparations which had gone on? Surely it would be a most retrograde step if we made individual isolated plans today for that purpose. Surely we should agree that to achieve this purpose and in order to make Western Union a defensible union, which would be extremely unlikely to be attacked, it must be done on an international basis and not nationally. There, I should have thought, the progress made in recent months, as well as in the last year or so, has been considerable.
The hon. and gallant Member then went on to make the point that the recruit training units were largely useless, on the short-term basis, at any rate, for active service. Of course, the training of large masses of recruits is a heavy burden on Regular Army manpower, but is it not worth producing a Reserve Army? It is the considered opinion of the Government and 107 of the Staffs that it is worth undertaking this heavy burden in order gradually to build up a Reserve Army of considerable size. If that is done, we are bound to take the burden on our Regular manpower.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
The right hon. Gentleman either did not understand or, although I hope not, is misrepresenting me. What I said was that it was quite unsound to use what are, and what are rated as, Service units for the elementary training of recruits; that is uneconomic in every sort of way. I suggested that we ought to have special recruit training units. This is the only sound way of dealing with the raw material and turning it into the finished article.
§ Mr. Strachey
I quite appreciate the point which the hon. and gallant Member has made, but, however we did it, the burden on our limited resources of Regular long-term manpower would still exist. All I am saying is that this is an inescapable burden if we are to build up the Reserve Army. It might be arguable that we should not do that, but our opinion is that it is a burden worth carrying when the importance of the purpose to be achieved is considered.
The hon. and gallant Member next asked about the purposes or the propriety of the system by which the National Service men are brought in at fortnightly intervals. At first sight it would have seemed to me that a smooth flow in the intake of National Service men would minimise the burden on our resources of training by the Regular personnel who are pinned down for that purpose, rather than a large periodic intake. I am more than willing to re-examine this question, but I assure the hon. and gallant Member that we do not take in the National Service men once a fortnight simply to suit my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. We do it at the option, and by the desire, of the Army. It is the view of the Army that it is better to have these men in small doses so that the burden is spread evenly rather than to have a large intake at any one time. I will, however, look carefully into this matter.
The hon. and gallant Member spoke also about War Office staffs. The figure there has come down from the peak of 18,000 108 to 7,000—giving the nearest thousand in each case—and it went down by 1,000 last year. It is still large, but is rapidly dropping.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my asking him a question which I omitted to ask in my speech. I gather that there was an overall cut throughout the whole of the Services—the right hon. Gentleman has just quoted the War Office figure. Does he know whether that cut—I believe it was 20 per cent.—was implemented in Malaya? If so, it was a very dangerous thing to do to units or formations who are taking part in active operations. I do not necessarily expect an answer now, but ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into this and, if that actually happened, to see that it never happens again.
§ Mr. Strachey
Of course, there has been no reduction—quite the reverse, in fact—in the number of our Forces serving in Malaya.
§ Mr. Strachey
If the hon Member is referring to staffs, I will obtain the information and write to him.
I come now to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, South, who asked me to deal seriously with the points he raised. I agree that they are most serious points, as fundamental as any that could be raised in a Debate on defence, and I will attempt to deal with them most seriously. His first question was quite a simple one. He said, "What are we trying to defend?" The answer is quite simple: we are trying to defend this country. His second question was to ask, "Where are we trying to defend it?" The answer is, not exclusively, but principally, in Western Europe. Surely there is no equivocation about that. One part of the Army's task is, I repeat, to try to provide a worthy contribution to those defence forces in Western Europe which, we believe, if they are built up adequately and in time, can not only defend this country, but can make the frightful eventuality of a new war far less probable and avoid it altogether.
I cannot agree with the next proposition of my hon. Friend, which was that the Army today has no protection to 109 offer the people of this country against air attack. Again, I think that a worthy contribution to Western European defence is an absolutely vital task in the air defence of this country. If my hon. Friend would reconsider the matter, I think he would agree that the two things are very closely bound together.
His final argument really amounted to putting forward the view that in the last analysis this country is indefensible today and we were making all these efforts to achieve an impossible object. I would say, as frankly and as unequivocally as I can, that it may well be the case that today any country, taken by itself, is indefensible; and that may apply even to the largest and strongest countries. But I would certainly disagree that this country is indefensible if we take into account that it is part of a regional system of security and that the whole policy of this country and of our part of the world, the building of Western Union and the Atlantic Pact and the like, are precisely to meet that situation of a new war, in which countries in isolation may be largely indefensible and, therefore, have to become, or should become, part of regional systems of security.
Therefore, taken in that context, which is surely, the proper context, I entirely disagree with my hon. Friend in the doctrine of despair which he put out that this country is indefensible. I think that, together with the Allies who are bound to us under the Atlantic Pact, the country is fully defensible and, by wise and steady preparation, can be made part of a defensive system which is not only defensible, but which is sufficiently strong to avoid the possibility of attack. Nor do I agree that that effort necessarily—or, indeed, at all—condemns our people to a falling standard of life.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the first month of a possible war there could be anything between 10 million and 20 million casualties; and if such casualties are inflicted on this country, would he say that this country was defensible?
§ Mr. Strachey
Those are hypothetical questions to which I could not possibly 110 give the answers. None of us knows the conditions, the date, or a great deal about the terrible hypothesis of a new war, but I repeat my view that, given the world situation as it is today, it would be utterly wrong to accept what, I must repeat, is the doctrine of despair that this country is indefensible, although it might be so in isolation.
I also repeat that I do not believe that the burden, heavy though it is, of giving this country adequate defence measures on land, sea and air, is so heavy that it condemns us to a falling standard of life. The Votes which we are providing this year, although they represent a heavy burden on our economy, can, and will, be sustained.
§ Brigadier Head
I was very modest and asked the right hon. Gentleman only one question, but it was the same question that we have been asking for the last five years. He states in his own White Paper that unless we arrest the gradual wastage and decrease in the numbers of long-term men, we shall be in a very serious position. I only ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could outline any steps, except for married quarters, which the Government are taking to put right this most serious of all positions?
§ Mr. Strachey
The hon. and gallant Member has pressed that question frequently, and the only suggestions he has made are very direct ones of increases of pay and the like. We would all like to increase Regular pay, of course, but the question is what can we afford? There are a great many things to consider—the enormous task of re-equipment, many highly desirable objects of expenditure and the limit to the burden we can undertake. Some of these propositions for improving the attractiveness of Regular recruiting are more costly changes than we could make although, of course, we would all like to make them. We are making some of them and married quarters is not the only one. We shall certainly do all we can afford to do, but this afternoon I cannot go beyond that.
§ Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.