HC Deb 27 January 1953 vol 510 cc918-76

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £35,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953, for expenditure beyond the sum already provided in the grants for Army Services for the year.

Sums not exceeding
Supply Grants Appropriations in Aid
Vote £ £
1. Pay, &c., of the Army 11,300,000 *—690,000
2. Reserve Forces (to an additional number not exceeding 6,000, other ranks, for the Regular Reserve and to an additional number not exceeding 29,000, all ranks, for the Army Emergency Reserve), Territorial Army, Home Guard and Cadet Forces 400,000
4. Civilians 3,800,000 *—630,000
5. Movements 4,500,000
6. Supplies, &c. 4,400,000 *—300,000
7. Stores 7,500,000 *—250,000
8. Works, Buildings and Lands 1,950,000 *—410,000
9. Miscellaneous Effective Services 150,000 400,000
10. Non-effective Services 1,000,000
Total, Army (Supplementary) 1952–53…£ 35,000,000 *—1,880,000
* Deficit

7.10 p.m.

Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)

We were interrupted yesterday evening in the early stages of our inquiry into this Supplementary Estimate. I should like to continue the inquiry, which I thought was yielding a little fruit in its early stages. We had reached the point where we had all agreed that a large part of this Supplementary Estimate is concerned with expenditures incurred in the Middle East. About £3 million was for extra movements and certain unspecified sums for additional civilian personnel who were taken on because of the withdrawal of the Egyptians.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison)

I do not want the hon. Gentleman to continue under a misapprehension. A good proportion of the £3 million was for the purpose he has stated, but not all.

Mr. Crossman

I should not wish to press the hon. Gentleman to give a precise percentage, but a good proportion of the £3 million is due to that and I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that one of the things we have to face in the Canal Zone is the appalling effect of seeking to squeeze 80,000 men into an area where the pre-war garrison was one brigade. The effect of squeezing those 80,000 men into this area is to produce overcrowding and a terrible shortage of married quarters. I want to ask the hon. Gentleman one or two questions and I should be glad if he can give me the answers.

The first question is: How many married quarters have we now in the Canal Zone for officers and for other ranks respectively? In dealing with that subject I might also deal with another point which was raised by many of the men to whom I talked out there. They were asking for new or increased separation allowances. That is covered by Vote 1, dealing with pay. I gather that the Secretary of State for War was in the Canal Zone and that he listened to this not unreasonable suggestion that a special separation allowance was due. If a soldier merely has his marriage allowance and if, through no fault of his own, he is sent to the Canal Zone and has to pay for his wife and family staying at home in Britain, should not there be a special separation allowance?

I gather that this point was put to him when he was out there and I was told by some of the men that he seemed very favourably impressed and that they were all eagerly anticipating his final decision. This is a long-standing grievance, but one which has a substantial basis in fact. The men who are living there are having to support their families at home and they are at a grave disadvantage compared with troops in other areas overseas. When the Secretary of State was there he apparently gave the impression that something would be done. They asked me what would be done and I said that I would find out when I returned. I am hoping to hear this evening how far the Minister will fulfil in reality the impression he created when he accepted the legitimacy of that demand.

The next question is: How many of our troops in the Canal Zone are now living in hutted camps and how many are living under canvas? No one can get any impression of that by motoring through the area. If one motors through 35 miles of unbroken depots and camps one touches only a small section of this gigantic area. Can the Minister give the percentage of men living under canvas compared with those living in hutted camps? What is the policy in regard to essential repairs, and what hopes have these units that some of the dilapidations will be made good? How much of this Supplementary Estimate is designed for at least maintaining this vast establishment without too obvious signs of deterioration?

The next question concerns the withdrawal of Egyptian labour and its effect on the introduction of Mauritian and East African troops and civilians to take their place? How much Egyptian labour did we lose last January and in what proportion are we making it up by the use of pioneers from East Africa and Mauritius and civilians? These are vital questions which we have an obvious right to ask before we agree to pass this Supplementary Estimate.

We have also to consider the central issue, which is the strategy and the policy on which this vast increase of expenditure is based. Is it the fact that this specific increase of expenditure is justified only by the continuance of the emergency and the crisis in Egypt? What is the Government policy which justifies this increase? What has happened? The soldiers told me, as I am sure they told the Minister, that the base is useless without Egyptian co-operation. As anybody who has been to Cairo knows, there is no sign whatsoever of any Egyptian co-operation with what they regard as an occupying army.

If that is common ground between the Minister and myself, what are we doing in the Canal Zone? Why are we expending these sums? Why are we keeping these 80,000 men there? What good are they doing? What the Minister is doing, in fact, is gravely to accentuate the crisis between ourselves and the Egyptians. If I may make one suggestion, which the Minister may pass on to one of the colleagues, it is that the Egyptian Government today is not what one would call a friendly Government. I had a good many talks with them and they left me in no doubt of their intention. They made it clear that if we do not withdraw they will eject us by force.

If that is the situation I want to know in what way it can possibly assist to sell 12 jet aircraft to the Egyptian Government.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman will find that these Estimates do not cover the sale of jet aircraft.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

With respect, surely my hon. Friend is completely in order, because under Vote 7 we are dealing with warlike stores. Though it may be true that my hon. Friend is not in order in mentioning jet aircraft, he could just as easily have mentioned Centurion tanks. We are disposing of equipment and I should have thought he was completely in order.

The Temporary Chairman

I am very grateful for the assistance of the hon. Gentleman, but I still think that the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) is not in order.

Mr. Crossman

I fully appreciate the point about jet aircraft. I would say, in my defence, that we are discussing whether to pass a very large Supplementary Estimate for the purpose of maintaining a large Army in the Middle East. Part of the justification for maintaining the Army must be the reason why it is there, and if I am to find out whether I should vote this vast sum of money I must try to elicit from the Minister some justification. To find that justification we have to study the actions of the Government and their relations with the Egyptians, and one of those actions, which I have just mentioned, was that of selling 12 jet aircraft to General Neguib.

In my view, that action makes complete nonsense of this Supplementary Estimate. If we are to have large numbers of troops in the Suez Canal Zone how does it help if we provide the Egyptian Government, who are determined to eject us, with a large number of modern aircraft? Is that really a justification? I was taking the example of jet aircraft in asking the Secretary of State for War what that sort of policy—which I regard as a typical piece of appeasement—is intended to achieve. In effect, it seems to me that we are saying to the Egyptians, "Do not notice our 80,000 soldiers because we will please you so much with 12 jet aircraft that you will not notice the presence of 80,000 troops in the Suez Canal area." But I shall not press that point any further.

The Temporary Chairman

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He must leave that point now.

Mr. Crossman

I think the Secretary of State for War has seized the point, but I think he is unable to answer it, because it is for the Foreign Secretary to tell us why we should pass this vast sum of money, and that is asking too much.

Now I turn to recruitment, because, though that is an excursion from the Suez Canal Zone, a subject in which I am interested, it is an excursion which baffles me as a layman. I seem to remember the Secretary of State for War—and I used to listen to him with the greatest attention —when he was just a back bencher like myself, giving lectures to Labour Defence Ministers on how to run the Army. I remember those lectures and what he used to say.

He used to say—this is on Vote 1 which deals with the increase of pay and allowances—that it was all absolutely simple, that all one had to do was to pay the Army enough. I remember listening and thinking, "That is wonderful; it must be right, because the right hon. Gentleman has been a soldier himself and knows all about the mentality of soldiers. He knows that people can be recruited by the simple, mercenary method of increasing their rates of pay."

It is interesting to see in this Supplementary Estimate the effect of increased pay on the figures. I must say I think my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) did a very useful job last night when he pointed out these figures, and I intend to point them out again.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)

I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that this increase in pay is not due to an increase in rates of pay, but is an increase in pay caused by an additional number of Regulars owing to recruitment, and some of it, as I explained, to a slight under-estimate of the average rate of pay.

Mr. Crossman

I quite see that if there is a differential between National Service men and Regulars the bill will go up. It is all quite simple. Make a differential between being a National Service man and being a Regular, and people will switch from being National Service men to being Regulars.

My hon. Friend broke down these figures. The number of the total additions was 40,157, and of that total 35,570 were National Service men who were attracted by the differential. So the argument is there. Give a differential and a man will switch, and we shall get an extra year out of him. Instead of serving his two years as a National Service man, he will serve three years. I can see that that is a powerful argument, but what I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman is this. I have an impression that under the Labour Government Regulars served for five or seven years.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

Five and seven or seven and five.

Mr. Crossman

Yes, so we have got men for five and seven or seven and five. I understand that under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme we get men with the Colours for three years and with the Reserve for four years. We also get men for the famous 22 years' service, but they can opt out at the end of every three years, so we really get them for only three years.

I do not think this is a good bargain because we have men for five and seven and seven and five, and all we get is a large number of National Service men attracted by the differential who at the end of three years get out. Therefore, we are to have a decline in the numbers as the new scheme comes into force. All we are going to get, apparently, is one extra year, and, that being so, we can say goodbye to any hope of getting rid of National Service through the building up of a big Regular Army. It seems to me this proves that this short-term policy of the pay differential is not producing the desired result.

Mr. Wigg

I do not think my hon. Friend is being quite fair to his right hon. Friend because it was the Labour Government who introduced the differential. The right hon. Gentleman opposite did not discover the differential. What he did was something quite different; he went baldheaded for an increase in pay.

Mr. Crossman

Let that be sorted out between those responsible. I was not responsible.

But to come back to the question of pay, what this proves, of course, is that pay is not the only factor, or indeed the main factor. I was told that the biggest single obstacle to Regular recruitment today is not a question of pay, but the existence of the Canal Zone. I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman will deny that so long as there is an even chance of their doing "three years' hard" in the Canal Zone we shall not get young men making up their minds to become Regular soldiers. They are going to say, "That is not the life for me."

Therefore, from a strictly War Office point of view, this Canal Zone, which, in my view, represents political suicide, where we are doing nothing whatsover and where we have a useless base, is creating the major obstacle. It is a War Office disaster of the first magnitude, and it is creating major obstacles to recruitment. No one knows what it is for, least of all the soldiers there.

I will conclude by saying that we must pass this Supplementary Estimate because of the unfortunate men who are out there, but if the right hon. Gentleman really cares about the British Army and about Regular recruitment to it he should join with us in impressing upon the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister that the sooner we get the men home from the Canal Zone and reach an agreement with the Egyptians the better not only for the peace of the world, but for the health of the British Army.

7.27 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Marlowe (Hove)

The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has, with his usual ingenuity, managed in discussing this Estimate to make a speech on foreign affairs. Therefore, I am probably not in order in taking up the points with which he has dealt. I sometimes think the hon. Gentleman would be incapable of extending a vote of thanks at a church bazaar without referring to the Middle East.

However, I want to deal with a more specialised matter which refers to Vote 10 in this Estimate. I was rather surprised, when the right hon. Gentleman went through these Votes and dealt with every one in turn, that he omitted, when he got to Vote 9, to turn over the page where we find Vote 10 which deals, under Subhead A, with the question of retired pay and half pay for non-effective Services.

This is a matter which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and I raised on the Adjournment just before the Christmas Recess, and it is one I am raising again, because I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not intend to let it rest until the Government do justice in this matter. As I say, the right hon. Gentleman completely failed to deal with the matter, and I would draw the Committee's attention to the fact that there is a Vote for an increase of £400,000.

The Minister has not explained what that increase involves, and therefore I can only assume that it is an increase caused by the Royal Warrant which is, in effect, the counterpart of the Pensions Increase Act, 1952. That Act gave rises to civil servants and to local government servants, and the Service Departments have fallen into line to the extent that they have given increases equivalent to those given to the Civil Services.

I suppose that this sum of £400,000 is the amount required to cover those increases, although I am not certain because the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the matter.

Mr. Head

I accept my hon. and learned Friend's point about not dealing with this matter, but he will appreciate that I was not trying to shirk the matter, because it is an inter-Service matter, and I am concerned with the Army only. The responsibility for policy does not rest solely with me, but rather with the Minister of Defence, and I think it would have been wrong of me to have discussed Government policy on this matter, as I represent only one of three Services.

Mr. Marlowe

I appreciate my right hon. Friend's position, and as to his shirking the question—he said he did not —I assure him that I have no intention of letting him shirk it, although I accept what he said about that, and that I have every intention of taking up this question with him and his fellow Secretaries of State as often as it is possible for me to do so. Naturally, I do not propose to bring about a vote on this matter tonight, but the time will come when the Government will have to face the fact that they will run the risk of a vote on this matter. Certainly, I for one shall not shirk voting against the Government on this issue if I feel the occasion is one on which it is necessary that that should be done.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

Do it now.

Mr. Marlowe

I said that I did not think the moment was ripe. I am giving the Government a little more time—

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)


Mr. Marlowe

—but it must be understood that our patience with the Government is not limited, and that sooner or later the Government will have to turn their attention to this matter.

I want to deal with one or two of the arguments which arise upon it. Here is a sum of £400,000. I suppose—again, I have to suppose, because it has not been explained—that it is to cover a number of pensions which will be paid retrospectively to those entitled to them, regardless of the date upon which they came to pension. I particularly wish to draw attention to that, because whenever this issue has been raised the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence—and the Minister of Defence recently in another place—have staunchly maintained in the matter of increased pension that there is fixed Government policy against retrospection, and, although time and again I have pointed out to them that that is quite untrue, that there is no principle against retrospection, they still go on endeavouring to maintain it.

The fact is that there is no principle against retrospection, but only a fixed policy that retrospection must be limited to a certain figure, and within a certain ambit retrospection has been increasingly recognised. So that the issue is not whether there should be retrospection in granting increases of pension, but only the question of the figure at which retrospection should apply, and the present position that the Government have taken up in this matter is, roughly, that up to about £400 a year there should be increases made retrospectively, but that once the pension exceeds that there should be no increase.

I am proposing to urge upon my right hon. Friend—and I have to do it in this form on this particular day, although I see that possibly one should do it on the Estimates of the other Services in turn—the hope that my right hon. Friend will convey to his colleagues who are responsible in this matter—I accept what he said a moment ago, that he is not himself responsible for the policy in this matter, but he is at the moment the spokesman of the Government I hope he will convey to those who are responsible that there is a very strong feeling in this Committee and in the country on this matter.

It is a feeling which is certainly reflected by the fact that my Motion relating to this matter, and which expresses concern at the Government's attitude in it, has now 200 signatures to it. That is a substantial body of opinion. It is irrespective of party. The signatories are drawn from all parties in this Committee. I think that probably something like from 120 to 130 of the signatories are supporters of the Government. When one allows for the fact that probably something like 100 supporters of the Government are supposed by virtue of their positions as Parliamentary Private Secretarys to be disqualified from putting their signatures to a Motion of this kind, I think that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues will recognise that this number of signatories constitutes a substantial body of Government supporters who feel that the time for action in this matter is ripe.

There is only one other matter in connection with it to which I want to refer, and that is this. It is often said that this particular claim cannot be dealt with in isolation, and this argument was repeated by the Minister of Defence himself in another place the other day. He sought to defend Government policy on the ground that the claim for increased retired pension could not be dealt with without admitting a whole host of other claims. There is no validity in that argument at all. If a case is worthy of being treated by itself, and if its being treated in isolation can be justified, then there is certainly no reason why it should not be so treated. Everyone who has examined this case is, I think, fully satisfied that there is a sound case for treating it in isolation.

The only other argument which has been put against the matter is on the question of expenditure. Apparently some £400,000 is to be voted under this Supplementary Estimate tonight. The total which we should like to see allotted to this matter is £2 million. I can only say that I am shocked by a Government who refuse £2 million to a deserving cause of this kind when I find the Minister of Materials coming down yesterday and saying, "I made a slight mistake in my Estimates for my Ministry, and instead of making a profit of £14 million I found I made a loss of £33 million, so there is a slight matter of £47 million that I want found so that the errors made in my Estimates can be made up." I find it shocking that the Government can do that and at the same time say they cannot find £2 million for officers and warrant officers who have served their country through two world wars and are now asking for what is, indeed, a paltry sum.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will bring this matter to the notice of those who are responsible for it, because, as I say, he can rest assured that if he does not persuade them to take action in the way that I have indicated in some reasonably foreseeable future I certainly shall have no hesitation in taking action in the way I have indicated

7.35 p.m.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

When I intervened in the debate on the Army Estimates in March I said I did so with diffidence as an ex-private in the face of so many experts of higher rank. As many of them are not here tonight I feel a little more confidence, and I am considerably encouraged by the Secretary of State himself, who said on 10th March: I am asking the House for £491½ million and 555,000 all ranks … that is an extremely large sum … when the nation is undergoing great economic difficulty and when that amount can ill be spared. It is my chief responsibility, and, indeed, that of the House also, to see that in return for these two very considerable figures, the nation gets good value for money."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1023.] Then, speaking last night, he was even more forthcoming. He said: I am fulfilling a task which will not be welcome to most hon. Members on either side, because … at the present time, when I think hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are agreed that expenditure must, as far as possible, be held down for obvious economic reasons, such a Supplementary Estimate is bound to be one on which hon. Members on both sides will wish to satisfy themselves as to the reasons."…[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1953; Vol. 510, c. 781.] That is my reason for getting up tonight—to satisfy myself on the reasons. We, as Members of this Committee, before we part with this Supplementary Estimate, must ensure ourselves that first of all, the expenditure is necessary, and, second, that we are getting value for money in this respect.

The Supplementary Estimates asks for £35 million. That is a fairly stiff sum of money—£35 million—and that does not tell the whole story of this Estimate, because I see that they are underspent by £15,700,000 on the Estimates. So that means that a sum of £50,700,000 is being discussed tonight. Many people will want to know why we must find this extra £35 million when we voted £49½ million in March. The disabled ex-Service man might ask why the Department whose activities cause casualties gets mare than the Department which cares for the casualties of war.

No Supplementary Estimate is provided to meet the needs of those who have lost arms, eyesight and health in the service of their country. They will be suspicious that the profligacy of one Department is responsible for the parsimony of the other Department, that the arm of the Forces is valued higher than the lost limb of the ex-member of the Forces. But that is by the way. I know I must not discuss that any further. I merely use it in order to compare the way in which money is spent, and I do not want to elaborate that any further.

Part of the increase, we are told, is due to the additional expenditure on pay and the maintenance of personnel. On one occasion the Under-Secretary snapped at me, "I know you do not like the Army." He is quite wrong. I have a great affection and veneration for the Army in which I served. I should like to see a world in which there was no need for armies, but as long as there are armies I have no animosity against the Army as an army.

I rejoice that in the new Elizabethan age there are no down-and-outs who have to take refuge in the Army and take the Queen's shilling. The common soldier is no longer a member of a sub-race apart from his fellows. Technical training, better pay and conditions have raised his social, mental and economic status. I rejoice at these things, and I have no objection to make about the increased expenditure on the pay and maintenance of Army personnel. I notice, however, that the increase pay for officers is £1 million and for other ranks £6,250,000. That is a little out of proportion, is it not?

Mr. Head

Perhaps I might make it clear to the hon. and gallant Gentleman —I always insist on calling him hon and gallant, in view of his service—that those figures have nothing to do with rates of pay; they are purely on numbers. There are variations in number. The figures do not represent any change in the rates of pay as between officers and other ranks.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Does that mean there is one officer to six other ranks?

Mr. Head

The number of officers now in the Army and the number of other ranks now in the Army are not exactly the same as at the time of the Estimates, and these figures represent a numerical difference and not a difference in rates of pay.

Mr. Simmons

I accept that explanation. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton) has rather stolen my thunder, because I was about to suggest that it looked as though there was one officer to six other ranks. How much of the sum for the maintenance of personnel goes in improved amenities and services and how much is due to higher prices as a result of Government policy? Are we in these Supplementary Estimates, as the housewife is when she goes shopping, paying for the policy of the Government which has resulted in increased prices of food and materials? How much are the racketeers getting out of it?

In Vote 4 we see provision made for a lot of new civil servants, and I should like to ask one or two questions about that, if the right hon. Gentleman has no objection. On 10th March, when debating the Estimates, the Minister said: The War Office has been reduced considerably since the war, but I felt that with this intensive comb-out, it was not really right that the War Office should be exempt. The experience I have had of reductions in establishment is that it is no good arguing over every man, every clerk. The only way out is to have an arbitrary cut. Therefore, I gave instructions that the entire staff of the War Office should be cut by 10 per cent. That has been most loyally implemented and will result in a saving of 750 soldiers and civil servants."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1036.] Now we come to this Vote 4—

Mr. Head

I apologise for intervening again, but I think it may save time. The War Office comes under Vote 3, which is not concerned in this Supplementary Estimate. This Vote 4 concerns civilians at certain establishments, which I went into last night when explaining the Supplementary Estimates. They are not concerned with civil servants in the War Office in any way.

Mr. Simmons

Well, civilians employed by the War Office are civil servants. For instance, under Subhead K of Vote 4 we are spending £1,150,000 above the Estimate, and the total increase over the original Estimate is £3,800,000. They are all people employed as civil servants by the War Office. It is no good lopping a few branches off the top of the tree and then letting it blossom out somewhere else, as apparently has happened here.

Last night the right hon. Gentleman gave us some information about the necessity for the increase under Subhead K. Let me quote its words to make sure I am not misrepresenting him, which I should hate to do. He said: In addition, contained in Subhead K particularly, is an added expense caused by the disappearance of civil labour in Egypt. When the situation deteriorated the majority of civil labour in Tel el Kebir and other big depots walked out and essential jobs had to be filled by substitutes. Some of the substitutes were expensive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1953; Vol. 510, c. 788.] That sounds rather cryptic to me. Labour in Egypt was always unreliable. Arms and stores were frequently stolen in the Canal Zone. I have a son who served in the Canal Zone, and he told me what went on there. Officers have been cashiered for dealing in arms. The Egyptians were being armed by us all the time our troops were there, and I suppose sonic of this labour was what might be called dangerous as well as expensive. In what way is the substitute labour expensive? I think the right hon. Gentleman might expand a bit on that.

This concerns the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). Why are we in Egypt at all? Why have we men and equipment in the Canal Zone when we are uninvited and unwelcome guests, and are bound to get out in the near future? If democracy in the Sudan means anything at all we are bound to get out When looking at this Vote which, we are told, is the result of happenings in the Canal Zone, we are entitled to ask why the taxpayer's money is being wasted in that way, because we have very grave misgivings about this. I have talked not only to my own son but to many others in the Canal Zone, which is regarded as one of the most dreary of the stations of the British Army. There are few provisions for amenities, enjoyment, or the entertainment of the troops there. I do not want to go into a lot of detail about it, but I think we ought to have a full explanation why this labour in the Canal Zone is regarded as specially expensive.

I want to come to the question of stores. We cannot say much about some of the stores because they relate to estimates which have not been fulfilled—warlike stores and engineer stores. On the other hand, the cost of equipment and allowances and general stores have gone up by about £21 million, food and ration allowance by £3 million, solid fuel, electricity and gas by £1 million, and so on. Once again, I would emphasise that this is the outcome of the economic policy of the Government—the policy that leads to higher prices. We are paying, as the housewife is paying, through the Supplementary Estimates for the inefficiency of the Government in that direction.

I now come to the non-effective services. I was considerably intrigued to read Command Paper 8741, part of which the Minister told us last night was included in this Supplementary Estimate, dealing with Forces family pensions. As the House knows, I was a private, and had I stayed in the Army for 32 years and never got a stripe—

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

In the right place.

Mr. Simmons

If I had left a wife, she would now be getting the marvellous pension of 10s. a week.

Mr. Wigg

That is quite wrong. My hon. Friend's widow would have got nothing. If he had been in the House and listened to the announcement by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, he would have been encouraged to think that his widow would get 10s. a week, but when the White Paper was published, he would have discovered that the fulfilment was not equal to the promise. He would have shared the disappointment which I certainly feel—not on account of my widow—that the Government have not faced up to their promise.

Mr. Simmons

I am quoting from the White Paper, which says that families of ranks below warrant officer, class 1, who have 32 years' service, corporal or private—there is no distinction—get 10s.

Mr. Wigg

If my hon. Friend will look at the top of page 4 of the White Paper he will find that these pensions are in respect of long service engagements in the case of other ranks, after 31st August, 1950.

Mr. Simmons

The widow of a man serving for 32 years as a private and not rising above the rank of corporal would get 10s. and the widow of a man serving 37 years would get 12s. 6d. On the other hand, the widow of a field marshal has had the rate of pension increased from £300 a year to £500 a year. When we come down the list—I will not quote them all—we find that the pension of a colonel's widow has gone up from £100 to £220 a year, and of a lieutenant's widow from £45 to £110 a year.

In his speech on the Estimate, the Minister said that not only did we need an adequate number of Regulars in the Army, but we wanted to encourage them to stay in the Army. What encourage- ment is there for a man to stay in the Army when he knows that at the end of 37 years, if he is unfortunate enough to get killed or to die from an accident, his widow will be fobbed off with a miserable 10s. a week?

We must rid the Army of class distinction. We have to see that the ordinary n.c.o. or the ordinary private—I do not say that they should get equal pay because I am not talking about equal pay for equal work, which is a controversy which has arisen between the sexes over the past several years—gets something more approximating to the pay of the higher ranks, and that his dependant has something more approximating the compensation of the dependant of the higher ranks when anything comes along to cause distress in the family. I think that is reasonable.

After all the backbone of the Army is the non-commissioned officer, and compared with the commissioned officer he is not too well paid. There is too big a gap, and I do not believe in this big gap so far as widows' pensions are concerned. I have always been in favour of a basic pension for all ranks. I would not have basic pay the same for all ranks in the Army, because I think that we have to pay for ability, but I think that there should not be such a gap as there is at the present time.

We shall not vote against this £35 million Supplementary Estimate because we should be harming the men in the Army and preventing them from getting the pay and maintenance and the other things with which we are dealing in this Supplementary Estimate if we did. A lot is being spent on defence today. A general Estimate of £491 million and a Supplementary Estimate of £35 million in respect of the Army is a very big lump out of the national income.

I am one of those who believe that the best thing the Army could do would be to remedy some of these anomalies which I have mentioned, to encourage the recruiting of Regulars into the Service. If we hastened this we should get what I long for, and what every other true Britisher longs for—the best of our young men going into the Army as a profession and no longer be under the necessity of relying on compulsion to get men into our defence Forces.

7.59 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)

There are one or two points which I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with when he replies. Before mentioning them, I should like to correct the arithmetic of the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons). He referred to the ratio between the increase in the pay of officers and the increase in the pay of other ranks, and, although my right hon. Friend gave him the answer, I still like to check up on his mathematics, because he rather drew attention to this as being a small ratio. It is in the nature of 1 to 6 or 1 to 6¼ He should look at the Estimate where he will see that the pay of officers is £26,600,000 and the pay of other ranks £63 million, so the ratio there is 1 to 3, and an increase on the basis of 1 to 6 is, I think, an improvement.

The other point which I should like to mention was referred to by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), who I am sorry is not in his place. He referred to the question of the Canal Zone. I do not want to get out of order, but surely in regard to these Estimates we have to estimate whether there are troops in the Canal Zone or not. We must pay regard to the effect of the very serious situation in the Canal Zone which the Government inherited 12 months ago.

I want to ask my right hon. Friend for a little more information on Vote 4 about civilians. Unfortunately, I was not here when he spoke yesterday afternoon, but I have read his speech carefully. I understand the matter of the replacement of Egyptian labour which, I gather, absorbs the best part of £1,150,000 under Subhead K, but there is an increase of over £2 million.

I had a lot of correspondence with my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary about 12 months ago over a very respectable old gentleman, named Mr. Christmas, who was employed at an R.A.S.C. depot in my constituency. He was one of the most robust gentlemen at the age of 70 that I had ever met. He was a handyman and had worked at the depot almost since the reign of Queen Victoria. Suddenly, in the first flush of cutting down civilian staff, Mr. Christmas was told to go. He was not given a month or two's notice or anything like that: he was more or less bundled off at very short notice.

If people like Mr. Christmas were sacked 12 months ago, surely we ought not now to bring in new people and increase the cost of civilian labour. I understand and realise the difficulties here but at the same time I ask my right hon. Friend to reassure us that he is keeping watch on the regular soldier who, I am afraid, is all too often apt to allow his staff, both military and civilian, to grow unless he is persistently and regularly checked.

Vote 5H refers to the conveyance of personnel and animals by sea or by air, and an increase of £1,750,000 is shown. Does the cost of the conveyance of airborne troops for both their operations and their exercises fall under that heading, and is the increase due to a large increase —a most welcome increase, I should say at once—in the training of our airborne soldiers?

My right hon. Friend deserves a great deal of congratulation upon the admirable increase in the Regular Army. I was glad to notice in the explanation that that has largely accounted for the big increases in Vote 1. But I have heard on very good authority that the situation in our dwindling Airborne Forces—that is, our Parachute Brigade—is one that causes grave concern. I am told that they are finding great difficulty in getting a sufficient number of volunteers. I am told—I should be glad to have a reassurance about this— that the Brigade is below strength and, what is even worse, that the many young Regular soldiers, in what I believe to be a corps d'élite, are taking the first opportunity of leaving the Army. If that is the case, the increase of £11,300,000 ought really to be bigger because there should be reflected in the increase a deduction for the drop in the numbers of Airborne Forces. I shall be very grateful for some information on that subject.

Mr. Head

It might save time if I referred now to the Parachute Brigade, in which I know my hon. Friend takes so much interest. It is true that the recruiting situation has been causing anxiety and has been the subject of examination. We are, I hope, shortly going to make certain changes in the recruiting regulations in order to help the Parachute Brigade, which, I am sure all hon. Members will agree, is a most valuable part of the British Army.

Mr. Gough

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend. I hope he will not think I am full of carping criticisms, but I have another point to raise about Vote 9—" Miscellaneous effective services "—Subhead M—" Pay, etc., of Arab Legion, Special Units and Reserve." Perhaps I may claim indulgence as a new Member of Parliament because I do not understand that item. A decrease of £200,000 is shown there. That may appear to be welcome. I hope I shall be within the rules of order when I ask my right hon. Friend if any allowance is made there for the old Transjordan Frontier Force. If this subject is examined the record of this country —it is not really of this Government; it is of the previous Government—is rather poor. When the Transjordan Frontier Force —

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

On a point of order, Sir Charles. This item shows a decrease in the amount of money allocated to the Arab Legion. Are we in order in discussing the Arab Legion when a decrease is shown in the Supplementary Estimate?

The Chairman

No, it is not in order to discuss it, but it is in order to ask a question.

Mr. Gough

I have asked my question, and I will go no further than that.

I want to end on the note which was struck by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe). Like every other hon. Member, I have case after case of pensioners who are suffering more than anybody else at the moment and I hope that the words which my hon. and learned Friend very courageously uttered will be most seriously considered by Her Majesty's Government.

8.7 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)

I want to say a few words about recruiting. The increase in Vote 1 of the Supplementary Estimate is, as we have been told, due to increased numbers in the Regular Army, and the reason why the increased numbers in the Regular Army result in an increase in the Estimate is partly the differential in pay between Regular and National Service and partly the effect of the three-year engagement scheme in giving us as Regulars men whom we should otherwise have now or in the future as National Service men. That means that, in a sense, the Estimate results from two acts of policy, the differential in pay between Regular and National Service men and the three-year engagements scheme, both of which were acts of policy for which the right hon. Gentleman was not responsible. We are not quarrelling with him that either of those things should be done; very far from it.

However, he is now beginning to see in the figures of recruiting which he has been able to give us how much and, in one sense, how little can be expected from policy of this kind. I want to draw his attention to the fact that, despite the recruiting figures he mentioned, there are still a number of grave anxieties about recruiting which will confront him in the future. So far the policy adopted in recruiting, with which I certainly do not quarrel, has involved an increased expenditure which is reflected in the Estimate, but it would be wrong to suppose that it has by any means solved the recruiting problem.

As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, by far the greater part of the increased recruiting which he has had this year as compared with the previous year comes from recruiting into the Regular Army young men who otherwise, probably in a year's time, would have been entering the Army as National Service men. I believe I am correct on that point.

Mr. Head

Six months' time.

Mr. Stewart

That is bound to be reflected in a decline in the number of men registering for National Service in the succeeding period. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) mentioned that there was a disquieting decline in the recruiting figures for the last quarter of last year, but the right hon. Gentleman says that the figure is rising again. The more successful the right hon. Gentleman is in recruiting the greater will be the effect on the National Service intake in the future.

Mr. Head

That is a rather specious argument. If the hon. Gentleman says that by getting Regular recruits for three years we are diminishing the National Service intake, what it amounts to, if we take the whole field of young men who are available to come into the Army, is that we will get some for three years and some for two years. The more we get for three years, the better off we are.

The hon. Gentleman says that because of the three-years period the recruiting difficulties will be worse, but we are assuming that none of those young men. whom one assumes have a liking for Army life, will remain after three years. There is, however, every indication that a certain number are keen to join the Army. As I said to the hon. Gentleman privately when he raised this matter, it so happens that the 22-years, or long-term, engagement coincides very nearly in numbers with the short engagement figures for Regular recruiting.

Mr. Stewart

I do not want to be too despondent, but it will be noticed that all we have got for the moment is one extra year from these men. I agree that we must hope, and it may well happen, that many of them will continue to serve in the Army for a longer period, but I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has taken the point, to which I was coming and which, I think, is the moral of this, that what is really necessary to improve Army recruiting permanently is to widen the section of the population who will look upon a lifetime of service in the Army as a normal profession to take up.

The right hon. Gentleman may remember that I made that point last time we were discussing the Army Estimates; that if we do not do that, temporary large increases in the recruiting numbers mean that we are doing no more than eating into the future. At present, we do not yet know whether we are doing anything very much more than that. We may well, and not unreasonably, hope that we are doing more than eating into the future, but it is still a point that must be watched. Also, of course, we are doing it by a method which, since the term of engagement is shorter, means that we cannot have the same certainty about the size of the Army in future as we had when there were longer terms of engagement, at least until we know more about the long-term reaction of men to this three-years engagement scheme.

Also, we have to notice that if there is a big bulge of recruiting, such as occurred between 1951 and 1952, unless we get an increased number of men who are prepared to re-engage for a further term we might be faced with an equally big drop within three years from now. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that those who advise him at the War Office, while always glad to see increases in the number of Regular recruits, always feel happier when the curve of that increase is a steady and cheerful rise, maintained over a long period, and not a sudden jump up in one year. That does not mean that we ought to be ungrateful for a sudden jump in one year if it comes, but it brings with it not only the immediate advantage, but the possibility of a serious headache in the future.

I should like to say one further word about recruiting. The history of this matter is that when the late Government were in power, we were repeatedly adjured by the right hon. Gentleman and by his right hon. and hon. Friends to raise the rates of pay. They particularly adjured us to do that at a time when the whole community was being obliged to exercise restraint over its income and when, had we acceded to their pressure, we would have taken the step that would have made it impossible to hold that restraint and would have damaged the economy of the whole nation. While the right hon. Gentleman urged that policy upon us, his right hon. and hon. Friends at the same time urged upon us increases of public expenditure in every other Department, coupled with reductions in taxation.

After a time, of course, it became possible to do that under the late Government. The national economy was such that it was possible to produce the increases of pay. They are now reflected in the figures of improved recruiting, which so far as they go are welcome, but which we have to view with a certain amount of caution for the future and remembering all the time that it is essential to try to widen the section of the population who are prepared to look upon the Army as a profession.

To do that, regard must be had particularly to conditions of service —a point that was very properly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), who speaks with experience of the Services in the First World War. This question of conditions is bound up very much, particularly when considering the Supplementary Estimate, with the points about service in Egypt which were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman).

I remember, when I was stationed for a time in that country during the war, hearing one of my fellow soldiers, during one of our less pleasant experiences, remark in a tone of extreme bitterness, "There is only one country I want to see again. Its name begins with E, and it is not Egypt." That was a fairly common feeling among soldiers stationed in that country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East mentioned particularly the inevitable separation of families that is imposed on the Army by the present Egyptian situation. He mentioned that the Secretary of State had discussed with soldiers and officers in the Canal Zone the possibility of introducing some kind of allowance to deal with that problem. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he went further than my hon. Friend reminded us. He also said in the House that he was considering whether some way of dealing with this problem could be found. As he knows, I have addressed inquiries to him, to which he has courteously replied, and I understand that he is still trying to find a way of dealing with this problem of separation allowance. If the right hon. Gentleman is able to come to the House, as I hope he may be before long, with the result of his considerations, we shall welcome them because it is something which the situation in Egypt very earnestly needs.

I should be inclined to say a good deal more about the lack of amenities for soldiers in the Canal Zone did I not feel that that was really going round the edge of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman must take to heart very much the advice given to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East to consult those of his senior colleagues who deal with higher policy in this matter as to whether the maintenance of our Forces in the Canal Zone any longer serves any useful political or military purpose.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Hear, hear.

Mr. Stewart

As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, while the present uncertainty persists, there is not anything very effective that can be done as regards either amenities or married quarters or anything to make the life of the soldiers in that part of the world more tolerable.

As I have ventured again in correspondence to point out to the right hon. Gentleman, not only will men be deterred from taking on three-year engagements in the ranks, but more and more officers, as the opportunity arises, leave the Service if they have had experience of this in the Canal Zone. It is a matter which has been drawn to public attention by organs of the Press commonly favourable to the right hon. Gentleman and his party, and it must be causing him considerable anxiety.

I want now to refer briefly to one or two other items of detail in the Supplementary Estimates. We have not so far had an explanation of why the figures of the Reserve—the Regular Reserve in particular—are 6,000 larger than was estimated. There is an increase of some 25 per cent. over the Estimate. I expect that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to provide us with the reason, but it is an interesting point. With this increase in the numbers of the Reserve, we ought also to consider whether the right hon. Gentleman can say with confidence that the training, equipment and provision for clothing of the Reserve, should it be necessary to make use of them, is in a state that affords him complete satisfaction.

From the explanation which we have been given, I understood that very little of the figure in Vote 4 is due to any greater number of civilians having been employed, with the exception of the special situation in Egypt and the numbers that it is necessary to employ owing to an increase in covered accommodation. I am very glad that there is this increase in covered accommodation, because it tends to save money. The saving of valuable vehicles from having to be left in the open often more than repays itself over a period of time.

But, apart from that, we gather that there is not any substantial increase in the number of civilians. I am wondering whether that is really good news. For some time the Army has considered what is called "a barrack house-keeping" scheme in an attempt to relieve the serving soldier as far as possible of domestic chores and get the work done by civilians — preferably, if they can be obtained, by men who have been soldiers. elderly, retired and perhaps partially disabled men, who can do the job with advantage to themselves and to the Army. I hope that we shall have an answer to the example quoted by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) in his interesting reference to this problem. I should like to hear that it has proved possible to go a little further with the barrack house-keeping arrangements.

On Vote 5, in regard to movement, the Secretary of State estimated that the number of men in the pipeline is 30,000. There was a little argument whether that was the right figure. I find that the Prime Minister gave the figure as 30,000, although, when we remember some of the excursions of the Prime Minister into figures, we wonder whether the fact that he agrees with the right hon. Gentleman is a reassurance to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Head

As the hon. Member has raised that and I was got at by his hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), I had the actual figure checked up this morning and found that it comes to 28,500 approximately. I do not think it was a bad extemporary guess as it is varying from day to day. I think that not only myself, but the Prime Minister comes very well out of that estimate.

Mr. Stewart

I am sure that is very gratifying to all concerned. It was suggested that this figure might be reduced by air trooping. I want to ask what I think will be a difficult question to answer. Can the right hon. Gentleman give any estimate of the saving which he anticipates may be made in anything like the near future by the development of air trooping? Would it be reasonable to say that by development of air trooping if one set out diligently to do it one could reduce the number of men in the pipeline by 20 per cent., 25 per cent., or anything much smaller?

I am not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman should give an estimate which we should hold against him, but, as the whole nation is interested in the question of saving manpower in the Army, it would be helpful to find out whether there is any expert opinion as to how far this particular channel of saving might be useful.

Mr. Head

We have been going into this matter and are now going into the question of saving non-effectives to air transport. Practically all the trooping in the Middle East is done by air transport, but the units have to move as well. Therefore, it is to some extent limited. There are savings in the closer journeys such as Germany where it is rather doubtful whether replacing ship and train transport, which only takes 24 hours, is justified by air transport. I feel that the saving would be considerable, but it would not be dramatic and it would not solve the problem by introducing this method everywhere where it is possible.

Mr. Stewart

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and I will endeavour not to provoke him too much, or to take up too much of his time.

I wish to refer to an item to which I think no hon. Member has referred "Telegrams, telephones and postage," in Vote 9. If an increase of half a million pounds had occurred in that Supplementary Estimate under the late Government, what an outcry there would have been. What pictures would have been drawn of bureaucrats writing each other letters and sitting in their chairs ringing each other up on the telephone.

Mr. Head

That would have been carried on the Post Office Vote when the hon. Gentleman's party were in power.

Mr. Stewart

We have this increase and I was happy to observe that one reason given for it was a very sensible one. It was that the public are probably more aware of concession rates and are making great use of them. I mention the item because it brings out an important point. If we are to provide conditions of life in the Army which the public will look upon with approval and which, therefore, are likely to be helpful to recruitment, it will cost something in money and manpower.

We sometimes hear comparisons made of the number of men in the British Army who are in what is called the "teeth arms" with the proportion of men in the Russian Army in the "teeth arms." The nation should realise that if we were prepared to provide for the men in our Army as low a standard of general amenity, possibilities of communication with their families and everything else which makes their lives decent as is provided in the armies of some other countries, we would have more men in the "teeth arms" but fewer in the "tail."

There is a limit to what one can get by way of economies of that kind without doing something which the nation would resist and react to adversely on Army recruiting. The moral for hon. and right hon. Members opposite, perhaps, is that now they are learning that being economical in the administration of the Army is not quite the facile task some of them supposed it was when they sat on this side.

I will say no more on Vote 10 than to invite the right hon. Gentleman to give diligent attention to the reference by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and more than one of his hon. Friends to a particular item in which we are all very much interested.

The general conclusions one may draw are, first, that while the responsibilities of the right hon. Gentleman, under our present defence arrangements, are really limited to the administration of the Army, he will realise that that cannot be completely divorced from large questions of defence and foreign policy and he must go away from the debate resolved to see that the Egyptian question is very seriously discussed by his senior colleagues.

The second is that while we noticed with interest the figures of the recruiting we did draw his attention to the fact that there are still many difficulties ahead. The third is the general fact that after so much criticism of the previous Government on the ground that they were not giving the nation value for money in the fighting Services, we should now have a Supplementary Estimate for £35 million which, if it were not for a shortfall in delivery of warlike stores, would be nearly £50 million, suggests that economy in the administration of the Army is not to be found quite so easily as has sometimes been supposed.

The right hon. Gentleman will get his Supplementary Estimate tonight, but I hope that the experience of having had to ask for it will make him realise the size of the problems with which he is struggling, as I daresay he has already realised, and that when he returns to this side he may possibly do so in a more chastened mood than when he last sat on these benches.

8.30 p.m

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), I am not an expert on the Army or on the Army Estimates. I know a little more about Portsmouth, Rosyth and Scapa Flow than about any of the Army establishments. I wish to make one very short and, I believe, interesting and not, I hope. unimportant point. From time to time I am concerned, as I am sure other hon. Members of the Committee must be, when I get complaints from young men who are called upon to do their training, and especially when they are recalled to do Territorial training, about the amount of time which they consider they are wasting.

I had one such complaint on Saturday last which concerns the point I wish to raise. I have here a document sent out by the 40th A.A.—I believe that is Anti-Aircraft—Workshop Company of R.E.M.E. advising a constituent of mine that he is to be called to do 15 days' training in camp this summer. It would appear that the Army authorities are not quite certain about the way they will employ this man, and possibly some others with him for in the notice telling him what he has to do, where he has to report and what things he has to take, it is stated: It is visualised that there may once again be a shortage of practical work for the vehicle mechanics, therefore it has been agreed that repairs to private cars may be undertaken free of charge. I presume that no company in the British Army would send out instructions of that sort without having had some authority from Whitehall. In other words, I presume that the Secretary of State for War is responsible for this permission having been given. I wish to ask the Secretary of State whose cars they are to repair. Is it to be only the officers' cars, or will it be the cars of the privates and the corporals? [Laughter.] This is a very serious point. Can my constituent take my car and have it thoroughly overhauled free of charge? I am rather concerned because I am wondering what the garage proprietors in Bristol will think about this. After all, they are, with us. taxpayers who have to find the money to keep these men in camp while they are doing their training. Surely they will be deeply concerned about the permission to which I have referred being given.

I do not want to be too provocative about this, but I know of a case myself in which the man who is to be called on for service of this kind is a builder. He is to be taken away for 15 days from a job which is one of the most profitable to the community at present in order that he can, if he wishes, repair his own or somebody else's car. Surely he can logically argue that he could, if he wished, dismantle his car and overhaul it and do whatever is required to it in his own garage just as well as he could do so in some Army camp. I suggest to the Secretary of State for War that if we are to call these men up for 15 days' training, we should at least ensure that they shall have some useful work to occupy their time.

One other point about which I would like to ask the Secretary of State for War is the amount of training to be done by those National Service men who are drafted into Territorial units. I am not suggesting that what I am about to say is necessarily right. I just do not know, and I am seeking information. I have tried to get it from some of my hon. Friends, but I have not been entirely successful. Some seem to think it is a period of 60 days over some length of time.

I have here a letter and again a notice —it is strange that one should get two such notices in a matter of three days—calling on a young man to do his 15 days at camp. The young man says he understood, when he was transferred to the Territorial Army, that he would be required to do 30 hours Army training, plus 15 days camp per year. His complaint is that, though he has done his 26 drills, he has also been called to three week-end training camps, for which he gets credited with 16 hours per week-end. In other words, he is suggesting to me that he actually exceeds the requirements of his military training of 30 hours. even by doing these three week-ends.

I do not know whether this is a fair complaint. I am asking for information. I would like the Secretary of State for War to make some reference to it and at least to put me square, so that I shall know what I have to say to my constituent.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I am not one who is surprised to hear that the Secretary of State for War is asking for another £35 million, because when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made that very eloquent appeal for economy, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman never dreamed for one moment that it applied to him. I am also quite sure, if any circular went from the Exchequer to the War Office, that somebody stole it on the way. Indeed, I am agreeably surprised that only £35 million has been asked for. Knowing the enthusiasm of the right hon. Gentleman for the Army, I expected a great deal more, and I am surprised at his moderation. If the advice of the right hon. Gentleman had been followed we should have had to find at least £600,000 more, because we see that, if the original Home Guard proposals had been carried into effect, it would have been £600,000 more. So I am thankful for small mercies.

I am not one of those prepared to give hints to the Army as to how to increase recruiting. I believe there are far too many recruits already. I want to be perfectly plain about that. My constituents are not interested in getting more recruits for the Army. During the last Election, when we were dealing with the cost of the Armed Forces, there was a great deal of excitement among the members of the Conservative Party who came to my meetings to ask me about the position in Persia. They were then anxious about it.

I said that I was not in favour of interfering in Persia or of sending Armed Forces to Persia, but if any gentleman in the audience wished to enlist for Persia I was prepared to give his name and address to the recruiting authorities. I did not hinder recruiting at all. In all my experience as Member for South Ayrshire I have had no constituent who has asked my advice about how he could get into the British Army. All they come to ask me is how to get out of the Army or how not to get into the Army. So I am entitled to say that my constituents are not interested in this recruiting business. When the Secretary of State for War says that this Supplementary Estimate is an increase of only 8 per cent., I wonder what check his Under-Secretary has upon him. At least the Under-Secretary used to be a business man, and if anybody had said casually to him that there was an increase of only 8 per cent. in an estimate the Scottish Under-Secretary, with his wisdom and shrewdness, would have said that 8 per cent. was an enormous sum at a time of national difficulty and possible financial trouble.

Mr. Head

That is what I said.

Mr. Hughes

It is not a matter of what the right hon. Gentleman says; it is a matter of what he does. It is a question of what he brings to this Committee. When he brings a bill for £35 million I say that I am most reluctant to pay it. I am sorry that there is not enough enthusiasm on this side of the Committee for us to say, "Take back this Estimate and have another look at it." That is exactly what would be done by any sensible local authority.

The Secretary of State prides himself on the fact that he has got 26,000 extra recruits. What is that compared with the Russian Army or the Chinese Army, or all the other armies which, presumably, we are competing against? It would be easy for the Communist countries to raise a further 26,000 men. I do not see that we are any stronger from the point of view of numbers than we were 12 months ago. Where has the right hon. Gentleman got the men from? There is a strong complaint in my constituency that he is getting many recruits from the agricultural industry. When he says, "We have signed on 26,000 men for three years," my farmers say that some of them have come from agriculture and that when they go into the Army they do not come back.

The Secretary of State has succeeded in taking people who are doing real work in industry or producing food and sending them to rot somewhere in Suez or East of Suez, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said. I do not think that the country is in any stronger position as a result of these recruiting efforts by the right hon. Gentleman.

I wish to ask a question about the expenses of recruiting. Can we have some estimate of the expense of advertising. What is the nation paying for these most elaborate advertisements which appear in our papers. For example, an indignant constituent has sent me a copy from a publication called, "Woman." It is not calling for men recruits; but here is an elaborate and, I presume, a most expensive advertisement which says: It's a better life in the W.R.A.C. I am amazed to find the statement that if one enlists in the W.R.A.C. one not only gets a new uniform but one gets a new independent life. One does not get much independence when one goes into the Army. In my experience with a Welsh regiment in the First World War, they did a lot of things to me, but nobody insulted me by saying that I was more independent.

Here is the attraction that is offered: "No rent to pay." It sounds almost Communistic. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite with an interest in rent have realised the implications of this. Here is this advertisement saying that they can join the Army because they will have to pay no rent, and what kind of social responsibility is that instilling into the readers of "Woman"? "No rent or clothing to pay for"; something for nothing: No having your meals alone. No season tickets to buy. No crowded buses or trams to face every day. Post the coupon for details now. I could bring some advertisements probably paralleling that for the male section of the community, but I would like to know what is the cost of this advertising campaign and what we are paying in order to insult the intelligence of the women of this country.

I quite agree with the main part of the argument of the hon. Member for Coventry, East and I am waiting with interest to see what reply we are going to have from the Front Bench. The argument of the hon. Member for Coventry, East was precisely the argument used in the time of Pharaoh, because, in the time of Pharaoh, the Israelites wanted to leave Egypt, and they had the leadership of Moses. I am hoping that the Secretary of State for War will earn for himself the immortal fame of being the Moses of Britain by leading these useless soldiers out of Egypt into the Promised Land of Great Britain. I would carry this argument of the hon. Member for Coventry, East a little further. I am not so sure that the Suez Canal area is the most unpopular area with the British Army. I believe that Korea is a very unpopular part for the British Army, and, in the term movements, we presume are included all the movements to Korea, but the only movement of which I am in favour as far as Korea is concerned is a movement out of Korea.

In this Estimate there is, presumably, another additional item for movements into Korea, and I do not believe that there is in this country at the present time any enthusiasm at all for the movement into Korea, especially when, presumably, those movements include taking lads of 19, calling them up in February, taking them out of this country in July and finding them in the casualty lists in Korea in October.

I should be very glad if these movements were stopped, and, to carry the argument of the hon. Member for Coventry, East to its logical conclusion, if we are likely to ease the recruiting headache of the authorities by saying, "Well, you will not need to go to the Suez Canal," we could also ease the problem by saying, "Well, you do not need to go to Korea," and that applies to every sphere of military activity covered by these figures about movements.

Then, presumably, there are movements into Germany, and, when it comes to discussing Germany, I should like to know if the amount on page 5 for £1,400,000 covers any constructive works in Germany. It is really a curious position as far as Germany is concerned. We have come to the conclusion that we cannot trust the present Government to suppress the movement started by the ex-Nazis, and at the present time we are building up this base on the borders of Germany at an enormous cost to the British taxpayer. Therefore, I do not think that this Supplementary Estimate of £35 million can be defended, and I only wish there had been a Motion to oppose it.

I believe that all these Supplementary Estimates should be opposed, because then right hon. Gentlemen opposite would not be encouraged to bring them before the House. I oppose them because I believe they are against the interest of the country and because I do not think we are getting any real value for the £35 million proposed. I hope that by this time next year the party on these benches, instead of giving encouragement to the Government by not voting against these Estimates, will take their courage in both hands and will be prepared to vote against them.

8.53 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

There are one or two fundamental objections that ought to be recorded in the discussion on these Supplementary Estimates, the first being, of course, the very curious statement made by the Secretary of State for War when explaining why these Supplementary Estimates have become necessary. When speaking last night, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had budgeted very close, though "close" is not quite the right word.

What does that mean? It means that they under-budgeted, the reason being, presumably, that the right hon. Gentleman received orders from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to cut down and to budget as closely as he could on the main Estimates to which they had to ask the House to agree. The Chancellor, presumably, said something like this to the right hon. Gentleman, "I want to give away a few millions to the higher range of taxpayers, to the people earning £2,000 a year or more. I cannot possibly justify that to the extent I would wish unless these Army Estimates are budgeted for on a very close basis."

So we have an admission from the Government that the main Estimates were budgeted for on a very close basis or else that they did not budget for what was really required for reasons which have become only too manifest in the various announcements made by the Chancellor and other members of the present administration. It is quite true, of course, that a considerable proportion of the Supplementary Estimate of £35 million, namely £10¼ million, is in respect of increased expenditure on pay and maintenance of personnel.

No one will object to an improved rate of pay for those of our fellow citizens who are serving in the Regular Army, but it is rather curious to have this further demand from the Secretary of State for War. I quote from yesterday's OFFICIAL REPORT: There has been some under-estimate in the War Office of the average or mean rate of pay throughout the Army. This is always a difficult problem. Army pay is calculated by taking a mean rate to cover the whole field and it is proved by events that that was slightly too low. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will be able to bear me out that there are so many different grades of service in the Army—National Service, Regular Service, five and seven years' service, four and eight years' service, and so on—and such a vast assortment of engagements that it must make it very difficult for the various pay officers to put up a figure for the War Office when they are asked to provide an estimate of pay to personnel.

Another of the main reasons that were given by the Secretary of State for War as an explanation of these Supplementary Estimates was that the increase had been caused by Increases in respect of such items as petrol, oil, lubricants, food, movements…"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1953; Vol. 510, c. 785–786.] The comment that I would make on that is that one arm of the Government does not seem to know what the other arm is doing, because increases in prices, wages, fares and freight rates have been deliberately brought about by the policy of a Department other than the War Office, namely, the Treasury to which we on this side of the Committee on other occasions have recorded our strong objections.

It would not be in order to go into detail on that aspect of this matter but, if I may, I will quote one example. An increase in the Petrol Duty must have imposed upon the Service Departments a very considerably increased cost, because the Departments have to pay the increases on petrol, oil, lubricants and so on. What we are doing is taking money out of one pocket and transferring it to the other, and the result is that the War Office have to ask the Committee for another £35 million tonight.

Reference has been made to the rather shabby treatment to which ex-officers in certain categories have been subjected. I hope that in due course the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) will overcome his natural reluctance and, with his hon. Friends, take a strong line and bring real pressure to bear upon the present Administration. He will have to take very much stronger action than he has taken up to now if he is to persuade the Government to do justice to this small but, nevertheless, very deserving section of pensioners.

The Secretary of State for War dealt with the various Votes and on them I will not take up the time of the Committee in any detail. A number of hon. Members have referred to the Canal Zone. The only comment that I should like to make on the very substantial expenditure that is being incurred in the Canal Zone at present is that to a not inconsiderable extent that expenditure is being utilised, if not entirely wasted, on the arms with which we have provided the Egyptian Government.

The other day there were reports of a great demonstration in Cairo where the principal slogan seemed to be, "Down with the British at the earliest opportunity." At the time that that demonstration was taking place, British jet aircraft supplied by this country to the Egyptian Government were flying overhead to lend force, colour or additional prestige to the demonstration. It strikes me as being fantastic that we should be asked to agree to this increased expenditure in the Canal Zone when, as a result of decisions for which the Parliamentary Secretary for War may not be solely responsible, we are either neutralising or wasting the military expenditure that is at present being undertaken in the Canal Zone.

Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

What about sending the jets to Russia?

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

The hon. Gentleman suggests that the jets might go to Russia. If he suggests that it is preferable that they should go to Russia rather than Egypt I trust that he will take advantage of a more suitable opportunity than this to put forward that point of view.

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not hear me clearly. I am not arguing that two blacks make a white. I meant to remind him that we sent jets to Russia when the last Government were in office.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I should be out of order if I took up that particular point. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will find time, after I have sat down, to say a few words which will clarify the situation so far as he is concerned.

One thing which has struck me about this debate on the Supplementary Estimates which is in contrast with the debates in previous years is the virtual absence of hon. Members opposite from these discussions and the negligible quality of the contributions they have made to this debate. It seems very odd that hon. Gentlemen opposite, with the wealth of Service experience and knowledge at their disposal, should not have found it possible to make the valuable contributions to this debate which we know they are capable of making and which they have not hesitated to make on previous occasions.

Hon. Members on this side of the Committee, irrespective of what Government were in power, never failed to take advantage of such opportunities as presented themselves on Army debates to say what they thought, even though they were at that time members of the Government of the day. But I must not allow myself to be diverted by irrelevant interruptions by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

I come now to Vote 8. which covers works, buildings and lands. The Secretary of State was not very communicative on that Vote. I gave notice to the right hon. Gentleman that I would ask a question on it. I did so in the hope that he would arm himself with the required information to enable him to answer the points which I am now seeking to raise as fully and as accurately as possible. I want to know to what extent the net increase of nearly £2 million on Vote 8 has been affected by the commencement of the construction of a new headquarters for the British Army of the Rhine. In the Rheindahlen Forest, near Dusseldorf, a tremendous piece of construction is going on which, in its magnitude and folly, can be compared only with the Pyramids constructed by the Pharaohs in Egypt a long time ago.

I understand that this particular headquarters is costing £12½ million. I put a Question to the Secretary of State for War on 9th December last, seeking to find out to what extent the cost of this grandiose scheme would fall upon British funds. The answer I got on that occasion was: … that is dependent upon a certain number of factors into which I cannot go now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1952; Vol. 509, c. 222.] As some time has elapsed since 9th December I hope it will be possible for the Under-Secretary to give a little more information than the Secretary of State was able to give me on that date. It strikes me as particularly odd that we should have embarked upon this tremendous scheme which, so far as I am able to ascertain, will provide quarters for anything up to 8,000 people and require the services of something like 7,000 German workers. What is to happen about all this? Is this an extension of something provided for in the main Estimate, or is it included in the Supplementary Estimate without any information being given to us at all?

I must say that if the public relations branch of the War Office are responsible for the veil of secrecy which has been drawn over this particular operation, if they are responsible for the paucity of comment which has appeared in the British Press on the subject, they have done a very remarkable job of work. So far as I am able to ascertain, only two newspapers—a curious combination: the "News Chronicle" and the "Evening Standard"—have made any comment on this very strange proposal.

We know that in the very near future part of the cost of this particular project may be recoverable from occupation costs. Nevertheless, the occupation costs are to be reviewed in the very near future. The position is most uncertain. We are not quite sure as to what the proportion is going to be between the occupation costs of the German Government and the direct expenses the British Government will have to incur.

I would ask the Under-Secretary of State to give us a little more information about this fantastic folly, because I cannot think of anything more strange than this £12,500,000 satellite town which is being constructed in Germany at present for the purpose of housing our troops or, perhaps of housing the contingents which the Germans may be making to the European defence forces in due course. I do not know, but I do hope the Committee will, perhaps, be given some information on this very strange episode.

This is an immense expenditure that is being incurred, for which, I hope, some provision has been made, otherwise we shall be faced with even more demands in Supplementary Estimates before the next main Estimates come before the Committee, or before those main Estimates have been in operation for any length of time.

9.9 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I am extremely hesitant to do anything tonight to encourage the Army to spend more money, because anyone who has served, even for a short time, knows that all too often success in the Army—and I suspect that this may also be the case in the other Services—is all too often attended by an accumulation of large quantities of stores and staff, and Army officers need no encouragement to exceed any estimates; but there are three points which I should like to make.

The first is one on which I hope I may get some sympathy from the right hon. Gentleman, and that is about Catterick Camp. He was kind enough, in answer to a Question of mine, to give some figures as to the age and condition of the huts at that camp, and I understand that a fair proportion of them date from before the First World War. I ask him how he is getting on with the private battle with his colleagues to get something done at that camp, and whether the increase in the Supplementary Estimate reflects any success on that field.

The second point relates to the use of the engineering services of the Army for public works. Mention has already been made of soldiers being employed on mending private cars. No doubt that is very undesirable, but I am not sure that it is so undesirable for the Army occasionally, in special circumstances, to assist with public works. In the time of the late Government there was a suggestion that the engineers should assist certain public works in the Hebrides. I do not know why that fell through, and it would be interesting to know.

Where work of that kind would be in the public interest, but where it is very unlikely to be undertaken by any ordinary process of contracting, it might provide a valuable exercise for troops who have to be exercised. It is surely not out of the question to use the Services for that purpose. I merely make that suggestion, and I should like to know whether those possibilities are still being considered by the Government.

Thirdly, I wish to add my voice, for what it is worth, to the continual plea for an increase in the pensions of retired officers. I realise that nothing I can say could possibly weigh as much with the Government as the threat, even though it was rather remote, of the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe), that in course of time he might lead some of the Government supporters into the Lobby against them. I see that as a compelling reason for giving these increases. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman himself has sympathy with this plea. He must have. It involves a very small sum of money for a very deserving body of men who have given great service to their country.

I reiterate what has so often been said, that even with all the extra inducements today he cannot expect to get more officers unless they have confidence, not only that they will be treated well now, but that in future they will be looked after and not be cast aside when they get beyond the age at which they can be of service or use to the country in the Forces. Both sides of the Committee would be happy if something could be done for these men—and I realise this applies to all the Services—who have given the best part of their lives to the defence of their country, but who, in their old age, are shabbily treated.

9.13 p.m.

Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)

I should like to address a few words to the Committee on the two major issues which have emerged from our debate, namely, recruiting and the Canal Zone.

Our discussion on recruiting has turned on the three-year scheme. I am certainly not here to denounce that scheme; indeed, I am virtually stopped from doing so even if I wished to do so, which I do not. Although it was certainly not my scheme, it is not, in a personal sense, the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. These schemes are evolved gradually in the Department. As a matter of fact, the last session of the Army Council over which I had the honour to preside was concerned with that scheme. It is true to say—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree—that it was based a good deal on the experience of the Royal Air Force, which had a similar and very successful scheme.

Mr. Head

It should have been adopted earlier.

Mr. Strachey

That is an arguable view, but it was adopted in the closing weeks of the preceding Government.

Mr. Head

indicated dissent.

Mr. Strachey

Well, it was adopted in the sense that the Army Council adopted it at that period.

Mr. Head

indicated dissent.

Mr. Strachey

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I would refer him to the records of the minutes of the Council meetings. That does not mean that it becomes Government policy, so that I would never claim it was my scheme. Nor could it be claimed that it was the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. It was a scheme evolved in the Department through the example of the Royal Air Force. I think it was a good scheme, well worth trying and well worth adopting. It is very important to realise that this scheme is no panacea for Regular recruiting.

After all, what could the Minister do? He could simply give an extra year's service, in a large number of cases, we hoped, and this has come true, for men who would now, in the vast majority have served as National Service men. The result could only be a fairly limited number, and, at any rate, a purely immediate result. I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that a misleading impression has been created by some of the publicity which has been put out on behalf of the War Office in respect of this scheme, because it gave an impression that an immense new volume of Regular recruits had been obtained, when, of course, that is only partially true, because they were obtained under this quite new basis of service, which, I think, was a right one, but which was of a different character.

I think that I carry the right hon. Gentleman with me when I say that the real test of this scheme is still to come. The real test of it is in the proportion of three-year men who sign on for long engagements. They sign on for 22 years —a very long term—but, of course, with the option —and I think that it is a right option—to break that service every three years. As soon as I heard of the development of this scheme, I favoured it because I thought that it was a point in the right direction of making the Army a career, and, in many respects, like any other career which a man takes up with the intention of making his life career, and which he is able to leave after proper notice.

It is a progressive move to have adopted this 3–22 year scheme, but the success of any scheme of that sort absolutely depends on the Army making itself, and seeing that it keeps itself, attractive to the men who are in it. Obviously, a scheme of that sort makes the Army more vulnerable if its remunerations and general conditions in every respect are of a kind which do not attract men, because then they will have the option of leaving the Service every three years.

That brings me to the other subject which has been ventilated in these discussions. We are asked for considerable quantities of money, which have been specified—and the right hon. Gentleman spoke of them—in respect of service in the Canal Zone by the very largely augmented Force which is out there. In this debate we cannot discuss the whole question of the maintenance of the very substantial force—several Divisions —which is in the Canal Zone today; but we can, I think, discuss the strictly military side of that—the Army side of it. That is a very important side, because from all the impressions that I have received, certainly when I was at the War Office, I endorse the impressions given to us, by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), for example, of the very serious liability to the British Army which the maintenance of this unprecedented large force in the Canal Zone represents today.

In the very nature of things, it must be a most unpopular station. It is the least-favoured station by nature that one can imagine, and neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any other Secretary of State for War will ever persuade the Treasury to make a job of that station. We cannot expect them to, because our tenure there is uncertain in the extreme. Therefore, the account which my hon. Friend gave us of that station being delapidated and as far more lacking in amenities than all the other foreign stations, particularly in the most important amenities, such as married quarters, is not any criticism of the War Office or of the right hon. Gentleman. That must be in the nature of things so long as we attempt to maintain this very large force in that particular place.

Of course, we are not doing it just for the fun of doing it. The purpose of the troops out there is supposed to be the defence of the Middle East. Certainly, no one can doubt that that is a most important purpose. I am sure no one on this side of the Committee wishes to deny the importance of having some means for the defence of the Middle East—I am sure my hon. Friend does not—but what we do question, and what the Committee is bound to question when it comes to consider these matters more closely, is whether the defence of the Middle East is really served any longer by attempting to station several British divisions in that place.

It seems to me that, whatever may have been the balance of advantage and disadvantage in the past, that balance is obviously changing today. It is a military question. However, referring again to the last period of office of the late Government, very considerable reinforcements were sent out to the Middle East at that time. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has looked that up and will have seen the remarkably short period it took to send very substantial forces, with all their equipment, from this country to the Middle East.

The possibility of the rapid reinforcement of that part of the world in the desperate event of general war from troops having their permanent station in the United Kingdom must be very striking. I am not thinking entirely of air transport. By air, troops can reach Egypt in a matter of hours, but even by sea, with the modern fast-steaming vessels which are obtainable from the Navy, it is striking how very short the period is.

Quite apart from political considerations, with which we are not dealing this evening but which seem to make some change in our dispositions there absolutely imperative, and, taking it on the narrower military issue, the purpose of maintaining several British divisions in that area is not the defence of the Suez Canal as such—surely that is not the relevant factor today —but, from the strictest military considerations, the defence of the Middle East as a whole.

If this matter could be looked at with a really fresh mind, if people could come to it without traditional preconceptions and the fear of being said to have given way to pressure, and all those other considerations which are very natural but are not rational, I believe it would be possible to see overwhelming disadvantages in the dispositions that we are making today. Hon. Members should think of the effect of reaching that conclusion. It is a very important conclusion which would have to be given the most mature consideration politically and by technical, professional and military advisers, but if it were reached, enormous benefits would result not only to the British Army in the way of conditions and morale, but also to our general Commonwealth dispositions by freeing all, or at any rate some, of the troops held in that position today —we are not seriously calling in question their utility—for other purposes.

There can be no doubt—the Secretary of State will agree—that the British Army is stretched to the utmost by its present tasks while three divisions are held in that position. What an advantage it would be if they were available as a Commonwealth strategic reserve in this country, the building up of which, I know, has been the most cherished objective of a succession of military advisers to successive Secretaries of State.

All those considerations are of such enormous importance that I suggest to the Secretary of State that nothing would be more important for him and his advisers to consider than the balance of military advantage, which today, I suggest, is shifting and may make a reconsideration of this strategic disposition of the very greatest importance to the whole Commonwealth.

Mr. Wigg

In view of the importance of knowing the up-to-date figures on recruiting, would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to make available in the Vote Office, before we have a debate on the Army Estimates, the latest possible recruiting figures; and would he be good enough to see that they are presented in such a form as makes it possible to relate them to the latest return by the Ministry of Defence?

It seems that the figures are coming out in two different forms. Those coming out quarterly from the Ministry of Defence can only be correlated with the War Office figures after considerable scratching of the head, and it is difficult to square the two sets of figures. If we could have a War Office statement along these lines immediately before we debate the Army Estimates, it would be of assistance to the whole Committee.

9.28 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison)

To deal, first, with the short point just made by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), my right hon. Friend says that he will study the possibility of being able to do what is wanted. Before I pass to the large number of detailed questions, to which I should like to try to give detailed answers, there is one general point on which I should like to touch which has cropped up in one or two of the speeches. That is, the question of the size of the Supplementary Estimate which has come before the Committee today.

If we consider under present circumstances the number of chances that there are for any estimating to go wrong, one would find that the margin between estimate and out-turn has been very reasonable. When it is considered that there is an acute re-armament programme, a delicate balance in the nation's economy, a campaign to speed up exports, a sudden change in the fortunes of the textile industry and the introduction of a new recruiting programme, there are plenty of ingredients to upset a method which is largely empirical anyhow.

If we add to this witch's cauldron of calculations such things as Korea and Malaya, and the disturbed and anxious situation in Egypt, there is every excuse for the shot sometimes to miss the target. As my right hon. Friend said, out of a total of £585 million there is only a difference of 6 per cent. at the end of the day. In other days, of course, when the world led a more tranquil life, it was much simpler to estimate accurately.

After that general point, I should like to try to deal with the many and varied questions that have been put and which, if I am to cover them completely, will take a little while. Great interest has, naturally and properly, been displayed in the Supplementary Estimate. In that way, the probe has gone deep—sometimes deeper than our responsibility— and questions have been put which it would be inopportune for me to try to answer. Hon. Members have shown two main concerns in the speeches they have made—and rightly so. The first is that there should be no waste of public money, and the second is that the security of this country should not be prejudiced. We have to keep that delicate balance of considerations in mind when we steer our way through the figures and questions which have been put.

Perhaps the main question asked by the hon. Member for Dudley was about the success of the recruiting campaign. He was at pains to show that the new recruiting engagement and the results that had flowed from it were not really a success. That was his criticism and I think that is scarcely fair. I agreed with later speakers and the right hon. Member for Dundee. West (Mr. Strachey) who said that we cannot judge of that yet. There are certain difficulties and considerations ahead, but at the moment the figures speak for themselves and the figures which my right hon. Friend gave yesterday are, for the moment, very impressive. They were, for the year 1951, at the very latter end of which the new terms of enlistment were introduced, 23,000 Regular engagements and, for this last year, 49,000.

It has been claimed, and there is a certain amount of basis and justification in this claim, that those who were recruited in 1951, the 23,000, were committed to an Army life for a longer period than those in now. That is true of the five and seven years, or seven and five years engagement, which is now changed to 22 years or three and four years. But the statistics I have been studying of those who have taken on for the 22 years engagement show that latterly they have been about 40 per cent. of the total.

We must start off with the assumption that if a man engages for 22 years he has some serious intention of making the Army his career, and if we take 40 per cent. of 49,000 we get back very nearly to the figure of those who signed on for the longer engagement in the previous year. Thus we have comparable figures for those who have signed on for five and seven years and the seven and five years previously and for those who now sign on for a Regular career. Those who sign on for the three and four years engagement are additional.

It has been said that latterly there has been a falling off in this recruiting. It is true that towards the end of the year the totals of those engaging did drop, as there is always a tendency for them to drop, but they have been rising again. I made a comparison this morning between the figures for this year and the comparable figures last year, when the same engagements were available, and this year was slightly better. So I do not think there is anything in the idea that the engagements are now falling off and that the first flush of enthusiasm has disappeared.

So much on the point of recruiting. I thoroughly agree that the real test will come later, but it is going much too far to say at this moment that the scheme has failed. There are problems to face in the future and for those we must provide.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

Can the hon. Gentleman say out of the 40,000 how many were men who had completed their National Service and otherwise had no military obligation at all, and how many are merely National Service men subject to two years' service anyway and therefore only taking on, under the new scheme of three year periods, an additional year?

Mr. Hutchison

Recruits from civil life were 35,000 of that total. The next point of criticism by the hon. Member for Dudley was that in connection with these ameliorations which had been brought about in pensions, widows' pensions and so on, it was always based on the principle "jam tomorrow but never jam today." That also is not quite fair and not quite accurate. If the hon. Member will study the two Papers which introduced these improvements —the Forces Family Pensions and the increases under the Pensions Increase Warrant, 1952—he will find that although it would be true to say that cases in which the retired pay has been increased are subject to a number of tests, the increase extends back the whole way for someone who can comply with those tests. Cases under the terms of the Forces Family Pensions scheme are all retrospective, in that they cover those who have been given full-time service since 31st August, 1950.

I should like to turn to the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Mr. Hylton-Foster), who wanted to know at what point civilianisation became economic. It is very hard to say at exactly what point it becomes more economical to employ a civilian to do a military job. Many factors have to be taken into consideration. The number of soldiers replaced by civilians during the past year was 700.

Before we decide that military labour shall be replaced by civilian labour we have to consider the availability of civilian labour in that part of the country or indeed of the world; the efficiency of the soldier and whether his efficiency is being impaired by his not having enough time to devote to his military duties; the suitability of a civilian being in that employment in war; and finally the question of economy, because by and large it is a little more expensive to employ a civilian than a soldier. All these factors have to be balanced in each case or series of cases before the conclusion can be reached.

I wish to pass to the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man). It was a curious speech because it seemed to me to contain, as is frequently the case in his speeches, two complete contradictions. He first seemed to me to be advocating a broad basic policy for this country —which it would be inopportune if not out of order for me to discuss now—in connection with the defence of the Middle East and our presence in the Canal Zone. In the same speech he went on to say that the buildings there were in a state of dilapidation and by implication suggested that we ought to be making those buildings into something much more enduring and respectable.

The right hon. Member for Dundee, West put his finger on the spot in saying that we first have to decide major policy. It would be mad, until major policy has been decided, to erect monumental buildings in the Canal Zone.

Mr. Crossman

I cannot have made my point clear to the hon. Member. I was trying to force the Government to make up their mind and to point out the really outrageous situation, namely, that it is 14 months now since these reinforcements went, with no decision made and the situation getting worse and worse, and we having to vote Supplementary Estimates. It is not for us to lay down policy. It is for the Government to make up their mind and not go on prevaricating.

Mr. Hutchison

If it is not for the hon. Member to make up his mind now, nor is it for me to make up my mind, during this Supplementary Estimate, on questions of foreign policy.

Mr. M. Stewart

Does the hon. Gentleman propose to say no more about that topic?

Mr. Hutchison

I do not propose to be led into a discussion as to whether the number of our troops in the Middle East is right or wrong. I do not believe that I ought to express an opinion of that kind in a debate of this sort.

Mr. Stewart

I would agree with the hon. Gentleman in what he has just said. But may we at least have an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman will draw the attention of his colleagues in the Government to what has been said by hon. Members on this side of the Committee —and I think to a considerable extent felt by hon. Members on the other side—on this subject?

Mr. Hutchison

I have no doubt that it has been said so much that what has been said will not escape the attention of the Government. The hon. Gentleman assumed that all the increases in Vote 5 which applied to C in fact applied to the Middle East. I think I made the point earlier that that is not so. There are a good many other things, including the Cyprus leave scheme, which have gone to inflate this figure. He criticised conditions out there. He asked about married quarters. I am coming in a moment to the numbers in tents, and what is the position about married quarters. He seemed aggrieved that we had not been able to build more married quarters. I can remember a story about some other visitors to Egypt who felt very aggrieved at being invited to make bricks without straw. The hon. Member is asking us to make married quarters without bricks or labour or materials—

Mr. Crossman

I am not asking the hon. Member to do anything. I am pointing out that it has not been done.

Mr. Hutchison

If the hon. Gentleman reads his own speech he will see that that is one of the troubles he would like put right. I would point out that it is not really necessary for us to go to the hon. Member for Coventry, East to know all this, because my right hon. Friend went out quite recently and inquired into exactly the same points. He is fully appraised of them, and ever since he has been back has been considering what can be done.

I wish to pass on to the question of the withdrawal of Egyptian labour; the hon. Gentleman asked what withdrawal of Egyptian labour there had been, because it has played its part in these items for civilian pay. Here are the figures. Before the abrogation of the Treaty, and before the situation became critical, we had some 33,000 civilian employees. When it boiled up and boiled over, and they left, we had only 3,400. The number of Egyptians has been gradually building up again, and, in September we were again employing 14,000, which gives us about 50 per cent. of our present requirements. But we have only 33⅓ per cent. of the skilled labour needed. If we are to bring in Mauritians and other outside labour it must be more costly because we have to move them, to begin with—

Mr. Crossman

Is the hon. Member proposing to give us information about the married quarters?

Mr. Hutchison

I will have a look and see what I have been able to get. I am not sure how clear it will be. The percentage of troops in the Canal Zone living in huts is 3 per cent.; in tents 38 per cent.; in camps, partly hutted and partly tented, 58 per cent., and in permanent accommodation, 1 per cent. That gives the hon. Gentleman his answer.

The hon. Member went on with the question of the separation of married officers out there from their families at home. My right hon. Friend has been closely into this question and hopes to be able to do something to alleviate that situation. Indeed, there are a number of other things in his mind for the alleviation of the conditions of the troops serving out there.

Mr. Wigg

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us when we shall get the announcement?

Mr. Hutchison

I cannot tell the hon. Member that tonight.

I think I have dealt with all the points which the hon. Gentleman made. There are others here, but I have either dealt with them or they came up in the course of questions from other hon. Members. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) returned to the charge on the question of the pensions of retired officers. He asked whether the entry under Vote 10 was the counterpart of the Civil Service increases of 1952. It is in fact the same thing as applied to officers and other ranks in the Army. He asked whether it covered any retrospectively? The answer is that some of them are retrospective provided that they qualify for the conditions.

The next speaker was the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) whose speech, after some of the blistering speeches I have heard him make, this afternoon seemed to have a content that was more mild than bitter. I very much welcomed that. He wanted to be sure that the nation was getting value for money. He asked what provision had been made for those who, like him, gallantly lost their limbs in the service of their country. There has been an increase during the year, but it is not the War Office who makes the payments; it is the Ministry of Pensions.

Mr. Simmons

The hon. Gentleman must not credit me with so much ignorance that I do not know which Department is responsible for war pensions. I was pointing out that there was no Supplementary Estimate for war pensions but there was one for the Army.

Mr. Hutchison

A Supplementary Estimate for war pensions would come under another Ministry.

Mr. M. Stewart

But there is not a Supplementary Estimate.

Mr. Hutchison

The next question which the hon. Gentleman asked was under Vote 4K. The question was about the number of civilians employed. Inquiry was made why it was that Mauritians had to be brought in and paid more than the Egyptians who, as I have already explained, left our Service. I think that it is clear that if we have a run-out of civil labour of that kind, and we have to shift people from elsewhere, it will cost a good deal more under that part of the Estimate which applies to civilians.

The hon. Member complained that too little was being done under the non-effective Vote and under the Forces Family Pensions Scheme, and that there was too big a gap between the remuneration of ranks in the Army in general. That is a question which could be argued for a long time. All that I can say is that the gap between the officers and other ranks in some of the Continental armies, and especially in the Russian Army, is very much greater.

Mr. Simmons

But I am not a Russian.

Mr. Hutchison

No, but we are by no means the greatest sinners in that way. The hon. Member ended by saying what, of course, we all want—that the sooner one can get recruiting for the Regular Forces up to a point at which we can do without National Service—and the world situation allows of it—the better we shall all be pleased.

There was a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough). He told us the story, which I well remember, of one of his constituents named Mr. Christmas who was of a very advanced age. It is true that some who are over 65 have been found not to be equal to the task which they had been performing in the past. If the Committee is anxious to see that we get value for money, they will say that we are right to make sure that a man is capable and efficient to carry out the task that he has been allotted.

But as the Army, on the whole, has been increasing so that more depots are being built and seven new battalions being formed, it has been necessary to expand the civilian force behind it. So we have had the situation in which a few of the older people have been leaving our employment and new and younger people coming in. But I can assure him that we do try to be extremely careful to see that the totals of civilian employment are not inflated. It is because we underestimated the number of civilians that would be necessary, and the amount of money necessary to pay them, that we have had to come to the Committee with Vote 4 this evening.

The hon. Member went on to ask about the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force, and whether there was any money in Vote 9, Subhead M, for that purpose. The answer is that there is not, because the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force was disbanded when we left that part of the world.

Then, there was a speech by the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), but I am not quite sure that there were any new points that I have not already covered. He referred to the question of recruiting, to the problem of personnel in the Canal Zone, to the difficulty of keeping up recruiting in the future and to the fact that a period of test in this problem of recruiting is to come quite soon, and I agree with most of what he said in that connection. He correctly underlined the fact that the presence of amenities in the life of the Army is one of the great considerations for those joining, apart altogether from pay, and it is very prominently in the mind of my right hon. Friend and one of the matters with which he is concerned at the present time.

Next, there was the question whether we could give any sort of estimate of the numbers in the pipeline, that is in transit at any one time, which now stand at 30,000, and the possible reduction of the figure by introducing air trooping. I think my right hon. Friend answered the question at the time. It is very difficult to make a guess, because it would depend on the availability of aircraft, how far we could use aircraft for moving larger bodies of men, and on the amount of money we could expend, as well as on the number of aircraft available. I am sorry that I cannot give him any more information than that at present.

With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins), I am afraid I must ask him to send me the particulars of the first case he mentioned. It certainly sounds a very odd one about a builder being told that he was needed for training in order to help with the repairing of private cars. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be rather interested in the possibility of getting private cars repaired in that way, and if he would send the particulars to me I will see what can be done, but it seems to me as if the repairs might be pretty hazardous if builders are to be used to carry them out. I may have got his point wrong, but it is obviously a case which I could not discuss here and now, but about which I should be glad to hear from him.

Mr. Wilkins

Surely, the point is that the man was trained in R.E.M.E., and was called up to do his 15 days, and what I quoted was part of the instruction actually sent to him.

Mr. Hutchison

We ought to try to see, when a man is called up for training, that he does a job that he knows something about and in which he will be useful to the Army. If the hon. Gentleman will send me the papers in the case, we will have a look at them and see if this case has gone off the rails.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me about the training of National Service men, and what, in fact, they were liable to do. The answer is that National Service men, after having finished their whole-time service with the Army, normally go to the Territorial Army, where they have to do three and a half years' part-time service. During that time they have to attend three camps, one each year, of 15 days each, which makes 45 days in all, and they have another 15 days to do either by doing hourly or two-hourly drills or by attending week-end camps. These week-end camps start from midday Saturday and finish on Sunday evening, each week-end training camp counting as two days. In addition four one-hour drills are reckoned as the equivalent of one day of training. The hon. Gentleman can work out for himself the number of hours a man will have to do in order to satisfy this requirement of 15 days' service. If that is too complicated to take in just at the moment, and if the hon. Member will write to me, I will send him the particulars on that case also.

Then we had the typical and amusing speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). The gist of his speech was, of course, the same as it always is. He is perfectly logical and consistent. He wants to see the Army reduced as far as possible. But, of course, so long as we have a world of the kind we have just now, we must remain armed. The possibility of disarming will perhaps come along one day, but, as M. Herriot said the other day, "the verb to disarm is a very irregular one; it has no first person singular and only a future tense." As long as that continues, we must, I am afraid, continue to differ from the hon. Member's point of view.

The hon. Member was concerned about some of the expenses incurred in recruiting for the Women's Royal Army Corps. He read out an advertisement and read from a coupon in a woman's journal, and then asked a whole lot of questions. I suggest that if he wants an answer to those questions he might camouflage his name, fill in the coupon, write to the address given in it and get his answers in that way.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can the hon. Gentleman give us the cost of advertising for purposes of recruitment to the women's Forces and also tell us how much per recruit that advertising costs?

Mr. Hutchison

Not without notice, but if the hon. Gentleman cares to write to us, we will see if we can find out for him.

The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) asked about the headquarters in Germany. The answer to his question is very simple. It is that we are not at present paying anything at all, but that the cost is being borne at present entirely by the West German Government. That is why he has heard so little about it. He complimented us on the secrecy we have been able to maintain over this operation. The present headquarters, of course, though suitable for an occupation force, is not suitable for a force which will be part of the defence of Western Europe.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Although we understand that these headquarters are on such a scale that they are not likely to be completed before 1954, surely, by that time, the occupation costs may have risen, and, therefore, there is still the possibility of a Supplementary Estimate being required if and when these headquarters are occupied by British troops?

Mr. Hutchison

I do not think so, because, in fact, provided that those headquarters are built by the Germans and remain German property, no Supplementary Estimate would be needed under the War Office Vote.

I come now to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) who made some remarks about Catterick when I was absent for a moment. I know that Catterick could do with an awful lot of improvement, but I am afraid we could say that about a great many of our establishments. One can only cut one's coat according to one's cloth, and we will give such attention as we can afford to those parts of Catterick which need it most urgently.

With regard to public works in the Hebrides, the hon. Gentleman suggested that the Royal Engineers should take part in those activities. I do not think that could be done, firstly, because we are short of Royal Engineers, and, secondly, because it would have to be done in consultation with the appropriate trade unions with whom we are in constant touch on these sort of questions.

Finally, the right hon. Member for Dundee, West put the case very fairly in pointing out that the Army must remain attractive if we are to maintain the level of recruitment to it and that attraction does not reside exclusively in pay, but that there are other considerations. As I said earlier, I think also that he put his finger on the heart of the matter—that none of the questions about the Canal Zone which have loomed so prominently in this debate can be properly decided until the whole big question, which is in my view far beyond this debate tonight, of the defence of the Middle East has been decided.

I hope that the Committee will consider that I have been carefully and punctiliously through the questions that have been put. It may or may not satisfy hon. Members, but at any rate I think that they have all been noted and in one form or another answered. It only remains for me to take up the pledge which hon. Members opposite gave that this Supplementary Estimate should be granted and to ask the Committee so to do.

Mr. Gough

Before my hon. Friend resumes his seat, and I rather hesitate to ask him because I agree that he has tried to answer everything, there are two small points about which I should like to ask specifically. The first is whether, under Vote 5 (C), which covers the conveyance of personnel and animals by sea and air includes the transporting of the parachute brigade by air for training.

Mr. Hutchison

I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. I had the answer but in the great number of questions which I answered it slipped by. It does not. That comes under other Votes.

Mr. Gough

There was one other point. My hon. Friend mentioned the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force. I was fully aware that it had been disbanded, and I merely drew his attention to the fact. This £200,000 under Subhead M might well be used to put right the very mean treatment which members of the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force received at the hands of the Government when they were disbanded.

Mr. Hutchison

I have noted my hon. Friend's point.

Question put, and agreed to.


That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £35,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953, for expenditure beyond the sum already provided in the grants for Army Services for the year.

Resolutions to be reported Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.