HC Deb 11 March 1954 vol 524 cc2503-812

7.10 p.m.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn, East)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House, noting the deterioration since 1951 in the living conditions of our troops in the Canal Zone due to the uncertainty as to the future of the base, deplores the Government's handling of the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations which has prolonged this uncertainty. I wish to make it clear at the outset that I consider myself both fortunate and privileged in having been lucky in the Ballot for tonight's debate and so having this opportunity of raising a great human problem. I must say that I am encouraged by the amount of time which the Secretary of State gave in his speech today to conditions in the Middle East, and by the concessions which he announced to improve those conditions. This shows that I have chosen a subject of wide interest and of central importance to the efficiency of our Army, one with which the right hon. Gentleman is very much concerned.

I want to make it clear that my interest in this matter is, first and foremost, a constituency one. The question of the living conditions of our troops in the Canal Zone is one that affects not only the well-being and safety of some 70,000 of our troops, but also the happiness and peace of mind of their mothers and fathers and their wives and families in this country, as many of us know from the letters we receive.

There could be no more appropriate use of the debate on the Army Estimates than to concentrate the attention of this House on the conditions under which such a large proportion of our National Service men and of our Regular soldiers live and work. It is with a due sense of my Parliamentary responsibility that I move this Amendment. I know perfectly well that this is not a new problem and that it has been raised frequently in this House by hon. Members who are much better equipped to deal with it than I am. My excuse for speaking on it tonight is that with every month that passes the problem is getting worse. If we go on letting the matter drift we shall not only be betraying the faith and trust which our soldiers and their families have in this House to fight their battles for them, but we shall feel the evil consequences of this drift throughout the whole of our defence policy.

The question of the living conditions in the Canal Zone has been debated time and again in this House during the past two years. In January of last year, on the Supplementary Estimates, it was raised in great detail by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who will be seconding this Amendment, who gave us a very vivid picture of the conditions under which our troops are living in this area.

Far from refuting his statements, the Under-Secretary of State for War gave the House some figures which dramatically confirm the claims which my hon. Friend made. By now everyone in this House should know these facts. They have been given not merely in speeches, but in Government White Papers and, not least, in the speeches of the Secretary of State himself. By now everybody in this House is aware of the central problem: namely, that in this stretch of territory in the Canal Zone, which, before the war, housed one brigade in excellent quarters, we have today crowded depots, stores and troops without any proper provision for garrisoning them.

We have three and a half divisions of men in accommodation originally intended for one brigade. Those men are sitting behind barbed wire watching the base deteriorate and watching the stores which we accumulated at such expense and trouble being pilfered almost under their eyes. Here I quote figures given in the debate in January, 1953, by the Under-Secretary in reply to my hon. Friend. Of these troops, only 1 per cent, are in permanent accommodation. Of the rest, we were told that 3 per cent, live in huts, 38 per cent, live in tents, and over half in camps which were partly hutted and partly tented.

What interests me is the way in which the Secretary of State himself returns to this problem in his Memoranda year by year. He has returned again this year in the Memorandum that accompanies the Army Estimates. He deals with these conditions at great length and far more vividly than I could hope to do. I should like to read to the House some of his words, because he is posing to us the problem with which he is faced. The Memorandum tells us: Most units live in almost completely tented camps, surrounded by barbed wire, which are extremely cold in winter and desperately hot in summer. They are subjected to sandstorms, flies and mosquitoes. He adds that the amenities for our soldiers there are "most austere" and: It is far from easy for a soldier to get away from this atmosphere of tents, sand, barbed wire, and flies. If he leaves the camp, he must be armed and escorted. There are, indeed, few places for him to go to as it has been impossible to provide amenities on the scale required for the large garrison which came at such short notice. These are almost poetic words with which to describe the conditions in which so many of our soldiers are living; but agony is piled on agony. We know that since the abrogation of the Treaty all local leave has been stopped. The soldier cannot escape from this deadening atmosphere of monotony and decay by going to Cairo, Alexandria or Ismailia.

Mr. Head

I am sure that the hon. Lady does not wish to mislead the House. The Memorandum does state that the soldiers can go on the leave scheme we run to Cyprus.

Mrs. Castle

Yes. I was talking about local leave. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that I am correct in what I have just said about Cairo, Alexandria and Ismailia. The impression one gets from reading the Memorandum is one of all these soldiers sitting in a concentration camp behind barbed wire meditating on the futility of existence and wondering what is happening to their families.

One of the most crucial problems to which the Minister has returned time and again is that married accommodation is grotesquely inadequate. The White Paper admits it. The latest figures which I have received—and I shall be glad to have them confirmed or corrected—are that only 1½ per cent, of other ranks have their families with them, and even for officers the figure is only 18 per cent. Yet the War Office says that it is hopeless to try to improve these conditions. Why is that? It is because, in the words of the White Paper: It has never been possible to spend the millions of pounds really required on accommodation under the circumstances of uncertainty which now obtain. Those words were echoed again by the Secretary of State this afternoon. I must say, after listening to the right hon. Gentleman and reading the White Paper, that it seemed to me that these words sounded like a cri de coeur from the Army to the politicians to end this uncertainty. I hope that we will answer that cri de coeur tonight, because unless we do it is futile for us to debate the future efficiency of our Army.

The War Office is obviously very unhappy about this situation. It knows that it is disastrous for morale. It would be bad enough to work under those conditions if the soldiers felt that the job was worth doing. But what are our men doing out there? The theory is that they are supposed to be defending a lifeline of Empire. In practice, they are spending all their time watching the depots and trying to protect our installations and property from the depredations of the local inhabitants.

Here, again, the White Paper gives a most dramatic and vivid picture of local thugs specially trained for the work, lying in wait at night to attack our men, hoping to catch them off their guard, and jumping on vehicles and attacking drivers and escorts from behind. It must be the strangest kind of soldiering in all our history to have our soldiers spending their time defending themselves and British property from the local inhabitants on whose friendly co-operation we should be completely dependent in time of war.

To the sense of danger which the men must have is added the sense of futility. In addition to his normal duty, every man does two nights guard duty a week watching for an enemy who ought to be an ally if this base is to have any military sense at all. It is not surprising that a tour of duty in Suez is considered the worst assignment that the Army can offer. In fact, despite the additional dangers, the soldiers would rather be in Korea or Malaya.

It is not surprising that our men in the Canal Zone consider themselves to be the forgotten Army of 1954 sitting as they are in a concentration camp, doing a job which has no military sense. It is no wonder that commanders on the spot want the Government to reach a decision which will end this uncertainty. No wonder, too, that the War Office is worried and that the Secretary of State for War is worried, as I appreciate he is. He knows that the position is quite intolerable and that as long as it drags on our chances of stimulating recruitment to the Regular Army are seriously reduced. Above all, our chances of persuading men to stay on in the Army are reduced.

The Defence White Paper has stressed the urgency of this point as did the Secretary of State this afternoon. We know, as the White Paper says, that more men will have to prolong their engagements if the increasing shortage of N.C. Os. and skilled tradesmen is to be made good. But we are told that in 1953 extensions of service were below the required strength and that re-engagements actually fell.

The Government have come forward with some new pay proposals to stop the rot, but that in itself is not enough to make Army life attractive. It is obvious that with 80 per cent, of our fighting units serving overseas, living conditions in the foreign stations are to play a really decisive part in deciding a soldier whether or not to stay on in the Army. Of all our overseas stations, the Canal Zone is the most important, because there we have the largest number of men living under the worst conditions.

The War Office realise that one of the main deterrents to recruitment to the Regular Army is the prospect of having to do a few years in the Canal Zone away from social life and civilised amenities. The leave concessions for these men, about which we have heard this afternoon, are, of course, welcome. But they are also a recognition of the fact that the present position is impossible, and is a deterrent to recruitment. They are as much a confession as a concession, and I suggest that they do not really meet the urgency of the situation.

We have been given an estimate of what will be the cost of these leave concessions for men in the Middle East and Kenya. It will amount to some £680,000. I tried to do an arithmetical calculation, and I arrived at the conclusion that, at £51 per man, some 13,000-odd men from these areas will benefit by the concession. I should like the Secretary of State to say exactly how many men in the Canal Zone will benefit, and, above all, how many of the other ranks as compared with the officers will be affected, because if the proportion of that benefit between officers and other ranks is the same as with married accommodation, it does not look as if many other ranks are going to benefit.

Mr. Head

There is no question of any distinction between officers and other ranks. The qualification, as I said, is nine months separation and having another four months to serve at the station. That applies alike to officers and other ranks.

Mrs. Castle

I am grateful for that assurance, but the total figures of those benefiting still remains small. I think that the Secretary of State knows perfectly well that this in itself will not take away the deterrent effect of conditions out there or solve the basic problem. This area and its living conditions will remain, despite this concession, one of the main obstacles to regular recruiting.

Despite this, no proposals have been put forward for improving the conditions. Nobody has brought forward any plans for making the situation better. Why? The answer, quite obviously, is that, when we have over 80,000 men living in accommodation originally planned for 4,000, it will cost millions of pounds to make that accommodation anything like habitable. As the White Paper points out, no one will suggest that we should spend that amount of money at present.

The War Office and the Foreign Office know quite well that there are only two ways of ending this uncertainty and of dealing with these conditions. One is by withdrawing all our troops and equipment before 1956, as we are committed to do under the Treaty. The other is by reaching an agreement with Egypt under which we would co-operate with them to maintain the base. In either case, of course, our fighting troops will have to go and anyone in this House who imagines that we can dig In our heels and stay in the Zone in the teeth of Egyptian objection, has just not read the White Paper. As the Memorandum points out: The soldiers have two main tasks in the Canal Base, to operate it and to defend it It goes on to say that our men are trying to do these jobs amongst an unfriendly and often hostile population. In other words, our soldiers are defending the base not against a future enemy of this country, but against the local population of the sovereign country in which it is situated.

If we have to defend this base in this way in peacetime, and if we are to insist on staying there despite our commitments under the 1936 Treaty and in the teeth of the bitter determination of the Egyptian Government to have us go, what chance have we of operating that base successfully in an emergency? I believe that both the War Office and the Foreign Office know this as well as I do. I believe that the War Office want to end this uncertainty by withdrawing the fighting troops, as do the chiefs of staff. I believe that the Foreign Office wants agreement.

I think there is agreement among the experts that this situation does not help our defence but, instead, is a millstone round our necks. What in heaven's name, then, is preventing this solution? Here we have an amazing situation. These conditions which I have outlined and which the Secretary of State has outlined time and again, with their threat to the morale of our Army, are allowed to continue because of the activities of the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester. South-East (Captain Waterhouse).

It is a remarkable tribute to the power and authority of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is living in a military past which has long since become irrelevant. He is able to sit on these civilian benches and dictate the conditions under which 70,000 of our troops shall live. It is a most astonishing phenomenon. What is the secret of this remarkable power of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman? Obviously, he could not achieve it by his own strength alone. He could not achieve it even with the help of the little band of die-hard ostriches who are associated with him.

I suggest that the secret of his power is that he has a Trojan horse on the Government Front Bench in the person of the Prime Minister himself, and that the Prime Minister is going in the teeth of the advice of all his experts both at the War Office and the Foreign Office out of devotion to sentimental memories of the past.

This House would be failing in its duty if we let these Estimates pass tonight without registering our anger at a situation in which the well-being of our Service men and the intelligent use of our Armed Forces is being sacrificed so frivolously. Every soldier who is involved in this situation should realise that his misery in the Canal Zone, which is freely admitted by the Secretary of State, is not dictated by military necessity. It is dictated by the Government's cowardly and inept handling of foreign policy, and for this reason the House ought to censure the Government tonight.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have listened to the hon. Lady's most interesting speech, and I thought it right to say, in case we were diverted too much from this topic before the House, that we must not let it develop into a foreign affairs debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who will be replying to the debate, is not responsible for foreign affairs. I think the hon. Lady is quite entitled to say that this is a commitment which we should not have. That is all right, but if she goes on attacking the Foreign Office there is nobody here to reply for that Department, and I hope the hon. Lady will assist me in keeping this a debate on the Army Estimates.

Mrs. Castle

I am grateful for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I really am trying to help the Secretary of State for War in this matter. I am trying to reply to the implicit appeal in his own Memorandum—

Mr. Speaker

I accept from the hon. Lady that she is trying to help the Secretary of State for War. If she can contrive to do so without attacking the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, it will be to the advantage of all of us.

Mrs. Castle

I am also trying to help the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Speaker. The only persons I am not trying to help are the Prime Minister and the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East. In any case, I have now finished my speech.

7.35 p.m.

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

In accepting your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I should like first of all to say that I am more encouraged by this debate than I was by the last one when we raised this issue. We raised the matter on Supplementary Estimates just a year ago, and we heard a great deal of incredulity from hon. Members opposite when we referred to what is now admitted to be the almost desperate situation and the deterioration in the Zone. Well, we have advanced. It takes about 12 months before it gets through to hon. Members opposite that the facts which we state are the real facts of the situation.

I saw the situation again during the Christmas Recess. I would pay my tribute to the troops over there. Frankly, I do not believe there is another Army in the world which would stick the conditions of the Canal Zone and which would maintain its discipline as high as their discipline is maintained. They are not as miserable as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) seemed to think, because British soldiers have an incredible facility for making the best of life. They are making the best of life in miserable conditions, and if they are not happy, they are certainly miraculously avoiding looking miserable to the people who visit them. We need to pay them a tribute for what they are doing out there.

I want to make one or two references to conditions in the area. My hon. Friend said that only 1½ per cent, of other ranks and 18 per cent, of the officers had their families with them. I saw some of the married quarters, and even those who are fortunate to have married quarters do not find them exactly bright One I visited was no better than a displaced persons' camp. Year by year the are deteriorating. Year by year the Nissen huts look older, the paint flakes off and the place gets more decrepit.

I want to stress particularly the sense of frustration which struck me, for it is this frustration which all the officers there feel to be their greatest moral problem. I went to a depôt where there was £20 million worth of equipment, from hot water bottles to railway lines. There is a steady drain on those goods, because next door to the depôt is a village. The villagers have lived by pilfering all their lives. The only difference between former days and now is that it is regarded as a patriotic duty.

In the middle of the depot there is an observation tower. The commanding officer climbed with me to the top, pressed a button and out came the fire brigade. I asked, "Who are the firemen?" and he said,"They are gypos from the village." So one half of the population is outside thieving and the remainder are on the inside paid by us. The Egyptians are very gallant thieves, because it takes some courage to be one of a group of 20 and get through the barbed wire. Even if they are caught they are handed over to the civil authorities, who are Egyptians, and they acquit the thieves and give them liberation medals. It is a depressing thing to be one of 81,000 men stuck out there at those depots, knowing that the goods are being pilfered and that nothing can be done about it. They do two nights' guard duty in a week in addition to their normal duties and they know they are not maintaining British prestige.

The demand has been made that we should take over the civil administration. But under the treaty we must collaborate with the civil population. There are 450,000 Egyptians—many more than there are British—living in villages and towns of the Zone administered by Egyptian authorities. We cannot take over the civil administration here without taking over Cairo and Alexandria. Perhaps some hon. Members opposite would like that. If so, they would have to withdraw the 250 men from Bermuda. They might even have to get the battalion which used to be at Balmoral and has now gone to Guiana. But even then we should have to have three more divisions to occupy all Egypt.

I know the Secretary of State does not dream that we should re-occupy Cairo and Alexandria and add yet another back-breaking commitment to the list that he has already said makes it impossible for the Army to be an effective Army. So the Army has to stay out there, and has to collaborate with the civil administration, which does not collaborate with the Army and which acquits all thieves. No soldiers in the world could find such a situation tolerable.

No wonder that the Secretary of State finds recruitment difficult. This is not only a major disincentive to recruiting for the Regular Army; it is corroding the cadres of the Regular Army, because when men whose time of service is up hear they are likely to be sent to Suez if they rejoin, they do not join up again. We all know of officers and N.C. Os., of essential men, who, when they hear that they would be due to go to Suez, promptly come out rather than re-engage. It is happening week by week and month by month, and the Secretary of State has to admit that the Regular Army is being corroded by this commitment.

This evening, we must consider this business of Suez from the strictly military point of view. Some people talk as though this base we are holding had always been there. Actually we have only had this base in the form in which it now is since 1947. Before the war, what did we have in Egypt? We had 10,000 men in Egypt, 4,000 of them in the Suez area. [Interruption.] Unlike hon. Members opposite, I am not so anachronistic as to believe that we could go happily back to the days before the war.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

Why not?

Mr. Crossman

The days when we kept 10,000 men out there have gone since we signed the Atlantic Charter and agreed we must not hold a sovereign nation down by force. We had those 10,000 men in Egypt. But we had no base. But only a garrison on the Canal. Then came the war and troops and equipment passed through the Red Sea and we began to marshal them for the Western desert offensive. That is how the base which we now know began to take shape along the Canal.

All this came about during the war, and I do not blame anybody for it. After the war, between 1945 and 1947, the Labour Government began dismantling this base. There were plans to move it elsewhere. At one time it was thought it might be moved to Mackinnon Road. The Foreign Secretary at that time described the base in Egypt as the biggest single obstacle to any form of collaboration in the Middle East. The presence of our troops there was a standing insult to Egyptian sovereignty, and so offended Middle Eastern opinion that we could not obtain Arab participation in the defence of their own countries. So we decided to move the base. Then in 1947 we had the evacuation of Palestine. All the junk out of Palestine was dumped into the Canal base. All the junk out of India was dumped into the Canal base. Now nobody knows how much junk there is in the base.

Brigadier Rayner


Mr. Crossman

I am not going to give way because I am concerned about the base, not party politics. An immense collection of junk was put into the base between 1947 and 1950, and then there arose the problem of Persia, and the first division went in. Let us be candid about why that division went in. The first division went in as a demonstration of force. Let us be fair, and acknowledge that it was the Labour Government who sent the division in. Any Government, I think, would have had to make a demonstration at that time.

So more and more fighting troops went into the Canal Zone than it was ever intended should be there. There was a division and a half in 1951 and after the burning of Cairo a second division was sent until we had three and a half divisions of fighting troops scattered among this collection of depots. For that is what the base is. It is a collection of depots, and all those fighting troops were dumped down in them as a show of strength.

Those who call this a "hedgehog" are quite wrong. It is the longest, softest under-belly I have seen in my life. It may be wonderful from the point of view of dispersal under atom bombing, but this dispersal is ideal for sabotage, for pilfering, for guerrilla warfare. How anyone can think it is strategically vital to maintain this long, soft under-belly with thousands of guards strung out on the perimeters of the depots I do not know. [Interruption.] There are people who make the even more idiotic suggestion that we can hold the base with only one division out there, or even one brigade. That they say would take us back to the prewar days. Anyone who thinks in 1954 that we can hold down all Egypt with one brigade is living in a dream world.

Brigadier Rayner

No one has ever said so.

Mr. Crossman

If it is not to be held by force, our men must be out there by agreement with Egypt.

Brigadier Rayner

The hon. Gentleman is indulging, as he often does, in mere shadow boxing, and is ascribing to hon. Members on this side of the House ideas and opinions that none of us holds. As far as I know, none of us on this side of the House is arguing that we should keep that under-belly he is talking about by force. All that we suggest is that we should keep a Western defence force in Egypt.

Mr. Crossman

We do not glean very much out of that interruption, except the admission of the interesting fact that some hon. Gentlemen want to give up the base and keep a garrison in Egypt. But after 1956 we must either evacuate all the troops and all the equipment or else we must reconquer Egypt, or else we must have an agreement with the Egyptians.

This brings me to the matter of the negotiations. I know that one should not embarrass the Government while negotiations are going on, and I would not do so. But the really significant thing about what has been happening is the negotiations have stopped. Up to last October they went on. By 8th October agreement was reached on things which appalled the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) and some of his hon. Friends who sit below the Gangway on that side of the House. One of them was that our negotiators agreed on the evacuation of all the fighting troops within 18 months. Another was that they agreed on a seven-year period during which we should maintain the base while training the Egyptians to take over. A third was to agreement on 4,000 technicians. Yes, all that was agreed by the Conservative Government.

There was a hitch on two points. There was a hitch on uniforms—a wonderful thing to hitch about. The other was on the complex clause about re-entry in case of war. The substance, however, had been surrendered. No applause from below the Gangway opposite? But that is what all the noise is about—because the Conservative Government have swallowed the substance, thank heavens, and gulped at the shadow—

Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. When Mr. Speaker was in the Chair he called the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) to order for dealing with matters which are the concern of the Foreign Secretary. I submit to you that that is precisely what the hon. Gentleman is doing now.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I understood that the hon. Gentleman was dealing with matters affecting the base, and as long as he deals with matters within the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War he is in order. Matters which are the responsibility of the Foreign Secretary would not be in order.

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful for your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the discussion is about the base and its maintenance and that references to the agreement are therefore relevant. For that is what we are discussing, and what we shall go on discussing, if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) does not mind. It is very unpleasant for him and some hon. Gentlemen opposite to hear about these things, but so that we may all be quite clear about it, let me repeat what I have just said. Those people on the Treasury Bench surrendered the substance, and they have been defending the figment for months for fear of their hon. Friends below the Gangway.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it was Mr. Bevin who said the principle of evacuation was accepted.

Mr. Crossman

Certainly. I am saying that we have witnessed conversion of the Conservative Ministers to Socialist principles. When they got responsibility they discovered how sensible Mr. Bevin was in deciding to evacuate the base. Before, they made great speeches about scuttling; but put them at the War Office, and they say it is not scuttling at all. They say that this is an essential thing that we have to do. They see now that we have either to get out without any conditions or stay on conditions that Egypt will consent to.

Those below the Gangway refuse to face this choice because they do not have to, whereas everyone sitting on that Front Bench opposite has been convinced of it. Yet they have not had the guts to sign the treaty. That is what this little Amendment which we are moving today is about. We say: the British soldier never minds when he is given a tough job to do which is a real job for his country, but to be asked to submit to frustration and futility, month after month, in the Canal Zone because the Government, having agreed on the substance of the treaty, have not the courage to fight their own back benchers—that is insupportable.

We have the right to say on behalf of the soldier who has kept his morale up, who is showing guts and good temper: do not try his temper too long because, in trying his temper, the Government are also undermining the chance of retaining any prestige in the Middle East. For the sake of illusions, which they do not share with their supporters below the Gangway, the Government are sacrificing the only possibility of keeping the Middle East on our side, so we say to the Government, on behalf of the Army and the peoples of the Middle East, who are also acknowledged by us as Allies: hurry up, show your courage and do what you know to be right.

7.53 p.m.

Captain Charles Waterhouse (Leicester, South-East)

I am sure that the House has enjoyed the latest endeavour of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) to interpret what we think and what we are out for. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are 'we'?"] I think that hon. Members opposite have been kind enough to address themselves largely to the people on these benches rather than to the Chair.

The hon. Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) said that we were "ostriches." Let me assure her that we do not wear our feathers at that end. Both the hon. Members expressed one sentiment with which at least everyone of us on this side of the House completely agrees. We have the greatest admiration for the British soldiers who are in the Canal Zone. We share their sympathy for them, and we believe that their sympathy is real.

I much appreciate what the hon. Member for Coventry, East said about the morale of the troops. He was good enough to say that, in spite of all these difficulties, the morale and discipline of our troops in the Canal Zone had not suffered at all. He said, with truth, that people were not signing on again as we would like them to sign on. We know that. We deplore the conditions, but we utterly refuse to accept that we on this side of the House, and particularly those on the Government Front Bench, are in the smallest way responsible for them.

We have to accept the base as it was handed over to us by hon. Members opposite. I would remind hon. Members that the Treaty of 1936, signed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, made very careful provision for our troops in the Canal Zone. The hon. Member for Coventry, East has taken the trouble to read parts of it, but has he read the whole lot? Does he know that under that Treaty the Egyptians agreed to set up properly built barracks, to provide the necessary lines of emergency water supplies, to plant trees and to make pro vision for gardens and playing fields, etc. for the troops—

Mr. Crossman

How many?

Captain Waterhouse

For the troops there — [Interruption.] — perhaps hon. Members will give me a chance to reply. The troops which were agreed under the Treaty—10,000 soldiers, plus airmen and their auxiliaries, altogether 15,000 or 20,000 men. What was done? The war came along. There was no effort made to build barracks, apart from one barracks which was built at Moascar. The hon. Member for Blackburn, East said that only 1 per cent, of the troops were housed. I think that she is wrong. I think that about one brigade of the troops—

Mrs. Castle

I was quoting a figure given in 1953 by the Under-Secretary of State.

Captain Waterhouse

About one brigade in Egypt are properly housed. The rest, I agree, are very badly housed. But whose fault is that? We had troops in Cairo and in Alexandria who were not badly housed, and not badly looked after. The late Mr. Ernest Bevin agreed to move them out without any renewed agreement at all for making the necessary provisions in the Canal Zone.

What came after that? The hon. Member for Coventry, East has already described what happened. The bases there were reduced and munitions were moved to Palestine. That policy had to be reversed because he could not arrive at an agreement in Palestine, and the stuff came pouring back. It was then sent to India and it came back again to the Canal Zone. Very much the same thing happened in India. Material was moved to the Mackinnon Road, on which we spent millions of pounds. That policy, too, was reversed and it came back to the Canal Zone. When trouble arose at Abadan, right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not face up to it, as we thought they should have done. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh‡"] I think that this is a good, cogent reasoned argument.

What happened then? Within a few months of Abadan all these troops, so vividly described by the hon. Member for Coventry, East arrived in Egypt. We had great reinforcements and the position for the troops got worse and worse. There it is. Today, I quite agree that we have forces far larger than the base can possibly hold with decency or propriety. It is nonsense for the hon. Member to say that we are there in the old imperialistic sense and are going back to past ages. We have a right to be in Egypt under our Treaty. We have as much right to be in Egypt as any hon. Member living in a flat or house in London on lease has a right to be in that flat or house. The Treaty is extant and he is absolutely wrong in saying that in 1956 that Treaty expires.

What happens in 1956? The Treaty can be reviewed, and if, by then, the Egyptians are able to maintain the Canal and to maintain the security of the Zone, we are quite prepared to go out. But looking around at what has happened in Egypt in the last few days and weeks, does anybody pretend that Egypt is today in a position to accept those responsibilities? We are not encroaching on Egypt: we are standing on our Treaty rights.

Mr. Crossman

The right hon. and gallant Member has said three times that we are standing on our Treaty rights. Does he deny that we have now four times as many men there as were permitted under the Treaty? We have them in areas where we are not permitted to do so. What clause of the Treaty are we observing?

Captain Waterhouse

I am perfectly aware of that.

Mr. Crossman

The right hon. and gallant Member said "Treaty rights."

Captain Waterhouse

The hon. Member knows equally well how that arose. It is hon. Members on his side who are to blame. The hon. Member wants us to negotiate and to come to terms. The Members on his side are prepared to come to almost any terms with almost anybody. Can anybody say that the happenings of the last few days and weeks are any justification for blaming Her Majesty's Government for not having come to an agreement with these people in Egypt? Can anybody honestly say‑

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

I know this is a difficult Amendment, but I do not think that a discussion upon the Treaty or Agreement, except in so far as it has a bearing on the Base, would be in order, because there is no reply on this Vote by the Foreign Office.

Captain Waterhouse

The Amendment clearly blames the Government for their handling of the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I would point out that the Notice begins: To call attention to the living conditions of the troops in the Canal Zone in Egypt… That is the Notice. Therefore, that governs the rest of the Amendment.

Captain Waterhouse

I have no wish to infringe your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or to persue the matter very far, but I want to pursue this point, which is relevant to the debate on the Army Estimates.

What has been the one stabilising factor during the last three troublous weeks in the Middle East, when the President was put under arrest, was let out and half reinstated, has been now completely reinstated, and when his second lieutenant congratulated himself for not having cut his leader's throat when he had him in his power? What has been the one stabilising factor during our troubles in Khartoum, when a chief of police and many others were shot? Surely all hon. Members in the House, on the opposite side as well as on this side, will agree that the one element of stability was the fact that we had British forces there.

We agree it is sad that men have to live under such conditions. But there is nothing new in British soldiers being asked to accept poor conditions; that is the natural lot of men who become soldiers. On the North-West Frontier of India, conditions were similar. Soldiers lived there, and lived there cheerfully, but I admit there was the very cogent argument that they lived there feeling that they were there with a real object. It may well be that the soldiers in the Canal Zone today are in such doubt that they do not have a clear idea of what their objective is.

We have rearmed primarily in an endeavour to preserve peace, and we have to deploy our troops primarily in an endeavour to preserve peace. If it is necessary to hold troops at the Canal, I am certain that any British unit or soldier is well prepared and glad to serve. But the hon. Member for Coventry, East dealt entirely with the base, but that is not by any means the only reason that we need a force in the Canal Zone. There are four factors, all of which justify the retention of a force there.

There is the base, which, the hon. Member truly says, has grown out of all recognition. How big it need be, I do not know. How big it would be designed if the military chiefs were asked now to construct a base, I do not know, but I feel fairly sure that a base of its present size is absolutely unnecessary, either for our present needs or for our future prospects.

The hon. Member said very little about the Canal. Our troops are there largely because of the Canal. Perhaps we cannot safeguard the Canal by having troops in any one place, but we can exert an influence, and thereby ensure peace, by having a body of British troops which is sufficient to ensure respect.

There is the Middle East. Are our commitments nothing in the Middle East? Do they not matter? Hon. Members may say that the troops should be moved to Cyrenaica, to Libya or to Cyprus, but what right have we in Cyrenaica, in Libya, or even in Cyprus, that we have not now got in Egypt?

Mr. Strachey

The Treaty.

Captain Waterhouse

The right hon. Gentleman, a former Secretary of State for War. says, "The Treaty." That is precisely why and how we are in Egypt.

Mr. Strachey

We do not have Treaty rights in Egypt to keep anything like this number of troops there in anything like these positions. That is the simple fact.

Captain Waterhouse

I have already dealt with that. I am fully aware that we have been forced by the ineptitude of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member—

Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the right hon. and gallant Member gives way, it is in order for the right hon. Member to intervene.

Mr. Bevan

I thank the right hon. and gallant Member for giving way. He is much more courteous than his colleagues. He has said that we were responsible for violating our Treaty rights in Egypt. We admit that. So are the present Government responsible for violating them. The people who are right, obviously, are the Egyptians.

Captain Waterhouse

With the first part of that intervention I entirely agree, but the second part is nonsense. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite put us in a position which we have to accept. We cannot reverse everything they have done—we wish to goodness we could. We have to accept the position as we had it, and we are doing our best to rectify it.

I was saying that in Cyrenaica, in Libya, or in Cyprus even, we have no more legal position than we have now in Egypt. Hon. Members should not forget also our great responsibilities throughout the whole of Africa. Until a few months ago we were jointly responsible for the Sudan. We have made the Sudan; we have brought the Sudan up. They relied on us, they looked to us. Is it up to us now to let them feel that Britain is no longer near them if they are in need?

We are asked to negotiate—this is my last direct reference to negotiations—but everything that has happened in the last year tends to prove that our often expressed fears are unhappily correct; our prognostications have been proved to be right. Having done all that we could, having made the maximum gesture to Egypt over the Sudan, we still find them calling out loud and clear for unity of the Nile Valley when, 12 months ago, they were pretending that they were standing for the independence of the Sudan.

There is one further aspect—and I do not want to keep the House long on this —which has to be considered when we are thinking of the base. Turkey has recently become a member of N.A.T.O. and the strategic importance of that I do not pretend to be able to judge, but I do know that many soldiers have now changed their view on the essentiality of a great supply base on the Canal.

What, then, can be done? We are invited to have redeployment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke about it in his opening speech. Do not let this House think that very much is to come out of redeployment. There are about 60,000 white troops and airmen in the base, about 45,000 to 50,000 white soldiers and 15,000 airmen, and there are another 20,000 coloured troops.

Mr. Bevan

There are 71,000 British troops.

Captain Waterhouse

I will not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman. Of the 71,000 which he mentioned, about 18,000 are from the Colonies.

Mr. Bevan


Captain Waterhouse

Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell me whether I am wrong. How many troops are to come back here through redeployment, and how long is it to be, when they do get back, before we will hear hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite asking why we want so many troops around Britain, and suggesting some modifications of National Service?

I agree with another remark of the hon. Member for Coventry, East. He said if we liked we could maintain the base with our present forces, but he said nobody wanted to do that. He also said that we could get out, lock, stock and barrel. I agree that that is a possibility. It is one that I should decry, but it is a possibility. I personally do not believe that it is a practical proposition to leave 4,000 dispersed technicians in that area.

The hon. Gentleman has graphically described what is taking place in the way of looting. I would hesitate to accept the responsibility for leaving 4,000 British troops and 25,000 British civilians in an Egypt and in a Canal Zone under political conditions such as exist today without British forces anywhere near to influence the situation or to protect them.

I suggest that that does not exhaust the possibility. There is an approach which has not been tried since the war, because since then every British Government—and I am sorry that my right hop. Friends are doing it—have talked in terms of evacuation. I met someone the other day who was freshly back from Egypt. He had lived many years there as a businessman; his father and he had been there for a period which spanned 80 years. He told me there is an Arab proverb which runs: Give a man his land and he will expect to be given the seed to sow. That, I believe, is a fair summing up of Eastern mentality. As long as they feel they can gain by bargaining they are not going to clinch the bargain.

As long as we are talking about evacuation it will be absolutely impossible to come to a real agreement with Egypt on any other terms than complete evacuation. I believe that we can go back to where we were in 1936. I believe it is still possible to say that, conditions being as they are, all those factors, which caused my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to make that Agreement, still operate, and should continue to do so until Egypt is able and willing to preserve the Canal, and to preserve security in her area. Until then we should say that we are going to maintain an armed force —a force of airmen as well as a military force—at a strategic point in that base.

As far as I am concerned the base can be contracted as much as the military authorities think possible. Indeed, the base can be done away with. I am not concerned with it, but I am vitally concerned with the essentiality of keeping in that part of the world a British force that will maintain security in the Canal and our rights in the Middle East, which will encourage and protect our friends throughout Africa.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)

The reality of the philosophical differences between the two parties in the House has been exposed by the speeches that we have heard tonight. Generally speaking, my hon. Friends start from the assumption that it is undesirable for foreign troops to occupy any other country. We argue between ourselves over the issue of Imperialism and how we should withdraw our forces, but we are always united in the principle of believing that it is undesirable to have our troops in occupation of any country.

On the other hand, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite contend that in the circumstances of 1954, and for strategic and economic reasons, it is impossible to relinquish any of our Imperial holdings. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) has—and I hope he will for- give me for saying it—a rather old-fashioned view of our responsibilities. Therefore, I say that this debate points to the philosophical gulf between the two sides of the House.

Let me say this to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. There are many things in his speech to which I should like to reply, but he talked about the danger of leaving a large number of technicians with a small force in Egypt after negotiations have concluded, because they would be exposed to considerable dangers. He has not appreciated that there would be an entirely different climate of public opinion in Egypt if British forces were withdrawn from that country. Does he not appreciate, for example, the entirely different attitude now adopted by the Indian people towards British nationals who have been living in India in recent years.

Does one hear of attacks upon Britons living in India? Is it not a fact that the withdrawal of British troops from that country during the days of the Labour Administration has caused a revolution in the attitude of the Indian people towards the British? So it was in Southern Ireland, and so it always is when Imperial rule is removed from a previous subject people.

I want to say a word or two about the base in Egypt. I know something about it, though my knowledge is probably not as up-to-date as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). However, I had the opportunity of spending three and a half years in Egypt during the war, though I am no more up-to-date than 1945. This I do know, that it is impossible to conduct the base there on anything like effective lines without the good will of the civilian population. That is true, however much we reduce the size of the base.

Just before I was sent home from Egypt I took charge of a big installation which I believe is still in the Canal Zone. It was a petrol dump. About 100,000 Egyptians were operating in the Canal area in 1945. I understand that the number is now down to about 20,000, but then 2,000 Egyptians were employed in that quite small depot simply in clearing sand off the railway line every day or in removing sand from the dump. Without their efforts in that physical task each day it would have been impossible for the Army to use that section of the base. For example, we could not have brought locomotives in to shift the petroleum products because, after two or three days' neglect, the dumps would have been covered by drifting sand.

I know that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does not argue that the base should be carried on at its present level, but the last time he addressed the House he spoke in terms of reducing it to a brigade force, to be located somewhere around Suez. It still remains true, however, that to do that we must have the goodwill of the population in order to operate the base effectively.

I do not think that any British occupation of Egypt in 1954 will be tolerated by any Egyptian Government, and the course that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is advocating seems to me to be one designed to produce the maximum political irritation and the maximum agitation against the British with the minimum of technical and military protection. I find it extraordinarily difficult to believe that this is a practical contribution to the solution of this problem.

Captain Waterhouse

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I want to make my argument quite clear. It was this, that as long as we are dangling evacuation in front of the Egyptians, an agreement is virtually impossible. If we took a really firm stand and said to them, "We do not want to quarrel with you, we want to be friendly; we do not want to interfere with your internal government, but whatever you say or do we shall keep a force there until such time as you can protect the Canal Zone"; then I think we should have a better chance of coming to an agreement than we have today.

Mr. Griffiths

That is the view of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, to which he and his hon. Friends are entitled, but it is not mine. I think the scars of Imperialism have gone much too deep. I am one of those who agree that nothing short of the complete evacuation of Egypt will bring about the creation of such cordial relations between our two countries as, in the event of hostilities, might cause a future Egyptian Government to accord to us the facilities that a military situation of the future might need.

I think that hostility to the British has gone much too far and, of course, it is understandable when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his hon. Friends tell the House of Commons of the attacks that are made on British soldiers in the Canal Zone. We all deplore them and we do not want our soldiers to be exposed to those attacks for a minute longer than is necessary. But the history of the British occupation of Egypt has also been marked by the most atrocious behaviour on the part of some British troops towards the North Egyptian native population.

I have seen this from the point of view of a private soldier. In the capital city of Egypt I have seen Egyptian civilians being interrogated in British barracks by British soldiers and beaten up in a way which is nearly on a par with the bestial reports that we have been reading about in the recent trial in Kenya. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tut, tut."] It is no use tut-tutting because those things are widely known, and every British officer or soldier who encouraged his comrades to refer to Egyptians as "wogs" during the war or afterwards was building up that widespread hatred of the British which today makes the negotiations so extremely difficult between our two countries.

Those are the facts of the matter. I do not want to go into further details, but if any hon. Gentleman seeks to disbelieve or to challenge me, I can go into revolting details of what I have seen and about which, as a private soldier, I was unable to take effective action.

I sum up my view in this way: the base on its present size is by general agreement impossible to operate without the good will of the Egyptian population. Even if it were desirable, we cannot operate it on the size advocated by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East. I believe that the relationship between ourselves and Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries would be revolutionised by this Government if they would have the courage to initiate a new approach; if they would say to the Egyptian Government, in defiance of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his hon. Friends, after consideration of the need to get out of the base as much material as possible and the withdrawal of our troops, 'On a certain date, maybe in 18 months' time, whatever you say about it, we will finally and irrevocably withdraw from Egypt."

If they said that, the Egyptians would begin to react to us from the date of that announcement and the climate between our two countries would improve. There is a chance that the relations between Britain and Egypt would flourish in that atmosphere, as the relations between Britain and India have flourished since the Labour Government took a similar initiative in respect of that thorny problem some years ago.

8.29 p.m.

Mr. Howard Johnson (Brighton, Kemptown)

I shall confine my remarks strictly to one aspect of the Amendment moved by the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle), the living conditions of our troops in the Suez Canal Zone. I found myself in almost entire agreement with the hon. Lady and I shall not attempt to go outside that narrow issue. I want also to pay my tribute to the high morale of the troops in the Suez Canal Zone, but I am concerned because I believe that there is deterioration in that respect and it is not fair to put this issue forward as though it is the responsibility of the present Government.

I am certain that hon. Members on both sides of the House have been very concerned for some years past with the living conditions of our troops in the Canal Zone. I well remember writing and making representations to the Secretary of State for War in the last Labour Government on this very point. Therefore, I do not think it is fair to make any party points on the present living conditions of our troops.

This was brought very much to my attention in November and December of this year when two constituents of mine, young National Service men, were killed in the Suez Canal Zone. It is a terrible thing when British soldiers are killed by Egyptians who are supposed to be our allies and with whom we are presumed to be on friendly terms, but these two men were killed by their own comrades. The whole House will agree that that is even far worse. The deaths of these two young men made me very concerned as to whether the morale of our troops is not deteriorating.

The first death was that of Craftsman Huggett on 29th November, 1953. He was killed by a comrade with whom he was on Army sentry duty. The comrade was demonstrating, completely against regimental orders, how to fire a rifle from the hip and he proceeded to fire his rifle straight into the abdomen of Craftsman Huggett, who died shortly afterwards.

That incident was followed on 4th December by the death of Driver Fowler who, at Fayid, was shot in the head by a revolver bullet fired by a comrade. I have not yet heard from the Secretary of State for War the result of the court of inquiry into that incident, but I think that these two terrible events suggest that there is something wrong with the higher command in the Suez Canal Zone.

Mr. Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

Surely my hon. Friend is not suggesting that because two soldiers are accidentally killed morale generally is deteriorating. I remember two very similar cases in my unit, in 1940, when the morale of the British Army was at a very high level.

Mr. Johnson

It might be a sign of the beginning of a deterioration in morale. I have had the opportunity of seeing a letter which was written by Driver Fowler within a few hours of his being killed. He had a very serious complaint to make about the fact that he had had no pay since he had left the United Kingdom some six weeks earlier and that for three nights since his arrival in the Canal Zone he had had to sleep on concrete.

I am concerned whether the small arms training of our National Service men is really 100 per cent, efficient. I do not believe that if the training is really efficient, terrible accidents of the kind that I have described should occur. I am also concerned as to whether men who are not physically fit are being put on this very onerous Army sentry duty in the Canal Zone. I have had examples brought to my notice of men who have been on sentry duty when they had a physical deformity which prevented their firing a rifle, or at any rate firing it accurately. One case was that of a man who had failed a rifle test because he was blind in one eye. Yet he was placed on sentry duty in what is now a very dangerous area. I question whether that is wise.

A type of mentality which has always horrified me is what I call the "military mind." We had an example of it today from these benches when it was said that the British soldier is always being asked to accept bad conditions. One knows that in wartime that is essential and that no one accepts them better than the British soldier. I well recall, when I commanded my battery in the swamp districts of Southern Nigeria, being obliged to have my men living in the most shocking and primitive conditions in malaria infested country. I managed to persuade them that there was no alternative; we were in the midst of war. They accepted the position until the American troops arrived in Nigeria. In less than no time they had prefabricated huts, the most magnificent anti-malarial precautions and refrigerators, they brought electricity with them and were living in the lap of luxury.

Is it just that what I call this cursed military mind should say that British troops must put up with something because they are British troops, whereas with a little imagination, a little drive and initiative, the conditions in the Suez Canal Zone could have been and should have been improved for the British troops many years ago and certainly should have been improved very much above their present low level? I am very concerned with that aspect of the matter.

I am always suspicious of the military mind which says that British troops must put up with bad conditions. I never subscribed to that and never will. I shall be glad to hear from the Secretary of State for War whether every possible amenity, quite regardless of cost, can be provided. I make no excuse for saying that because I am sure that in my constituency, and every constituency, if our constituents were told that they had to forgo a certain amount of capital expenditure in their towns in order that conditions should be made better for the troops in the Canal Zone, every constituent would gladly accept that position.

I come from a tourist town, where capital expenditure is of great importance, but I am certain that if the people of Brighton were told that there was some capital expenditure they could not have because it was essential to improve the amenities and living conditions of the troops in the Canal Zone, they would willingly forgo capital expenditure of that kind.

I do not subscribe to the view that British troops must live in bad conditions because of financial stringency. I believe the money could be saved in this country and that we could afford to pay more in improving conditions for our troops.

Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

Come on, boys, cheer him.

Mr. Johnson

Things go terribly wrong, as, indeed, they did in those two units where there must have been a lack of discipline or an inferior morale to that of the remainder of the troops in the Canal Zone. We know what happened to one of the persons who disobeyed regimental orders and killed his comrade. He suffered 84 days' detention.

I do not question the justice of that sentence because I know full well that his real punishment will lie in the fact that for ever more he will know that through a negligent and wanton act he will have the death of his friend on his mind. But what happened to the regimental commander? Was he punished or not? If this had happened in my battery my brigadier would have been down on me in no time and I would have lost command of my battery.

I have heard from the Secretary of State for War what happened to the soldier, but I have not heard what happened to the regimental or unit commander. I believe there is a great deal more that could be done for the living standards of the troops in the Suez Canal Zone and I believe also that if things are allowed to go on as they have been going on for the past five or six years there will be a rapid deterioration in the morale of our troops. That I do not want to see.

8.39 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

In so far as the hon. Member for Kemp-town (Mr. H. Johnson) has been pointing to the conditions of great hardship of the troops in the Canal Zone, I entirely agree with him and would go a long way with him in asking the Secretary of State for War to improve them. I spent a few hours there and I was told that one can hardly get windows repaired. Even if we are to withdraw some of our troops, I suggest that, in view of the danger under which these men serve and the magnificent job they are doing, we should ask the Secretary of State to impress on his colleagues—if he has to do that— the need for a little more money to spend on providing decent amenities.

We all know the old story that A.D.O.S. is the Greek word for unobtainable, and I suspect that if that be true of anywhere it is true of the base at the present moment. On the other hand, I think we should be holding out false hopes to our troops if we led them to suppose that in the present state of uncertainty they would get anything like American standards.

When the hon. Member suggested that there might be some lack of discipline and morale at the base, I am bound to say that during my short visit I was struck with exactly the opposite view. The morale seemed to be absolutely superb. I admit I was there for only two hours, but inspecting generals have formed their conclusions in a similar amount of time, though I do not pretend to be an inspecting general—in fact, I only succeeded in reaching the rank of substantive captain. But I have relations and friends who have served at the base, including a nephew who is a conscript soldier, and all the reports I have received show that the morale of the troops could not be higher. That may be as a result of the very fact of the inflammatory speeches of certain people in Egypt, and I do not think it would be fair to allow it to go from this House that we suggest that the standard of discipline or the morale of our troops is low.

There are a certain number of non-British employees at the base. Some of them are Egyptians and other Palestinians. They are serving there in danger to themselves, and if we should withdraw we must watch the interests of these people who would be in a serious position were they left there.

Mr. H. Johnson

Would the hon. Member agree that there would seem to be signs of deterioration of morale when 17 of our own soldiers were killed by their own comrades and 28 seriously wounded during 1953? Those figures are not indicative of a happy state of affairs.

Mr. Grimoad

I would describe those events as deplorable, but I am not clear why it should be necessary to ask what happened to the commanding officer, and I am not sure that we should give the impression that that is a reason to suppose that morale in the base is bad.

I wish to return to the theme of the mover and seconder of the Amendment and of the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse). Whatever view one may take of the history leading up to the present situation, or where the fault for it may lie, I think we have to deal with things as they are today. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman gave me the impression of someone who was angry because he had been tied to the stake. But having been tied there he was absolutely determined to be burned at all costs. He felt strongly that we had been put in a false position in Egypt and in the base, but when he came to his solution for that state of affairs I was not convinced.

I had a feeling also that we having perhaps gone too fast in the Sudan, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was now anxious to make good that mistake by making another in the opposite direction over the base. It may well be that we should not have considered those two problems together, but if we be proved to have gone too fast in the Sudan, I do not consider that to be a reason for making another mistake in connection with the Canal.

There is no satisfactory or easy and safe solution to this problem, and I think the House must realise that fact. We are in a difficult and dangerous situation. Whatever course we may take, we shall suffer great loss of material and money and probably experience great dangers. But I do not for one moment think that that absolves us from making up our minds to take some step, and I deplore the continual attitude of delay exhibited by the Government about the step now to be taken.

The situation in Egypt is not unlike what it once was in Ireland. The people of this country were bewildered and rather hurt by the attitude which Ireland adopted towards England. We failed to appreciate how strongly the Irish resented us at that time in the position in which we were in their country. I believe that the Egyptians feel like that today, and it is not an altogether unreasonable feeling.

The lesson of Ireland and of all other situations of that sort is that one must grasp these changes in national feelings in their fairly early stages. One must make up one's mind what one's policy is to be and then stick to it. I am sure that our prestige depends not upon force or violence but upon the wisdom and consistency of our policy. If we had to use force on a big scale in Egypt, it would be a confession of failure. If we want an example of what such a failure could do, we have only to look at what happened at Damascus which was bombarded by the French with disastrous results to their prestige throughout the Middle East.

There were moments when the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) seemed seriously to contemplate a war with the Egyptian Army. It is not practical politics to suggest that one should embody three or four divisions in this country and march on Cairo. I have the feeling occasionally that some people who want to take a strong line do so because they think it would be good for our souls if we had a victory over the Egyptians and established our power in that country. That is a completely mistaken view of the possibility of the situation. We have to look at the situation only in the light of what we want and what our real aims are. High among those must be a friendly local population.

Everybody is agreed that we do not want 80,000 men in the base. We have no strategic reserves at home, and we have very inadequate arrangements for the defence of the Middle East outside the base. I very much agreed with that part of the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East where he touched on the wider aspects of the matter. We are far too inclined to concentrate our thoughts on the difficulty of the base while the whole of the territory to the north and east of Egypt lies open and unprotected.

What we want is a supply base. We want the workshops and depots so that if we had to operate in the area to the north and east of Egypt we could eventually lead back our supply lines and base them on the Canal and its ports. We do not want to use the base as a springboard for an expeditionary force, nor to have a garrison pinned down in it if we can avoid it. We have in any case not got the troops available for that purpose.

Next, we want to protect the Canal. That is a separate and distinct problem from that of the base, and it is a very important one. It is also one in which Australia and New Zealand and our Empire are vitally concerned. We might some time be told what consultations there have been with those Dominions on the subject. I do not know how far it would be in order to go into that; not very far, I suspect. But I would just say this.

It is true that at the moment there is not free passage through the Canal for ships going to Palestine. Even with 80,000 men there, we cannot guarantee that. But as far as other traffic is concerned, I understand that it is free. It is, of course, clearly in the interests of the Egyptians to keep the canal traffic flowing. In any case, in the fairly near future, the concession to the company runs out. The Canal is an international problem and we should bring into the discussion not only our own Empire but our allies as well. I repeat that it is a separate and distinct problem from that of the base. If these are our objects, we have to look at the present situation.

As was said in the previous debate by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), we have gone a very long way in negotiations with the Egyptian Government. It has been argued that events in the last few days in Egypt have shown that the Egyptian Government is not a body with which anybody can do negotiations. I am willing to believe that Egyptian Governments are always extremely unstable, and may be so for some years to come. There is, however, something rather smug in our attitude to such Governments. They have an extremely difficult job. If we are going to be too nice about the sort of Government we are prepared to negotiate with we shall find it very difficult to do business of any kind in the modern world.

Regrettable as events in Egypt may have been, they should not deflect us from our interests, which lie now in continuing on this line of policy along which we have gone such a very long way. Any back-pedalling at this moment may do very great harm to our prestige, not only with the Egyptians but with neighbouring countries.

We have reduced the points at issue to two. The first of them is whether the 4,000 technicians whom we want to keep in the Zone should or should not be dressed in uniform. There is a great risk in leaving these technicians in the place at all. I fully see the point of those who say that they will be unprotected, and of those who say that very likely the base and its installations will be looted. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) stressed the amount of pilfering which went on; not altogether political pilfering but a good deal of straight, old-fashioned thieving, which will go on in any case. To leave those technicians there requires an act of faith in the development of better relations with the Egyptians and in the ability of the Egyptian Army to learn its job and discharge its great duties on the base. I do not think that anyone can feel completely happy about it, but we have to make a decision and, having got to this stage in the negotiations, we must, I would say, take the risk.

The present Government have kept up a standard of order in Cairo which I am told is remarkable. If we leave the technicians there I am not clear whether they will be worse off in uniform than without it. I should have thought that in uniform they would be a greater provocation to the Egyptians than without, and that if we are to take the risk of leaving them there after all, we had better allow them to be dressed in mufti. I understand that if we can get civilians to take the job we are willing to consider doing that. The other point is whether the base should be reactivated in the event of an attack upon certain countries. Having got to this stage of negotiations, the Government should surely try to come to some agreement with the Egyptians on this point.

Suppose the Government say that they cannot give way on the two points, then what do we do? Suppose they take the line that if they gave way on those points others would be brought up: what is the alternative? The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East feels that we should no longer talk about evacuation and that we should cease our present negotiations and start again on the basis of keeping operational troops in the area. I understood him to say that we should be able to keep a division there. He also visualised dispersion of by far the greatest proportion of the base. I understand that what we want is not to have a division there, as this is not to be an operational base, but to retain supply and maintenance depots, which are now in the area. Thus we should be, under his plan, getting what we do not want and sacrificing what we do as well as losing the good will of the Egyptians.

It seems to me that this solution would give us precisely what we do not want, even if it were acceptable to the Egyptians, which I doubt. Personally, I think we should find that if we broke off negotiations we would have to retain the 80,000 people already in the base, so cutting off our nose at the expense of seriously spiting our own face. Our enemies could not wish anything better than that we should continue to have that number of men tied down there.

Some Members behave in this matter rather as though they feel they have been pushed around too much—in Abadan, in the Sudan— and now must make a firm stand somewhere. I do not think that we should be moved by that emotional view but should look calmly at our own interests. If we do that, then in our present state it is infinitely better to come to agreement.

Captain Waterhouse

At what point would the hon. Member stop? Would he be prepared to give up Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar?

Mr. Grimond

No. If I thought that what we really wanted was to keep an army of 80,000 men in the Canal Zone as being vital to the defence of the free world and the Empire, I would be prepared to go along with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. But I do not feel that that is what we want, and that is why I think we should not be led into breaking off these negotiations and throwing the whole thing into chaos again.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, appears to think that we can delay with advantage. I do not believe that time is on our side. If we get too near to 1956 the Egyptians will be only too happy to let the time run out. I dissent very strongly from those who feel that we shall be in a strong position when the time runs out. At that stage we shall be taken to the United Nations, world opinion will be against us and we shall have to leave Egypt in a most ignominious fashion.

When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East looked at the Middle East generally, he spoke of the vital consideration, to begin with, whether or not we stay in Egypt. It is at present very largely undefended from the air. I believe it is most important that we should have some plan in view, either by training the Egyptians, or by keeping our own people there if we can do so, to establish some system of warning, anti-aircraft defence and fighters not only for the defence of the Canal but of Alexandria and Cairo.

In the Middle East there seems to be a vacuum both of troops and policy. The only effective forces on one side is the Arab Legion, small and lightly armed, whose future is a little uncertain. On the other side there are the Jews, who are its deadly enemies. At the same time we have guaranteed the absurd Israeli frontier and have undertaken prime responsibility for the defence of that area against attack from the North.

I should like the Secretary of State to say a few words about our policy there. If we are to have Iraq as a first line of defence, we should get on with it. If not, what have we in mind? Our settlement with Egypt will have an important effect on this area, and its' effects will be carefully watched by both Iraq and Jordan and Israel. I think we can come to an arrangement with those countries, but we must press on. My objection is not to the Government's present policy in regard to this base, but to the rate at which they are pursuing it. If we cannot come to an agreement with Egypt, I feel that it would be better if we left the base and abandoned £300 million of stores rather than prevaricate about our policy all through this part of the world.

Mr. Ralph Assheton (Blackburn, West)

What about the Canal?

Mr. Grimond

That is a separate problem, and we should try to make some international arrangement about it. I hope that we shall come to an agreement with Egypt, but to reach it we must show some real determination. We must maintain our policy, and continue these negotiations, even if we have to give way on one of the outstanding points.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)

The Amendment calls attention to the conditions in the Suez Canal Zone and the dilatoriness of the Government in handling the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations. I am not impressed by the argument that because of the uncertainty of the situation in Egypt and the instability of the Government the matter can be postponed. The Egyptians will probably continue to quarrel among themselves for quite a while yet, but about one thing they will be absolutely unified, and that is the desire to get rid of us.

I agree that we should try to come to some arrangement with General Neguib to preserve the Canal as one of the bases in the defence of the Eastern Mediterranean, but I am not very hopeful of its proving of much value if we get it. Even so, as an earnest that we mean business, we should reduce our forces there at a very early date. Certain contingents could come back at once, and other contingents could leave at intervals. We might consider making it a condition that the attacks upon our troops in the Canal Zone should cease before the next contingent left. I do not know whether that will have any effect, but it might be worth trying. As soon as we can we should get our force down to the level which we are allowed under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty.

But all this raises a much bigger question—the value of the base in the whole plan for the defence of the Eastern Mediterranean. I am convinced that we must come to a definite decision on this matter before 1956. I have not very much faith in the value of an agreement with the Egyptian Government. I have little faith in the political situation in Egypt, or the value of the Egyptians as soldiers, although I may be less well informed than other hon. Members about this matter. I am better informed about other and nearer countries.

I am not very impressed by the argument which has been used by some of my hon. Friends, that once we leave Egypt she will be friendly and cooperative. I do not believe that. I remember too well what happened in Ireland. Many of us thought that if we relinquished our bases in Southern Ireland we should be allowed to go back there in war-time, but we were not allowed to do so. We shall find the same thing occurring in the Middle East as occurred with the Irishmen. They will let as down.

One condition which I am glad the Government have tried to obtain, although they seem to have failed so far, is that in the event of any of the Middle Eastern countries being threatened the N.A.T.O. Powers should be allowed to use the Canal Zone. I understand that the Egyptian Government said they would agree if the Arab League were threatened but not if Turkey or Persia were threatened.

When I was in Turkey last autumn, while this matter was under discussion, Turkish opinion was very nervous and jumpy about it. On the other hand, those who are in high positions in Turkey were not so worried because they seemed to think that the strategic value of the Canal is no longer what it was and that there are other bases elsewhere which ought to be the lynch pin of East Mediterranean defence. A future enemy is unlikely to come across the Libyan Desert. He is much more likely to come across the East Anatolian plateau or North-West Azerbaijan. That is where we have to look.

In the last few years we have seen the Yugoslav-Greek-Turkish defence arrangements which should do a lot to seal off that part of South-East Europe and Western Asia. We have Turkey as a bastion of the N.A.T.O. Powers. An even more important development is the agreement between Turkey and Pakistan.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think the hon. Gentleman is making a speech on foreign affairs.

Mr. Price

I agree that I must not go very far in this direction, but I am dealing with the defence of the East Mediterranean and if you will permit me to relate it to the Canal I will not go beyond that point.

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order. The issue before the House is not that of the defence of the Canal Zone, but that of the living conditions in the Canal Zone.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

What is before the House is the Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Mr. Strachey

On a point of order. The words of the Amendment, which, surely, are relevant, include condemnation of the Government's handling of the negotiations. Surely that is germane.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I have already said that what the House is discussing is the Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question"

Mr. Price

The Amendment reads: …deplores the Government's handling of the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations which has prolonged this uncertainty. Surely I can say something about the negotiations?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I would remind the hon. Gentleman that I have already pointed out that we are limited by the words of the Amendment: call attention to the living conditions …in the Canal Zone. It is true that we can discuss what the hon. Gentleman is saying in relation to the latter part of the Amendment.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

I recognise that the earlier part of the Amendment reads, "to call attention" but that is a Parliamentary term used in the initiation of the debate in the early stages. The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) has moved an Amendment, the terms of which are that this House … deplores the Government's handling of the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations. … Surely the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) was in order in expatiating on the defence of the Suez Canal in relation to the Government's handling of Anglo-Egyptian affairs.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I ruled on this earlier. It is in order to discuss that in so far as it is the concern of the Secretary of State for War. In so far as it falls within the province of the Foreign Secretary it is not in order to discuss that.

Mr. Price

I shall be very careful, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. In any case, I do not wish to detain the House very long. The Government seem to me to have been very dilatory in handling the negotiations. It is very important to get a settlement soon because we are keeping many men in the Canal Zone who ought to be elsewhere, perhaps here. It is not so important to have a large base there because we can have a base elsewhere, and that is the point that I was making.

Although it is true that in the Canal Zone we have a large force of Egyptian labour, a labour force we cannot get so easily elsewhere, still, in present conditions, with a hostile Egypt, that advantage will not be of very much use. It is possible, farther north, in Turkey, on the Gulf of Alexandretta, to find, not perhaps a labour force, but conditions that will make it possible to have a base in Turkish territory, and to develop Cyprus, and to establish another base in conjunction with the developments going on for the defence of South-East Europe in Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. We can shift the whole axis of defence away from the Canal farther north to where a possible enemy is much more likely to be. That is the main argument I have been trying to make.

Developments are, I think, moving in that direction. Therefore, I beg the Government to hurry with these negotiations, because time has not been and will not be on our side. Things are likely to go from bad to worse, and we ought not to allow ourselves to be so placed that we may be called before the United Nations on a charge of breaking the conditions of a treaty.

9.12 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)

I want to attend to the first and last parts of the Amendment, the first that calls attention to the living conditions of our troops in the Canal Zone, and the last, which deplores the Government's handling of the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations.

My right hon. Friend, opening the debate today, used these words, "No one is more disappointed than I am about our not having reduced our troops in Egypt owing to the lack of an agreement." My right hon. Friend was pointing to one reason why it is necessary to have there the number of troops we have at present in the Canal Zone. It is obvious, and has been remarked upon again and again today, that we have there very many more troops than in times past, and that the accommodation there was provided for a very much smaller number, and that, therefore, the living conditions cannot, under these circumstances, be adequate.

Having been in Middle East for short periods in 1951 and 1952, and many times before, but not having been to Egypt for a few years, I felt about four or five months ago, that it appeared to be of no avail to go on negotiating with a Government that seemed continuously to be screaming against our country and also carrying out brutal attacks. That was my view at that time. Therefore, I personally was very glad to have the opportunity of going to the Middle East and to the Canal Zone, and listening to our people in the Canal Zone—to our Commander-in-Chief and to his officers and men, and discuss matters with members of the British civilian population and others as well.

Naturally, one must be influenced to a certain degree by the people who were actually being subjected at that time to different forms of attack and every other discomfort that was going on. It would be quite unnatural if one utterly ignored the views of those on the spot and had day-to-day contact with the men concerned.

One might have expected that under those conditions the people who were in fact being laid open to these forms of attacks would be the first people to say: "What is the good of going on with any form of negotiations at all?" But that was not, in fact, the case.

The case was that, in spite of what my right hon. Friend has just said, I found an absolutely united view about this matter wherever I went in the Middle East, in the Canal Zone or in Cairo by the higher responsible people and also by responsible junior people whom I met there.

I believe that the reason for this is not very difficult to find, although, at the moment it would be utterly absurd for anyone who has ever known Egypt to think that the problem of Egypt at any time can be simple. We must remember that we are discussing today the reason for the base and the fact that it is a base and not an operational theatre.

I think all hon. Members present will agree that the only way a base can operate is if the surrounding districts have more or less some form of friendship in a time of attack by an enemy. It would be absurd to think that a base would be very useful to operate from if, in fact, the surrounding countryside was just as much at war as the enemy it was fighting.

Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)

Before my hon. Friend leaves that interesting point, would he agree that the friendship of a people is not purchased essentially by a treaty or agreement, particularly if the Government concerned has a bad record recently for breaking it?

Mr. Marshall

Most certainly; I do not disagree with that. The fact I am stating is that a base cannot operate as a base without having a friendly circle around it.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

Salonika was a base operating in unfriendly territory. My hon. Friend will remember the Isle of Moudros. How does that fit in with his argument?

Mr. Marshall

I personally was not old enough to fight in the First World War, but the actual physical question of a base in time of war is a different matter from building up a base in a time of peace for possible operation in war.

The point which I want to make is a very simple one, and I am not in disagreement with our fighting forces today, who know very much more about this than I do. I do not profess to know these particular points of strategy as well as they do, but so far I have not met any active Service men in that theatre who would disagree with the point I have made.

If the maintaining of a base in that part of the world is necessary to the defence, not only of the Middle East, but of the peace of the world, it is equally reasonable that we should approach the problem at least with a view to getting the most satisfactory solution for main- taining that base. Surely, even my hon. Friends, with whose approach at one time I agreed, would admit that for that purpose an agreement of some sort must be reached.

Major Legge-Bourke

My hon. Friend is confusing two issues. He is saying that this is a matter of discussing the base and whether the base is a base or something else. What my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) said is that the base is the least important thing, and many of us feel that it might well be dispensed with. The point at issue is the fighting troops in the Canal area.

Mr. Marshall

My right hon. and gallant Friend made his point, and I have dealt with it.

Anyone who has known Egypt for any time will agree that it is a country full of memories and that every Egyptian is a politician. That is not at all a good thing. Therefore, it is a difficult problem at any time. Those who have known the modern Egypt of today would agree that this difficulty is not lessened by the fact that it is at present governed by the younger generation, which by its very upbringing is both nationalistic and suspicious. All of this affects the problem of the base.

I want to face this problem by finding a measure of agreement between Egypt and Britain with regard to the base.

Mr. Speaker

This is getting a little remote from the Army Estimates. The hon. Member talks about an agreement between this country and Egypt. That, surely, is a matter for the Foreign Office and not for the Secretary of State for War.

Mr. Marshall

I quite agree, Mr. Speaker, and, naturally, I bow to your Ruling. I opened my speech, however, by referring to the fact that the Amendment deplores the Government's handling of the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations …

Mr. Speaker

I have already indicated that that part of the Amendment is not a matter we can discuss on the Army Estimates.

Mr. Marshall

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker.

I continue in this way. First, with regard to the conditions in the Canal Zone, I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has taken note of the remarks of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) on the question of broken windows in a number of the huts. I say to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that I have taken this matter up and already have a letter to say that the matter is being investigated. Possibly the hon. Member has seen more of this than I did. I hope we will get an answer from the Government.

Secondly, there is the question of the people who are employed by the Army in the Canal Zone and who, in some cases, have a national status but who, in other cases, have no national status whatever. I sincerely trust that if at any time we go away from the Zone, the Government will ensure that these people are looked after.

Mr. Speaker, you have already said that I cannot refer to the question of an agreement, but I trust that at least at this point I will be within the rules of order. The whole object of being in the base is that we shall help in the defence of the Middle East and of the free world. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary for us to be there through the wishes of the free world so that we can satisfactorily carry out that objective. I do not believe that time is by any means upon our side. It is necessary to get an agreement with Egypt so that we can feel that we are there because of that agreement and not wait for the present Treaty to come up for revision in 1956, and thus it will not be necessary for Egypt to refer the matter to the United Nations.

In sincerely trust that Her Majesty's Government will do all in their power to reopen negotiations, because I believe that that would be the best course they could take. It is for that reason that I fully support the negotiations which are going on at the present time.

9.27 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

I am sure the House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) for putting this Amendment before the House, and it is well that the troops serving in the Canal Zone should know that on the night that the House of Commons is debating the Army Estimates we are considering not only the things that concern the well-being of the men, but that which causes those duties which they are called upon to carry out. I am sure that in this I carry the whole House with me.

I am also grateful, as I am sure the House is, to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse), because he has a very important role to play, for he has been able to get clear in our minds what are the issues which divide us. There are those on this side of the House and many hon. Gentlemen on the Government side who hold the view that a friendly Egypt, which will willingly co-operate with us is a vital British interest, whereas the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does not hold that view.

He said some very surprising things tonight. He attempted to explain the attitude of himself and his hon. Friends, who, it is said, have a great influence upon Government policy, by saying that the entire blame rested on this side of the House. He had a great deal of vocal support when he said that the responsibility for the fact that we were in breach of the 1936 Treaty rested with my right hon. Friends, that the breach had existed at the conclusion of the war and had persisted since that time, and that the present Government had to deal with that situation when they came to office.

On that point the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was quite hopelessly wrong. I have taken the trouble to look up the last published figures of Army strength in the Canal Zone before the war, and the information is included in the Army Estimates for 1938–39. According to those Estimates, published in February, 1938, the strength of the troops in Egypt was 11,739. So that in fact the pre-war Government stood in breach of the 1936 Treaty only two years after its signature.

Mr. Assheton

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is correct. If he will look at the Treaty he will see that its terms permitted more than 10,000 men—

Mr. Wigg

His right hon. and gallant Friend quoted that figure.

Mr. Assheton

indicated dissent.

Mr. Wigg

That was the figure given tonight.

Mr. Assheton

The hon. Gentleman has forgotten the terms of the Treaty. It said that British Forces could be maintained in the vicinity of the Canal Zone and the numbers were to be 10,000 men and auxiliaries and 400 pilots, together with the necessary ancillary personnel for administrative and technical duties.

Mr. Wigg

Auxiliaries are not borne on those Estimates. The actual establishment in 1938 was 11,739, and in any case that figure was far exceeded before the outbreak of war. All I want to establish is that we stood in breach of the 1936 Treaty almost as soon as the signature was on the paper.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)


Mr. Wigg

I am sorry, I have only a limited amount of time, so I cannot give way. This applies not only to men but to installations. Before the war we had only one brigade based on Moascar and another in Cairo, but long before the outbreak of war we were outside the Treaty area. It is beyond doubt, on the evidence of the 1938 Army Estimates themselves, that we stood in breach of the 1936 Treaty. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]

Now I want to turn to another astonishing statement of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East. He laid the blame for the difficulties under which our troops live at the present time upon the Labour Government, because he said that Government had evacuated the splendid barracks in Cairo and forced our troops to live in congested, hovel-like conditions. I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has never lived in those splendid barracks in Cairo but, for my sins, I lived for several years in Abbassia and in Kasr-El-Nil, and I was also in hospital at the Citadel.

In addition to the flies and the mosquitoes and the sand, there were the bugs. Never were there such bugs in the world as in Egypt, and never were there such intelligent bugs. One of the drills that all troops had to carry out, generally in our own time on Sunday morning after church parade, was to go round with a blow-lamp and burn these horrible creatures. We would also get cigarette tins into which we would put paraffin and then stand the legs of our beds in them. But the bugs were up to that. Up the walls they would go, along the mosquito netting, and down the other side. And in the dead of night we would find that we were being dive-bombed by a special brand of Egyptian bug. So the idea of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that we lived in wonderful comfort in Cairo and that now the troops are having a terrible time in the Canal Zone is another piece of nonsense which has its origin in his imagination and nowhere else. The facts are that ever since the First World War, conditions in Egypt for British troops have been terrible.

It is not a recent business that the troops can only go out under escort. In the years between the two wars one of the great penalties of serving in Egypt was that if anybody under the rank of sergeant wanted to go out he had to go with somebody else. He could not even go for a walk outside Abbassia or Kasr-el-Nil without being accompanied. I am sure that it is as true today as it was before the war, that one of the great things from which these young men suffer is the lack of privacy, of never being able to go for a walk alone and enjoy one's own company.

That was the condition before the war, and it certainly has a great effect on morale. The hon. Gentleman who said that morale is high and that the soldiers do not mind is quite wrong. It shows that the soldiers are polite and do not always tell the stranger who comes along to inquire what they say to each other. But if hon. Gentlemen visiting the Canal Zone for only a few days or hours would stay there for a while and would get on real chummy terms with the troops, and listen to what they have to say, they would learn that the one thing the troops want to do about Egypt is to get out of it as quickly as they can.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made an astonishing statement which he prefaced by saying that he was very frank and very honest with the country and with the lads in the Canal Zone and that everybody knows exactly where he and his hon. Friends stand in relation to this problem. He said, "never mind the base" and that he would go back to prewar conditions and station a brigade group, which is what it would mean under modern conditions, in that area for prestige and for morale reasons—our morale. Certainly that has no military morality.

I do not know what the Secretary of State for War will say about this problem. I should have thought that Egyptian friendship is a vital British interest, but I also should have thought that this base in a working condition was a vital British interest. The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East and his hon. Friends seem to forget completely that during the war no less than 41 divisions, 13 of them armoured, were supplied from Canal bases. Not only did these bases sustain this very formidable force in the field; but they maintained 65 R.A.F. squadrons as well.

It was from that Canal base that we liberated Palestine and Syria in the First World War, but as regards the Second World War, it is too recent history to remind the House of what was achieved by our Middle East Forces. Any soldier with a reputation to lose, be he humble or exalted, who makes a claim to know anything about the facts, would hold the view that our main interest in the Middle East is not in terms of an odd brigade sitting in Moascar but in terms that the Canal bases should be working.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The hon. Member extols this base as a magnificent thing in the last war, but can he explain what the purpose of such a vast base would be now?

Mr. Wigg

There is somewhere about £250 million worth of stores there. [An HON. MEMBER: "Get them out."] Moving all that is a very formidable task. In addition to the £250 million worth of stores, there are £300 million worth of investments in terms of railways and roads and ports. It may well be that the base as such should be liquidated. It can be reduced, but given the present situation—and the Secretary of State for War and the Government have to deal -with the problem as they find it—it is a fact that the base is a going concern and it ought to be wound up as a going concern. The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East and his hon. Friends want to abandon it.

In 1951 it was perfectly clear that there was sufficient labour available not only to work the base but to enable the troops in the area to live a tolerably decent existence. It is not right for men who come from climates such as ours to be called upon to do all the chores which have to be done in and around a base of that kind in the climate there. The availability of native labour is absolutely essential to any area in the Middle East where we station British troops. The availability of that labour was reduced from 30,000 in 1951 to a stage when the Under-Secretary of State for War had to announce a year ago that the labour available was 3,500 men.

It is absolutely certain that if the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East had his way, he would do no more than guarantee that no Egyptian would work for British forces. It would become quite impossible to maintain British forces there because the base would cease to be a going concern. As a result of two years slowing up negotiations we are in the situation whereby 70,000 troops in that area, including colonial troops, are living in sub-normal conditions, to put it mildly. They live in a vast concentration camp, surrounded by barbed wire, and for them life consists of patrols and guards and very little else. In addition, the labour force is not available to keep the base going, so that week by week and day by day it has deteriorated until it has reached the present point at which it is no longer a going concern.

The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East has this to his credit, that not only is he a great Middle East strategist, but a great lover of economy. He wants a situation in which £500 million British assets, the value of the stores and installations, is to be thrown away and at the same time he would sacrifice what I and the majority of hon. Members regard as the vital interest of Egyptian friendship. I shall not trespass on your Ruling, Sir, by talking at any length about the agreement, but an agreement is absolutely essential if we are to stay there. Even if a lesser number than at present are to remain, the Secretary of State will have to tackle the question of housing and making life for the men and their families reasonably comfortable. He cannot do that without Egyptian agreement, and he cannot even carry out building without Egyptian agreement.

The hon. Member for Kemptown (Mr. H. Johnson) talked about Nigeria and complained that we did not get refrigerators there, but the Secretary of State for War included in his Estimates £600,000 for new buildings and has not been able to spend it. In the same Estimates he promised to spend more the next year, but he could not do that, because the Egyptians would not put up the barracks and this shortage of labour produces the same result at every point.

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) who started from one point of view, went to Egypt and came away with another. Everyone, civilian and military alike, holds the view that we have to get cooperation and friendship. Even if we reduce the number to 4,000 technician men, drawn from R.E.M.E., R.A.O.C. and R.A.S.C, life for those 4,000 would be quite intolerable, assuming the Egyptians committed no violence against them, and in that completely unfriendly atmosphere it would not work. We have to get this friendship, and I believe that we could do so quickly.

A declaration by the Government that they intended to disregard the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East and to base their policy on the need to give a square deal to the men in the Canal Zone, if made tonight would constitute a remarkable step forward. When the right hon. Gentleman winds up the debate, although I know he is in the same difficulty as I am for the major part of it has gone beyond what is normally regarded as the Army Estimates and has roamed into the field of foreign affairs, I hope he will foe able to say that the Government are not going to listen too much to the views of the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East, but are going at full speed to pursue a policy of understanding and co-operation with the Egyptians.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Head

I have listened with great interest to this brief debate which, I would remind hon. Members, was on an Amendment to call attention to the living conditions of the troops in the Canal Zone of Egypt.

I believe that an hon. Lady on this side of the House was concerned with a Bill for the protection of wild birds. She went to a Standing Committee upstairs which she thought was dealing with the Bill and sat for some time in a Committee discussing a housing Bill. After a while she felt that something was wrong. Having listened throughout this debate, I felt rather like that hon. Lady. It seemed to me that the vast majority of the speeches were more the concern of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary than myself. I am making no complaint against the Chair, because these matters are closely connected.

I wish to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle), who stuck to the point much more than did a number of hon. Members, in the remarks which she made about the welfare of the troops in the Canal Zone. The hon. Lady was most sympathetic towards me. In fact, she was so sympathetic that at one time I wondered whether she was trying to divide me from the rest of my party. However, she told me that she was equally sympathetic with the Foreign Secretary, but how she squares up all this I do not know, because such triangles are very often difficult.

On the broader question, about which I think all hon. Members will agree I am not qualified to speak, it was evidenced that there were strong differences of opinion. There were some who said that we should get out now and some who said that we should stay, and if necessary, stay indefinitely. It would seem to me that upon this problem the House is agreed that it would be to the advantage of this country to maintain the base with a friendly Egypt.

Anyone who has studied the problem would agree that to achieve that state of affairs would be an extremely difficult task, nor is it particularly easy in the conditions obtaining at present. Nor is it a task which may be achieved in a hurry. I cannot go further in discussing the problem of negotiations with Egypt, and I do not think that hon. Members would expect me to, but I wish to make a few remarks about points concerning the living conditions of the troops in the Canal Zone.

There is no difference between myself and the rest of Her Majesty's Government regarding the fact that we have retained a very inflated garrison in an area in which it is unwise to improve the amenities by spending a lot of money and in which we would not normally have this number of troops. It does not really matter whether it was hon. Members opposite who sent them there or not. The fact is that they are there, and we regret having to retain them in conditions in which we would not wish them to be.

Although those conditions are by no means ideal they are not really quite as bad as some hon. Members have made out. Of course, they are not good, but when the troops first went there the camps were tented camps out in the desert with no lights, very little piped water and no hard standings for the tents. I am not suggesting that it makes a palace, but since that time hard standings for the tents, electric light and piped water have been provided. That does not make for luxury, but it is an improvement.

We have taken a great deal of trouble to increase in the Canal Zone the number of mobile cinemas and to send out live entertainment for the troops. Facilities for sport, including football, sailing, bathing and fishing, are quite good. Within the financial and geographical limitations, we have done what we can to make conditions better. I would not for a moment argue that they are what we should wish to have but I would argue very strongly that, despite the conditions, despite the boredom, the flies, the sand and the tents, morale in the Canal Zone is astonishingly good.

Hon. Members from both sides of the House who have visited the zone have said, not to please me or to flatter the Army, that they have been genuinely impressed, and many of them surprised, by the morale which obtains there. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was impressed, and many other hon. Members who have been there recently have been impressed by the way morale has been kept up. It is nothing to do with me, but I maintain that that is a great credit to the Army as a whole.

Leave has been mentioned. One hon. Member said that there was no local leave whatever. There are, in fact, two leave camps within the Zone, one on Lake Timsah and the other at Port Fouad. They are not, of course, what one wants in the way of leave camps, but they are there and they are used. They are an alternative to the other leave scheme under which men can go during the summer, which is the most trying period, to Cyprus for a period of leave.

There have also been remarks about the percentages of married quarters as between officers and other ranks. The figure in respect of other ranks which was quoted was misleading because it included all the National Service men. That makes the figure a very different one, because the percentage of National Service men who are married is very low indeed. If the figure is worked out on the basis of other ranks who are Regulars, it comes to about 4 per cent.

The number of officers' married quarters is under half the total number for other ranks in the zone. As I told hon. Members in a previous speech, the length of service among other ranks in the Army as a whole at present is very low. Only 10 per cent, of those in the British Army as a whole have more than six years service. Consequently, I consider that the allocation of married quarters in the zone is a fair one.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kemp-town (Mr. H. Johnson) raised the question—no one regrets it more than I do— of two of his constituents who were accidentally shot in the Canal Zone. I have been engaged in long correspondence with my hon. Friend about the matter, and, as I say, nobody regrets it more than I do. But he coupled it with what he claimed was an indication of loss of morale. I do not believe that accidents of that kind are in any way connected with morale. The point is that there are a very large number of sentries—we have a very large number of troops there—in the Canal Zone. There may be a dark night and perhaps the sentry is an inexperienced soldier—a sentry must have a round in the rifle—and a mistake occurs. These things happen, but they are nothing whatever to do with morale. We regret them, but, however much they ought to be avoided, I do not find them disturbing from the morale point of view.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) raised a point which I can assure him the Government have in mind, and that is the question of the various Egyptians who have been working for us throughout all these troubles. I can assure the hon. Gentlemen that we are well aware of the position of those men, and that we shall bear it very much in mind in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) raised a point concerning the base which is perhaps the crux of the future, the present and the past. It is that the retention of the base with a thoroughly hostile Egypt will always present a very difficult problem indeed. I am certain that he was absolutely right in stressing the importance of gaining the maximum possible amount of Egyptian co-operation.

The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg, who wound up this part of the debate for hon. Members opposite, started off with a few recollections of his own soldiering n Egypt before the ware. It so happens In Egypt before the war. It so happens that I also joined my regiment in Egypt in 1926, and when he spoke of the horrors and dangers of walking about I began to feel quite a hero. However, his claim that conditions there have always been bad was perhaps a relative remark. I feel that one can say that the conditions which obtain in the Canal Zone today, while far from ideal, are extra ordinarily healthy. I am not saying that they are very comfortable, but the general health of the troops there is very good.

Although I have not an intimate knowledge of this subject, I would say that the troops are very much less troubled by bugs than was the hon. Gentleman. [Laughter.] I hope I have not said anything which is in anyway against the hon. Gentleman. I am not sure that he was not a little unkind to the bugs, because, being something of an amateur entomologist myself, I think the Parliamentary name for "bug" is pulex irritans.

Mr.C.R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)

No. That is a flea.

Mr. Head

Oh, it is a flea. I am much obliged to the Leader of the Opposition. It belongs to the family of the cycloptera.

I can assure the hon. Member for Dudley that there is nobody on either side of the House who can see any advantage, whatever their views, in our sitting it out indefinitely in Egypt. I do not believe that any hon. Member wants that, neither on this side of the House nor anywhere else. There are differences of opinion on how the matter should be negotiated, but to remain indefinitely in a hostile Egypt without any end in sight would bring, I think all hon. Members would agree, no great gain to this country or to the Egyptians.

This matter is entirely, and rightly so, in the hands of the Foreign Secretary and of Her Majesty's Government. It is one on which all that I can say—here again I think I am with the House—is that I hope, from the responsibilities I hold, that there will be a settlement and that we shall get that extent of co-operation which, from the point of view of the Egyptians, ourselves and the whole of the Middle East, would be an immense asset towards defence in future years. Further than that I cannot go, except to say to the hon. Lady, that she, having seen something of the living conditions of the troops in the Canal Zone, may now consent to withdraw the Amendment which she has put before the House.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 271; Noes, 219.

Division No. 49.] AYES [9.59 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Bishop, F. P. Carr, Robert
Allan, R. A. (Paddingtion, S.) Black, C. W. Cary, Sir Robert
Alport, C. J. M. Bossom, Sir A. C. Channon, H.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Bowen, E. R. Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston
Arbuthnot, John Boyd Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Boyle, Sir Edward Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)
Astor, Hon. J. J. Braine, B. R. Cole, Norman
Baker, P. A. D. Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Colegate, W. A.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Braithwaite, Sir Gurney Conant, Maj. R. J. E.
Baldwin, A. E. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert
Banks, Col. C. Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Cooper-Key, E. M.
Barber, Anthony Brooman-White, R. C. Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
Barlow, Sir John Browne. Jack (Govan) Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C
Baxter, A. B. Bullard, D. G. Crosthwaite-Eyre. Col. O. E.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Bullus, Wing Commander, E. E Crouch, R. F.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Burden, F. F. A. Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Butcher, Sir Herbert Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)
Birch, Nigel Campbell, Sir David Davidson, Viscountess
Deedes, W. F Kerby, Capt. H. B. Prior-Palmer, Brig, O. L.
Dodds-Parker, A. D Kerr, H. W. Profumo, J. D.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C E. McA. Lambton, Viscount Raikes Sir Victor
Donner, Sir P. W. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Rayner. Brig R
Doughty, C. J. A. Langford-Holt, J. A. Redmayne, M.
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Leather, E. H C. Rees-Davies, W R.
Drayson, G. B. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Remnant, Hon. P
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Renton, D. L. M.
Duthie, W. S. Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Ridsdale J. E.
Eccles Rt. Hon. Sir D. M. Llewellyn, D. T. Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton) Robinson Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Robson-Brown, W.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Lloyd, Rt Hon Selwyn (Wirral) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Erroll, F. J. Lockwood, Lt. Col. J. C. Roper, Sir Harold
Fell, A. Longden, Gilbert Ropner Col Sir Leonaro
Finlay, Graeme Low, A. R. W. Russell, R. S.
Fisher, Nigel Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Sandys Rt Hon D.
Fletcher-Cooke, C Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Ford, Mrs Patricia McAdden, S. J. Scott R. Donald
Fort, R. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Macdonald, Sir Peter Shepherd, William
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell Mackeson, Brig Sir Harry Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok) McKibbin, A. J Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Garner-Evans, E. H. Maclean, Fitzroy Smythe, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Soames, Capt. C.
Glover, D. MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Spearman, A. C. [...]
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Speir, R. M.
Gough, C. F. H. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Gower, H. R Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Spens. Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Graham, Sir Fergus Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E. Stevens, G. P.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Markham, Major Sir rank Stoddart-Scott, Col. [...]
Hall, John (Wycombe) Marlowe, A. A. H Storey, S.
Hare, Hon. J. H. Marples, A. E. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Summers, G. S.
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maude, Angus Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Maudlins, R. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Harvey-Watt, Sir George Medlicott, Brig. F. Teeling, W.
Hay, John Mellor, Sir John Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Molson, A. H. E. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Thomas, P. J. M (Conway)
Heath, Edward Moore, Sir Thomas Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Higgs, J. M. C Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Nabarro, G. D. N. Tilney, John
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Neave, Airey Touche, Sir Gordon
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Nicholls, Harmar Turton, R. H
Hirst, Geoffrey Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Holland-Martin, C. J Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Hollis, M. C Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Vosper, D [...]
Hope, Lord John Nugent, G. R. H. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P Nutting, Anthony Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
Horobin, I. M. Oakshott, H. D. Walker-Smith, D. C
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Odey, G. W. Wall, P. H. B.
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Hurd, A. R. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare) Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Osborne, C. Wellwood, W.
Hutchison, James (Scotstoun) Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Hyde, Lt.-Col H M. Perkins, Sir Robert Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Iremonger, T. L Peto, Brig, C. H. M Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Peyton, J. W. W. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Jennings, Sir Roland Pickthorn, K. W. M. Williams, R Dudley (Exeter)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Pilkington, Capt. R. A Wills, G.
Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Pitman, I. J. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Pitt, Miss E. M. Wood, Hon. R.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Powell, J. Enoch TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Kaberry, D. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W) Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and
Mr. Studholme
Acland, Sir Richard Bence, C. R. Bowden, H. W.
Albu, A. H. Benn, Hon. Wedgwood Bowles, F. G.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Benson, G. Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Brockway, A. F.
Baird, J. Blackburn, F. Brook, Dryden (Hartifax)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Blenkinsop, A. Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
Barttey, P. Blyton, W. R. Brown, Thomas (Ince)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Burton, Miss F. E.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Reeves, J.
Carmichael, J. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Castle, Mrs. B. A Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Reid, William (Camlachie)
Champion, A. J. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Roberts, Rt. Hon. A.
Chapman, W. D. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Chetwynd, G. R. Janner, B. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Clunie, J. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Coldrick, W. Jeger, George (Goole) Ross, William
Collick, P. H. Jeger, Mrs. Lena Royle, C.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Cove, W. G. Johnson, James (Rugby) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Short, E. W.
Crosland, C. A. R. Jones, David (Hartlepool) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Crossman, R. H. S. Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Daines, P. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Keenan, W. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Kenyon, C. Skeffington, A. M.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on Trent)
Davies, Harold (Leek) King, Dr. H. M. Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Deer, G. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Delargy, H. J. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Dodds, N. N. Lindgren, G. S. Snow, J. W.
Donnelly, D. L. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Sorensen, R. W.
Driberg, T. E. N. MacColl, J. E. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) McKay, John (Wallsend) Sparks, J. A.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McLeavy, F. Steele, T.
Edelman, M. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mann, Mrs. Jean Stross, D[...] Barnell
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Mason, Roy Swingler, S. T.
Fernyhough, E. Mayhew, C. P. Sylvester, G O.
Fienburgh, W. Mellish, R. J. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Finch, H. J. Messer, Sir F. Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpelh)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Mikardo, Ian Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Follick, M. Mitchison, G. R. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Foot, M. M. Monslow, W. Tomney, F.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Moody, A. S. Turner-Samuels, M.
Freeman, John (Watford) Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Morley, R. Viant, S. P.
Gibson, C. W. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Wallace, H. W.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Moyle, A. Warbey, W. N.
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mulley, F. W. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Grey, C. F. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Weitzman, D.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) O'Brien, T. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Oldfield, W. H. Wells, William (Walsall)
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Oliver, G. H. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Grimond, J. Orbach, M. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Oswald, T. Wigg, George
Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) Padley, W. E. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Hamilton, W. W. Paget, R. T. Wilkins, W. A.
Hannan, W. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Hastings, S. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Hayman, F. H. Palmer, A. M. F. Williams, W. R. (Droylsdon)
Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.) Pannell, Charles Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis) Pargiter, G. A. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Herbison, Miss M. Parker, J. Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Hewitson, Capt. M. Peart, T. F. Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Hobson, C. R. Plummer, Sir Leslie Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Holman, P. Porter, G. Wyatt, W. L.
Houghton, Douglas Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Yates, V. F.
Hoy, J. H. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hubbard, T. F. Proctor, W. T.
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Pryde, D. J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pursey, Cmdr. H. Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Holmes.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question again proposed.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow, East)

I have three matters to raise concerning National Service. I do not propose to go into strategy and tactics, but to raise three down-to-earth issues. A number of my constituents are concerned about them, the trade unions are very much concerned about them and, in view of the expressions of opinion I have heard in the House about the desirability of retaining the good will of those who can help in the recruitment of others and of creating contentment among the National Service men, I thought it my duty to bring these matters to the notice of the House. I have been in communication with the War Office on the subject and have had a helpful reply from the Under-Secretary of State, for which I thank him.

The three matters are: first, the difference in pay between the Regular soldier and the National Service man; secondly, the fact, as I am informed, that the differential is maintained when the National Service man is serving, for example, in Korea; and, thirdly, the difference in the marriage allowance.

Most of us recognise that there is a case for a higher rate of pay for Regular soldiers. The man who joins for a fixed period is making a sacrifice. No one will pursue at great length the question of a pay differential in those circumstances. On the other hand, if that differential is maintained when a National Service man is in Korea, as I have been informed, the House is hardly giving effect to the rate for the job, and I put it no higher than that.

I cannot see why there is a discrimination in marriage allowance between the wife of a National Service man and the wife of a Regular private soldier. In my opinion, marriage allowance should be the same for both. I recognise that there are difficulties. The issue raises border-line cases. To try to create good will among those who are not serving in the Colours and to bring contentment to the National Service men, I ask the Secretary of State that further consideration should foe given to these issues, particularly to that of the marriage allowance.

10.14 p.m.

Colonel J. H. Harrison (Eye)

I think everyone in the House would like to congratulate the Secretary of State for War on his extempore speech today. I hardly like to call him the father, but I felt he was the leader of the whole of his Department, even though, as he said, he is not the highest paid in the War Office. We can feel the human approach which he brings to the War Office in peace-time in looking after the welfare not only of the soldiers but of their wives and even their children, bearing in mind the reference he made to the visit of children to their parents abroad. In his Memorandum we can see his concern for the welfare of the Army as a fighting unit.

The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) also made a very helpful and kind speech—more helpful and kind than those he has made in the previous two debates on Army Estimates in this Parliament.

I shall not do what I have usually done in Estimates debates—raise points about the Territorial Army—because I feel that the Secretary of State has put right many of the points which I have raised in the past. I am one of those volunteers who were turned out of the Territorial Army two-and-a-half years ago, and I feel that I have not now so much right to speak about the Territorial Army as I had on the Army Estimates in the last two years.

We ought to be very grateful to my right hon. Friend for providing the map showing the disposition of the Army today. We see from that that we have garrisons in 14 places in Africa. Possibly we feel today the loss of the Indian Army that we could have called upon to help us, particularly in countries like Malaya, where the policing has amounted to a minor war in the last two years.

Thanks to my right hon. Friend I was invited to visit the British Army manoeuvres during the Summer Recess, and I saw the 42nd Territorial Division at its manoeuvres and four-day exercise on Salisbury Plain. I may be wrong, but it seems to me from the Statement on Defence and from the Air Estimates and these Army Estimates that our approach to the outbreak of a hot war has slightly changed. It appears that the opening gambits will be with the Royal Air Force, not so much with the Army.

That leads me to consider our reserve. At present, we have no strategic reserve, and I shall say something about that later. I am concerned about the training and the state of preparedness to take its place in the line of our Territorial Army Reserve. It ought to be prepared to take its place in the line in a few days, or a few weeks at the most. The division I saw at exercise could not carry out that exercise without bringing in some Regular officers to act as additional staff.

If that was the position of one of our Territorial divisions trying to carry out a divisional exercise I wonder what will be the position of our 10 or 11 Territorial divisions if they are mobilised and are supposed to be in a state of immediate readiness to go overseas. Are they or are they not under-staffed? It seems to me that they are at the present time. They have not sufficient staff officers to carry out their duties in the field.

For the successful functioning of a division, for the oiling of the wheels of divisional machinery, a good staff is necessary. Are we training sufficient staff officers at present? From my experience as a Territorial soldier, and of all the good civilians who are brought into the Army in war, I should say that it is probably easier to train leaders, teach them how to use ground and the right way to attack an enemy post, than it is to train staff officers. Immediately the war broke out a large number of courses were started to train staff officers.

My right hon. Friend may say that we can rely on the reserve of the staff officers of the last war. However, it is nine years since the war ended, and those men are nine years older. The energetic staff officer of 33 or 34 is now 42 or 43, and if a G.2 or a G.I, has now got out of date. I do not think we can rely upon those officers. Would it not be wiser, in view of the large commitments we have, to train a rather larger number of our younger Regular officers in staff duties?

We have a first-class Staff College at Camberley. I do not think that anyone who has been there can criticise it, or deny that it turns out extremely good staff officers. It is quite difficult to get into. Of three Regular soldiers who were recently adjutants to the battalion I commanded two and a half years ago, one qualified and got to the Staff College and the other two failed on one subject, although they were both extremely capable fellows. Would it not be possible for some extra-mural course to be run in peacetime for some of these Regular soldiers so that we have an extra reserve of staff officers to staff the Regular Army or Territorial Army or any other commitments to which we may well have to supply staff officers in the future?

With regard to the visit which I paid to Germany in company with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), we were allowed, thanks to the kindness of the Cammander-in-Chief, to meet many of the soldiers and officers, including generals of other armies which will take part in Western European Defence, notably Dutch, Danish and Norwegian, and some of the retired German generals to whom we are looking to reform the German Army to which now general consent has been given.

Mr. Emrvs Hughes

Not here.

Colonel Harrison

It seems that in the main Germany is going to rearm within the framework of Western European defence. Those of us who visited Germany saw some of 45 million very active, hard-working people, and it seemed to me that if we did not incorporate them within Western European defence and a hot war should come, they would be, if they were overrun, used as citizens, possibly by our potential enemies, to help on their own soil. What seemed to me to be of paramount importance was the very grave fear among all these smaller nations that if the Germans were brought in they might, if we were not there, within a matter of five, six or seven years, be the dominant factor within the Western European Army.

Dutch generals and other responsible officers, said, "We want you in Britain to play your part." We have for eight and a half years maintained four or five divisions in Germany in a state of preparedness for war and prepared to play their part there. It is quite impossible for us, particularly when we look at the map of our far-flung commitments, ever to say that the whole of the British Army must be committed to Western European defence.

But if we build that up what is to be the position of the four or five divisions which we have there? What is the part which they are going to play? It seems to me, and it is purely my own suggestion —and perhaps it is more foreign policy than Army policy—that the best contribution we can make to Western European defence is to say that we would commit ourselves to a token force of two divisions, or corps or whatever it is within the Western European Army and, in addition, we should probably have to supply a high percentage of potential commanders and staff officers.

Therefore, there is all the greater reason for training a large number of staff officers. If we do not need them now in time of peace, I am sure that in some way or other in Western European defence they will be needed on an even greater scale within the Western European Army.

I came back, having seen our manoeuvres in Germany, with the conclusion that we could best play our part in making it really effective by commit-tine ourselves—not to a large extent, but among our other commitments—to a token force in the Western European Army with a high percentage of staff officers. This would have the approval of all the smaller nations, who at present are worried as to whether they may be taken over by the Germans.

My right hon. Friend produced some interesting figures on manpower. The size of the Regular Army, running into about 190,000 men, does not seem to have varied very much over a long period of years. The National Service element is being reduced because of the smaller intakes. It is not because of the potential threat of war in the future that we need to have National Service, but is because of our cold war commitments over three Continents.

If a hot war breaks out in any place, only about one-third of the Regular Army will be engaged in that outbreak. If it is in Europe, it will be our forces in Germany; those in Korea, Hong Kong or anywhere else will not be engaged, and immediately we will call in our reserve divisions. Looking at it in this way, therefore, it is only if we can get down our commitments in the cold war that we could reduce either the form or the terms of National Service. If already on a two years' basis, because fewer boys were born in the 1930s or because the intake is less, we are losing about 10 per cent., the Secretary of State for War must do with 400,000 men instead of the present 440,000; and there is still the same call on the young men for two years' service.

I wondered, at one time, whether it might not be cheaper, in the long run, so to improve the conditions and pay of the Regular Army that we could get the extra men and, if we could reduce our commitments, would not have to call on National Service. That is what we should all like, but at present our commitments still seem to be too much.

I was interested in the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, particularly as it came from the opposite side of the House, that some form of selected or balloted conscription for a minimum number of men might suit the purpose better than calling up everyone. From the Army's point of view, a balloted or selected conscription for three years, at good rates of pay to make it attractive, would be cheaper in the long run for the Regular Army. But these are rather things of the future than anything that could happen at present with our large commitments.

I should like to say a word about the three-year Regular soldier. Obviously, it is of the utmost importance to the country that these men, who have signed on with the idea that the Army might be the career for them, should fulfil a useful function and a high percentage of them stay on for six or for 12 years. Is there any distinction, after their initial training at the depot has been done in the first 10 or 11 weeks, between Regular three-year soldiers and the National Service men? It is important that those who join as Regulars should go to a unit. It may be a battalion, an R.A. regiment or an R.A.C. unit, but they should go to a proper unit where they get a sense of family and of belonging.

We know that there are a large number of jobs in the Army in this country which have to be done in the small transit camps, and so on, and which are dead end jobs. We want Regulars to re-sign and to continue in the Service, and it would be interesting to know whether a distinction is made whether or not they are sent to a unit. I should also like to know whether we have any units in the British Army at present composed entirely of Regular soldiers.

In a complete Regular unit the men get a sense of family and a sense of the job being worth while. The sergeants train the corporals and the corporals train the men who eventually are given their stripes. It is important to endeavour to ensure that those who join initially as Regulars continue in the Service.

We have heard a great deal about the strategic reserve. The House knows the commitments as well as I do. Apart from our reserve divisions, there are only three sources in the world from which it might be possible to build up a strategic reserve about which we hear so much, but it seems impossible to get many men together. We might recover some men from Korea, and we might get some back from the Middle East and Malaya. Is it possible to hold that strategic reserve in this country—possibly in Scotland as against England? Have we got the best training facilities, or would it be better to hold the reserve in Germany?

Possibly the training conditions are much better in Germany. I should like to know whether it would be as easy to move a division, by air or by boat, if it was our strategic reserve, to another part of the world from Germany as it is from this country. In the event of a hot war breaking out in Western Europe we need to move four or five territorial divisions as quickly as possible. There are many doubts about how quickly those divisions could be put in the field. Some officers talk about two or three months rather than two or three days or weeks.

Might not it be better to have the extra divisions in Germany ready to play their part? I pass that question for the Secretary of State.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Reading, South)

In putting forward this proposition, is the hon. and gallant Gentleman bearing in mind that after the E.D.C. Treaty and the Bonn Contractual Agreement have been ratified, we shall have to pay all the local costs of our troops in Germany in hard currency and that his proposition would mean a very large increase in hard currency commitments?

Colonel Harrison

Yes, I was bearing that in mind. It was almost my final conclusion on that point to say that I see the advantage of having them in this country because it is very much cheaper for the taxpayer. I was posing the question whether we should bear the extra cost of having them in Germany as against having them at home.

I now wish to pass to what is possibly a much smaller point, and yet a point of great importance and one on which 1 believe that the War Office has been far too conservative. When the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) and I were in Germany—we were allowed to go where we liked—the weather was fairly wet. For the last 30 years, the War Office has changed the style of hats for soldiers on innumerable occasions, while certain other items of clothing have been left very much as they were many years ago.

I have always felt that the present groundsheet with which the soldier is issued for the purpose of keeping himself dry is a very unsatisfactory garment from all points of view. It tries to do two things. As a cape it is short where it should be long. A soldier wearing it on sentry duty never seems properly prepared to deal with an enemy. The answer which I have always been given concerning the groundsheet is that it is useful as a bivouac sheet. But if one wants to make a bivouac for two men, then two sheets are needed, and it is still necessary to have one to lie on. Therefore, it seems to me that this answer really falls to the ground.

Could not the Secretary of State for War, after 30 years of groundsheets, get his backroom boys or his officers to devise some better waterproof garment which was either a better cape or else a real bivouac sheet?

Mr. Head

We have now got a plastic sheet which is also a groundsheet, and I think it is a big improvement.

Colonel Harrison

I am glad to hear that, but I will continue my remarks. When in Germany we saw the Canadians deliver an attack at dawn, and they wore what seemed to me to be a very good garment. It was a cape which was slit up the sides. Their equipment was put over it and the hood was pulled over their heads. They looked extremely ghostly and frightening as they came through the mist.

In the many stores about the country which sell surplus Government stocks— I do not know where they all come from —it is quite easy to buy waterproof trousers and jackets which, presumably, are denied to the Army. We remember how often in the past we have won battles by keeping our powder dry—I think it was under Clive at Plassy that cur soldiers kept their powder dry and thereby won the day—and it is still important to keep our soldiers as dry as possible in all forms of warfare or manoeuvre if they are to remain competent soldiers. Perhaps the War Office could look into that small point on which, up to the Secretary of State's announcement just now, it has been rather conservative.

The last thing I wish to say is that I believe that we must give consideration to a Western European Army and that in some form or another we must provide a token force and that we should train sufficient staff to play their part.

10.34 p.m.

Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)

I wish, first of all, to raise one or two small constituency points, small in one sense, but large in the estimation of the people of Plymouth.

However, before doing so I want to compliment the Secretary of State for War on the brilliantly delivered speech which he made at the opening of the debate. It is quite a novelty for a Minister in charge of the Estimates—and I have sat through all the Estimates this year and some of those of previous years —to speak extempore with hardly a note, and to cover all the subjects in considerable detail, and, at the same time, to be ready to give way to any interruption from whichever side it came. It was a remarkable performance, even if we do not agree with everything the right hon. Gentleman said. As I shall show later, the more remarkable the performance, the more he began to reveal some of the weaknesses in his case.

I wish to refer now to some matters concerning my own constituency. We in the City of Plymouth have had arguments with the War Office for something like 500 years, and there are still some which we want to finish. We have had some arguments about the land which is held by the War Office in our city. Six months ago I had an Adjournment debate in which the Under-Secretary of State for War took part. He promised to come to a conference with the people of Plymouth in order to discuss the land which is held in our city. There were several months delay before it took place, but it eventually did take place, and the decisions of the conference are now known.

Unfortunately, although the conversations were conducted with the War Office in a polite and genial fashion, I am afraid that we have not received very much dividend from them. There have been a few small concessions made by the War Office, and indeed perhaps we should be grateful for them because I believe this is the first acre of land which has ever been given back by the War Office to the City of Plymouth in the whole of its history. We ought to be grateful for the fact that we have started on the road towards regaining these lost territories, but even so, I am afraid, that it is not very much.

There is a whole area stretching along the front of Plymouth Sound which looks out on the most famous strip of water in the world, where, 20 or 30 years ago, people could walk along the front without having any obstacles placed in their way. This was one of the most famous parts of the City of Plymouth. This was a place where many of my ancestors carried out their courting and similar functions, but now the War Office have intervened. It is a shocking thing that the whole of this great tradition should have been destroyed by the bureaucracy of the War Office.

What are the reasons for them taking the area known as Eastern and Western Kings—although they have admittedly given us a bit of it back? They have told us that there are security reasons for having taken it. I have not yet heard from the Under-Secretary what are the real security grounds on which we have been deprived of this land. Therefore. I hope that the War Office will reconsider the matter and be prepared to hold further conferences with the City Council of Plymouth to see whether they can be more generous in releasing some of this area which they now possess.

A few weeks ago I raised with the Secretary of State for War the question of Plymouth Citadel. He gave me some figures of the numbers of people who are living in the Citadel, and he attempted to make some case showing that the War Office makes some use of it. I hope, however, that since then he has studied the history of the matter. The Citadel was built by Charles II deliberately to cow the people of Plymouth. It was built as a piece of Stuart revenge against the City of Plymouth, which fought on the side of Parliament in the Civil War. These are all facts.

Indeed, insult was added to injury because this Citadel was built with the guns pointing not against the Spaniards— because the people of Plymouth were capable of dealing with the Spaniards— but against the people of Plymouth. In addition, the Citadel was built on the very place where Drake had played bowls. It would be a most agreeable gesture if the Secretary of State for War were able to find some other accommodation for the people whom he has in the Citadel now and to restore this place to the City of Plymouth. It would be a first-class amenity for the corporation and would be some recompense for the misbehaviour of the Stuarts in years gone by. Or the Secretary of State might look at the question of Drake's Island in Plymouth Sound, which he holds and which could be released to the City of Plymouth without any great difficulties.

Therefore, I hope that the same kind of ingenuity and magnanimity, in some senses, which the right hon. Gentleman applies to some other problems in his Department will be applied to this problem of dealing with the land, not merely in Plymouth, because I am speaking on behalf of other cities as well; but I hope that he can start with the City of Plymouth, since he holds probably a bigger proportion of that city than of most of the cities throughout the country.

Now I want to refer to something said by the right hon. Gentleman in his own speech on the subject of barracks and buildings and the provision of amenities for the troops in various parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman spoke eloquently on this subject and said how eager he was that something should be done to make up the leeway of the failure to modernise barracks and the places where the soldiers have to live. He gave some remarkable figures showing how out-of-date many of these buildings were, and gave an indication that this is a matter very much on his mind and that he is eager to do something about it. It was the same kind of indication as we had from the Admiralty a few days ago on the Navy Estimates.

Despite this eagerness of the Minister to do something about it, however, it is shocking to discover what is the amount to be voted, because, if we look at Vote 8, there is a net decrease this year of £1,700,000, and almost every item in that Vote is reduced. So I do not think it can be argued that it is a particular reduction on one special kind of works, and it is clear that so far from the right hon. Gentleman carrying out what he declared to be his aim, of seeking to do his best to deal with this situation, he is reducing the amount that is to be spent.

Mr. Head

The hon. Gentleman is making a good point, but I said in my speech that we have a three-year plan for improving this barrack accommodation. The point I made was that we cannot build barracks without plans, and the first step is to get the plans passed and approved before we can start building the barracks. This is not a matter of suddenly pressing a button and putting more into the Vote, but of gradually increasing it as we can.

Mr. Foot

That intervention is not as successful as the previous ones of the right hon. Gentleman. Whenever I hear either a representative of his Department or of the Admiralty saying that they have a plan for dealing with these things, I become nervous because the plan usually begins with a reduction in the Estimates. That was what the Admiralty said too. They have a wonderful plan, but it starts with a reduction in the Estimates. Even if the right hon. Gentleman has to spend some time in planning these reforms which he wishes to carry out, I would not have thought it desirable or necessary or likely to give any confidence if he starts by a big reduction in the Estimates. I say that chiefly in the hope that the War Office is not following the unwise example of the Admiralty in that matter.

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

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to intervene, if he looks at Subhead A—"Works—Construction and Maintenance Services," he will find that the amount voted in 1954–55 for accommodation of personnel is greater than in 1953–54 because the Vote covers much more personnel accommodation.

Mr. Foot

Yes. I was talking about the whole Vote and there is a decrease in almost every item under Vote 8, which, I imagine, covers most of this work on the barracks to which the right hon. Gentlemen referred. If I have made a mistake about the figures, we shall be glad to hear about it later on the individual vote. But I am sure that the best way to start a great programme for remodelling these old barracks, which the right hon. Gentleman described in the most graphic terms, is not by starting off with a reduction in the Vote.

Mr. Hutchison

The hon. Member must get this right. It is not a reduction in the Vote on that particular item. He is taking the whole Subhead A, "Works —Construction and Maintenance Services," and not separating that part of it which refers to barracks.

Mr. Foot

This Vote does not deal only with barracks, of course. But under Subhead A for works, construction and maintenance services, there is a reduction of £1 million and I should have thought that that must have covered a considerable number of amenities of the kind that I have described. I am happy to discover that there are some increases, but I wish that these things had been set out more clearly in the Estimates.

Mr. Hutchison

This is perfectly clearly set out on the next page.

Mr. Foot

This is joist the kind of issue that we would wish to discuss on the individual Votes when they could be considered in detail. But the intervention of the Under-Secretary rather contradicts the Secretary of State for War, whose excuse for the figures was that he had to lay the plans.

Mr. Head

I know the hon. Member's fondness for dialectics. I said that there was no spectacular rise because we had to have plans, but the fact is that there has been a rise. The hon. Member should be more generous and admit when he is wrong.

Mr. Foot

If I have made a mistake I will apologise, but I hope that the Under-secretary will be equally generous in apologising to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State in apologising to the Under-Secretary.

The Secretary of State's speech was very interesting. It was a defensive speech. He was trying to cover up the fact that he is not able as Secretary of State to execute all the tasks which his Government by their foreign policy require him to perform. It is quite clear that if we go on as we are going at present, and if the general policy of the Government, which they ask the right hon. Gentleman to support, is continued, he will not be able to carry out any of the main objectives which he set out at the beginning of his speech. If the general policy continues as at present, he will not obtain his strategic reserves. The right hon. Gentleman has not given us any sign of any date by which he will secure those reserves in any appreciable quantity.

It is also apparent that the right hon. Gentleman will not secure a sufficient number of Regular troops. He has tried to give us some reasons why we should not be quite so pessimistic as some of my hon. Friends think we ought to be, but he has not been able to assure us that he will be able to obtain the number of troops which he desires. Further, it is apparent that we shall not be able to carry out all the commitments imposed upon the right hon. Gentleman by the Colonial Secretary and by the Government's general policy.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly aware of the increasing strains to which the Army has been subjected and was aware also that these strains show no sign of being reduced. That was why he made his defensive speech. He made it so that it would cover him when he discovered in the coming months that these strains had become worse and my hon. Friends were pointing out that fact.

But the most remarkable feature of all about his Speech is that, according to the prospects he held out to us, the task which he will be least able to perform will be the task which he put first on his list. That is to provide a strategic reserve. I have no doubt that he would like to do it, but he did not give us any indication as to how it was to be done, when, or where the strategic reserve was to come from and how necessary it was to have it by any particular date, even though he put it down as the first item he had to consider as Secretary of State for War.

The right hon. Gentleman talks about admitting these matters generously. I hope that he is extremely grateful for the part the Opposition have played in seeking to enable him to perform some of the tasks he outlined as the tasks necessary for the British Army to perform at present. He ought also to be deeply grateful for the debate on Egypt today because he knows, better than anyone, that this is the main place from which he can get some relief.

Therefore, it is all the more remarkable that these negotiations about Egypt, which the right hon. Gentleman, at the end of his earlier remarks, said he hoped would prosper and bring a situation as soon as possible in which British forces in Egypt could be reduced to a very small number—these negotiations, which might lead to this desirable result, were not initiated by the British Government, but by a change of Government in Egypt.

This was all admitted by the Prime Minister in his famous speech of 11th May, 1953. The Prime Minister said that these negotiations with Egypt were not initiated by the British Government; they were initiated because we had a request for negotiations from the Egyptians and he started the negotiations in response to their desires.

What an extraordinary situation‡ Here we have a situation which concerns the main burden imposed on the British Army today. However we may dispose of these troops later, that burden is the main reason why we cannot build up a reserve in this country. The British Government were boasting that negotiations to end the situation were not undertaken by the British Government, but by the Egyptians. The right hon. Gentleman should, therefore, be grateful to General Neguib. If his own Government would not open negotiations which would be beneficial to the British Army he should be grateful to General Neguib for starting what the British Government had not the initiative nor energy to start.

The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Water-house) gave a most peculiar warning to the Secretary of State of which I am sure he will take not the slightest notice. The right hon. and gallant Member warned him not to be led astray by appeals by hon. Members on this side of the House to reduce the base in Egypt. K that policy were carried out, he invited the Government to consider what hon. Members on this side would say. He suggested that troops should be kept in the Canal Zone to preserve the two-year National Service period. He said that if the troops were brought home the right hon. Gentleman would not have a strategic reserve because hon. Members on this side would be wanting to reduce the two-year period. The right hon. and gallant Member was saying, "Maintain the commitments we have, and, maybe, undertake fresh commitments in order to retain conscription." I think (hat that is a fair description of his argument.

Mr. Ian Harvey

I am not a supporter of the views of the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) but, in deference to him, as he is not present, it is only right that he should not be misrepresented by the hon. Member. What my right hon. and gallant Friend said was that if the men were brought home the strategic reserve would not be available because hon. Members opposite would then demand a reduction in National Service, which. I have no doubt, is true.

Mr. Foot

I am sorry I gave way because I thought the hon. Member was a supporter of the right hon. and gallant Member; he looked as if he was. I do not think the hon. Member really put the case of the right hon. and gallant Member half as eloquently and forcefully as the right hon. and gallant Member did.

The real problem today, and the Secretary of State agrees, is how we are to reduce our military commitments. The Government have got to change their policy in order to fit the military facts; and already events are occurring in many parts of the world which show that that is necessary. It will happen in Egypt. It is already happening in Kenya, and, in this connection, may I say that I congratulate the Government in the proposals which have been made relating to "General China"?

I do not know who is responsible for that decision; whether it was the Colonial Secretary or the Secretary of State for War, but I think that it was a wise action. Personally, I should not be surprised if it was the Secretary of State for War who is responsible. If so, as I have said, I congratulate him, for this is the decision of a person who says that we cannot go on pouring troops into Kenya in order to settle the problem there partly because we have not the troops to use there, and partly because we must try to discover a political solution. The French are facing an exactly similar problem in Indo-China. Many people seemed to believe that if troops were poured into Indo-China the problem could be settled; but now they find that the French have to seek a political solution.

All this is exactly what some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House have been saying ever since the end of the war. We have said that the British nation must seek solutions which accord with the power within our possession. There cannot be a policy where the nation burdens itself all the time with fresh commitments, for that means that one cannot perform any of them properly; and it means that there are no strategic reserves left.

But now we come to a further complication of the situation, a complication posed on the authority of the Prime Minister in the defence debate a few weeks ago. There is now another cause of having to maintain military forces in this country because we have got to maintain a counterpoise of strength against the new German army. I should like to ask what proportion of the amount of money which we are devoting to these Estimates will be required to build up this counterpoise of strength against the army soon to be created in Western Germany. Hon. Members have the right to have an answer to this question because, after all, this will be the biggest military event that has happened in Europe since the end of the Second World War.

We are to find a powerful army raised in Western Germany. There have been reports in the "Manchester Guardian" this week that Eastern Germany is to raise 15 divisions; and, presumably, the West will not be content with 12 divisions if 15 divisions are raised in the other half of Germany. Therefore, I say, if there is to be an increase in response to what has been done in Eastern Germany, we here shall presumably have to raise our own strength as a counterpoise. This competition in arms will go on; and let hon. Members remember that this has to be done here in a country which has no strategic reserve at all at the moment and while the Government are not prepared to clear out of the Canal Zone.

It will have to be built up despite the fact that we have not been able to remove our troops from Kenya; despite the fact that our troops are still in British Guiana and may soon be required in British Honduras. One has only to look at the situation to see how hectic the competition in the arms race will be if the general foreign policy of the Government is implemented. It becomes military madness. There is no military solution for it and a political solution must be sought.

As some hon. Members on this side of the House have said, if we decide to rearm Germany as one of the important parts of our defence policy, and if we follow the logical deduction of the Prime Minister, we must have a greater counterpoise of strength and we shall impose on the War Office a burden even vaster than it now has to carry, and which the Secretary of State has said it is not able to bear.

Mr. Nigel Fisher

I intervene with great diffidence, but may I put it to the hon. Member that his eloquent speech would be more suitable during the foreign affairs or a defence debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "it is in order."] I appreciate that it is in order and that I should not be right to claim a point of order. But many hon. Members have only one day in the year in which to discuss the Army Estimates and we should like the opportunity to do so.

Mr. Foot

I would remind the hon. Member that in previous Estimates debates I fought for the right of every hon. Member of this House to be able to raise points. The appeal should not be addressed to me but to the hon. Gentleman who is acting for the Patronage Secretary and who, in previous debates, has been the vehicle by which the debates were brought to an end.

If the hon. Member wishes to raise a point, I have the utmost sympathy for him and I will fight for his right to be able to do so. But if, as some people would like, we had the practice of raising only subsidiary matters during the Estimates debates, and not matters of general strategy, it would greatly reduce the value of such debates—particularly at a time when, as was indicated by the Secretary of State, the whole strategy of this country has to be re-examined and realigned.

I wish to give the Secretary of State the opportunity to make another speech which he said he was extremely keen to make. He showed today that he has the facts and figures at his finger tips when he spoke in such a spontaneous fashion. He was interrupted by one of my hon. Friends and asked to state what would be the position of British troops in Germany when the Bonn Treaty comes into force and rearmament starts there.

The Secretary of State had to restrain himself. He had to hold himself back. He was absolutely bursting with information on the point. He has all the information at his finger tips and it was only his deference to the House which stopped him from telling the story which has not been revealed anywhere else before and which the House will no doubt be fascinated to hear.

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what will be the total cost of the maintenance of British forces in Germany when the changed situation comes into effect and we are responsible entirely for their payment. What will be the total extra cost falling on the War Office Vote? When will the amount start to be paid? The right hon. Gentleman indicated that preparations were being made to deal with the subject.

He also said that preparations were being made in connection with barracks. May we be told what is to happen to the British troops in Germany? Are they to move out of the barracks they occupy at present so that German troops may move in? Are they to take over new premises? Or is a great amount included in the Vote for building fresh quarters in Germany? Is the work actually being done now to provide the quarters which will be required for the maintenance of the British Army if part of the facilities are taken over by the Germans?

Before we conclude the debate, we should like to have from the Secretary of State the half-hour speech that he promised. We should like to have a description of all the preparations which have been made by Her Majesty's Government for dealing with this problem when it arises. We should also like to have from the Secretary of State what he thinks will be the strategic result and the extra strategical burden—

Mr. Crossman

I should like my hon. Friend also to put another question to the Secretary of State. There are many thousands of Germans now working for B.A.O.R. as drivers and auxiliaries in other ways. When they are taken over by the Germans, will the War Office bear the full cost of supplying its own drivers and auxiliaries to replace the Germans? I am sure that my hon. Friend has forgotten to put that point to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Foot

I had not forgotten it at all. I did not put it because I was sure that the point would occur to the Secretary of State, for he assured us at the beginning that he would be quite willing to give us a full description of the plans which his Department has prepared on this subject. I am sure that he will not disappoint us on that.

Taking it all in all, the Secretary of State in his speech at any rate made a greater effort than was made in the case of either the Air Estimates or the Navy Estimates to nibble at the problem of describing what are the strategic problems facing this country. Therefore, we hope not only that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to fill in the gaps which he left in his earlier speech but that his example will be recognised in future with good effects in the case of the other Service Departments. We hope that next year we may have an indication from the Government side of the House that what the Opposition have been saying for the last six years is really beginning to penetrate and that the Government will begin to understand that we cannot impose on the definitely restricted Armed Forces which this country can maintain burdens far beyond their capacity to bear.

11.13 p.m.

Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)

There are one or two points on which I should like to follow the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), but I do not wish to follow him in all that he said in his foreign affairs type of speech.

We have repeatedly had from the Opposition the demand to withdraw some of our commitments in order to reduce National Service. The hon. Gentleman rightly said that there was a political solution to some of the problems. Presumably, he was referring to Kenya and to Malaya. I do not know whether he was also referring to Korea, but is he seriously suggesting that troops should not have been sent to Malaya and Korea and that one should wait until a country is overrun and then seek a political solution?

What political solution would get the Russians out of Czechoslovakia or Poland now that those countries have been overrun and are behind the Iron Curtain? Does he seriously suggest that the situation in Malaya would not have been desperate if we had not sent troops there and kept them there until the situation was cleared up? [Interruption. ] When one hits hon. Gentlemen opposite hard, they do not like it. They cannot take it. We have sat here and listened to rubbish being talked for the last 40 minutes. When one tries to destroy those arguments and, I may say, succeeds in doing so, all one gets are catcalls and jeers.

Mr. Swingler

I asked what was the hon. and gallant Gentleman's solution for getting the Russians out of Czechoslovakia.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

My answer is that nothing was done.

Mr. Swingler

What is the solution?

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

The point of the remark I was making was that it was no good talking about a political solution. Until one has prevented the country from being occupied then is the time to seek a political solution. I asked what was the political solution for getting the Russians out of Poland and Czechoslovakia. I question the giving up of commitments, and if my right hon. Friend does concede to the hon. Gentleman opposite his request for a reduction of the commitment in Plymouth I hope that will not be used as an argument for the reduction of National Service.

I should now like to address myself to one serious aspect of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), that of the strategic reserve. He quoted General Gruenther as saying that in four days—those are his words, and I think he is an optimist—he would need heavy reinforcements to reinforce the thin line over the 300 mile front in Germany. He was suggesting—and this point I did not get clear—that the Territorial Army and the Reserve forces we have in this country should be miraculously got ready to go across the Channel in four days to reinforce General Gruenther. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman shake his head.

That brings me to the next point. To keep five Territorial divisions at a state of six weeks' readiness would mean that their staffs would have to work Saturdays and Sundays after doing their ordinary work during the week to keep the organisation of those divisions up to scratch so that they could mobilise at once. The trend is the other way, because those people cannot stand the pace. The strategic reserve would have to be formed from the troops who were brought back from the Suez Canal, otherwise where would they be obtained?

Admittedly, we have a brigade in Korea, which we are hoping to see home soon. We have troops in Hongkong. But that is not the size of the strategic reserve. General Gruenther wants three or four divisions over there and not a brigade. When the troops come back from the Suez they will be the strategic reserve about which General Gruenther is talking and there can be no suggestion of reducing National Service at the same time.

Mr. Wigg

What the hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying was being said to Lord Haldane before the First World War. But Lord Haldane said we had to mobilise and get in on the French left, no matter what was being said by the General Staff, who did not think it could be done, nor did the German General Staff. In fact, we had men in action within 22 days.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

The strength of that army, and I remember mobilisation with my own regiment, was two-thirds of the total required, and it was completed by reservists, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman says. It was remarkable the way they came in. They went in at one door as civilians, out at another as soldiers and on to a horse ready to go over the following day.

The situation today is totally different. The regiments in Germany are under strength, and will be made up to full strength from the Reserve. That will not produce a Reserve of four or five divisions, ready to cross the Channel at a moment's notice. I hope that hon. Members opposite will realise the practical aspect of the situation before they become emotional about it or before—and we know this is a vote-catcher—they try to stir up in the country the feeling that it is members of the Tory Party who are keeping people in the Army when there is no necessity for it.

My right hon. Friend has done an immense amount, in the last few months, to keep the middle-piece N.C.O. and officer in the Army. This is one of our most serious problems, and he has done a great deal towards solving it. Will he consider doing something else which, in my view, will help even more than some of the things he has already done? I refer to the education of the children of officers. N.C. Os. and men stationed abroad.

This is one of the greatest deterrents to re-engagement and a deterrent to recruiting. Lack of continuity, changing from one station to another—particularly in the early stages—involves a change of curriculum, a change of teachers, a change of methods—all disturbing, particularly for children up to the age of 11, who, let us remember, cannot be accepted by a local authority in this country for secondary school education unless they have passed a grammar school examination. The present system does not give them much chance of passing it.

I understand that in the Army on the Rhine, for instance, the Army schools are reasonably adequately supplied with places for children up to the age of 11. Possibly the problem in that field is not as great as it was. But we have to remember that no parent in this country, whatever his wage-earning capacity or station of life, has not the desire to send his son, if he has the ability to a university with a State-aided grant. For example, I was talking recently to a man who keeps a greengrocer's shop; both his sons are at a university. The Army, too, should be able to take advantage of this magnificent education system of ours—but the soldiers are not able to take advantage of it in the same way as those who are living, or stationed at home.

Something must be done about this. Let us face it: a lot of the blame falls on the local education authorities. We know of the pool of money which exists to give grants to the children of serving men who have returned from abroad, but local authorities do not look very sympathetically on applications. They are much more apt to see how many spanners they can throw into the works and how many objections they can raise.

I know of a child who was sent home to an aunt in a certain local authority area for the purpose of education. The local authority looked at the case and turned it down because, the authority said, the child's parents were not resident in the local authority area. Of course they were not; they were in Singapore.

Mr. Enrrys Hughes

On a point of order. Are we discussing the Education Estimates?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

This is in order on these Estimates.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

These parents were living in Singapore. Their home was in Scarborough. The local authority concerned said that the child should be educated at Scarborough, not where the aunt was living. That is the sort of objection raised; local authorities demand a residential qualification.

There is an even more important point which I hope my right hon. Friend will consider with the Minister of Education. The scales are assessed and designed by each local authority, entirely separately. They vary as from one local authority to another, and I believe the whole matter should be taken out of the hands of the local authorities and put fairly and squarely in the hands of the Minister of Education so that we can get a uniform assessment for these grants throughout the country.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman answer this question? Was this case of the child living with the aunt ever sent to the Minister of Education, because I would suggest—having had something to do with the Act upon which this depends—that it is where the child resides, and not the parents, which settles the issue. I cannot help thinking that if it had been brought to the attention of the Minister she would have taken action. I am not prepared to say what the law would be in Scotland, because that always seems against the people one would help in England.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's intervention, because almost no one else in this House knows more about these things than he does. In fact, that is exactly what happened. The case was taken to the Minister, but we do not get to know of all these cases. People do not always write to their Member, who can often put things right. They accept the local authority's ruling and suffer when they need not do so. I hope that the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Minister of Education, will try to see if we can thrash out something which is a little more reasonable and practical.

These scales and assessment for grants are worked out on the basis of the cost of living in England. My wife is on the education committee of a county council and knows this problem. When it is necessary to assess a family's means for a grant they are told the family is living in Singapore or Hongkong, and they do not have the foggiest idea of the cost of living in Singapore in relation to what it is in England. It may be costing that family twice as much to live abroad as it would at home, and their income in relation to the assessment is nothing like what it would be in the local authority area.

I hope that these points will be considered. They constitute one of the greatest deterrents to recruiting and re-engagement. The Secretary of State has done a great deal, and we ought to congratulate him on what he has done. I have heard every single speech of his since 1945, and today's was the finest he has ever made.

11.29 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

As one who has spent a little time in education, I could not agree more with what the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has said. The whole House is with him, and I hope the Secretary of State will take heed and do something for these youngsters of serving men.

I also echo the nice words of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) about the speech of the Secretary of State. I thank him for the beautiful map at the back of the Memorandum which will delight all who love cartography. However, I want to take up a question which has not been discussed tonight and one which we discussed last year in detail.

The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and myself were chasing the Ministers last year on the subject of colonial forces. Last year the Secretary of State was almost lyrical about 19 battalions which he said he intended to raise, I think in a three-year cycle, between 1952 and 1955. I believe that he spoke of having five battalions in 1952–53, eight more Regular battalions to come, and six volunteer battalions, making 19 altogether.

I listened carefully last year, and this year I looked up Vote A. I am a little hurt about this. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned this in his opening speech. In view of our wide commitments, I feel, and I am sure that he does, that there is need in some places for more African and colonial forces. On examining Vote A, I find that the colonial Governments are spending more money than they did last year. They are spending well over £13 million, but instead of their being an addition to the number of colonial forces I find that the figures are down. They have gone down in the last two years from 78,000 to 75,000 and next year they will be 72,450.

This does not make sense to me. I should like an explanation. I do not mind the extra money being spent. Obviously, the cost goes up annually, but I should like an explanation of the figures. They are slightly inconsistent, in view of the fair words we got last year about the future increase in the number of colonial forces.

Mr. Head

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that in many cases the colonial forces are not paid for out of our Vote, tout by the Colonial Office or by the territories themselves?

Mr. Johnson

Of course, and I make the point that they are paying more than before and seem to be getting slightly less value.

Last year the Minister also talked about established battalions. I think he spoke of equivalent battalions. He talked of having one company in one place and one somewhere else which might be made up into a so-called battalion. Perhaps we could be told whether those battalions have full complements of companies on the lines which the right hon. Gentleman suggested last year. I find this position a little hard to square with the past speeches of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. In fact, nearly all the Ministers on the Government Front Bench have talked in the past about using colonial forces—as I think most of us have talked —if we are to fulfil our overseas commitments without having too big a drain upon manpower at home.

At one effervescent moment in his past, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury even talked about having a foreign legion. What has happened to this enthusiasm? Is it a matter of finance? In view of the money we are spending in Kenya—I think it is £250,000 every month—in an emergency situation, it would pay us to use more foresight and to spend money on what we might call Regular colonial forces. They would then be available in emergency. I hate to be gloomy and to talk about British Honduras, but we might even need forces there in the near future.

I was in Kenya some weeks ago, and, indeed, I was on the West Coast of Africa at an earlier date, and I have found that our colonial leaders do not shirk their responsibilities in this matter. Mr. Kwame Nkrumah and other well-known African leaders say that they are not afraid to pay their money into the Imperial kitty or to raise soldiers in their Colonies. There is no backwardness on that side, and, therefore, I am at a loss to understand the backwardness here in the Metropolitan Parliament.

The old Indian Army has gone, and we shall need something to take its place. I believe that Africa can provide the answer. I believe that we could easily get between 60,000 and 80,000 African colonial troops. I know that I shall probably be told by the Minister that the real difficulty is finding the necessary white officers and white N.C. Os. to train these cadres of colonial forces.

I do not suggest at this moment that we should take them from the Canal Zone and elsewhere, and send them to Kenya in order to build up a Catterick or an Aldershot there, but I do think that we can cautiously build up many more colonial forces than we have done so far. If white officers and white N.C. Os. are the difficulty, why not have white colonial officers and white colonial N.C. Os. to look after black colonial other ranks?

There are many Kenyans and Rhodesians and many other white Africans who would be perfectly happy to go into these colonial battalions and to work alongside black Africans. It would mean spending money, but we should take time by the forelock and spend the money now. Unless we give special inducements, we shall have to take United Kingdom men. Better housing and better barrack accommodation for their wives and families would be needed, and perhaps financial inducements. We have special expatriate allowances for colonial civil servants, so why not special allowances for English, Scottish or Welsh officers and N.C. Os. who are seconded, so to speak, to these colonial battalions?

Mr. Mikardo

I am trying to discover why my hon. Friend is ruling out the possibility of black troops having black officers and N.C. Os. May I remind him that the American Army seems to adopt that system quite successfully, so why not us?

Mr. Johnson

I was just about to come to that. My hon. Friend must have powers of telepathy. In the same way as the Americans, we must have African officers and N.C. Os.

Last year I raised the matter of black officers in the West African forces and I received a most satisfactory answer. By now there must be eight, 10 or more Gold Coasters and Nigerians at Sandhurst and Camberley who, in due course, will receive full Queen's commissions. They will mess with their white cousins in the officers' messes when they get back to the Gold Coast. If it can be done in West Africa, why not in East Africa?

We talk about the warlike peoples of India, like the Punjabis, but there are also warlike tribes of Africans; and even the Kikuyus, who are, I suppose the least warlike of all the peoples of Africa, have not been doing so badly over the last 12 or 18 months. But there are far better tribes than the Kikuyu, such, for instance, as the Nandi, the Kipsigi and the Kamba. These tribes did wonderful work in the last great war in Asia and we allowed far too many of these first-class N.C. Os. to drift back to their villages and thereby lost them for the future.

Now a word about what we might have done and ought to be doing now. At the end of the war, the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) and Michael Blundell, a man of some stature among the white settlers in East Africa, spoke on these lines, and they were discussing a scheme whereby the best N.C. Os. in the King's African Rifles should be sent on a five-year course to Makerere College. It is important to educate them if we are to eliminate the colour bar in the officers' mess and have coloured officers alongside white officers. If the black officers are to hold their own in the officers' mess— I am not thinking of the correct way to pass the port and similar techniques—not only must they be good officers in the bush and the jungle, but they must also be able to do the paper work. They must have the education.

We should put these N.C. Os. on a four or five-year course at Makerere College or the inter-racial university college which is to be begun at Salisbury or the university college which is to be built at Nairobi. Not only would these men have the status and be able to mix with their white colleagues in the mess but, even more important, they would be able to do the administrative work which must be done in addition to the usual fighting and manoeuvres.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

I think there is a great deal of force in what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and before he leaves that point perhaps I may be allowed to reinforce it by referring to the Fiji Regiment which was formed during the war and which is, at the moment, serving with its own Fijian officers and European officers in Malaya with the greatest effect. We hope it will continue to serve for some considerable time.

Mr. Johnson

I welcome that interjection. What matters is not the colour of a man's skin but what is inside his head and the other qualities which are so vital to any officer.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Are there not certain disadvantages? For example, the head hunters of Borneo, who were brought to Malaya, had to be withdrawn because they were decapitating people?

Mr. Johnson

I accept that point, also.

Now may I pass on to this question of manpower? It is not only a matter of adding to the sum total of troops to fight in a future war. It is not just a matter of adding to the military and strategic value of our forces. Even more important when we are dealing with these young emergent colonial societies is to bear in mind the prestige and sense of satisfaction that we are giving to them in placing them on an equal status with white people in the forces. It is important to have not merely African district officers and teachers but African officers in the forces, too. Only when they attain the highest ranks in all walks of life will they attain that dignity and status which they deserve.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) for mentioning this point, and I wish to emphasise the necessity for eliminating the colour bar in the Services in that way. The colour bar is an evil thing, wherever it may be. If we can eliminate it in this field, we shall have gone a long way towards lifting up these colonial people.

But it is not just a matter of giving them status. In any young society— Turkey, the Soviet Union, China and elsewhere—the Army is being used as a means of education in the widest possible sense. The African peasant people are in much the same state of society. Where there are large masses of illiterate peasant farming people, the Army is used to educate them and then they are sent back again to their own villages and local societies to be leaders.

I only wish we had done this in Kenya at the end of the last war. We might have had less bother with the Mau Mau if we had done so. If we had taken some of the N.C. Os. who left the King's African Rifles in 1945 and sent them back, along with whites, in mixed teams to work in the reserves, we should have had a much better reservoir of coloured people to help us in these last difficult 18 months. We have missed our opportunity there of getting better officers and leaders of the district councils and in all the normal avenues of society in these native areas.

I end where I began. If in this House we talk about our commitments overseas and say we have not the manpower to go here, there and everywhere, here is a possible supplement, and the more African colonial troops we have to garrison or to take station in the West Indies or Africa, the less need there is for the white troops to be there. They can come back to their wives and families at home or be used in other theatres of war where they can be put to more and better use at any given moment. While I do not want an Aldershot in Kenya, I do say that the present need of the Commonwealth for military manpower is an opportunity for the African Colonies.

11.47 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I am happy to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), because he was out in Kenya recently when I was there as a mere political nomad, not a member of the delegation from this House. Nevertheless, I was much interested in what the hon. Gentleman said and I support practically all he said with only one small caveat, and I am not sure that he would not agree with me on that also.

Obviously, the purpose is to try to build up the general status of the African, but that is dependent upon his educational status. I do not believe that could necessarily be done by taking a grown man and sending him for two or three years to a university. I think it will have to be developed over a period, so that the education of these young men is built up from an early age until they achieve the status necessary for the purpose which the hon. Gentleman put before the House. Otherwise, I am in substantial agreement with what he had to say.

With regard to his other point, it is true that if we are in the future to be able to continue to meet our world-wide commitments, we must seek to develop far more N.C. Os. and officers from our Colonial Territories and throughout the Commonwealth.

Now 1 want to turn to two or three purely practical points in the sphere of Egypt. In this matter also I have quite a close interest because my former battalion, the 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards, is now serving in the Suez Canal, and I am in close personal touch with officers, N.C. Os. and men now serving in that district.

I start by saying that I agree very largely with the facts that we have heard, although my ultimate conclusions are entirely different from those of many other hon. Members. I have it on the best authority possible that the N.A.A.F.I. conditions in the Canal Zone at the present time are extremely unsatisfactory. First, the men are complaining that they have not enough food. Their complaint is greater there than it is in any other station, whether it be Germany or throughout Europe and the Far East. It is complained that the variety of food is bad and the supplies of the N.A.A.F.I. in the Zone are extremely irregular. The officers complain that they cannot get enough spirits, whether gin or whisky, and not enough tonic water.

The men complain that there is insufficient variety of beer and an insecure supply of sweets, though we hear that in this country we are eating more sweets than ever before. The cooking is not as good as it is in other parts, so what that must be like I shudder to think. I am seriously urged by officers and men out there that consideration should be given to sending out better Army cooks to go to the assistance of their less competent brothers.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

How recent is this information?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I received it from a senior officer at 10 o'clock tonight. That, of course, was not the first information, but I thought that I should get it right up to date from a senior officer who arrived in this country 10 days ago.

Apparently, some units are complaining with some justification that training is very difficult, and that guard duties are a very serious matter indeed and are longer in duration and more in number than in almost any other sphere. But the real difficulty that the Secretary of State for War must face is the impossible position with regard to the maintenance both of transport and installations which must inevitably deteriorate and will go on doing so very fast.

It is unfortunate that men who have been trained according to the best traditions of the Army should find this laxity when they take over installations and hutted encampments and they do not find the thorough inventory that one finds where the best practices and traditions of the Army are followed. Recruitment also goes down, because the men out there are not prepared to sign on, since if a young soldier does so he has to serve another year or two in the area. I hope that the House will agree that this is as fair a statement of the difficulties in the Canal Zone as one could make, and the information comes from senior officers.

As one who has been associated with the views of my right hon and gallant Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse), I should like to say quite sincerely why I fundamentally disagree with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) this evening. First of all, they put up an entirely erroneous "Aunt Sally," which they then knocked down. They offered two alternatives. They said, first of all, that there must be either an agreement with Egypt or, secondly, that we must get out. To my way of thinking both these points are quite wrong.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We have now moved from the Amendment back to the main Question.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I venture to suggest that it is clearly in order for me to deal with the question of the retention of the troops in the Suez Canal Zone. I was about to say that there are two alternatives to the premises which were put before the House earlier this evening. I think that if I am allowed to go on, I shall prove that I am in order.

The first alternative, clearly, would be to sweep away the base. It is nearly 100 miles long and all the sandy installations which exist lie in the areas around the main towns. Port Suez, Ismalia and Moascar, where there are the flies, the dust and the sand.

What I am advocating is that we should reduce to something of the proportion of the garrison of Gibraltar and bring down our commitments to a very small area, bringing ourselves within the terms of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, which at present we are breaching. I agree that it is no answer at all to that argument to say that the Egyptians first broke it. We cannot turn round and say, "Yahoo, we are going to break it."

We should reduce our commitments in this area down to those which the Treaty permits us, which is an effective force of 10,000 men and the necessary ancillaries, port facilities and the like. That is the argument which we who associate ourselves with the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East believe is the necessary and effective course to take.

There is a further alternative which is also of paramount importance and has never been really debated in this House. It is what steps can we take to ensure effective international control of the users of the Suez Canal, because the basis of this matter is not the military strategic base. That is not the first consideration, but it is equally important that this army should realise that it is their bounden duty to see that our shipping can proceed through this international waterway.

I therefore feel that the arguments addressed with that vivid emotion which I am afraid were so vitriolic that I shall hereafter call the hon. Member "the Borgia from Blackburn" proceeded on arguments which had no relation to the military strategy with which we should look at the case.

Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)

I gather that the proposal now is to reduce to a garrison of 10,000 troops. Would my hon. Friend elaborate how 10,000 troops are to ensure the navigation of the Canal, which is 100 miles long?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I was proposing to deal with that point, but if I may I will deal with it when I come to it in the course of my speech. I wish to deal with that and a number of other arguments.

Those are two quite separate alternatives to what has been addressed to the House tonight. This matter has been presented to the country as "either enter into an agreement with Neguib or get out altogether." I will address myself to the argument that we should decrease our forces to a garrison in this area and, furthermore, that we should do it without any agreement or negotiations with Egypt whatsoever.

As I must address myself to the arguments in their proper order, I must first prove the case that there should be no further negotiations and no further agreement with Egypt. Why do I say that? I say it for this reason. I will refer to what has happened in the last five years. We can never enter into any agreement in the next three or four years with Egypt until they have a stable Government. First, on 28th December, 1948, Nokrashy Pasha was murdered by the Moslem Brotherhood. On 27th January, 1952, Farouk dismissed Nahas Pasha and installed Ali Maher Pasha. On 2nd March, 1952, Ali Maher Pasha was himself deposed and Hilali Pasha succeeded him. On 29th June, 1952, Hilali Pasha fell. On 29th July, 1952, Hussein Sirry Pasha formed a new Government. On 2nd July, 1952, Hussein Sirry Pasha fell and Hilali Pasha was installed again. In July, 1952, Neguib—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is now dealing with a matter which is more properly within the field of foreign affairs.

Mr. Rees-Davies

My point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is that we have heard it said tonight that the only method by which we can evacuate the forces is by entering into an agreement with Egypt; and, therefore, I respectfully submit that I must establish two points. First, that it is certainly quite ineffective to have any agreement with Egypt, because we cannot trust what those in power will do; and secondly, that we can achieve the removal of those forces, which is what I gather hon. Members wish to achieve, without entering into an agreement. I think that I am only following up what has been put forward in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), who is himself a former Secretary of State for War.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It would seem that the first part of that argument is a matter for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and we are not now discussing foreign affiairs. The second part seems to be relevant to this debate.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I merely want to point out that Neguib then had his military putsch. Neguib forced Farouk—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is now returning to what is properly a matter of foreign affairs; it is a matter for the Foreign Office.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I am sorry; I thought that I was on the other part. However, there were no fewer than twelve abdications and changes.

Mr. Strachey

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but on the basis of his argument it would appear to be undesirable to have any treaties with France who alters her Government very rapidly; and I would remind him that his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary quite recently said in the House that we should be very limited if able to deal only with countries which had stable Governments.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not tempt the hon. Member too far along that line.

Mr. Rees-Davies

It may be that France frequently changes her Government; but she does so constitutionally. Egypt does not.

Mr. Wigg

May I try to help the hon. Member to keep within the rules of order by asking whether there may not be a cause for this instability? The Egyptians cannot have an agreement with us; if they could, the instability might not be there.

Mr. Rees-Davies

All I say is that there were no fewer than 12 different changes, mostly undemocratic, and which all occurred before there was any question of going into any agreement with Egypt. In the last two months, some hon. Friends and myself have put a Motion on the Order Paper, and it has turned out that we were quite right; and there have been two important changes even in that relatively short period.

I should like now to refer to paragraph 39 of the Memorandum to the Army Estimates, where it is stated: The Egyptian attitude during these months has resulted in a very hard time for the Army. A large number of attacks, robberies, and incidents of all kinds have made the soldier's life always tense and frequently dangerous. During the period from 15th May to 15th November, 1953, there were no fewer than 885 incidents in the Canal Zone, directed against our men or their families. During 1953 there were 127 attacks with firearms, 34 attacks with knives, and 93 attacks with other weapons. Sixteen British subjects were murdered between 1st January, 1953, and 30th January, 1954. I know that I have the disadvantage of being a lawyer, but it is absolutely inconceivable to me that we can enter into an agreement with men who are openly and undoubtedly permitting murder and robbery throughout their whole territory. Is this, country to condone these violent acts by entering into an agreement? I could not support any such agreement.

Further, we have to look at this vital question of military strategy and what the Army can do in the light of the fact that no agreement is worth the paper on which it is written. Agreement or no agreement, if we had one it would not be of the slightest effect because the whole background of the military junta—not Neguib so much but Nasser and his colleagues—is of close association with the Communists. It is nothing more nor less than their starting up the conditions of the usual violence which the Russians will find for their benefit in this area.

It is interesting to note that recently at Berlin Mr. Molotov took great trouble to ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to remove British troops from Egypt, and that those who controlled the ministerial posts in Egypt had been in close contact with Mr. A. Chikov, a member of the Soviet staff, and have been closely associated with the Communistic organisation, the "Democratic Movement for National. Liberation," and this group is actively associated with the "Partisans of Peace," another organisation inspired by the Communists.

What I am saying so far as military action is concerned is this: imagine the position of the Secretary of State for War if we entered into an agreement and thereafter he found that around the corner in Cairo there were these Communist-infiltrated partisans who immediately proceeded to pillage and murder the 4,000 technicians left behind. I would be very chary of being one of those technicians, if any such agreement were effected, without having around me the regiment of which I was a member or a brigade of troops—even though one may have little regard for the military efficacy of Egyptian troops.

We on this side of the House recognise that there is no longer any need for a jumping-off ground as a fundamental base against Russia in time of war. That is an important point. Some people may regard it as a concession. Therefore, for what purpose do we need our troops there? The first is to keep open an international waterway until we can achieve an effective international agreement. The second is to ensure that we have adequate and proper airfield and port facilities for two purposes; first, because it is the main strategic air base of real value in the Middle East, and, secondly, because we require port facilities for re-entry in the event of an emergency.

We do not need another agreement. We can start to scale down our forces and choose the strategic area the Army needs. I am sure the Secretary of State for War and the Government Front Bench are well aware that there are well-known generals and air marshals in this country who support this view. I do not propose to mention names, but there are men of great eminence who have stated more than once that it is vital to have a strategic air base in Suez, the more so since the removal of Khartoum, our most effective air base in the area, means that we have to look for another. There is no other effective base except that which can be found in the area.

Mr. Wigg

I am sure that the hon. Member is aware that there are 10 fully equipped Royal Air Force airfields within 10 miles of the Suez Canal. I take it that he would give up nine of them and retain one.

Mr. Rees-Davies

My information is that the airfield close to the port is one of great strategic necessity in that area.

Mr. Wigg

Which port?

Mr. Rees-Davies

The airfield is that at Moascar. We have a dual need of the air base and the port facilities.

We can reduce to the small area and continue with these bases. We are entitled to do so under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936. More nonsense has been talked about our position under the Treaty than almost anything else that I have heard. I read an article the other day by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) which indicated that he had either never read the Treaty or, if he had read it, had conveniently put it out of his mind.

He said that if we did not move out after 1956, we would be guilty of flagrant aggression against the Egyptians. That is quite untrue. Article 8, combined with Article 16, make it quite plain where we stand. Article 8 has been read to the House before, but it might be as well to read it again.

Mr. Fisher

I would point out that my hon. Friend has already been speaking for nearly half an hour.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Article 8 says: In view of the fact that the Suez Canal, whilst being an integral part of Egypt, is a universal means of communication as, also, an essential means of communication between the different part of the British Empire … until such time as the High Contracting Parties agree that the Egyptian Army is in a position to ensure by its own resources the liberty and entire security of navigation of the Canal, authorises His Majesty The King and Emperor to station forces in Egyptian territory in the vicinity of the Canal … That is a plain enough statement. It goes on—

Mr. Wigg

The hon. Gentleman has not read it correctly. He should not mislead the House.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I am not misleading the House. I am reading the relevant parts and not the whole of it because my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) wants me to sit down. I am sorry if I have taken too long. I will read straight on: … and in the zone specified in the Annex to this Article … That is the point that 1 am making, that we must reduce the area to bring it within the terms of the Treaty. … with a view to ensuring in co-operation with the Egyptian forces the defence of the Canal. It goes on later: The presence of these forces shall not constitute in any manner an occupation and will in no way prejudice the sovereign rights of Egypt. It is understood that at the end of the period of twenty years … that is, 1956. … the question whether the presence of British forces is no longer necessary owing to the fact that the Egyptian Army is in a position to ensure by its own resources the liberty and entire security of navigation of the Canal may, if the High Contracting Parties do not agree thereon, be submitted to the Council of the League of Nations for decision … in accordance with such other procedure as the High Contracting Parties may agree. It is perfectly plain that in 1956 Egypt could not possibly show that the Egyptian Army was in a position to ensure by its own resources the liberty and entire security of the navigation of the Canal. If it could do so, it must do it in agreement with us.

When we turn to Article 16, which is quite simple, we see that we have complete safeguards for our position there for as long as we like. It says: At any time after the expiration of a period of twenty years … the High Contracting Parties will … enter into negotiations with a view to such revision of its terms by agreement between them as may be appropriate in the circumstances … It goes on to make it quite plain that it is agreed that any revision of the Treaty will provide for the continuance of the alliance between these parties in accordance with the principles contained in the earlier Articles.

There is no reason at all why we should fear the future. We do not need to have an agreement. We are entitled to do what we ought to do and go back to the Treaty rights and adhere to them. There is no question of being turned out in 1956, and there is no reason why we should be, when one bears in mind the avalanche of claims which may arise if we go on losing prestige. If any hon. Member doubts that, let him ask Anglo-Iraq Petroleum and other big interests their views on the matter, or ask trade unions what would happen if large contracts were lost, which will occur if we scuttle out of Egypt.

The whole argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East is irrelevant. It is that we must get out, which I regard as a scuttle, or enter into an agreement. Neither is necessary, because the true course is to adhere to our agreement and to adhere to our principles, and to see that we are within the Treaty. Having done so, and the Secretary of State for War, having got himself into that comfortable position and saved himself from the difficulties of maintenance of the existing installations, can then go to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and invite him to seek an agreement for international control with the United States and other users of the canal to ensure that the canal is safe, and safe for our shipping when the Convention falls in in 1968.

Mr. Alport

I did address a question to my hon. Friend which he promised to answer.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. He asked me how, if we reduced our commitment to this small area, we could ensure the effective navigation of the waterway. The same question was put to me by the hon. Member for Coventry, East when I raised this matter in December, and I could not deal with it then. The answer is, of course, that at the present time, with the whole of the 90 or 100 miles we have, we are not able to secure that navigation on this international waterway because we are behaving in such a flabby fashion, and I borrow the word from the hon. Member for Coventry, East, who was talking about the flabby Empire.

If there is an effective air base there, and an effective garrison at the port, the threat of the use of air power if there is any interference by the Egyptians will be sufficient to ensure and maintain that the canal is safe. What we need is a clear sense of purpose, and a clear statement that we intend to keep the canal open, and that if the Egyptian troops seek to stop us we will use force to prevent them.

12.19 a.m.

Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

I do not wish to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) in his general argument, but it seems to me that, whatever may be the rights or wrongs of the legal interpretation, it is a false point to raise this issue in the face of a major national demand in Egypt. That has been expressed by right hon. Gentlemen on the other side, as well as on this. When the hon. Gentleman was going through his catalogue of responsible or irresponsible Governments in Egypt, it was perfectly clear that one of the factors for ensuring instability in Egypt has been the inability of the Government to come to any agreement with Egypt about the Suez Canal.

I should like to take up a point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who referred to one particular aspect of the problem of education in the forces, especially that of children of serving men. I had an opportunity, during the autumn, of visiting B.A.O.R., for which I am grateful to the War Office, and of seeing what the Royal Army Educational Corps was doing, not only in teaching children, but also in the training of serving men themselves. I am sorry that the Memorandum contains such a cursory mention of this modest but important aspect of the Army's activities. It is brushed off in three lines, in association with entertainment. It is worthy of a little more reference than that.

The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing raised an important point. He spoke of the difficulty of securing proper educational facilities for children in B.A.O.R. or other overseas stations and described that as an important unsettling factor in recruitment. I saw something of this at first hand. I saw a number of the admirable schools being run by the Army in B.A.O.R., and it is true that the majority of the children in those schools have been moving from station to station over the years. It is very difficult to obtain any sort of continuity of education, a problem which must worry parents.

The problem is whether those children are to continue being educated overseas or whether provision should be made for them in this country. If provision is to be made overseas, it will enable better contact to be maintained with their parents. On the other hand, if provision is to be made in this country, there will be better continuity of education.

When I raised this matter last year, the Under-Secretary of State replied to me in writing, particularly about secondary education, and said that at that time the War Office were considering three possibilities for secondary education. One was to continue the present policy towards the full provision of secondary education overseas in day and boarding schools, according to need and the facilities available. The second was to make partial provision overseas and to set up Service schools in the United Kingdom for selected children. The third possibility was to set up Service schools in the United Kingdom for all children of secondary school age.

Has the War Office reached any conclusion in this matter? When I was in B.A.O.R., considerable provision had been and was being made for secondary school education, particularly of coeducational boarding schools—comprehensive schools, we might call them. Those of my hon. Friends who are particularly interested in the provision of comprehensive schools might well go out to Germany and see something of what is being done under Army auspices. It is a very interesting experiment, and considerable development is taking place.

In particular, we have three secondary boarding schools at Cologne, Wilhelmshaven and the new school at Hamm. I should be glad to know whether all three are in operation and whether it means that we are to concentrate our educational efforts in providing overseas secondary school education. If we are, I hope it will be possible to do what the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing was anxious to see done— make it possible for those who are attending these schools to secure the highest education and to have an opportunity of preparation for university.

I hope it is something that can be done even in overseas conditions. Very few people in this country realise what a very large proportion of the War Office expenditure on education goes in the field of children's education. I do not know what the figure is today, but I imagine it is almost half of the £3 million provided for in the Estimates both for other ranks and officers at home and overseas. It cannot be too much emphasised what a very important part this particular aspect does play in Army education today.

Quite recently, this field of children's education has passed under the control and administration of the Royal Army Educational Corps, and no doubt that is highly desirable for administrative and other reasons, but it is important that the lay aspect of that service should be maintained. We have a very admirable director of the service in Germany, and I hope that there will be no interference with his liberty of action. The sort of point that may well arise is that there might be those who would wish to secure a good deal of formality and stereotyped production of text books, based rather on the experience of training manuals.

If you want to train soldiers to fire a rifle or perform other military operations, it is important that the sequence should be the same throughout the world, but in this very important field this attitude should not be adopted. It is important that those teachers who are doing an excellent job under difficult conditions abroad should be given the fullest freedom to follow their own line of education, and I hope that their present Liberty of action will be safeguarded for the future.

It is fair to say, and I am glad to be able to say it, that there does seem to be a much fuller recognition in Army circles generally of the value of general education. I found, in discussing this in B.O.A.R., that commanding officers fully recognised the importance of this, and how it linked with their own training. This education for the serving man ranges from the preliminary work, done to try and deal with the tragic field of illiteracy, right through the various courses for the three educational certificates to a limited amount of higher education.

With regard to the preliminary education, it is a matter of great concern to all of us that there is still such a high proportion of illiterates or semi-literates coming into the Forces. No one can say that this is a larger problem than it used to be, because we have no statistics or knowledge of how big a problem it was, and it is quite wrong to suggest that the problem has grown worse. Certainly, it is true that there is a serious problem.

One unit applied some preliminary tests to a group of soldiers who had come out from home to join them. The men were without any special educational qualifications and it was found that out of their number almost 10 per cent, were regarded not as illiterate but as only semi-literate. Nearly 10 per cent, of that group of young soldiers were men whom the commanding officer said were of no use to him at all. He was most anxious that they should go off for special preliminary training to special centres.

The War Office are to be congratulated on the excellent work they are doing. It is original work, as many people appreciate, but if that effort to deal with illiteracy is to have any success everyone who has seen anything of the courses which are run would agree that it needs to be followed up by steady work after the men return to their parent units. That is by no means easy to achieve. Nevertheless, a real effort must be made. I appeal to the Under-Secretary to look into the problem.

Then we have the general bread and butter work of the Royal Army Educational Corps. There again, I found a receptive attitude among most commanding officers who certainly seem to realise that this fits in very well with their own Army training. They find that it helps them enormously. Indeed, many look to the Corps to help them select future N.C. Os. I was glad to find that most commanding officers make time available for this most important part of Army training, and that out of a relatively short period of the year in which it can be done. Because of the amount of time which has to be taken up by exercises, there is not a very long period available for this kind of training.

In B.A.O.R. there are a number of educational centres. It is important that much of the training for the higher certificates should be done in these centres rather than in the barracks. There is no doubt that the atmosphere is much conducive to the success of the courses. In these centres an attempt is being made to provide for the voluntary educational service. Inevitably, this is a very difficult job. It always was during the war and it is even more difficult now.

Naturally, many of those concerned with the work in the centres are dispirited because of the small response which they get. I do not think that that should lead us to advocate the withdrawal of the provision. I hope that no proposal of that sort will be made. Even though the total may be small it is of the utmost importance that the young men should have at least some of the facilities which can be made available to the troops at home much more easily.

These facilities are available in every town in the country through the evening classes organised by local authorities, technical colleges, the W.E.A. and other bodies. Obviously, nothing like the same range can be provided in Germany, but it is astonishing what a little effort can secure. I was most struck, in one of the educational centres in Minden, by the tremendous effort which had been made to deal with a great variety of subjects. A great attempt was being made to establish contact with the men from new units coming into the area to discover what would be the most useful courses to run. I feel that one wants to pay a very real tribute to the work done in that field.

Finally, there are some higher education centres. I saw one of them, and I found it hard to imagine how it justified its name. A short time ago a good deal of its1 accommodation was, inevitably, being used for these very valuable and important preliminary education courses for illiterates and semi-illiterates in the forces. Another section of its accommodation is being made available for resettlement courses. I suggest that "higher education centre" is a bit of a misnomer in these circumstances.

I do not know whether any change has come about since then, but I certainly think that it is a problem which we need to face. I am not sure that it would not be better to run resettlement courses in this country rather than in Germany. However, that is a matter which I am sure is now under consideration.

The Royal Army Education Corps is doing a very important job in this wide field of activities, but it certainly needs a good deal of invigoration in the form of new blood. I do not know what the intentions are with regard to it. There have been some discussions about a change in its form, but I do not know whether any decision has been taken in the matter.

It is of the greatest importance that young people should be encouraged to go into that field because work of very real importance is being done there, particularly in linking up with general Army training. The danger is that at the moment the Royal Army Education Corps is not getting that flow of able instructors which it certainly needs.

I can imagine that there will be difficulties when the new scheme finally comes into operation in this field as in many others. I assume that the financial provisions are going to be made more difficult. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary of State can say anything about that. For example, with regard to the secondary education provided in these boarding schools, how much of the cost of these institutions will in future fall directly upon the Treasury, I do not know. No doubt that will be a matter of very serious concern.

However that may be, I hope that there will be no question about maintaining the very valuable work being done in that direction at the present time. Perhaps at a later stage in this debate the Undersecretary of State will be able to say something about the future intentions of the War Office with regard to the development of the work of the Royal Army Education Corps.

12.34 a.m.

Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)

I am sure that the House is very grateful to the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) for the very thoughtful speech which he has just made. Normally at this time, the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) makes his annual attack upon the Brigade of Guards. But we have had enough excitement for the moment in this debate without having that added to our other pleasures and matters of interest, and we will wait until first light, no doubt, before the next engagement takes place.

Mr. Wigg

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but may I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that there are not 40 Members present?

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

House counted, and 40 Members being present

Mr. Alport

Perhaps I may now continue to deal with one or two of the points to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred when he dealt with the present position of the Army.

As I see it, the problem is this. In deciding the future organisation, equipment and pattern of deployment of the Army, those who have the responsibility for planning it are faced with a very difficult problem indeed. Roughly half the Army as it at present exists is required for what I call a European type of war, complete with all the intricate and costly paraphernalia of armour and atomic arm. The other half is required for the traditional rôle of maintaining law and order in overseas territories.

Although it is impossible to say how far those two requirements will vary in the future, I would think that on the whole an Army of the present size, at instant readiness will continue to be needed for deployment in Europe. In addition, a varying number of units will be required for operations in support of the civil power to maintain law and order in theatres overseas. These are likely to be the two roles required of the Army in the future.

The problem, let me repeat, is this. How far are those two roles completely incompatible at the present time? How far can we have a universal all-purpose Army, with all-purpose units—for instance, an all-purpose infantry battalion—which, on the one hand, is capable of deployment in Germany in a corps formation as part of a highly modernised and highly equipped N.A.T.O. force, and, on the other hand, is available by its training and equipment for action in Kenya, or if necessary in British Guiana, in totally different circumstances, where the rôle is very different, where the organisation required appears to me to be very different indeed and where the type of arms and equipment required are different?

I should have thought, therefore, that this would be a strong argument now for the development of two types of infantry battalion with different training and, at the same time, for an expansion of our colonial troops, because I cannot think that it is economical in manpower or in equipment to use United Kingdom battalions, for instance, in Kenya. I do not think that a United Kingdom battalion in Kenya is a very satisfactory formation. I do not think that the troops are trained for that type of warfare.

I do not think it would be right to train them for that type of warfare because the majority of those men are National Service men, and when they return to the Reserve they will be of value, not in the fulfilment of what I would call internal security operations overseas, but as reserves for the highly complicated, armoured and atomic army for deployment in Europe.

Again, I should have thought that the twin propositions are these: that we want more colonial troops, that it is an economic proposition now to have more colonial troops, and at the same time we want those colonial troops, or the British units that are to operate in the Colonial Territories, should have their own Service, their own organisations and their own special equipment. The time has long since passed when we should have started a Colonial Service Army which is separate from the United Kingdom Army.

I am greatly impressed by the fact that the type of officer—and there are many exceptions to what I am saying, which is necessarily a generalisation—now being made available from the United Kingdom for colonial units has not the experience or the maturity of judgment or, sometimes, the high level of attainment or character essential to the command of colonial troops. I do not believe that it is satisfactory in any circumstances to use National Service officers for such troops.

After all, the essential qualification required by an officer in the colonial Army is that he should know his troops and should know their language, and he cannot command them effectively and, what is far more important, he cannot administer them effectively unless he knows their country, their home, their environment, their customs, their language and the men themselves. Therefore, we cannot have short-service officers with colonial troops.

I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether he will not now consider the suggestion which has been put to him and to his predecessors for many years past, for the formation of a colonial military service. I agree very much with nearly all the points made by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), because his views and those I am trying to put to the House now dovetail quite clearly.

Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)

What the hon. Gentleman has just been saying about the vernacular need of officers serving with colonial troops is quite contrary to what was the pre-war experience. Officers serving with the King's African Rifles before the war, to my personal knowledge, were seconded from home units, and only in rare cases did they know the native vernacular; but they were very good officers.

Mr. Alport

I do not want to argue with the hon. Gentleman, but I can assure him that he is not correct in that statement. They certainly came from home units, but they spent at least three years out there and, in many cases, six eight, ten, or twelve years serving with the colonial forces. They knew the language extremely well. It was one of the essential things that they should know either Swahili or Chinianja. We cannot, however, expect an officer going there for six months or a year to take the trouble to learn the language which is essential to the understanding and proper command of colonial forces.

Mr. J. Johnson

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would agree with me that it would be a good thing to attempt to get more African officers as quickly as we can in the near future?

Mr. Alport

I fully agree. The hon. Gentleman referred to a suggestion which was made at the end of the war that the best of the African N.C. Os.—who were potential officers—should have been given that higher education which is essential if they are to have a fair chance of turning into good, efficient, modern officers. But five, six, eight years have passed—it is the fault not only of this Government but of their predecessors equally—and many of those with experience of war, who would have started the tradition of the post-war African officer at its highest standard, have been lost to the Army in East Africa.

I am thinking not only of East Africa. It applies to all our Colonial Territories. I am certain that the War Office policy of giving second and third place always to the colonial forces over the last eight years has been wrong. I agree that for what I call an atomic Army for operations in Europe, the colonial forces are not up to that required standard and are not suitable for that form of employment. But an extra £1 million spent on the colonial forces now would save us a great deal in European manpower and in equipment and in training. At present we are having to use troops which are not suitable for employment in colonial operations, and who are much more expensive simply because they are being used for purposes for which I do not regard them as suitable. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the attitude of the War Office, which on the whole has been thoroughly inimical to colonial forces during the last eight years.

I will not enter into the controversy about strategic reserves, but the House should consider one aspect. I believe that if we are to have an effective strategic reserve, at any rate for the purposes of the cold war—that is for the movement of relatively small bodies of troops over substantial distances—we have to consider the necessity of providing them with suitable air transport very much more thoroughly than has been the case in the past.

I regard this is primarily an Army matter. We require air transport first, for the movement of our strategic reserve. I do not think that it is sufficient for my right hon. Friend and his advisers to be satisfied with improvisation by bringing in aircraft from charter companies or B.O.A.C. for a particular requirement or operation. I would remind my right hon. Friend that, as he is far better aware than I am, civilian planes will not always be available for military purposes at the beginning of a full-scale war, because probably they will be required for moving refugees and emergency operations of that kind. It will be a mistake, therefore, to place the reliance which is obviously placed at the moment on civilian aircraft for military purposes.

The second requirement of air transport is for airborne operations. I may be quite wrong, but I have always conceived it probable that the first units that would be employed in an emergency would be our airborne troops. I should have thought that our formations in Europe would be used primarily for holding operations and that any quick counter-thrust would be made by the Airborne Division or a parachute brigade. But when Territorial Army exercises were held last year, American planes had to be used for airborne operations. Would they be available if required in wartime? I am sure that they would not be. It is most unsatisfactory from the point of view of the British Army that we should be relying on American planes for this work.

I know that there are plans in existence at present for providing Transport Command with a new type of 'plane for Army purposes. There are now two types of plane available, the Hastings and the Valetta, but both are unsatisfactory for Army purposes. The reason is, primarily, that they are side loading and carry a relatively small freight payload. The new Beverley, which we hope will be available, is a very expensive plane and we shall not get many of them.

I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can say how many will be available for the Army, but they are not likely to be available in sufficient numbers for the movement of strategic reserves, or airborne operations, or for the other purpose for which air transport is required, the administration of the Army in the theatre of war after air superiority has been achieved.

I stress to my right hon. Friend that there are many hon. Members on this side of the House, and probably opposite, who are greatly concerned at what appears to be the neglect there is at present of what I believe to be an extremely important arm of a modern army. We know that the United States have their C119 and the French have their Nord 2501, both of which are tail loaders and both of which, in some ways, have advantages over the Beverley.

Surely it is not beyond the ingenuity of British manufacturers to provide an aircraft which is suitable to Army purposes. In the case of a relatively minor emergency, what I would call a cold war as opposed to a hot war. I should think transport of the strategic reserve would be vital, and it should be air transport.

It seemed to me ludicrous when the Abadan crisis came about that the parachute brigade, which was moved to make a show of force, had to be moved in an aircraft carrier from Malta, or the United Kingdom I believe it was, to Suez. When the question arose of moving it from Suez to Abadan, the aeroplanes available were found not to have the range at full payload for that purpose. What is the point of having a highly trained parachute brigade when it has to be moved thousands of miles by aircraft carrier because the aeroplanes are not of the right design?

I think there are ways in which this difficulty can be overcome. There are strong arguments for moving the responsibility for the provision of air transport for Army purposes from the Vote of the Air Ministry to the Vote of the Ministry of Defence, or possibly to the Vote we are discussing tonight. No one blames the Air Ministry for not giving the Army the same priority as it gives to its own requirements. Perhaps this should be refereed by the Minister of Defence. There is a lot to be said for placing financial responsibility on the arm which is to use the service and which knows its requirements.

Another suggestion I make is that if we are to get aircraft of the type we require and at a price we can afford, because we need them in numbers, somehow or other we have either to get standardisation with other N.A.T.O. countries so that by a larger scale of production we get them more cheaply, or we have to be prepared perhaps to subsidise charter companies. If we can get them used in civilian air transport we who are concerned with the needs of the Army will get bigger production and, therefore, decrease the cost.

I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether it is possible to get standardisation with N.A.T.O. nations, which may be very difficult. Alternatively, he could consider a system whereby, just as civilian lorries capable of being used for military purposes were subsidised before the war, we might subsidise aircraft used by civilian firms which could be used by the Army in the event of an emergency. It would be necessary that these planes should have the characteristics which the Army requires.

I believe that, in such ways, we shall be able to provide ourselves with a really effective strategic reserve. We should be able to do so by providing ourselves with smaller numbers with a greater mobility; because a reserve requires not only strength and cohesion, but also the ability to get on to the spot where it is required in the quickest possible time.

1.0 a.m.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

In the fluent and eloquent speech with which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War opened this debate, he said something about my conception of the Army being that of a prehistoric animal running away with "blimps" and "brass hats" upon its back. Perhaps that is a little exaggerated, but I admit that I have criticised the "brass hats" of the Army in the past and, I have no doubt, shall do so again.

However, the time which we spend in discussing the Army Estimates is not time wasted. The Army is a Service which engenders a pride among those who serve in it, and when we discuss the Army Estimates we hope for the opportunity of dealing with various aspects of them as they affect the human and personal content of the Service.

The right hon. Gentleman is asking for a lot of money and I think that it is only right that, having been asked for this money, hon. Members on the back benches should examine minutely and critically all the proposals which are covered by the Votes. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not complain if we "have a go" before we turn round and say, "Give him the money, Rab."

The welfare of our soldiers, including the National Service men, should be the first concern of hon. Members. We all realise that efficiency is most important, but efficiency depends to a great extent on the state of mind of the men in the Service. We claim that we ought to have the time to discuss these matters fairly extensively, but the time available for discussion of Army matters is becoming less and less.

Two years ago we had a very good innings on the Army Annual Bill, and the Government were convinced by the long and exhaustive, and exhausting, arguments spread over, I think, three sittings, that the Bill was an obsolete weapon. As a result, that weapon has now gone in for rehabilitation, and while it is there, we are denied an opportunity for discussing an aspect of Army affairs.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

I really must rise to that fly. It has only been found necessary to delay detailed discussion until the findings of the Select Committee are available to the House. The facilities are still with us.

Mr. Simmons

I am not complaining that the discussion is held up until the report is published, but I am saying that that fact lessens the time available in the interim period for discussing Army matters. Two years ago we were allowed to discuss more than Vote A. I remember that I made three speeches on the various Votes. Now it has become the Government's practice to move to report Progress as soon as they have secured Vote A. These developments have denied us the opportunity to probe into problems which must be solved if we are to have better recruiting and a contented Army. We must remember that a contented Army means better recruiting because a contented soldier is a living advertisement for Army life.

The debate on the Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair" provides opportunities for foreign policy experts, but rather cramps the style of ordinary chaps such as myself and some hon. Members opposite who have been anxiously waiting to speak. We wish to discuss Army matters. We wish to talk about the chaps in the Army, whether they be those with "pips" on their shoulders or "chips" on them. If we could have a full discussion on the Votes we could leave the main debate to the theorists.

We are precluded from discussing Vote 3, relating to the War Office, and what mysteries we might find were we allowed to do so. I have had a glance at it and notice that opportunity is provided there to get right down into the subterranean passages to see what is really going on. Then there is Vote 4, Civilians, which deals with the Army "tail" which the Secretary of State used as a bludgeon to belabour the Labour Government when he was in Opposition. There is Vote 6, Supplies; Vote 7, Stores; Vote 8. Works. Buildings and Land; Vote 9, Miscellaneous effective Services.

Such matters as recruiting, hospitals and welfare are included, but we are precluded from discussing them. We might get a chance on Vote 8 and perhaps we might discuss Vote 1, Pay. We could discuss Vote 10, Non-effective Services. and Vote 11, Additional Married Quarters if the Patronage Secretary did not move to report Progress. But we dare not risk it and we have to raise the points to which we wish to refer during the general debate and in an inadequate manner.

I hope that in those circumstances we shall not be charged with staging a filibuster. We do not wish to waste the time of the House. We wish to discuss the most vital service for the defence of our country, the welfare of the troops and the efficiency of our forces. We need a great many reassurances from the Secretary of State.

The right hon. Gentleman should be the last man to complain, although I do not say that he does. When he was on this side of the House he was most assiduous in his quest for knowledge. He probed here and there and made statements, some of which we remember. For instance, on 10th March, 1949, he asked: … how it comes about that, with £305 million to spend and 550,000 men in the Army, we have so few formations and units that can fight. He must not be surprised if we are even more concerned to get value for our money now that he has not £305 million but £526 million to spend. He has also more men than we had in 1949.

That same day in 1949 he was declaiming: I suggest that the present numbers are getting rather too big for the country's manpower and for our equipment programme. In paragraph 7 of the Defence White Paper we have been told: Our armed forces cannot … be provided with all those things which ideally they should have. Has he more men than his equipment programme will carry? What is the good of having the men if one cannot equip them?

If the hot war broke out, should we have a counterpart of Antwerp in the First World War? I am not saying that we would, tout we must probe these things. We have heard disturbing statements. We have been told that troops are going to be sent into battle, if battle comes quickly like a thief in the night should a hot war break out, without equipment which they ought to have to make them first-rate efficient soldiers.

The right hon. Gentleman was also concerned about voluntary recruiting. He said on 10th March, 1949, that in respect of recruiting the first factor was pay. He stated: To get a good Army we must have and pay for good officers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1421–5.] I note that the emphasis was on the officers. I did not see anything in his speech about good pay for the other ranks. Perhaps it is all right to get the top right first and hope that the bottom will follow. I would rather start at the bottom and leave the top to look after itself, for it is better able to do so.

Pay has been increased several times. Has that solved the problem? What is the Secretary of State going to do next? It is his baby now. When he was in Opposition he had no responsibility, and he told us what we ought to do. Now he has a chance of doing it as his policy. Has the continuation of our policy of gradually improving the pay of the Forces had the desired effect upon recruiting?

On the subject of economy, the right hon. Gentleman said that we could do much by employing more civilians in the barracks. Is that policy being carried out? I am also concerned about the number of civilians employed in the War Office and the departments of the C.I.G.S., the Adjutant-General and the Quartermaster-General. In the subterranean passages of the War Office and those other departments, 149 retired officers are employed in a civilian capacity. How many of them were retired to do the jobs they are now doing? How many of them are of military age and could still usefully be employed in uniform in the Service? Besides those officers, 232,374 civilian clerks and typists are employed.

In 1951, the Secretary of State switched to officers on the staff. What I have been saying up to now relates to 1949. In 1951, he asserted: Far too many officers in the Army are now on the staff."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 815.] One of his hon. Friends was saying today that there ought to be more officers on the staff: in 1951 the Secretary of State was saying that far too many officers were on the staff.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

I think that the speech to which the hon. Gentleman is referring, if I understand it correctly, was advocating that more officers should be kept up to date in staff matters.

Mr. Simmons

That speech was made before the right hon. Gentleman became Secretary of State. It was on the last occasion on which he could have a free fling from this side of the House. But what has he done about it? In the department of the Under-Secretary there are 69 staff officers and 76 military clerks: the Military Secretary has 18 staff officers and one military clerk: the C.I.G.S. has 341 staff officers and 191 military clerks. This is all in the warrens of the War Office. The Adjutant-Genera] has 217 staff officers and 191 military clerks. There are three staff chaplains. I wonder whether they are staff officers?

I notice, too, that there is provision for a Roman Catholic chaplain, but there is none for a Nonconformist chaplain. Could we be told why? I am a Nonconformist, and there are many Nonconformists among National Service men and Regular soldiers in the Army today. In the old days one used to be asked what one's religion was, and, if there was any hesitation in answering, one was classified as Church of England. It was taken for granted. I remember once hearing someone say that he was a Quaker, but he was classified as Church of England because they had never heard of a Quaker. In the Chaplain's Department there is a Chaplain General. I take it he is Church of England. There is a principal Roman Catholic chaplain.

Mr. Hutchison

One of the deputy chaplains is Church of Scotland.

Mr. Ede

It is still the Established Church.

Mr. Simmons

I am talking of Nonconformists, a very important factor in the British way of life. It was John Wesley who started what we might call the new social revolution in this country.

Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)

Roman Catholics are Nonconformist.

Mr. Simmons

They conform to an authority outside this country. I am concerned with Nonconformists generally, and want to know whether they are adequately represented in the Chaplains Department. There are only two staff chaplains and one chief staff chaplain in addition to the three head boys I have just mentioned. In the "Quarter-bloke's" department there are 331 staff officers and 196 clerks. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quarter-bloke? "] He is the man who looks after the rum.

What are the duties of all these staff officers? At the dizzy heights of the Secretary of State-ship which he has attained, the right hon. Gentleman's vision has become so blurred that he cannot see what he could see when he was on this side of the House. He cannot see that there are far too many staff officers cluttering up the War Office building in Whitehall. Could they not be sent out on recruiting tours? They would make a very fine circus, with their red tabs and gold braid. We might send a brass band with them to attract attention, instead of leaving the staff officers to sit in their offices.

There are 341 in the office of the C.I.G.S. and 331 in the office of the "quarter-bloke." Heaven knows what may be going on there. In the office of the "quarter-bloke" all kinds of things go on. There are 331 there—with how many bottles of rum we cannot say. What are they doing in the office of the "quarter-bloke "? We should have an inquiry about what is being done with all these staff officers.

The Under-Secretary of State says that these staff officers should be trained and brought up to date, but what is the good of training them and then dumping them in Whitehall? If they have been brought up to date, they should be in the field, among the troops, disseminating their knowledge, not cluttering up the offices in Whitehall.

Switching back to 1949, which was a vintage year in respect of the Secretary of State's quotable gems of wisdom, we find that on 10th March, 1949. the right hon. Gentleman was waxing eloquent on National Service. He said: What I do not accept and am entirely opposed to is that this method of forming an Army should continue indefinitely. It is my belief that if it does continue we shall have a thoroughly bad and ineffective Army at a very high price. He said that when he was on this side of the House.

Mr. Wigg

He has made it come true.

Mr. Simmons

Since the defence debate, I have come across the following gem, in the same column: That gap is an unsettling and harmful period in their lives. He was referring to the gap between leaving school and the call-up. I have said that myself, but I did not realise that I was following such a noble and illustrious precedent. But what is the right hon. Gentleman doing about it, now that he is the civilian head of an Army in which over 50 per cent, of the other ranks are National Service men?

As reported in column 1428, he declared, with a fine indignation, I think that the annual intake of the Army is at present dictated far more by a desire to retain the universal principle of National Service than by the requirements of the Army. We could, I think, immediately cut it very considerably. That was in 1949. In the defence debate this year, did he oppose or did he support the suggestion—

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order. In view of this devastating attack upon the Secretary of State, may I call attention to the fact that there is no member of the Government of comparable rank present? Is not the Secretary of State grossly disrespectful to the House in failing to be present during the debate?

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

I cannot think that there is any discourtesy. The Secretary of State has been attending the debate practically throughout. This is an amusing and interesting speech, not a devastating attack. It is certainly not a personal attack. If it had been, my right hon. Friend should have been warned.

Mr. Wigg

Would you accept, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a Motion for the adjournment of the debate to call attention to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is absent when his veracity and competence are in question, in that he has been misleading the House on this and previous occasions? My hon. Friend has done a useful service in bringing to our notice these remarks of the right hon. Gentleman which I confess I had forgotten, and which I am sure the House, the country, and the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I will not accept such a Motion in the middle of a speech.

Mr. Ian Harvey

On a point of order. Since the question of discourtesy has been raised, did the hon. Gentleman inform my right hon. Friend that he was going to make this attack?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Simmons

As I was quoting statements to which I gave the references, I did not think there was any need to give any prior notice to the right hon. Gentleman. I assumed that as he is in charge of the debate he would be present, or he would have someone taking a note of what was said during the debate by every Member

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

The hon. Gentleman must have seen me taking voluminous notes the whole of the time. If he is really saying this is an attack on the veracity of my right hon. Friend, and in consequence on his character, surely it is the custom to give warning beforehand. My right hon. Friend could not be expected to stay and anticipate this sort of thing during every speech.

Mr. Simmons

I leave it to the House to decide whether what I was saying was an attack on the right hon. Gentleman's veracity. I was stating facts which can be verified from HANSARD. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said that he had forgotten these remarks. So, apparently, has the Secretary of State.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Maldon)

Further to the point of order. Although I agree that the Secretary of State has been here most of the time, it is not necessary or usual to notify a Minister if one intends to refer to him in the course of debate on his own Estimates.

Mr. Hutchison

What I took exception to were the words that my right hon. Friend's veracity had been questioned.

Mr. Driberg

The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) suggested that my hon. Friend should have notified the Secretary of State, and I do not think that is necessary when his own Estimates are being debated.

Mr. Simmons

I made no comments at all on the veracity of the Secretary of State. I quoted statements, and I am quoting statements he made when he was in Opposition. I am doing now what he did then—discussing the Estimates presented by someone else. We are discussing his Estimates and we have the right to quote what he said when out of office. Surely that is ordinary debating procedure.

I make no personal charges. I put these statements forward for the House to come to its own conclusions. Did the right hon. Gentleman fight inside the Cabinet before the Defence White Paper was published for a reduction in the period of National Service? Is he prepared to go to the stake for those principles which he so vehemently and eloquently put forward from this side of the House?

Major Legge-Bourke

The hon. Gentleman has been quoting what my right hon. Friend said in 1949. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will at least recall at the same time that that was before the Korean War started and also before the great concentration of troops in the Canal Zone.

Mr. Simmons

I am aware of that. I was quoting what the right hon. Gentleman said in 1949. He said: I think that the annual intake of the Army is at present dictated far more by a desire to retain the universal principle of National Service than by the requirements of the Army. We could, I think, immediately cut it very considerably." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1949: Vol. 462, c. 1422–8.]

Mr. Head

That is a favourite quotation, but I would point out that it is from 1949. It is very easy to say that without remembering what was going on then. The point is that in 1949 we had none of these vast overseas commitments, and the primary reason for National Service was to train reservists. My point, in the background of that remark, was that we were then piling up a very large number of reservists.

Mr. Wigg

So we are now.

Mr. Head

I do not deny it. The incidence of National Service was a great burden on a Regular Army which was trying to do a job as well. The whole principle was different. The reason we have so many National Service men now is not to train reservists but to bring up the manpower of the active Army so that we can fulfil our overseas commitments.

Mr. Simmons

I was coming to the anticipated answer of the right hon. Gentleman. I knew that he would speak of overseas commitments. Why these commitments? I do not want to delve into foreign and colonial policy, but it occurs to me that the bull-in-a-china-shop policy of a rogue elephant at the Colonial Office is a policy which has made these commitments. That is Government policy.

It is a bit thick when we have to send troops to repair the damage done by the uncivilised attitude of the white settlers. We have to send our own lads to die or to suffer because of these uncivilised people who could not treat people properly but had to exploit them. They could not treat the people on whose backs they lived as decent human beings, and that has caused half the trouble in these parts of the world today. We have commitments, but that does not let the Government out: the commitments are the result of Government policy.

Why is voluntary recruiting flagging? Is the Army doing enough to try to hold the men who pass through its ranks—to hold them by attraction rather than compulsion? The Army gets a bad Press. Anything that will make a sensational headline is seized on by the purveyors of gutter journalism. I lay certain blame at the door of the Press for prostituting the profession of journalism by exploiting some matters in a shameless and shameful way. On the other hand, I remind the right hon. Gentleman that if these things did not happen the Press could not exploit them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lady-wood (Mr. Yates) has raised one or two questions in the House about the treatment of men who were sent to the Army when they were unfit. I believe that one died in the Service because of lack of proper treatment. These things happen, and the Press report them. I remember that I once had a case of a lad whom the authorities tried to keep in the Army when he was no good at all to them. It came to a court action, and we got headlines in the papers.

Has the Army got a public relations officer, and, if so, is he given the material to write good human stories? Could members of the Press be invited to visit a "glasshouse" to see the new methods that are now being used for the kindly, gentle, moral and mental rehabilitation of Army misfits? That would make a wonderful story if it were true. Of course, they would have to absorb the atmosphere. That goes without saying. I have never been in a "glasshouse" myself. I dare say I deserved to be there more than once, but I never got landed there.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

What do you want to know about it?

Mr. Simmons

My hon. Friend is an expert on detention under military escort. Perhaps he will make some further remarks upon the matter when I sit down.

In the last debate, I asked the Minister about the treatment of men in the military detention camps. The Under-Secretary of State, in answer to my question, said: At one of the military establishments at least … great attention is paid to rehabilitation, to bringing the men back to a better attitude of mind with the idea of reforming rather than of punishing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1953; Vol. 512, c. 1080.] He only said one. I wonder whether he can report progress, and if he can say that all these places of military detention have psychiatrists and people with a kindly attitude towards fellow human beings, or whether the old "glasshouse" attitude still persists in the majority of them.

I suggest that there would be a good story for the Press if some of its members were taken to one of these places of correction and were shown the new methods employed for dealing with the misfits. Misfits are no good to the Army, and the silliest thing the Army can do is to hang on to men who will never make good soldiers, whether they be Regulars or National Service men. In addition, they are a bad advertisement for the Army, and, therefore, should be discharged.

Another way of popularising the Army would be to take members of the Press to the home of a National Service man and show them how his wife is living on the National Service grant.

Mr. Wigg

When she gets it.

Mr. Simmons

Yes. Could the Minister say whether there has been any corresponding increase in the National Service grant in relation to the cost of living? I think that the National Service grant system wants to be thoroughly overhauled. The wives of young National Service men should definitely not be worse off as a result of their husbands being in the Forces. Where they have dependent parents, they, too, should be looked after, because the National Service man, as his title implies, is doing a national service, and to anyone doing a national service the nation ought to have an increased obligation.

Another good story would result from inviting the Press to an officers' selection board in order to prove that the North Country accents are music in the ears of the people who select the candidates. That would make a very good story. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) would agree that Lord Beaverbrook would jump at it. Those are suggestions for popularising the Army. We have to make the Army something that people will look up to. We have to remove the scandals resulting from the headlines in the gutter Press which tend to destroy faith in the Army. The War Office had better get a Press relations officer on to the job.

These things are necessary to encourage recruiting. Is it to encourage recruiting that there has been a cut of £550,000 in marriage allowances to officers and £1,450,000 in marriage allowances to warrant officers, N.C. Os. and men? Is the fact that welfare costs are down by £13,500, education costs by £6,000 and technical training costs by £3,000 likely to convince people that the best is being done for the welfare of the men in the Forces?

The War Office claim that life in the Army is a man's life. It ought to be, and it could be. While the War Office are claiming that life in the Army is a man's life, they have still got grown men doing menial duties as officers' servants and batmen. Here I am back on my King Charles' head again. I heard the other day that some officers have only a quarter of a batman. But this situation remains; these menial duties are being done by men who are told to join the Army and enjoy a man's life. Is it a man's life to scrub the boots, clean the buttons and polish the Sam Brown of an officer? These things, and saluting, are all the other tommy-rot, are the very negation of manhood.

Will the War Office take positive action to democratise the Army? When my hon. Friend the Member for Lady-wood said that a soldier could not take his shop steward to see his commanding officer, there was a titter. What is so funny about it? Is it not possible in the Army, when there is discontent and trouble, that there should be a spokesman from the other ranks to go and see the commanding officer? If negotiation and conciliation are acceptable in the industrial field, are they not just as important between officers and men in Her Majesty's Forces?

We have a Minister of Labour, one of the most able Ministers of this Government, who comes to the House from time to time and tells us how he is striving to bring about peace in industry by conciliation and arbitration. Why not apply that to the Army?

Mr. Head

Since this question has been raised twice, perhaps I may intervene. I do not know whether it would be fair to regard the N.C.O. and the platoon sergeant as shop stewards, but they can go to the officer.

Mr. Simmons

Of course, there are N.C. Os. and N.C. Os. There are warrant officers and warrant officers. Some say "Good old sergeant," and others say something else. It would not be a safe proposition to say that the N.C.O. should always be the shop steward.

Mr. Yates

Shop stewards are elected.

Mr. Simmons

The best method to adopt when there is a grievance in a hut or a camp is for the men to get together and elect their own spokesman who should have the right of access not to a sergeant who might "bawl him out," but to an officer who, being a gentleman, would listen to him. Surely that is something along the lines of democratising the Army?

Mr. Wigg

The Minister has just made an important statement. Is he asserting that throughout the Army no private soldier can speak to an officer except in the presence of an N.C.O.?

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

No, but when it is a question of conciliation and he comes up before the officer, he is accompanied by an N.C.O.

Mr. Wigg

The hon. Gentleman has not answered the question. This is a procedure which has always existed in the Brigade of Guards but never in regiments of the line. Has this now been introduced?

Mr. Hutchison

I am saying that my experience in those days was that if a man wanted to see an officer in office hours in an orderly room, he was accompanied by his platoon sergeant.

Mr. Simmons

Yes, that would be a restraining influence. I was speaking of man-to-man talks. I would go further with that idea and say that they ought tc encourage the soldiers to think—and to think for themselves.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

They would not be in the Army if they did.

Mr. Simmons

They ought to be instructed in world politics, in ideologies, with their officers, as intellectual equals. I think the Secretary of State this afternoon spoke of getting officers together to give them information on new developments, and I interposed, "Why not the other ranks?" The right hon. Gentleman replied that they also would be given certain information. I am concerned with intellectual equality. Let the soldier feel that he can discuss with his officer these problems of strategy, of ideologies, and world politics. Let him feel that he can make the Army a career and yet not lose his individuality, that with the physical development which the Army provides can go intellectual development as well.

That is not an impossible ideal as some of the incredulous faces of the brigadiers, generals, colonels, majors and what nots on the other side of the House seem to suggest. I believe it is a possibility. It is no good the Secretary of State looking so bored about it. We say, "Join the Army and enjoy a man's life." What is a man's life? It is an intellectual life as well as a physical life. We have the duty to give the men in the Forces a belief in their own individuality, in their own human value, and in their intellectual equality with the officers under whom they are serving. If we can show the men that they can be citizens in uniform, with full citizen rights, having a useful life in the Service and living a useful life afterwards, I think we shall get the recruits.

1.49 a.m.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

This debate has roved very widely since it was started by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) talking about bed bugs. We slipped to Egypt and back again and now the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), whom I congratulate on his marathon, has finished by suggesting various headlines for the Press in order to popularise the Army. One hardly knows where to start after sitting through it all and trying to understand the point which the hon. Gentleman was making.

Mr. Simmons

I am sorry if I was not clear. As an intellectual equal I am willing to clarify any point.

Major Legge-Bourke

The hon. Gentleman had a gallant record in the First World War and has a considerable corner in the heart of the House which he established when Parliamentary Secretary to the old Ministry of Pensions. We always enjoy what he has to say. I hope he will forgive me, however, if I do not follow him in detail. I have some points of my own to make. The hon. Member took nearly an hour to make his speech, but I do not intend to delay the House for that long.

I think it only right to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which he presented his Estimates. I do not know whether he had in mind when he was making his speech the notable manner in which Lord Norwich then Mr. Duff Cooper, once presented his Estimates. My right hon. Friend lived up to, if he did not excel, that performance. I sincerely congratulate him and thank him for what he has done. What has pleased me more than anything else is the fact that he has arranged for free air travel for Service men returning home on leave from the Canal Zone. That is about the biggest contribution that he could make to offset the disadvantages that our troops must suffer as long as they are in that area.

I promise not to get involved in Foreign Office matters, which have been fairly thrashed out, but as we are now speaking of the Canal Zone area I should like to say a few words about redeployment. Whether we go or whether we leave something behind in that area, inevitably there will be some redeployment. That is a subject to which we ought to pay attention tonight. As I understand it, there are three possible places where redeployment could take place. One is Jordan, with which we have a Treaty and in which we have a considerable interest through the Arab Legion which is mentioned in these Estimates. The others are Cyprus and Libya. I have visited all three at various times, including Tripoli, which has been occupied by British troops since the war.

These areas have problems of their own which require considerable attention before we take it for granted that if we deploy men there we shall find automatically conditions suitable for them there and a better plan at the end of it all. I remember being told over and over again towards the end of the Second World War that unless one absolutely had to do so one should never put vital things on an island.

Mr. Strachey

Is not that rather depressing, since we live on an island?

Major Legge-Bourke

It is inevitable that we should have certain vital things on this island, and that makes for difficulties enough, in all conscience.

I do not want to turn into an armchair strategist, but I question the wisdom of putting anything vitally important in Cyprus until we are quite certain that all coasts within fighter aircraft distance of the island are either sure to be neutral at the outbreak of a war or will be on our side. It is true that Turkey is now in N.A.T.O. and the disadvantage of not having Syria and Lebanon and Israel in with us is offset.

We ought very seriously to consider whether it is wise to move anything we have in a place which at least we could be sure of defending into a place which seems somewhat hazardous, unless we have done certain things first. Among those other things I have particularly in mind tying up the Syria, Israel, Lebanon littoral before we move anything of vital importance into Cyprus. I ask whether there has been an Army, a Service, or a combined operations approach to the equivalent armies in the other countries which, at the moment, are not in with us This is not essentially a matter for the Foreign Office, although they may have to arrange the ring and get the other Governments to agree. I want to know whether there have been any talks at all to see whether we could map out a plan and get those Governments to agree on the policy. It has been agreed that armies which are not enemies of each other do attempt to liaise with each other and get to know each others problems. If we have a hold-up in the development of the Middle East Pact we might perhaps break down any barriers that exist by getting the armies talking to each other.

On an earlier occasion, I said that I always disagreed with the Prime Minister when he said that Palestine was of no strategic importance. Although I know the difficulties which exist in the area and which are likely to arise there in a country which is new and wants to establish its autonomy without any doubt in the world, it is important—especially if what we were discussing earlier is to take place in regard to Suez—that we should keep the closest possible liaison with the Israeli Army. Our Army should be helpful to them, just as it should be helpful to Jordan and the other countries of the Arab world.

I still believe that there is a possibility of remaining on the mainland for deployment rather than hopping off to Cyprus. If we could discuss this from a purely military aspect with purely military personnel, we might find a plan which would lead to a political solution to implement the military solution.

Mr. Driberg

A point which may help the hon. and gallant Member, although he may think it a Foreign Office point, is that one of the chief disadvantages of the situation in Egypt, the hostile local population, might very well, in course of time, be repeated in Cyprus if the propaganda of Enosis for union with Greece gets stronger.

Major Legge-Bourke

During the war I very nearly got landed in an extremely stupid thing because of not knowing the country well enough. It was to take part in the celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Navarino, which would have caused a minor revolution in the village in which we were stationed at the time. Cyprus is certainly an island with many political problems and I agree that Enosis is one of them, and a major one. Certainly, that aspect ought to be considered.

Lots of very important things have been happening recently, and perhaps the most important is the pact between Turkey and Pakistan. I am hoping that, as a result of that, there will be missions or, at least, liaison officers from the British Army with the armies of those countries. I know that the Americans have had the most to do with Turkey; or, at any rate, more than we have.

There was a pact which expired about two years ago, known as the Sa'adabad Pact, which also brought Afghanistan into an agreement, and it seems to me that if we are going to have our strategic concept ranging from Turkey right on to Pakistan, it is very important that we have as much military liaison as possible with the indigenous armies, and I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to say something about this.

Of course, I know that he may be under the difficulty of not being able, in the public interest, to disclose much, but at least I should like an assurance that he will do what he can to keep in touch with what is going on in the armies of those other countries while, at the same time, trying to keep them in touch with our own military point of view with whatever information he would like them to have.

I should also like to ask about the possibility of using Libya; and if we are to use Libya I imagine that we shall use her rather more from a mechanised, armoured point of view than from an infantry point of view. Even if we do that, it does seem that we shall want transport which will be rather more rapid than any wheeled transport can be; and I was interested when my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. C. J. M. Alport) was speaking about aircraft for use with infantry and for transport.

But I would mention one of the difficulties. It is not considered a very wise thing to have more aircraft on the outbreak of war which are capable of transporting goods and people than one is likely to want for the whole war, and if there are civil aeroplanes available, there are probably, in terms of numbers of aircraft and numbers of pilots, when the reserves are added, together with those available at the outbreak of war, enough to meet foreseeable needs.

But there is one question, and it is whether the pilots who fly civil aircraft for civil airlines will really be sufficiently in tune with the latest military training in so far as the technique of landing in hostile areas and that sort of thing is concerned. I suggest that we are rather too readily assuming that Transport Command will be able to help out should war come, but we are doing very little indeed to train any of the pilots to co-operate with troops.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester was speaking—and he knows more than I about the types of aircraft —this point impressed itself on my mind. May I say, in passing, that I hope we shall not transport troops in Bristol freighters because I do not know a worse machine from the passenger's point of view. So far as goods and chattels are concerned, it may be good enough, but I flew to Ireland several times in one of these planes when the Dakotas had broken down, and I do not want to do it again and I do not want anybody else to have to do it.

My hon. Friend's remarks reminded me of something I had said and I remember being sharply cross-questioned about it by hon. Members who had served in the Air Force. I suggested that the Army should have its own air arm. I still think the Army has as much right to an air arm as the Fleet. I do not think anyone in the R.A.F. need be frightened that it would be an attempt by the military to break up the Air Force, which was what I was accused of attempting to do.

If we are to deploy our troops in the Middle Eastern area we have to improve the rapidity with which they can be concentrated with their supplies in the places where they are needed, and one of the obvious ways of doing this is to provide an adequate transport air arm for the Army, properly managed by men accustomed to co-operate with the Army. There are magnificent men and aircraft in the civil airlines, but we know what happened in the early stages of the Silician campaign when gallant pilots were flying in people under conditions which they had never experienced before and very sad disasters occurred. We do not want to see that kind of thing happen again. If we trust that Transport Command will be all right to do the job when the time arrives we may get a nasty shock.

Now I wish to raise one constituency point concerning the Territorial Army which the assurance of my right hon. Friend about the increases in pay applying to the Territorial Army, where the conditions are observed, will do something to offset. It still causes disgruntlement that officers who renew their uniforms have to pay Purchase Tax on them. I realise that my right hon. Friend is not able to deal with this matter himself but would have to get the agreement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, it seems rather ridiculous that men who give up their spare time to the service of their country should be required to pay Purchase Tax on their uniforms.

I wish to say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates). He reminded us of what he said in 1946 and I remember saying exactly what he said about National Service. It is abhorrent to me as a compulsory matter. One of my hon. Friends commented that the reason for National Service was to save the neck of the hon. Member for Ladywood. I think it is not only to save the neck of the hon. Member, but also to preserve for him the right to make the sort of speech he made tonight.

All who know him realise that he has feelings of deep sincerity on this matter, and it would not be right for anyone to say that the hon. Member was wrong in what he said. That we disagree with him is obvious already, but I would invite him to look again at the Memorandum, where he will see a tribute to the British Commonwealth Division in Korea. The hon. Member would do well to read it again. What the Commonwealth Division had to do in Korea is one of the reasons why we have got to have compulsory National Service. There is nothing which would please me and all who have ever served in the Regular Army more than to have sufficient volunteers coming forward to make it unnecessary.

The hon. Gentleman dislikes National Service. There is very great danger in his putting over too often the views that he has done tonight and putting them over to people who do not understand what is in his mind when he is doing it. He is prolonging the period until we can dispense with compulsory National Service. The hon. Gentleman sometimes overlooks the consequences of too frequently putting over the pacific argument. I believe that the more the pacifist argument is put over, the more it prolongs the need for National Service, although that may seem a paradox.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to believe that those of us who have been Regular officers or Regular other ranks in the Army do not like the idea of compulsion in providing manpower for the Service. We realise that that has to take place sometimes, but we want the need to last as short a time as possible. If the hon. Member will co-operate with us to that end, we shall be very grateful to him.

Mr. Yates

Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman sits down, may I say that I pay tribute to the men of the forces, particularly for what they did in Korea. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has recalled 1946. It was a most extraordinary thing that he should agree at the end of a war that it was necessary, for the first time in the history of the country, to compel men to join the Army in time of peace. I do not think that that action in itself promoted peace at all. In fact, we went from 12 months—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The preface, "Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman sits down" does not give an hon. Member the right to make a second speech.

2.14 a.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

I am very glad to be able to follow the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), who always speaks with authority upon these military matters. I am diffident about taking part at all in a Service Estimates debate, but having listened to some of the authorities—not the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken—my nervousness disappears. I realise how it is possible to be in the Services a long time and yet acquire very little general knowledge of the Services as a whole.

I want at once, in case I should err, to join those who have paid tribute to the quality of our National Service men and our Regular Service men, officers and other ranks. It has not been my privilege to share the life of military personnel, but a few years ago I spent a little time with various officers' messes and with other ranks in Greece. I got into a lot of trouble there. I was very grateful to the British Army at the time. I appreciated seeing the Union Jack at the various posts.

I know that we have in the British Army the average civilian dressed up in uniform and possessing the qualities of which we are proud in civilian life. The Army has some dirty jobs to do, and some unpleasant tasks to fulfil. Korea was not a picnic, and to be there now is a hardship on lads separated from their families. There is a tendency, I fear, for us to take for granted the sacrifice of long separation from one's family, but boys who are serving a long way from home, especially those in the Far East, must never be allowed to feel that they are, as others once felt they were, a forgotten Army so far as this House is concerned.

There has been a lot of talk about Egypt, but to be honest I am too confused in my thoughts about Egypt to make much contribution on that subject. I am not so confused, however, when I look at the British Commonwealth and find that British troops, and among them, Welsh lads, have been picked out to be sent to British Guiana.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

And Scots, too.

Mr. Thomas

I agree, but my concern is with Welsh boys. The Celts as a whole come under this heading. They are a tolerant, kindly and patient people.

Mr. P. Thomas (Conway)

And intelligent.

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman reminds me that they are intelligent. I speak for the South, and he may lay any claim he likes for the North.

This House does from time to time call on young men, who are raw in the ways of life, and who are just approaching their manhood, to undertake duties in an atmosphere of suspicion and bitterness that would test the qualities and character of older people. It is a matter of pride for all of us, whether we take the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) or that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely, whom I nearly called the hon. Member for Aldershot, that over She scattered centres of the world where the British "Tommy" is to be found nine dimes out of ten he is a credit to the homeland. [An HON. MEMBER: "Only nine? "] Ninety-nine times out of 100 then; I am prepared to make the proportion higher.

There has been a tendency in recent weeks, due to the manner in which one or two officers have lowered the standard, for people to tend to gibe at the rest of the forces serving in difficult conditions in that part of the world. I am referring to Kenya, and on both sides of the House I know there is a feeling of sympathy with those who have an unpleasant task to do in that country, and of admiration for the general bearing of our men under those conditions. It ought to be a matter of satisfaction for us here, as it is for the troops there, that the sort of incident which has been dealt with by court-martial is quite out of the ordinary so far as our standards are concerned. At least that is the proud thought which I have, not having served but knowing the average lad in these islands.

Having said that, there are some questions to which I want to direct the attention of the Secretary of State. "The Methodist Record"—and I am a Methodist—has contained a lot of correspondence about young National Service men abroad. In my opinion, the Army stands in relation to young conscripts in exactly the same position as the schoolmaster stands to his pupils—in loco parentis. The Army has snatched these men often, but by no means always, against their will, from the influence of their homes and their friends, dressed them in a uniform so that, at the start, they feel anonymous, and pushed them into strange surroundings. Inevitably, a great test of character is involved in pushing young lads from the villages in the rural areas or from the back streets of our great cities into foreign lands, when all that a boy of 18, who left school only three years earlier, has to do is to ask for a contraceptive and it is given to him.

We are faced by certain serious moral problems within these islands at the present time, and I ask the Minister whether he is sure that Army officers are taking as seriously as they should the concern which Nonconformity, at least, is expressing in its religious journals at the manner in which this subject is being treated. I will not dwell on the point, for the Minister will undoubtedly have had his attention drawn to the fact that for a long time there has been disquiet and uneasiness among ministers of religion, by no means all of them pacifists—because that has nothing to do with the subject.

The period of National Service is two years, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood that it is too long. We have heard in other Estimates debates that no one in the British Commonwealth bears quite as great a burden as we bear in this connection. With the exception of Australia, no country in the Commonwealth accepts conscription for its young people. It is fair to ask whether we can continue to give to the Service Ministers the right to snatch these young men away from the industrial front and from the educational front, with all the consequent social difficulties. There are people who ask "Can Britain be defended without conscription?" It is a fair question to which we must address ourselves. Can we defend these islands without giving to the Government and the Service Ministers the right to have these National Service men year by year? The military strategists behind me and in front of me—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Hear, hear.

Mr. Thomas

I thought my hon. Friend was taking his rest while he may, and I am sorry that I disturbed him.

Mr. Hughes

That was enough to rouse me.

Mr. Thomas

No doubt my hon. Friend will give the House the benefit of his strategy later. He has had plenty of military experience.

First of all, it is fair—at least in my experience—to say that the great part of our conscripts have one idea above all others. These boys, from the minute they enter the Army, have one idea, and that is to get out. They look for their liberation and freedom from the Service to get on with the job of life.

We did not have conscription before the war, when our commitments were far greater, in my opinion, than they are now. When Hitler was menacing the world, when Mussolini was shouting from the house tops, and when Japan was paralysing the Far East, we held on to the right of every man to say he would volunteer or not in time of peace for the Services. But today, when we have not to defend India or Pakistan; when Ceylon and Burma do not require the services of the British Army; when our commitments are already reduced, we are saying that conscription in time of peace is essential to maintain the defence of this island.

Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)

We only got it after six years of Socialism.

Mr. Thomas

I see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is back.

It is true that we were able to meet our commitments in those other years because we had the use of large colonial forces. Perhaps I am wrong; I see I am hurting the hon. and gallant Gentleman. We could, of course, defend this island, but we need conscription to hold on to certain parts of our Colonial Territories. That is the sole and overpowering reason why the Secretary of State, in his Estimates, has to include the requirement for these conscripts to be snatched from their homes and sent away.

Who knows whether contingents of the British Army may not be already on their way to British Honduras in order to see that an election is not held because the result may not be acceptable to us? Other parts of the Commonwealth can tell the same story, and I feel we are slipping into the dangerous habit of thinking that the generals must be right, and that without these conscripts we shall not be able to sleep safely at night.

The Prime Minister said the other day that the Russians had been disarming to an extent. It is true he reminded us that they were still stronger than we are, and, of course, we do not expect to be strong enough to beat them alone. There are the Chinese too, but I will not go into that broad picture. I will leave something for the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to talk about. These Estimates are m line with the other Service Estimates the House has already granted. They were created in a panic atmosphere. The Secretary of State reminded us, when replying to the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), that when he was speaking in 1949 it was in the days before Korea.

We are now speaking in days after Korea, when the proud boast is that world tension has decreased and that there is a better relationship between the nations. We do not hold Mau Mau to be anything like the threat which Korea was to the peace of the world when it looked as if Russia was beginning to show that she was willing to strike and to have a third world war. Everybody knows how anxious we were in this House in case that war was beginning, but now we know that it was not. There are plenty of indications that there is no intention to strike from Eastern Europe. The Prime Minister himself makes it perfectly clear. That is another reason why I believe that we could end conscription now.

It is the duty of hon. Members from time to time to approach the War Office on the question of compassionate postings. I must say that I find that Department rather tough.

Mr. Mikardo

Not so bad as the Navy.

Mr. Thomas

I find the Navy very fair, but we are dealing with the Army tonight. The way in which we have to plead, beg and argue, in the most tragic cases, to get a lad nearer home is something to which I am sure the Secretary of State could, with full advantage, give attention.

Mr. Head

In case we are getting off the track, I would point out that there are no compassionate postings. It is a case of complete release from National Service or posting as usual.

Mr. Thomas

I am sorry if I misled the right hon. Gentleman. I was about to say that I realise that it was in the lifetime of the previous Administration that compassionate postings were brought to an end and the present policy was adopted. Clearly, the present system involves severe hardship. Many of us with constituency cases will have been embarrassed at having to go back to say," We are very sorry, but we cannot succeed in helping you in this matter of a posting." The Minister ought to look at the matter again.

I find an echo in my own heart for much of what was said by the hon. Member for Ladywood. This piling up of armaments as a way of obtaining defence is a policy of despair, a policy based upon the fact that unless we are stronger than the others we cannot feel safe. The other people—the Communists, let us be frank about it—also have their own atomic bombs or hydrogen bombs. Member after Member has indicated that after the atomic bombs have been used we shall have what is called "broken-backed" warfare.

These islands would be almost destroyed. What use would our Army be then except to keep alive the poor devils who would be fighting for their sanity? This is no way to feel safe. The only way for safety is the way referred to by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire last week. I intend to do something which we do not like doing very often in this House. People tend to feel it humbug, but it is not humbug from me tonight when I refer to the New Testament. Most of us who go to church today pay lip-service to the teachings of the Nazarene, but until we are prepared to practise them there can be no safety for any of us in this world.

2.35 a.m.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

One of the great advantages of debates on the Estimates is that if one has sufficient patience, one can be sure, sooner or later, of getting up to speak. But I am not at all sure that that advantage is not very much outweighed by the disadvantage that everything one wanted to say has been said three or four times before.

Mr. Mikardo

That does not stop the hon. Member from saying it.

Mr. Hall

How right the hon. Member is.

However, I will try to cover new ground as far as I can and make a brief reference to an article in "The Times" of yesterday which, I think, has been very fully borne out by the debate. Quoting the biographer of Lord Lansdowne, the article says that there has never been a more thankless task in British administration than that of the Secretary of State for War.

Many other Ministers might, perhaps, claim the title of "Minister of Thankless Tasks," but judging by the various and conflicting opinions bandied across the Floor of the House both today and yesterday, I think we can award the palm, at any rate for the moment, to the Secretary of State for War. I am going to ask one or two questions which might make him feel that there is some point in that.

I want to deal with the question of pay as it affects recruiting to the Regular Army. We all know that probably the major difficulties which discourage men from volunteering for the Forces are pay and the problems of family separation. I do not say that pay is the most important thing, but it plays a considerable part.

I must say that when reading the White Paper on Service emoluments my mind was carried back to the early days of my own career in the Army when it was very quickly borne in upon me that, after a lance-corporal, the lowest form of animal life in the Army was probably the second-lieutenant. Although the recent increases in pay have given a great deal of pleasure to lance-corporals, and, indeed, to all N.C. Os. up to the rank of warrant officer, they do not appear to have given very much pleasure to the one and two "pip" subalterns who, in fact, as the Secretary of State mentioned earlier, are now to draw less per day than a sergeant.

That awesome and magnificent being the regimental sergeant-major will, in future, especially if he is a guardsman, be able to give a variation to the expression "Sir" when addressing anyone below the rank of captain. I do not necessarily object to this, but I hope that no N.C.O. of the rank of sergeant or above will be discouraged from volunteering for a commission by the knowledge that he will be worse off for some years if successful in getting a commission.

Even if I point out that it is a possible disincentive to some future officers, I think we must all welcome the effort that has been made by the Secretary of State to improve the pay prospects of what he calls the middle group of officers and N.C. Os. It is a step in the right direction. All I am asking is whether it has gone far enough.

Take, for example, the brigadier. I believe that his pay with allowances goes up from £2,053 to £2,180, an increase of £127. It sounds quite a big increase, but owing to the present rate of taxation most of it goes back to the Treasury. That is not very encouraging, especially when we remember that if we compare the present day purchasing value with its pre-war purchasing value, it is only worth about £750 before the war. This is perhaps a reflection on the Surtax levels of today.

As we have had mentioned most things in this debate, including the Foreign Office and Education Estimates, I thought that reference to the Treasury might not be out of the way. I think there is good reason for examining rather more sympathetically the pay of the senior officers in all the Services including the Civil Service. It may be a good thing to reconsider the reintroduction of those allowances which until 1946 were free of tax. I know there is a tendency to shy away from the idea of giving tax-free allowances, but many people already believe that Army pay is free of tax. They certainly think that the pay of Members of Parliament is free of tax. I do not think it would be a shock to public opinion if we were able to give the Army personnel the advantage of some tax-free benefits.

The major problem which causes a difficulty in recruitment is the question of separation of families. That has been dealt with by many Members in the debate, and I do not want to go over the subject again, except to make mention of the education of children. That is a subject on which I thought that I could let myself go, but the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) covered it so fully that I almost looked for the Minister of Education to reply.

I would mention one point, however. I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Undersecretary whether he can consider the possibility of setting up an Army boarding school. There are many officers and other ranks who have to leave their children behind when they go to their stations. They like their wives to be with them, and if married quarters are available they take their wives, but very often they have to leave their children behind to be educated. I do not think that this is a suggestion which is unworthy of examination if, in conjunction with the Minister of Education, it were possible to set up an Army school.

Now I want to come to my own King Charles' head, which is the question of the training of the reserve Army. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) mentioned this question of having a reserve Army available in Western Europe soon after the outbreak of a war. The Prime Minister, in his winding-up speech in the defence debate, which was one of the finest speeches that I ever heard, referred to the possibility of what he called the warning period or alert. He said the period would not be very long. He mentioned something like one or two weeks.

It is unrealistic to suppose that we shall be able to mobilise a reserve Army, the Territorial Army, the Army Emergency Reserve and the other reserve forces, in time to get them trained, ready and fit to go into operation within a few weeks of the outbreak of war. If we got such a warning and it turned out to be a false alarm we should find that we had mobilised our forces for nothing, and how often can we continue that process? We have, therefore, to work on the assumption that the reserve Army is reasonably well trained so that it can be used on the outbreak of war.

I have already expressed an opinion on the subject in previous debates. My own opinion is that the Territorial Army, and more especially the Army Emergency Reserve, would not be ready on the outbreak of war to be put into battle in a few weeks in support of formations in Western Europe. The Territorial Army and the Emergency Reserve would need to do at least three months' intensive training before it was fit to take such action.

We have heard two or three times that the original reason for National Service was the production of trained reserves. The reserve Army, through no fault of its own, has not been able to continue the training of those National Service men in the way that is calculated to produce the most effective fighting force on mobilisation. What would happen if we suddenly had to mobilise and if we suffered the kind of atomic air attack which is envisaged in the Defence White Paper? Would the reserve forces, with insufficient training in deployment, movement, camouflage and dispersal, be able to deploy and operate efficiently in the first few weeks of intensive attack? If the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is right and we did not have atomic warfare, but the ordinary conventional form of warfare, there would be all the more need to deploy those land forces quickly where they are most required. I do not think we could do so quickly.

It is no use making criticisms unless one is, at the same time, prepared to suggest the way in which the training could be improved. At present any National Service man who, after his service, is allocated to the Territorial Army, has, in addition to his 15 days' camp each year, to do a minimum of 30 drills of one-hour periods. The Army Emergency Reserve man, on the other hand, does no drills at all and escapes that liability.

One suggestion we might adopt would be that the Army Emergency Reserve officers and other ranks should be instructed to attend their nearest Territorial H.Q. for cadre courses. There are many courses they could take such as officers' courses in movements and communications. There are various regimental courses and N.C.O. instruction courses which could be given quite well at Territorial H.Q. within reasonable reach of the average Army reservist's own home town or village. They would give him the same drill liability as is undertaken by the man posted to a Territorial Unit.

The real problem of Reserve training is the length of the training camp. Two weeks each year for three years is insufficient to produce the trained unit. At least three weeks are needed, and four would be preferable. Of course, there are many disadvantages of increasing the annual camp, such as the effect on the man's employment, the opposition of his employers, the difficulty of holidays, but there are various ways of doing this. We might consider a four weeks' camp every third year or the possibility of reducing a man's Reserve liability to, say, 2½years instead of 3½ years, and have camps in those periods of three or four weeks each time.

When it is possible to reduce or to consider reducing the period of the National Service liability—and we all want to see that time arrive—it may, at the same time, be possible to rearrange the time spent in full-time National Service and the time spent on the Reserve. For example, three months less might be spent in full-time National Service and a longer period on the Reserve, and the time spent each year might be amended so that a man did a month's camp in each of the three years in the Reserve. Any of these, or other suggestions might help to improve the Reserve training.

There is no doubt that if we were able to stimulate a much larger number of volunteers, many of the problems would be solved, but I am not sure that we have not got as many as we are likely to get, and as many as we had before the war, when we did not have so many Reserve units. It would be interesting to know the number of volunteers now as compared to the number of volunteers before the war.

However, there are some things we can do to improve volunteers. The Secretary of State mentioned a number of proposed changes for the Territorial Army, all of which are helpful and must be beneficial, but my right hon. Friend did not mention anything for the Army Emergency Reserve which is half the strength of the Territorial Army and one-third of the total Reserve strength.

I suggest that the bounty now given to the Army Emergency reservist who volunteers and which now does not start until the first camp after he has finished his normal liability for Reserve training, should be available to him at his first camp after volunteering. There might also be a bounty for officers. At present no such grant is paid to them, certainly not in the Army Emergency Reserve.

These are small suggestions which might help to obtain volunteers for the reserve Army. But whatever the answer, the problem must be solved. It is unrealistic and useless to believe that we have a defence system in Western Europe, depending almost entirely upon our ability to deploy well-trained reserve forces and we have nothing of the kind.

Mr. Swingler

This argument is extremely important. I should like the hon. Member to distinguish between the various categories about which he is speaking. The main part of the reservists of the Army are the more than 250,000 National Service reservists who are men who have done two years' military training. Surely those men should be easily mobilised in case of emergency, so long as there is a competent administration to fit them into the units. Therefore, these prolonged periods of Reserve training about which the hon. Member speaks are unnecessary for the main body of reservists.

Mr. Hall

It is true that the larger proportion of Reserves, both Territorial Army and Emergency Reserves, are National Service men who previously have had two years' Regular Army training. When they first come out of the Army, especially if they go to a Reserve unit for training shortly afterwards, they are still trained soldiers, though that depends largely upon their experience. But as time goes on, and when they have had only two weeks' training a year, plus a minimum number of drills in Territorial units, their efficiency falls.

That must be especially the case in the Emergency Reserve, when they meet each other only once a year for two weeks. Therefore, at the end of the period we have a body of men who, to a large extent, have forgotten a good deal of what they acquired during their period of Regular service.

It is also the fact that a large number of National Service men, except those in Malaya and Korea and perhaps Western Germany, have been in largely static formations and have not been fully and thoroughly trained for field force use. One has to start training them in field force work which many of them encounter for the first time.

It is essential that we try to solve this problem of Reserve Army training. I know that it is exercising the mind of the Secretary of State very much indeed. It is a very difficult problem. No one underestimates the serious difficulties that lie in the way of a really effective training of a Reserve Army. It is a problem that has to be solved because upon it depends the strength of our forces and our effectiveness in resisting aggression should it come.

2.54 a.m.

Mr. Julian Snow (Lich field and Tamworth)

I feel that occasions like this debate are those when ageing military gentlemen become extremely anecdotal and produce from the wealth of their rather ancient experience a fund of knowledge about military affairs which the authorities under the Gallery may find somewhat amusing.

Before I go on to follow this fashion, I should like to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to one or two rather mundane matters that do not necessitate a very profound military knowledge, which, in any event, I never had. He may remember that during his speech yesterday afternoon, in the course of this debate, I took the opportunity of interjecting a question about the production of prefabricated married quarters. I thought at the time that either I had expressed myself very badly or that the right hon. Gentleman had not thought very hard about the point that I had made.

All over the world where there are British garrisons and in this country where there are barracks, it will be generally agreed that apart from the great age of most of these quarters their general standard is deplorably low. Even in my constituency, where Whittington Barracks are relatively modern, one can only describe most of the married quarters as rather squalid places. One feels sorry for the wives of the soldiers who have to make a home for their menfolk and children in places which are so deplorable.

Bearing that in mind, I cannot understand—and in any case there are not enough married quarters to go round— why the Government have not drawn on the productive capacity of our industry to set up prefabricated married quarters. There is plenty of room and plenty of production and it seems that would be a simple way of dealing with this very serious problem.

Mr. Head

My memory, which may be at fault, was that the interjection of the hon. Member was concerned with barracks and not with married quarters.

Mr. Snow

In that case, I accept responsibility for having expressed myself badly, but I thought that in the context in which the right hon. Gentleman was speaking at the time it was understood that I was referring to married quarters in barracks. Perhaps we can compromise on that explanation, but I repeat that the War Office ought to look into the question of putting up prefabricated married quarters in barracks in an endeavour to relieve the unhappiness which I know exists in the Army today.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

I want to be clear whether the hon. Member is speaking of home or overseas stations.

Mr. Snow

I am referring to both and I know at least one firm, the Bristol Aircraft Company, which does manufacture a prefabricated house specially designed for the tropics and has exported some to the Congo. I cannot see why the Department should not look into this matter to see whether this problem could not be tackled at relatively low cost.

Another point I wish to make is in connection with the standard of instruction in the Army. The normal method of unit or regimental instruction, and the courses organised by higher authorities, seem to me all very well for a standing Army dependent on normal intakes of National Service men and so on, but it seems that insufficient attention is paid to instructing in weapons, administration or organisation, men who might come in on mobilisation, civilians who have a civilian mentality. Most of us who were on the Reserve or who were called up early in the last war will remember the appallingly low-standard instruction we received.

Much of that low standard can be blamed on the inability to understand the intellectual standards and levels of the ordinary civilian population. We have officer instructors and N.C.O. instructors whose ideas are so different from the ideas of civilians and even whose accents are so very different. I well remember, in the early days of the last war, being told to attend a lecture on modern infantry weapons. It seemed a good lecture, but a reasonably intelligent man asked me after the lecture, "What is this about ' Far-par'? "He meant "fire power." That may seem a small point, but more attention should be paid to giving the ordinary civilian the sort of instruction that is intelligible to him. This is a matter to be looked at. It is not what is talked, but how it is talked.

I want now to turn to another matter. I will, if I might, call on my limited military experience; but I was for many years in the Territorial Army, including rather surprisingly, perhaps, a trooper in the Calcutta Light Horse, and what I would like to refer to is anti-aircraft gunnery.

Mr. Mikardo

What a connection!

Mr. Snow

My hon. Friend says, "What a connection," but I was talking of a horsed regiment. Yet when I joined Anti-Aircraft, there were officers still wearing spurs. The position both so far as Anti-Aircraft Command and the units in the field are concerned seems to me to be very serious if for no other reason than that I am informed that there is a state of serious demoralisation among instructors and permanent staff. For example, I am told that there is not a single predictor in operation which is capable of following, and training guns to engage, a modern aircraft; and by modern aircraft I mean those types now coming into super-priority production.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said earlier in the debate that Anti-Aircraft ought to be abolished. I thought that that was rather overstating the case, but he meant, perhaps, heavy Ack-Ack, and I agree with him if that is what he did mean. There must be at home, and for the mobile forces, a continued use of light Anti-Aircraft, and I ask the Under-Secretary if the Army is really getting as good equipment as the Royal Navy appears to be getting in this direction.

He may have read the speech made only two days ago by the First Lord of the Admiralty on this subject. At the beginning of the last war there was reason to believe that naval anti-aircraft, allowing for the peculiarities which it must have, was far in advance of that on issue to the Army. Perhaps one of the troubles now is that there is a "hangover" in the Royal Artillery whereby there is a snobbishness on the part of Field Artillery officers towards the Anti-Aircraft gunner. Indeed, I say to the Secretary of State that if he went to Larkhill now he would find a rather strained state of affairs between Anti-Aircraft and Field Artillery instructors; and this is based on the erroneous idea that Anti-Aircraft is the poor relation of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. I say further that if he subjected senior officers' of the Anti-Aircraft branch to an examination about their equipment they would probably not come out of it very well; and the reason is that they are often drawn from Field Artillery. I may be wrong, but I leave my criticism there.

In respect of Anti-Aircraft Command in this country, I hope that some of the manning mistakes made during the last war will by now have been rectified. I have said before, and I think it a reasonable remark, that Popski's Private Army had nothing on "Pile's Private Army." There was gross over-manning and waste at Group and Brigade level, and it is questionable as to whether the conventional structure, with brigades and regiments, was economical or tactically desirable.

When consideration is given to the fact that a large percentage of anti-aircraft strength of each unit in the Home Command will be made up of women, it would seem that there is a case for having a more localised system of interchanging batteries from relatively quiet to relatively active positions. We know what happened in the last war when brigades were tucked away miles from any sort of activity and became very demoralised. Yet during the extreme activity of dealing with the Vis on the East Coast, regiments and brigades were grossly overworked, bearing in mind that even at that stage there was a high percentage of A.T.S. operating the equipment.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) expressed disquiet about the availability of transport aircraft. They were saying, in effect that so far as they knew, and it is also my information, the production at home of what I should call freighter aircraft for the Services does not meet the requirements of the immediate future, and certainly not the unforeseeable future.

If we are to depend on the purchase of American aircraft I would ask the Secretary of State to examine the possibility of having French aircraft. There is, for instance, the "Breguet Deux-Ponts" the two-decker, which started its service flying proper at the time of the Berlin airlift and is in production in France. It is an aircraft designed for military use. I believe it carries 125 fully equipped men with a stores load, or eight light vehicles and a petrol load.

I should like the Secretary of State to have another look at the terms of employment of civilians at barracks. He is aware that I have a constituency case which I intended to raise were I successful in catching Mr. Speaker's eye. I hesitated to raise it because at one time it appeared to be purely a constituency point. But I have now come to the conclusion that the whole question of employing civilian labour, to reduce the uniformed personnel employed on civilian activities, must be examined.

This constituent of mine is named Mr. Hope. He was a miner until just after the outbreak of the last war and then served in the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment. Subsequently, he served in the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was demobilised in 1946 and in July of that year became a civilian store-keeper at Whittington Barracks. Among his duties was the sorting out of soiled linen for the laundry.

In 1952, he suddenly became unwell and eventually it was discovered that he was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. He went to hospital for six months during which time his wife, who was left with the two children, received National Assistance. Mr. Hope came out of hospital in May, 1953. He made an application through the barracks for some assistance or compensation, claiming that he had contracted tuberculosis in the course of his duties. The command secretariat, G.H.Q. Western Command, advised him to make a claim to the Ministry of National Insurance under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Prescribed Diseases) provisions.

I want to know from the Minister why that advice was given. The Command had legal advice at its disposal, and its legal advisers must have known that tuberculosis was not a prescribed disease for a man working in a hospital and doing that sort of work. Anyhow, his claim was turned down, and was turned down again on appeal, for the simple reason that it was not a "prescribed disease."

I came into this matter at the stage where the claim had been rejected by the tribunal. I recently put two Questions to the Minister. I first asked him how many cases of tuberculosis had been recorded at the barracks during the period while the man was employed there, and the answer was that there were nine, of which eight were pulmonary tuberculosis. I then asked the Minister what arrangements were made to protect storemen handling bedding and clothing from infectious diseases. In his reply the Minister said that trained Royal Army Medical Corps orderlies collected the affected articles and disinfected them at the medical reception centre.

The right hon. Gentleman may know that I telephoned his Department to find out when that organisation was put into effect. The answer was that his Department could only be sure that it had been in operation for two years but as far as it knew, it had always been in operation. That was not a very definite reply, but I quite understand that it might have been difficult to find out what had been going on as far back as 1946.

Therefore, I sent a telegram to my constituent's solicitors today, and I had a telegram this evening to the effect that during the whole of the period that the man was doing the work there was no general knowledge, and certainly no knowledge on his part, that any such disinfection of contaminated clothing had been carried out by medical orderlies. So far as I can judge, for the whole of or part of his employment before he went into hospital, the man was probably handling tubercular infected clothing.

We now have the position that the man is not protected under the Industrial Injuries (Prescribed Diseases) provisions. What I do not understand is why this man, who went through the war as a soldier, became a civilian employee at the War Office, and went into hospital as a seriously ill man and is still awaiting another operation, and whose wife had to apply for National Assistance, was not offered some financial compensation by the War Office. It is wrong that a man who has done his job by the Army should not receive what I consider to be the ordinary decent human treatment to which he is. entitled.

I wish to put two points to the Minister. First, will he look into the possibility of making the man, at the very least, an ex gratia payment? Secondly. in the interests of others at the barracks —and elsewhere for all I know—will he ensure that the necessary arrangements, have been made to protect such men from infection since they are not protected by legislation?

It is an important point, for those of us who come from mining areas know how difficult it is to get a certain disease prescribed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) was telling me recently of the battle she had had when she was a Minister to convince the officials of her Department about prescribing pneumo-coniosis and silicosis. Here is a much less definite situation, yet there is no other protection of a financial nature for such a man as this constituent of mine who has done his job. I apologise for taking up so much time on an individual case, but it is a matter of principle, and I appeal to the Minister to give it his urgent and sympathetic consideration.

3.16 a.m.

Mr. Nigel Fisher (Hitchin)

I am sorry that I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth. (Mr. Snow)—

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

House counted, and 40 Members being present

Mr. Fisher

As I was saying, I am sorry that I cannot follow the remarks of the hon. Gentleman on the subject of anti-aircraft defence, of which I know absolutely nothing, but I agree with much of what he said about married quarters, many of which are not at all good.

May I join with hon. Members on both sides who have paid tribute to the remarkable speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State? I think that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) was correct when he said that the last occasion on which a Minister presented Service Estimates without any notes was when the late Lord Norwich presented the Navy Estimates before the war. I recall hearing that speech from the gallery, but I think that the speech we heard today was even better than that.

The problem I want to consider is one that is mentioned in the Memorandum to the Estimates and arises also from the brilliant speech of my right hon. Friend. It is that of recruitment. I will deal with it from the Regular and Territorial Army points of view, and propose to add a few words about the Home Guard, about which we have heard no mention at all today. Figures for the Regular Army show a drop of 10,000 since 1952, and a further fall is expected this year. A really serious feature is the marked decline in the number of Regulars with more than six years' service, men who are the nucleus and essence of any army.

In most good regiments I do not think that there is an officer problem: there are enough officers and warrant officers, but the real difficulty is the shortage in the ranks between lance-corporal and full sergeant, and also among the skilled tradesmen. There are three main reasons for that. The first is that the British are not a military-minded race. I do not think that men care much about discipline, and I think they like it even less today than they did before the war. That dislike has extended to civilian life. It is a pity, because it may have repercussions on the character of our people and the social life of our country. But whether soldiers dislike discipline or not, I am sure that what the soldier dislikes most is badly administered discipline. I think there are still too many units showing too little imagination in the administration of their discipline, and that may be one factor which makes men reluctant to spend the best part of their lives in the Army.

Another factor may be that very few men get the opportunity to spend the whole of their lives in the Army because they have to leave when they are still quite active, at about 45 years of age. What are their prospects then? Rather poor—a rather small pension, with the possibility for a senior N.C.O. of a job as doorman perhaps outside a luxury cinema or a West End hotel, taking tips for summoning taxis. It is not very pleasing or lucrative prospect for a self-respecting man with a family to keep. The same situation applies, although with less force, to many officers, who retire about the same age.

The greatest disincentive of all to signing on is the amount of overseas service which the men now have to endure. We no longer see the pre-war recruiting posters, "Join the Army and see the World." Everybody knows perfectly well that they have to see far, far too much of it if they join the Army.

I read in the White Paper that no fewer than two-thirds of the married men serving overseas are separated from their families. It is not unnatural that when a man leaves for a three-years tour abroad his wife should complain about it. In many cases a man has to choose between messing up his marriage or letting down his regiment, and, not unnaturally, he chooses not to sign on. In that event, the Army loses a perfectly good soldier.

I was talking to a man only this morning who is a very keen and efficient non-commissioned officer—a sergeant in the Regular Army—interested in Army life and keen on his career. He has just completed a five-year engagement and is being asked to sign on. For four of those five years he has been serving abroad, separated from his wife and family. He has not had a Christmas at home for five years. He is being asked to sign for a further period with no guarantee at all that he will spend a higher proportion of the next five years at home than he has spent here in the last five years. He told me, "I am not going to sign on." I do not blame him. I do not blame the War Office, either, for there is little the War Office can do about it. Nevertheless, it is one of the overriding factors in discouraging Regular recruiting.

I should like to pay tribute to four important things which the War Office has done to encourage recruiting. It has introduced the three-year engagement, which worked very well in the Brigade of Guards before the war and which has been equally successful when given a wider application to the Army as a whole. It is easier to get men to enlist for three years than it is to get them to enlist for five years or seven years, and, once they are in, some will always stay on.

Next, my right hon. Friend announced today these very encouraging annual free leaves at home, as well as other measures to help separated families. I am sure they will be a great success. Next, there are the new rates of pay, which have been well received by Regulars. They will make a great difference.

May I make a small sugestion to the Under-Secretary of State? The present five-star pay system is very complicated. It is very difficult to explain to the potential recruit and I think it must make things difficult in the pay office. I cannot help thinking that from everybody's point of view it would be a good deal easier, and it might even be fairer to the soldier, if we could adopt a simpler system based on rank and service only.

There is one other step the War Office are now taking for which I am personally grateful. I referred last year to the deplorable state of some of the larger barracks. I believe I had the temerity to refer to Wellington Barracks, which, at that time, was being painted white for the Coronation, as a "whited sepulcher" because conditions were so deplorable inside. Having been so frank then I must at least thank the Secretary of State now for something appears to be going to be done by way of a long-term programme for the modernisation and replacement of many barracks in this country. I only hope it will not be too long-term.

My right hon. Friend has provided a shorter-term engagement. He has provided better pay and bounties and help for separated families. And lie has promised to provide better barracks. There is only one other thing the Secretary of State might do and that is provide more and better food. Soldiering is a healthy outdoor occupation which makes a man hungry and no one who has served in the Army would attempt to deny the importance men attach to their food. During the food scarcity, which happened to coincide with the late Labour Administration, there was some reason for the Army rations being reduced to conform to the somewhat meagre civilian rations, but now that we have this new era of Tory abundance there is no longer any excuse, and soldiers ought to have plenty of food, and I hope that no petty financial considerations will be allowed to affect the contents and coverage of the soldier's plate.

I appreciate that much has been done for the Regular Army in these Estimates —perhaps all the War Office can do for the time being—but I believe that regiments can do a certain amount to in- crease their own strength. Although the Army recruiting figures are down as a whole, I know of individual regiments where they are up, simply as a result of their own efforts. They have tried hard and they have got more recruits. What one regiment can do others should seek to emulate. Local recruiting sergeants can and do bring in most of the recruits. The regimental band can help and there are grants to cover the expenses of bands used for this purpose. Publicity can help but it must be good publicity and it should be honest publicity. I came across a case recently of a mobile recruiting van displaying a miniature lay-out of a modern barracks, but there are so few such barracks in existence at present. This form of publicity was almost dishonest.

I do not think that these vans are very much good anyway. They only show recruiting posters and photographs. What would be better would be something like a double-decker bus with the recruiting personnel living in the upstairs part, and having the show window on the lower deck with a loudspeaker for records and for addressing crowds. The bus would be in the right place at the right time, going to big football matches, fairs and carnivals and other events where people assemble. In such places it is not difficult to attract an audience if you go about it in the right way; but you must have the right man in charge.

You would not employ, as I have seen employed, a National Service lance-corporal to enlist Regular recruits. You would employ a good long-service sergeant who had himself signed on; a man of some eloquence and personality; the sort of man who could run a good side show at a fair; a salesman.

I was not thinking of the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). I was thinking more of a sort of military version of the successful Harringay evangelist, Mr. Billy Graham. In talking to people he should compare rates of pay in the Army with those in civil life. People do not realise what Army clothing, food and accommodation are really worth in terms of cash.

I estimate that they are worth about £3 a week. Hon. Members opposite are always talking about the cost of everything, but when the argument is used against them they say, "It is not worth as much as that." I should say that food, clothing and accommodation are worth £3. A single man in the Army with three years' service will get £3 18s. 4d. over and above that. That means that he will get the equivalent of £7 a week, which is not bad for a lad of 21 with no responsibilities.

A lance-corporal aged 22 will get £5, which means £8; and a full sergeant aged 27, with eight years' service, unmarried and living in barracks, will get the equivalent of £10 5s. Od. a week in civil life. Those facts should be put over. I am sure that if regiments would make a real effort on those lines they would get the recruits that the Army needs.

I should like now to turn to recruiting in the Territorial Army. There should not be any serious officer problem for good regiments in the Territorial Army. I know that sometimes hon. Gentlemen opposite rather decry it, but there is a tradition of service, or whatever one likes to call it—I do not want to be pompous —which does ensure a certain amount of officer material. I think that a good unit today may even have a waiting list for officers. Again, it is the long-service non-commissioned officer who is in short supply.

How many National Service N.C. Os. intend to sign on? I do not know what the War Office estimate is. Of course, it will vary according to the regiment. It might be 20 per cent, or 30 per cent. How can we get more to sign on? I think that the Secretary of State has gone a long way to answering that question by some of the announcements in his speech

There are a number of other minor points which might be helpful. A man might be given some new Territorial Army medal if he signs on after his National Service training period. He might perhaps be provided with a peacetime uniform; certainly the N.C. Os. might. Battle dress is not quite the same thing. I realise that, sooner or later in every debate on the Army Estimates, I get on to this point, but I think that No. 1 dress would give more pride of regiment and more pride of personal appearance. His girl friend would like it, too, and that would be a help because it is the wives and sweethearts who discourage the men from signing on for extra Territorial Army service in these days.

Then there is the question of a bounty. It might be possible to give a man £5 or £10 when he signs on for four years and perhaps another £15 or £20 if he signs on for 12 years. That would help. I realise that money is not all-important in the Territorial Army, but it is a factor. I know that the men do not expect to make money, but they do not expect to be out of pocket. They have at least the right to feel that they should not be out of pocket on account of their service.

I was glad to hear that the paper work is to be cut down and that more permanent staff are to be provided. I am sure that training will be more effective as a result. I am glad that in future divisional training is to be carried out on a four-year cycle and that drills are to be limited to 50 a year. Both those improvements will be welcomed in the Territorial Army.

I hope that we shall get better amenities at the week-end training centres. As it is, many of these represent two days of complete purgatory. There are not enough civilian staffs. The Territorial Army battalion has to provide its own cooks. The men often live in very depressing wooden huts with external latrines, wash-houses, and so on. The nearest town is perhaps five miles away, and the only social amenity for the two days is literally "tea and a wad" at the N.A.A.F.I. That is all there is.

Yet, apart from the annual camp, that is the only side of Territorial Army life which the National Service men see. I was glad to hear that in future these annual camps are going to take place in the territorial area of the regiment concerned. I think it would be rather nice to have some of them at the sea. I am sure that would be appreciated.

Some hon. Members have suffered much, as I have, on the traditional training areas like Salisbury Plain, and one must have imagination about these things when dealing with the Territorial Army. I think that the men will "take" the four-day divisional exercise in the open, and might even see in it some sign of efficiency providing that the remainder of the fortnight's training is comparatively civilised.

What we cannot expect is a terrific rush of volunteers at the end of a fortnight which has been absolutely awful from the first to the last day. There must be a little imagination about these camps, and the rough has got to be mixed with a certain amount of smooth. I appreciate that we need the rough to inculcate training and efficiency, but I think that the smooth is also needed to preserve morale and the voluntary spirit.

Those are two perhaps apparently irreconcilables which have to be reconciled to provide for the nation a Territorial Army which is both voluntary, at least in part, and at the same time proficient in the arts of war. It is difficult to combine, but not perhaps impossible. It is certainly not an easy job, and equally certainly it is not a party or a political issue. It is something to which we must all contribute if we are to see the results which we all want to achieve.

Lastly, a few words about the Home Guard. There are 152 paragraphs in the Memorandum which my right hon. Friend prepared for the Army Estimates, but only one of them—a very short one indeed—dealt with the Home Guard. It struck me—I hope that I shall not be considered offensive—as a rather complacent little paragraph.

I know that recruiting to the Home Guard has varied a good deal. I believe that some battalions in the Eastern Counties are very nearly up to the reduced strength of 300 which the War Office announced 15 months ago. But it is very uneven. Many battalions are not, and never will be, anything more than cadres.

I can only speak of the position as I find it in my own area of north Hertfordshire. Our experience there has been most discouraging—not for the want of trying. Originally, only 4 per cent, of the chaps required came forward. They usually consisted of some old soldiers, some more than usually patriotic men, and a few—just a sprinkling—of the sort of men who rather enjoy "playing at soldiers."

I suggested to my right hon. Friend at that time that it was perhaps somewhat extravagant to keep the same overheads for 40 all ranks as had been authorised for 900, and in November, 1952, my right hon. Friend announced a cut to 300 per battalion, which, I think, was a very sensible step to take. But, so far as north Hertfordshire is concerned, I am afraid that it is still far too optimistic.

Last autumn there was a Home Guard recruiting drive in Eastern Command. Each battalion was authorised to spend £90 on publicity. The net result in the battalion of which I am speaking was two recruits. After two years the strength of this battalion is about 45. But 20 of them never appear; to defend 150 square miles of Eastern England this battalion commander has precisely 40 rifles, three Bren guns and 25 men. Indeed, the number of men may be even fewer. They signed on originally for two years, and that time is coming to an end in a few weeks, so they will be asked to sign on again, and I am afraid that some of them will not.

The plain fact is that the military history of this country has always shown again and again that the mass of out people do not volunteer for any form of military service in any circumstances whatever unless and until war seems very likely indeed. Then they flock to the Services. That is a fact, and there is nothing to be gained by ignoring it.

But I am equally certain that there are strong grounds for retaining the Home Guard as a cadre on which to expand in time of emergency. In a period of tension before the outbreak of war I am sure that the sparse ranks of the Home Guard will rapidly be filled. But that will not be a period when we can go in for orderly recruiting or progressive training. There will not be time. We shall not get the amount of warning that we had at the beginning of the last war.

It will be a case of the levée en masse. In each village the men will be coming in to enrol, and in each village the arms and equipment ought to be ready and available for them to use at short notice. Leaders and detailed plans have to be ready, too. The leaders have to be trained beforehand, and the plans must be prepared and the equipment obtained in advance. The leaders—the officers and the N.C. Os. are all there already; they are being trained now.

A battalion and company headquarters organisation exists at the moment. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Anthony Eden) advocated in this House in March, 1951. It was a first-class suggestion. If the men training in the cadre Home Guard today could feel themselves to be the leaders of the real Home Guard of tomorrow, then we should retain their interest; they would want to stay on in the organisation and feel that they were doing some good and were the foundation upon which we could build in an emergency.

But that foundation cannot possibly be effective unless we have mobilisation and expansion plans all prepared beforehand. So far as I know—I speak subject to correction—there is none. If a man enrols today an indent has to go to the command ordnance depôt. He may receive his arms and equipment within a week or two, or it may be longer. If in a crisis recruits were pouring in daily, and at the same time the Regular and Territorial Armies were also being mobilised, confusion and chaos would be complete.

I beg the War Office to prepare its plans now for a rapid expansion from the cadre to the operational basis if the need arises. I think that we should publicly admit that the bulk of the Home Guard today is on a cadre basis. But we should ensure that it can be quickly transformed into a vital weapon for the defence of this country.

If the Government will do that, I think the conception of the Home Guard will not have been a failure, and, in time of need, I believe that the country as a whole will be grateful for the forethought and statesmanship of my right hon. Friend as far as the Home Guard is concerned, just as we on this side of the House at any rate, are all deeply grateful to him for what he has already done for the Territorial and Regular Armies.

3.45 a.m.

Mr. John Baird (Wolverhampton. North-East)

We have just listened to a speech which put forward many technical points and which made a contribution to a more efficient and pleasant Army. Indeed, many of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite have been dealing with technical points and I want to raise one or two small ones myself.

We cannot discuss in a vacuum the question of reducing the Army Estimates. We can only discuss it properly if we relate the Army to the political problems facing us at present, and the only major contribution to reducing the Estimates is to cut our commitments overseas.

Paragraphs 97 and 98 of the Memorandum deal with a problem which I know is troubling the Secretary of State at the moment, that is, the failure to get medical and dental officers to staff his medical services. I see that the right hon. Gentleman has set up a committee under Lord Waverley to inquire into this matter. Why Lord Waverley, I do not know; Government officers always seem to appoint him to these various committees. Anyway, the committee will inquire into the provision of an adequate number of medical and dental officers, and particularly of specialists and surgeons. It is a problem which has arisen since the war.

The fact is that since 1945 there has been an almost revolutionary change in the medical and dental service in this country through the introduction of the National Health Service, and today the financial attraction of private practice is such that doctors and dentists feel they cannot afford to go into a salaried service. There is the same trouble in the Army as in the School Dental Service, because we cannot afford to pay the medical and dental officers more than equivalent ranks in the same type of service and, therefore, we cannot attract the right people into these services. In other words, we cannot offer sufficient incentive.

The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) referred to Wellington Barracks. I remember that when I came into this House first I was still in the Army and was posted there. I went there two or three mornings a week to give dental treatment and I have never been in a more atrocious surgery in my life. Speaking as a dental officer, I say that if we gave dentists and doctors better accommodation, we might attract more decent medical men into the Services. I am not in any way disparaging the Army medical and dental services, because I know during the war they did wonderful work. So far as the dental service is concerned, I believe that there was more education in dental health matters in the war than there has been for a long time, and that at the end of the war the dental health of the Army was better than it was at the beginning.

For the life of me I cannot understand why we should have three military medical and dental services. Why cannot we have a unified medical service for all the Armed Forces? There is no need for separate commands and a separate structure for the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Americans are more progressive than we are in this respect. I remember being stationed in York during the war, where there was a large accumulation of Air Force and Army personnel and there were two separate structures to treat the military men, with the same commands and the same amount of paper work being done by the two Services. I cannot understand why we cannot break away from the old, narrow concept and get a unified medical service for the Armed Forces.

Apart from that, I believe that today, as a result of the National Health Service there is no reason for having an elaborate medical service in the Army. The ordinary National Hospital Service and Health Service could do a large amount of the work now being done by medical personnel in the Army. It is true that we would still need a medical service for overseas, but a large amount of the medical work of the Army's hospital and dental services could be done under general medical and dental services and in that way we should save on personnel. These are one or two minor practical suggestions which I hope the Minister will consider.

There is another, rather technical point, with which I should like to deal. We all remember that a few weeks ago there was a rather controversial television broadcast by Major-General "Mike" West on sentences for cowardice in the face of the enemy. I remember raising that matter in the House in 1945 and appealing for an amnesty for some of the many young men who had been sentenced to five or six years for either cowardice or desertion in the face of the enemy. I raised the matter then because, although I had never been a combatant officer but merely a dental officer in the Army, I was ordered to sit on various courts-martial. I was one of a court of three who were responsible for sending a considerable number of young men to the "glasshouse" for a large number of years. I was determined to do what I could to prevent that kind of thing when I left the Army, and we did secure an amnesty for large numbers of men.

When I listened to Major-General West's broadcast I realised that what he described was obviously the policy of the Army and I felt that we had learned very little from our experience in the Second World War. The first thing that struck me when I sat on these cases was that perhaps 75 to 80 per cent, of people sent down for cowardice or desertion in the front line were young boys in their 'teens or early twenties who had not had nearly enough training before they were sent to the front line. I believe that the same thing happened to a great extent in Korea.

I believe it is true to say that a considerable number of the men who funked it in the long run had been for a long time good soldiers but, suddenly, their nerve had gone. The conditions of modern war are such that perhaps the more sensitive one is the more likely one to crack up in front-line warfare. But we were told that because we must have discipline and morale in the Army we must send these young people to the "glasshouse" for a number of years.

A short time after that I was transferred to Brussels, where there was a notorious "glasshouse" which I had to visit once a week to treat prisoners. The only dental treatment they received was the extraction of teeth. I have never had a more demoralising experience than watching these men run at the double and do all sorts of wasteful things which break a man's spirit. If it is necessary for the sake of morale to sentence men to long years of this demoralising experience, I accept it. But very often lack of morale is due to bad leadership more than to a breakdown of nerves among a few young men. Will the Under-Secretary of State for War not inquire into this matter and find out whether there is not some means whereby these men whose nerve breaks in Korea or in other spheres of action can go for medical examination before being sent to the "glasshouse "?

I remember that when we discussed this subject in 1945 one or two hon. Members opposite said that if these young men knew that they could go for medical examination they would all want to funk their duty. That is not true. This is a medical problem, and 75 per cent, of the men sentenced for desertion and cowardice during the Second World War should have been sent to hospital and not to the "glasshouse."

I turn now to a major problem that faces us. Earlier, the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) dealt with one or two of the major political problems that are linked up with the Army. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet said that we were legally entitled to carry on in Egypt even after the Treaty comes to an end in 1956 and that there was a military argument for staying in Egypt with a much smaller military commitment—I believe he said of 10,000. The hon. Member for Colchester talked about using more colonial troops.

It seems to me that these arguments are begging the question. Is it suggested that we should take loyal Kikuyu from Kenya to police British Guiana, or take loyal Guianese to police Kenya? How, otherwise, are we to do this kind of thing? On Suez, I seriously believe that hon. Members are living in the past and talking about a British Empire which no longer exists. Our moral position in the world today is much more important than our military position.

In my time we have been through two major world wars. What is the attitude of the so-called colonial peoples to us after the experiences they have had in that time? I wish to paraphrase a story which I believe the late Earl Grey told after the First World War. It was of a Japanese who came to a reception here. One of our statesmen asked him, "What do you think of our great Western civilisation?" The Japanese shook his head and said, "We were content to live in Japan, isolated from the world, to cultivate our chrysanthemums and live at peace; but then you taught us how to build battleships and to make bombs."

That is the attitude now of India, British Guiana, Kenya and all the other so-called colonial countries and we have to try to understand these people. We cannot possibly either keep the Egyptians down and control the Suez Canal or keep the Africans down by military force. We can only keep the Suez Canal with the friendship of the people of Egypt and the sooner the party opposite realise that the better.

Let us always remember that we shall never solve the military problem by getting a more efficient and streamlined army, but by tackling the political problems that make it possible to have a much bigger Army than we can possibly sustain.

4.0 a.m.

Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Baird) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his arguments, because he spoke of a specialised side of military service of which he has, of course, particular knowledge.

Like many hon. Members I have had possibly six hours' sleep in three nights and have been waiting for 12 hours to make a speech which, to say the least, is frustrating. I know that there are other hon. Members who will have to wait even longer. I sympathise with them very much indeed. I was very doubtful whether I should take part in this debate because I have only a layman's knowledge of matters connected with military service; but there are hon. Members who have taken part in all three Service Estimate debates, and it is, therefore, not, I think, out of order for me to participate, especially when I want to deal with a matter which has not been touched upon in any detail as yet—and that is the service of our troops in Kenya.

I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the brilliant way he introduced these Estimates. He covered a considerable amount of ground, and what impressed itself on my mind was his extreme grasp of the whole of the matters about which he talked. It must be an encouragement to all hon. Members to know what a grip he has of his Department. Nearly two months ago I returned from Kenya in the same plane as my right hon. Friend. We left Nairobi but were held up at Khartoum and had to wait until the early hours of the following morning because of engine trouble.

During that time I had some discussion with the Secretary of State with regard to his all too-short-visit to Kenya. Here again, I was very encouraged by his considerable grasp of the situation, following that short visit, and of the problems of the Services in Kenya. I know that every hon. Member regrets the cause which creates the necessity for troops being in Kenya at all. But for all races it is absolutely vital, not only for the future of Kenya, the East African territories, but also, I suggest, eventually for the whole African continent, that order be restored quickly there.

There is no doubt that our troops out there are fighting a most terrible and filthy cult in Mau Mau; it is something which simply must be put down and destroyed. The tragedy is that it was ever permitted to develop to the extent to which it has and that we should have gone through 18 months of emergency, with the need for so many of our troops in Kenya, when so much of the trouble could have been avoided. Our Army in Kenya is operating under the most difficult conditions.

There is no doubt that what is happening in Kenya is real war; and when, sometimes, we hear speeches which are not appreciative of the true situation, it is most disturbing. Fortunately, the Mau Mau, in the main, is only found with a certain number—although a fairly large number—of lawless Kikuyu. But, we have also a very large body of loyal Kikuyu and approximately four-fifths of the African population is anti-Mau Mau. That fact, perhaps, is not fully appreciated.

It is indeed unfortunate when sections of the national Press feature in their headlines accusations of cruelty on the part of our troops and other even disturbing facts which, unhappily, sometimes occur in Kenya. I am not complaining of the fact that everyone should be made aware of what is happening, though it should certainly be appreciated that the unpleasant happenings occur in other parts of the world too, besides Kenya. My complaint is that the national Press do not feature many of the deeds of outstanding valour performed by our forces in Kenya. The other day we heard of a young lieutenant who killed eight Mau Mau in one action. Very little was said about that in the national Press, yet the trial of Griffiths was given headlines. This has the effect of creating a wrong impression in the minds of people in this country or the world about what our men are doing in Kenya.

I would make the strongest plea that if the Press is to draw the attention of the public to such things, which, I agree, are a disgrace to our Army overseas, let them counterbalance these occurences with accounts of deeds of valour and gallantry performed by our men who are fighting under very trying conditions. I am sure that not one of our troops would wish to be fighting in Kenya under these present difficult conditions and I frankly feel that they are not getting a square deal from our national Press.

Mr. Swingler

Would the hon. Member amplify his well-deserved tribute to the vast majority of the men of the British Army in Kenya by a reference to the recent action of the Colonial Secretary in negotiating with "General China" to try to bring to an end the war with the Mau Mau?

Mr. Harris

Every hon. Member is entitled to his own view on that matter. I have not made up my mind and will not do so until I have heard all the facts. I should also not like to make any criticism until all the details are known. We should appreciate that a man like "China" has done the most terrible things in the past and it is certainly difficult to know whether one should use such a man who has carried murder and other crimes to great extremes and then arrest, say, a native woman in Nairobi for carrying a gun and perhaps hang her later; while a man like "China" escapes his well-deserved penalty. However, I applaud the aim behind the move—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This discussion would appear to be more appropriate on the Colonial Office Vote than on the Army Estimates. The hon. Member must confine himself to the Army Estimates.

Mr. Harris

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I wish to say as much as I can about what the Army is doing in Kenya today.

The concessions announced by the Secretary of State yesterday afternoon will be appreciated by all hon. Members. I have always felt that in a so-called modern word it was a most unfortunate thing that men in the forces should be kept apart from their wives for such long periods at a time. The plan to enable them to spend more time together will be warmly welcomed. As a result of the proposals for bringing Service families together to a greater extent in the future, there will, naturally, be much more air transport. That is presumably why the cost of air transport in the Estimates is increased by about 60 per cent.

I understand that the Army in Kenya is stationed there at no cost to the Kenya Government for their pay. Yet, for some extraordinary reason, the cost of transportation is borne by that Government. At the moment it has tremendous burdens to carry, and yet it has no control over such military expenditure. Is it a fact that the Kenya Government pays for this transportation, but does not meet the actual pay cost of the troops themselves? If so, what is the point of such an arrangement?

Mr. Swingler

The Kenya Government meet the cost of accommodation of the troops.

Mr. Harris

I should like to have some definite information about that from the Secretary of State.

Mr. Swingler

All colonial Governments meet the cost of the accommodation of the troops in their territories, and also the cost of transportation, but they do not have to raise the money for the pay of the troops.

Mr. Harris

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I believe that that is so. It was stated yesterday that the air transport concessions would cost about £680,000. How much of that extra burden will now fall on the Kenya Government, or will it all be met from our Estimates?

Mr. Swingler

In all cases the cost of transportation of troops falls on the colonial Government concerned. I assume that the alteration in the type of transport in this case will not affect the principle that the cost of the transportation of troops falls upon the territory concerned and is met out of the taxation levied upon the inhabitants of the territory.

Mr. Harris

I should like to get that clear.

Mr. Head

I cannot give the precise information which is required, and I should not wish to give the House wrong information, but my impression when engaged in the negotiations was that the total cost involved in the concessions would fall on our own Estimates. It does not seem to be entirely fair to place the extra burden on colonial Governments. However, I should like to check my information before making a definite statement.

Mr. Harris

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. While we are still on the point about these concessions, I am sure we all agree that our troops in Kenya are ambassadors for our country and that it is very important that we should be able to feel that they are reasonably content with the conditions which are provided for them. I am certain that these concessions will give them real satisfaction.

I do not know what type of transport aircraft will be used for the purposes of these air-lifts. This is a rather different matter from that of air transport as a whole, which was discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport). It is a long and not an easy journey to Nairobi, and I hope it will be possible to use a satisfactory type of aircraft for the purpose, especially from the point of view of the men's wives. It was a tragedy that the Hermes aircraft were taken out of service.

They were a most successful and comfortable aircraft, and although the reason for the action was, I believe, because of expense, perhaps now we may be able to see some of them back in use again for the particular transportation that may be involved in this operation.

I should also like to know whether with all the troop movements in Kenya anything could be done to get any benefit from MacKinnon Road. Those of us who have seen MacKinnon Road lately realise that it is in a really deplorable state. It has cost £12 million of the taxpayers' money, and it seems extraordinary that it has not been more used in the past. Perhaps now it could be put to use again.

We all wish to bring this trouble in Kenya to an end, and get our troops back as quickly as we can, but I feel that to do this the military may have to open the country up much more than has hitherto been done. Here I am talking about road communications. I was one of those who criticised very much the expenditure on the groundnuts scheme. I felt that some of that money could have well gone into the development of Kenya. If it had it is possible we would not have been faced with the same degree of difficulty that faces us now.

The question of opening up Kenya through the forests might be tackled. I believe that it has been considered, and is possible. We will be using much military transport there, and anybody who knows anything about transport knows it deteriorates quickly, especially in the hands of the military. Therefore, the better the roads are kept the better everything will be in the long run. I make that particular appeal because I think considerable expenditure could be saved in that way.

I would urge the earliest possible defeat of the Mau Mau, which is desired by every hon. Member, and winning the maximum support from the loyal Kikuyu, who, I think, have not had all the support they could have had from us. That will mean we shall have to speed up military operations as quickly as we can. It may mean for a time more help will have to be given. I strongly support the views expressed about the development of colonial troops, because I do not think that that aspect has been explored nearly enough in the past. I do not mean that men should be brought from Malaya and elsewhere, but there are plenty of loyal Africans of all races in Kenya who would respond to such an appeal. The loyal Kikuyu there have been an example of that, and such loyalty could be developed very much more. Anyone who knows the situation and the meagre weapons which the loyal Kikuyu have had to put up with realises there is plenty more that could be done for them.

The Army can also help to better conditions in Kenya by buying as much of their local supplies as they can from the secondary industries in the Colony. It is clearly stated in the Members' special report that we need to develop the secondary industries in Kenya to help to meet present difficulties there. Many Army supplies which are still taken to Kenya from overseas could be bought locally. I put a Question down on this subject recently, which the Under-Secretary of State answered, telling me that the War Office were doing all they could to make such local purchases and that they would exploit the possibilities to the full.

We should also try to ensure that people in this country, as well as residents in Kenya, do all they can to help to entertain and give comfort to the troops in Kenya. I am not sure that the troops are not a little neglected. We hear of concert parties being sent to other parts of the world to entertain the troops, and I wonder whether similar entertainment is used to the full in Kenya to help the troops in their difficult conditions.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I have recently returned from Kenya, where I spoke to the commanding officer of the Buffs and the commanding officer of another battalion at Nyeri. I asked for a specific assurance on that point, and I was given an assurance that the hospitality and entertainment were excellent, as far as the men were able to get away to enjoy them. On the rare occasions on which they could get away, the troops were taken into the settlers' homes, for example, at weekends.

Mr. Harris

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, because I am certain that we want to be sure that our troops are getting all the diversions they can under these conditions.

May I refer briefly, in conclusion, to Suez? We must, among other things, remember the very bad psychological effect on the peoples of the whole of the African Continent if we made a complete withdrawal from Suez. Moreover, we must always ensure that all shipping will pass through Suez with very little interference.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

No interference.

Mr. Harris

We want to be sure that there is no interference with shipping in future, but I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he is wrong when he says there is no interference at present, because a boat carrying some of my company's goods was held up for 15 days by the Egyptians in Suez.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I think the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. He said there must be very little interference with shipping in the future and I said that there must be no interference at all.

Mr. Harris

I am sorry; the misunderstanding must be due to tiredness at this hour of the morning.

My remarks were intended to have been principally confined to Kenya. I am sure the Secretary of State will continue to do his utmost to complete the difficult task there as speedily as possible so that peace may again be restored to that troubled country and our troops brought back at the earliest possible opportunity.

4.25 a.m.

Mr. Hugh Delargy ( Thurrock)

I hope no one will object if we now return to the Army Estimates. Most of the speeches since the Division could very well have been made more appositely during a colonial or foreign affairs debate, and I would have thought that after what my hon. Friends had said about Suez between the hours of 7 and 10 p.m. last night little else was needed. The last speech had nothing whatever to do with the Army Estimates, and I would be somewhat out of order in replying to it, except for one point.

The hon. Member for Croydon, East (Mr. F. Harris) criticised the Press for high-lighting the atrocities committed by British soldiers in Kenya, and said they were constantly being reported in too exaggerated a fashion. As a matter of fact, there were few persons who had heard of any atrocities at all—and they must have been going on for the last 18 months—until the first trial of Griffiths. That was the first time these atrocity stories were printed in the Press and shocked the consciences of most decent men and women in England.

Mr. F. Harris

What I did try to say was that such headlines were not balanced by statements of the valour displayed by our troops, and their other activities.

Mr. Delargy

I do not agree. A great number of tributes have been paid to our troops. Since the hon. Gentleman and his friends want to suppress these stories they will not do the good name of this country any good, because they will be printed in other parts of the world. Since the valour of our troops is well known we have nothing to fear from the truth, even though, now and again, it is unpalatable.

I am not going to speak of foreign affairs, the Colonies, Kenya, Suez or Egypt. All I want to do is to ask one or two simple question, briefly and concisely, so that I may all the more easily get an answer. On Vote 5—Movement —the sum asked for is £34,450,000. That is, of course, a considerable amount, but in one respect it is not enough. Part of this money is devoted to paying the travelling allowances of troops coming home on leave, or, finally, returning on completion of service. It is admitted that this money ought to come from public funds. There are certain sections of the community whose travelling expenses ought to be paid out of public money. Even M. Ps. have their fares paid between London and their constituencies or homes, although, in passing, I may say that the Government are not very extravagant in my case, since the return fare to my constituency is only 5s. 2d.

Unlike all other hon. Members I am unable to travel first-class. There are only third-class carriages on my line, the worst railway in the country. The carriages are filthy, the trains stop at every station, and when they do not stop they go very slowly indeed. We have been promised by another Government Department that the line to Thurrock is to be electrified. We have been waiting a very long time, to the great inconvenience not only to the hon. Member for Thurrock, but to the hundreds of his constituents who have to travel to London and back every day.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton

Would it help if the War Department took over this line?

Mr. Delargy

I do not think I would be in order even to make that suggestion. I am sorry that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation is not here, but I hope the Secretary of State for War, when he has got through with his other work, will remember to remind his right hon. Friend of his pledge to electrify the line between London and Tilbury.

I am merely establishing that certain persons have some right to have their railway fares paid and, most important of all, that the railway fares of soldiers going home on leave should be provided out of general taxation. The House may be shocked to hear that this right is not accorded to every soldier in the Army. I sincerely hope that the Secretary of State or his hon. Friend will be able to assure me that my information is false, but I am informed that there are certain soldiers who, when they travel home on leave, have to pay part of their transport costs themselves. Those soldiers are Irishmen who come from the Republic.

I understand that they have free passage merely in the United Kingdom and that, thereafter, when they get to the nearest point to the frontier—that very unnatural and unjust frontier that the House has heard me criticise from time to time—they have to find their own way home. They can hitch-hike, walk or crawl on all-fours as far as the War Office cares.

This is most unjust, on several counts. It is wrong firstly as an offence against simple justice. These soldiers are exactly like other members of the Army. They live the same life, share the same hardships, risk the same perils, and they ought to have the same rights. Why should these men have to pay their fares when all the others do not?

Also, this is wrong from a legal point of view. In the Parliament before the last we passed the British Nationality Act. I remember it well because I tabled several Amendments to the Bill but, of course, like all the Amendments to which I put my name, they were defeated. That Act lays it down that the moment any person who was born in the Republic of Ireland sets foot on British soil he at once assumes all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of British citizenship. He can vote, or stand for Parliament In fact, he can do all the things that we are entitled to do.

Similarly, therefore, upon joining the British Army these men, who, under the Act passed by us a few years ago, are entitled to be full British citizens as soon as they come here, are surely entitled to retain those rights. One of the rights of a British soldier is that of having his fare paid when he goes home on leave. It is illegal not to pay the fare of these men.

Perhaps worse still, it is unjust psychologically. Many of those men live in the South of Ireland and they will be obliged to pass, on their way home, through Northern Ireland. None of them wants to do that in the present state of affairs. These men know very well that they will not be welcomed by the authorities in Northern Ireland. They know that even a certain section of Northerners born and bred, even with excellent military records, are not particularly well treated by their Government in the north. They are discriminated against in housing, in employment, and sometimes even in voting. Obviously, these British soldiers resident in Southern Ireland, knowing how unwelcome are these other chaps, realise how unwelcome they are likely to be and that they are not likely to get any advice or assistance.

It is also unjust, not merely because in my view it is against our own law, and not only because it is a waste of money, but also because it is an enormous waste of time. Anyone who has had any experience of the Army knows full well that when a man sets off on leave his only thought is to get to his destination with the least possible delay. He does not want to wander all over the north of a country in order to get to the south of it, nor does he want to go to Bannockburn by way of Beachy Head. But he cannot go the quickest way unless his fare is paid.

Mr. Emrys Hughes


Mr. Delargy

Yes. I am quoting a poem by G. K. Chesterton. [HON. MEMBERS: Birmingham, not Beachy Head.] Yes, of course.

Mr. Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that no Englishman ever wants to go to Bannockburn.

Mr. Delargy

The hon. Gentleman has really done me a grave injustice. He has evidently not been listening to me at all, because all this time I have been talking not about Englishmen, but about Irishmen. But, quite seriously, I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into this very definite grievance, and will put it right at the earliest possible opportunity.

I also wish to ask a question on Vote 4 under the heading "Civilians Employed In Connection With Recruiting, Welfare and Legal Aid." I am particularly interested in and curious about the subheading, "Civilians employed in connection with the Forces' Broadcasting Services, etc."

I note that at home "Specialists (temporary) various" are paid £330–£865, but we are not told how many there are. What I am particularly anxious to know—because I have listened to many of these broadcasts—is who chooses the people to broadcast on these programmes. Some of the broadcasts are good, some not so good, and some are very bad indeed.

Since the War Office evidently pays some of the cost, has it any say in who are chosen to do the broadcasts? I hope that in this connection party Whips on both sides have no say in the matter, as they have, unfortunately, in other broadcast services. I want to know why they are chosen when people like myself have never been asked to speak to the forces. After all, I am a man of vast experience.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

The hon. Gentleman has been unlucky. Quite a number of M.Ps. have broadcast to the Forces.

Mr. Delargy

That does not surprise me. I know that quite a number are broadcasting every day, and are also appearing on television, but I do not happen to be among their number. But I am interested in the education of the troops with whom I served for some years, and no doubt other hon. Members' claims are quite as strong as mine.

I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) is here because I want to refer to something which he raised in his long and extremely entertaining speech earlier this morning. This is on Vote 3, at page 48—"Department of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State." My hon. Friend asked why there was not a principal Nonconformist chaplain — though I feel that I should comment that he got his theological distinctions a little blurred at that moment. I use the expression "Nonconformist" in its generally accepted sense and not in its literal sense. Roman Catholics in England are nonconformists just as members of the Church of England in Scotland are nonconformists.

Mr. Simmons

Do the Roman Catholics regard all the others as nonconformists?

Mr. Delargy

Certainly. But I am talking of the Army Estimates and British law. Unfortunately, British law and the Roman Catholic Church do not see eye to eye on many matters.

I want to reinforce my hon. Friend's plea that such a reverend gentleman should be appointed to such a post. I also note that the principal Roman Catholic chaplain is paid £300 a year less than the Deputy Chaplain-General. I should like to know why. Incidentally, I am very glad to see that this year a principal Roman Catholic chaplain has been appointed. There does not appear to have been one before.

I also want to know why the Chief Staff Chaplain (C. of E.) and his two staff chaplains have had their salaries so very much reduced when already they were receiving much less than the Chaplain-General and the Deputy Chaplain-General whose salaries remain untouched. I hope we are not going to see the old Tory policy of cutting the smaller wages first extended to the realms of the Established Church. That would be most improper, and I hope we shall have some help from the right hon. Gentleman on that point.

On Vote 10, page 177, there is a rather mysterious item—"Pensions, gratuities, &c., to widows, &c.; the Relief Fund." It seems odd to me that pensions are paid by the War Office. I would have thought that pensions would be more appropriately paid by the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. However, there may be some very good reason for these special pensions being paid by the War Office, and I should be very glad to hear it.

Under the heading of "the Relief Fund," we find this statement: A sum of £1,250 is allowed annually to provide for small charitable grants to the immediate relatives of deceased regular officers who are not eligible for pension, but who have good claims on the public on account of the officers' services and their own pecuniary circumstances. The operative words there are "small charitable grants." The charitable grants would be very small indeed, judging from that stated sum. I do not know among how many officers' wives or dependants that money is shared, but it seems a very paltry sum indeed. If pensions or special grants or gratuities are to be paid by the War Office, I hope they will be worth while and not these paltry sums.

On Vote 9—" Appropriations in Aid" on page 173 there is a mysterious item called "Payments for the Loan of Troops for Film work." It is a great pity that any hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North-West (Mr. O'Brien) is not here. He is the expert on these matters. I do not know what this item means but, even if I did, I would not be much wiser because the amount of payments is not stated. I hope, therefore, that I shall get a little information on that point.

My last point is of a much more serious nature. It arises under Vote 8—" Works, Reconstruction and Maintenance Services." It concerns the conduct of the War Office with regard to people living in married quarters and I have in mind a particularly sad case. I have sent the details to the right hon. Gentleman and I know he must be making exhaustive inquiries because it is a difficult case and its more tragic aspects I do not intend to mention this morning.

It was the case of a lady married to a professional soldier who had honourably served for a number of years in the Army. She lived happily with her husband and three children on Army property in Essex until he was posted to the Far East. Arrangements were made for the wife and children to join the soldier in Singapore, which pleased her and pleased him and pleased the Army authorities because the family were vacating their married quarters and leaving them free for someone else.

Unfortunately, the soldier met his death in particularly sad circumstances and suddenly. The widow is in a most unhappy state; she has all sorts of grievous problems, but what seems to me to be a particularly callous thing was that she received word that within a short time she would have to leave her house. It looks at first sight as though the War Office was behaving like the worst type of agricultural landlord.

In a case of this nature surely the War Office could guarantee that this lady and her children should at least be allowed to remain in the Army property until such time as the local authority or some other had offered her suitably adequate accommodation? I hope that something will be done about this case. I am sure that other cases arise from time to time, and the Army should not behave with such precipitous haste as to throw out on to the street persons whose husbands have rendered such great service to their country.

4.49 a.m.

Mr. Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

After 13 hours in the House the first thing I want to say is "Thank you" not only to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War but to his predecessors and also to the permanent officials and generals and lesser officers and all ranks in the Army for the wonderful transformation which has been effected. When I left the Army, in 1946, we had a strength of 4 million. It had to be run down and then it had to change its role completely and now, nine years later, we have had the report which my right hon. Friend gave this afternoon. It shows that although there may be causes for complaint, we have a really efficient Army at the present time in spite of the difficulties under which people have had to work to produce that result. Irrespective of party we, as a nation, owe them a vote of thanks.

The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) said that in his speech he would stick to the Army Estimates, but it is a very big subject which it is difficult to tie down. We have had speeches on foreign affairs, colonial affairs, religious affairs and on all the subjects one could think of. I shall try to keep strictly to Army matters and to speak mainly about the creation of a strategic reserve which has been mentioned so often in this debate.

That brings me to the subject of Suez, but I shall not say very much about it. I had hoped to be called to speak on the Amendment, but if I say too much about the Suez Canal Zone now I shall be out of order. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We seem to have reached a stage after this debate where there is not more than a difference of 10,000 men between us. It has been said that we need a garrison of at least 10,000 so there is a surplus in the area at the moment of between 50,000 and 60,000 men. If my right hon. Friend is able to extract these troops from that area and he comes to considering the formation of a strategic reserve, might it not be worth dividing the two divisions that are in Suez between the Territorials?

The House will remember that in 1939 some Territorial divisions were thickened with Regular brigades. I understand that the strategic plan is to be able to mobilise Reserve or Territorial divisions in a matter of three or four weeks. It appears to me, knowing, as I do, the present position of the Territorial Army, that it would be quite impossible to do that unless that Army is stiffened with a strong Regular element. If we have two Regular divisions in the Canal Zone and if they could be divided among Territorial divisions it would mean that we should be able to produce four field force formations in a short time.

Another point on this question of a Reserve Army was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Colonel Harrison), when he dealt with staffing. He referred to Regular staff officers. One type of training that one can do on a part-time basis is learning the rudiments of staff training and staff manipulation. I should like to see the opening for the Territorial Army of at least two non-residential staff colleges, one in London because it is the largest area of population and the other in Scotland, possibly in Glasgow, because Scotland has always had a reputation for producing good soldiers.

I believe that such a scheme, recruited on a Territorial engagement, if linked to the four years' cycle which the Secretary of State has mentioned, could provide the staffs that the Territorial divisions need. Those divisions only secure staffs when they concentrate because the War Office gathers from all over the country staff which would not be available in time of war. I suggest that these non-residential staff colleges should work on the basis that a man should join and do his training for three years on a three-year staff course, his training and syllabus being divided over nights, week-ends and fortnights as an ordinary Territorial officer and in his fourth year he should form the junior staff element for a T.A. division. If that system were worked for a number of years we would get over a difficulty in the number of junior and medium staff officers we have in the Army.

Having a very good knowledge of the problem, it appears to me that on the A and Q side any good junior business executive has at his finger-tips the whole "know-how" of the problem, but not the Army "know-how." If, therefore, he can be trained in staff duties, his business knowledge will fill the other gaps. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give this matter some consideration. I do not think we can again allow to happen what happened in 1939 when every Territorial regiment and battalion lost a certain percentage of officers straight away to make up the divisional staffs. Those officers had no staff training and they took three to six months to become proficient in their duties.

If we could provide our staff element from the Territorial Army we would more quickly make available a complete division on mobilisation in case of war. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will realise that if there is another crisis, unless those divisions are able to mobilise as soon as the first warning is given, it will probably not be much use to mobilise at all.

Mr. Swingler

Is the hon. Member aware that ever since the war Parliament has been voting millions of pounds on this in the light of experience in that war and if the War Office has not a sufficient system for the call-up in case of emergency a really shocking scandal exists?

Mr. Glover

We have the Army Emergency Reserve and people in specialised and technical jobs doing their fortnight's training each year. I am open to correction, but I believe we still have not got a staff training scheme for non-Regular soldiers.

4.59 a.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Maldon)

I suppose this debate will come to an end Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green, if I may quote correctly the poem which my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) quoted incorrectly in his entertaining speech. My hon. Friend usually heeds a little assistance with Roman Catholic quotations and we humble schismatics are glad to come to his aid.

Mr. M. Stewart

My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) may remember one Roman Catholic, Hilaire Belloc, who said: Any fool can get his quotations right who has a book of reference, but it takes a scholar to know so many quotations that he never gets any of them quite right.

Mr. Driberg

I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for his reminding me of that; it is also the essence of scholarship to be able to empty one's mind of facts and figures and simply to know which reference-books to look at and where they are.

But to return to the Army Estimates. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), in making a valuable point about education, said that when something or other he was describing went wrong, people did not always write to their M. Ps.; and he added that if they did, the matter could be put right. I quote this because towards the end of his extremely able speech yesterday afternoon, the Secretary of State for War said one thing which I rather regretted hearing him say. Perhaps he was speaking "off the cuff," but in talking about National Service men, and how some, naturally, do not like the Army very much, he said that, unfortunately, those who did not like it were the ones who wrote to M. Ps. I am sorry that he spoke in that vaguely disparaging way. Goodness knows, none of us wants any more letters than we already get, but hon. Members who have been in this House for a few years, and especially those who have been officers in the forces, become intuitively expert in sorting out the minority of "scroungers" and "line-shooters" among our correspondents.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean it in this way, but his remark did seem to lend some countenance to the constant pressure and false propaganda which is put across by some senior N.C. Os. and warrant officers in each of the three Services, that men have no right to write to their M. Ps., at any rate without permission. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is absolutely untrue. Every Service man or woman retains the citizen's absolute right to communicate with his or her M.P., and this right has been explicitly reiterated again and again by the Prime Minister, both during the war, and since, and by spokesmen of successive Governments. But there is this fallacy which dies hard in the Services and which is deliberately perpetuated, quite wrongly, by some N.C. Os. and warrant officers.

If I am asked to justify my generalisation by quoting time and place, I say Catterick, 15th October, 1953. There was a new intake of National Service men: potential signalmen, I think these were. They were told that they had signed a form undertaking not to write to the Press or to their M. Ps. These young men had, indeed, to sign several forms, and in the general confusion of their first night at Catterick, of all awful places, while they were naturally rather dazed, they were told—I am not quite sure by whom—that they had signed a form of this sort. I have said I do not know by whom, but perhaps a "buzz"—to borrow an expression used by the Secretary of State in another context—went round. After the months which have elapsed, I do not know whether it is possible to investigate the incident, but I have given the date and the place.

Actually, the Secretary of State ought to be, and no doubt is, glad when perfectly serious and substantial letters of criticism, complaint or grievance come to him through Members of Parliament, because he does not want underground grievances festering in the Army. I have here two examples of the kind of useful information and reasonable criticism which comes to one in constituents' letters. When I have quoted them I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that they are not frivolous complaints, not altogether unimportant and, also, not curable by representations through the usual channels, which, of course, we all agree should be used first on Service matters when it is reasonably possible to do so.

The first of the examples I wish to quote is on the subject of further education. Quite an important contribution to our future efficiency and the productivity of our industry can be made by the preparatory training and education provided in the Services to qualify long-service men, who are about to leave the Army, to play their part in civilian life. Of course, it is a great pity if the money we vote to the right hon. Gentleman for this purpose is wasted by muddle and inefficiency.

The constituent who writes to me is a Regular soldier of long service. He is qualifying for civilian life and studying for his B. Sc.(Econ.). He writes: Repeated requests to the education sergeant in my unit as to the difference between the London and Cambridge syllibi for the General Certificate of Education eventually brought the answer that he could give me no information, as the district education staff had only the London syllabus: yet the Army G.C.E. exam, is run on the Cambridge syllabus. That is a minor example of rather foolish muddle, but there is more in this letter. This constituent took part of his examination when he was overseas. Five months after he had taken the examination he still did not know the result. No word had reached him. He made inquiries at G.H.Q. and eventually managed to find out that he had passed in two of his three subjects. It was not until over a year after the examination that he was informed that in one of them he had passed only at the ordinary level instead of at the advanced level for which he had entered. This information came after he had made arrangements for the current year's study and when it was impossible to attend the further necessary lectures. He adds another rather interesting point in his letter: A short course in one of my subjects was announced recently and I applied for a vacancy. I was informed that only officers might attend from my Command, although I am assured by the civilian organisation running the course that other ranks from another Army Command and from the R.A.F. are attending the same course. Is that not rather foolish? I am not quoting this letter in full, although it is a well-stated and interesting letter, but I will quote one other point: The education sergeant in this barracks is one of the most misemployed men I have ever come across in my Army career "— that is probably saying quite a lot— and appears to be given no opportunity of carrying out his proper task. For a considerable time he was employed as sergeant's mess caterer. The only lectures I have known him give were on military security and similar subjects, except for a few hole-on-the-corner lectures for sergeants, for which he had no class-room and had difficulty in getting his students made available. … I think I have read enough from the letter to show—by the way, I accept the bona fides of the writer—that it casts quite an interesting and rather depressing light on one aspect of Army life and Army education, at any rate in one command.

The other example that I wish to quote is a much smaller matter. It is an example of the kind of maddening stupidity—at any rate, at first sight; there may conceivably be a rational explanation for it, but I cannot imagine what it could be—that crops up in some units, at a low level; stupidity amounting perhaps almost to petty cruelty.

This constituent is not a Regular soldier, but a National Service man. He has been taking a driving course with No. 3 Driving Training Company, R.A.S.C, Farnborough. He tells me that one of the routine training exercises on this course included draining the sump of the vehicle en route—without pit or ramp, of course—while dressed in battle-dress, and, on occasion, greatcoat, and without overalls. Crawling under the vehicle to do that job obviously makes one's uniform or greatcoat filthy with oil as well as mud. That happens constantly.

After this exercise there is a parade, and those whose greatcoats or uniforms are found to be oil-stained are told that the clothing must be cleaned and that each soldier will be required to pay for the cleaning. On one occasion, at any rate, some of those concerned protested that they could not afford to have their uniforms cleaned, for they had to be sent to a commercial dry-cleaner's; they were told that a sum for cleaning would be deducted from their next pay.

A parade of so-called "offenders" was then held, and the men were marched to a civilian cleaning establishment not far from the camp, where each had to leave his oil-stained clothing; each then had to pay for the work done by the civilian firm. The charge for cleaning an overcoat was 6s. 6d. and there was a similar charge for a battledress.

Is this usual in similar circumstances? I do not know whether the Undersecretary can give me an answer now or not. I will let him have all the particulars, although I have already identified the unit. It ought surely to be possible to issue the men with non-inflammable cleaning spirit, or allow them to buy their own, so that they could do their own cleaning, which would be much more economical. I do not see why they should have to subsidise civilian firms in this way.

One of my constituents could not write to me this week because, poor chap, he was killed in Germany last Sunday. He was a trooper in the Royal Hussars. I ascertained from the War Office last night that he is being buried today in Germany. Yet, up till Wednesday night, apart from the original sad telegram notifying them of their bereavement, his parents had not received one word about the funeral arrangements or what was happening to his body. This seems to be quite wrong.

He is, as I say, being buried today. I rather hesitate over the suggestion that I am about to make, but it was, after all, the Army's responsibility to communicate with the parents about the funeral arrangements in good time to enable them, if they wished to do so— and could afford to do so, I suppose— to go to the funeral. I am, indeed, informed by the War Office by telephone that it was the commanding officer's responsibility to communicate with the parents. It is very strange that he did not do it. I hesitate to suggest this, but the really imaginative thing for the right hon. Gentleman to do, to make up in some small degree to the bereaved parents for the anxiety and ordeal they have had, would be to send a car this morning to Coggeshall, in Essex, take them to an airport, and fly them to Germany, sending a signal in advance to make sure that the funeral is delayed until they get there. I hope he will do this, but I shall understand if he cannot, although it would be the imaginative thing to do.

Individual human responsibilities and what may be called domestic public relations of this kind ought never to be ignored in the great military machine. Cumulatively, neglect of them is a tremendous disincentive to recruitment, and to men signing on again. Conversely, humane treatment earns enormous, perhaps disproportionately enormous, good will for the Army.

Mr. Swingler

The example which my hon. Friend is quoting is something which impresses the House, because in recent years we did pride ourselves in making progress at the War Office in the human approach to these cases. On what date were the details communicated to the War Office to give them an opportunity of telling others? What was the lapse of time?

Mr. Driberg

I personally have never found the War Office lacking in humanity when such compassionate cases are brought to their notice. On the contrary, they act quickly. Where there has been apparent callousness it has usually been because of some slip-up or foolishness or misunderstanding at a lower level.

In this particular case it has all been rather hurried. The death occurred on Sunday last. The telegram reached the parents on Sunday evening or Monday morning. By Wednesday night they had had no news about the funeral, so they wrote to me. I received their letter on Thursday and telephoned to the War Office. The War Office told me that it was the responsibility of the commanding officer to have let them know. He should have done so. Of course, the War Office have not had much time to investigate the matter at all, and that is why it is necessary to put it directly across the Floor of the House to the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under Secretary in the hope that one of them may take some action such as I have suggested.

I entirely agree about the distinct improvement in modern times in the handling of these difficult personal problems by the War Office. I am not suggesting that there was callousness here, but I am emphasising the need for constant, scrupulous attention and vigilance by all responsible people at all levels. When I recall how at the very front, during the Second World War and in Korea, one used to see officers sitting night after night until a late hour engaged on the painful and tragic task of writing letters of condolence, I cannot understand how in this case—unless there was some slip-up in communications—this elementary duty was overlooked when one man had been killed, by accident, in peacetime.

As I have referred to one accident, may I here refer also to a matter which I raised during the debates on the Air and Navy Estimates? I hope I shall be able to get assurances from the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Gentleman as satisfactory as those which I received from the Under Secretary of State for Air and the Admiralty spokesman. Recently, a Essex sea cadet was accidentally killed by an obsolete rifle. I should like an assurance, similar to that which I received from the other Service Departments, that these obsolete American rifles, which came here under Lend-Lease and have not been properly checked or proofed for years, are not being used any more since that accident, and that special care is being taken to make sure that all firearms used in the Army Cadet Force are not only efficient, but safe.

I turn to another major matter. The Secretary of State has himself spoken more strongly than anyone else of the terrible, obsolete conditions in so many Army barracks. One thinks of Catterick where, as he has said, a number of men are living in huts which were built as temporary huts before 1914. One thinks, too, of the ironic contrast between the glittering panoply of the Household Cavalry and the damp squalor in which they are housed at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, which the right hon. Gentleman knows well. This aspect of War Office administration is no credit to any of us, through no fault of the right hon. Gentleman.

I do not expect answers about these matters tonight, for I have Questions about them on the Order Paper for answer in a few weeks' time. I merely seize this opportunity of emphasising once again the extraordinarily bad condition of many of these barracks, including, in particular, those which I have mentioned. I especially stress the appalling conditions in what I may call the overflow at Windsor—the Imperial Service College.

Mr. Head

We have started on that.

Mr. Driberg

I am very glad to hear it. I hope, incidentally, that the right hon. Gentleman will try to save the very fine old trees there, but if it is necessary that the fine old trees should be cut down, then it is better so if it means that we shall get decent modern accommodation for the men of the Household Cavalry when they are at Windsor.

There is also the extraordinary and, presumably, wasteful business of hundreds of expensive vehicles standing out in a morass of mud all through the winter in the misty, damp climate of the Thames Valley. Some protection should be provided for them and for all such valuable equipment.

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) can confirm what I was told by one officer in Comber-mere barracks—that even in the officers' mess, or perhaps I should say most of all in the officers' mess, they can get an occasional lick of paint, every year or two, only by inviting the Queen to a dance. Even then they have the flowers banked high and the lights turned dim so that Her Majesty will not notice the damp stains on the walls. If it is like that in the officers' mess, it is even worse and more sordid in many other parts of the barracks.

It may be that some of my hon. Friends disapprove of diverting money, materials and labour from housing as it is usually defined to the building of barracks and military married quarters; but, of course, in its way this is also housing, and soldiers' wives and families have just as much right to decent accommodation and decent conditions as have civilians. Until the date—I am afraid the distant date— when all armed forces can be disbanded, I fear that we must continue to rebuild barracks and married quarters. Nobody would wish them to be squalid and inefficient.

The next point I wish to make concerns ex-prisoners-of-war home from Korea. On 23rd February I questioned the right hon. Gentleman about one aspect of their welfare, with particular reference to the possibility of paying them retrospectively the ration allowance to which, it might be argued, they are entitled. I am emboldened in my view by reading the definition of ration allowance in the Army Estimates, on page 131: Ration allowance based on retail prices is issued to personnel who are entitled to rations, and to whom no ration in kind is issued. I maintained that these prisoners of war in North Korea were certainly entitled to rations, for they remained on the strength throughout the period of their imprisonment; yet, for obvious reasons, no rations could be issued to them by the Army. When I asked the Secretary of State if he would authorise the retrospective issue of the allowance in lieu of rations he simply replied: "No, sir." I thought that when he came to answer my supplementary question he did seem a little uncomfortable and, for him, surprisingly evasive; he usually deals with us very directly at Question time.

I asked him to bear in mind two particular points: first, that these men did not receive Red Cross parcels, which are to some extent a substitute for ordinary rations in most modern wars; and, secondly—a minor, technical point—that this House did presumably vote the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors the money to pay for their meals throughout the last three or four years. I do not remember seeing in any previous edition of the Estimates any news that the catering services were costing less because so many thousands of prisoners were no longer drawing rations. The right hon. Gentleman replied to this: No, these Regulations have always been the same for prisoners, and when these men returned they were given 35 days' leave with double ration-cards. That is not really quite the point. He added, and, of course, this is really the point: I do not think I could take this exceptional step. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) helpfully put in another supplementary question, saying: But surely the Minister has misunderstood the point. The Regulations lay down that a man's rations follow his pay; that he is entitled either to rations or ration allowance. If these men were not fed and went through months of starvation, surely it is only common decency to give them the ration allowance."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1954, Vol. 524, c. 180.] By saying "months of starvation" my hon. Friend offered a slight loophole, of which the Secretary of State naturally took full advantage, because, in fact, although food and conditions were extremely bad in the early months of their captivity, in the later months and years, especially when they came under the control of the Chinese, they were treated on the whole, reasonably well and were given such food as was available.

I do not think it could compare with our British Army standard of rations. It was rice and odd pickings—the sort of thing that North Koreans and Chinese, people accustomed to a very low Asian standard of living, do eat. Although I do not quite accept my hon. and gallant Friend's statement that they were practically starved, these men certainly were not fed during their years of captivity up the standard they should and would have been having under the Army Estimates.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—I think inaccurately—that the North Koreans subscribed to the Geneva Convention. They announced at the beginning of the war that they would abide by the principle of the Convention, so far as they could; but they did not actually subscribe to it. Of course, in the circumstances of that war, it may not have been altogether easy. There may have been all sorts of difficulties. At any rate, as the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, quite frankly: … there have been cases in which the diet of prisoners has been adequate. Then he said: To institute what has been suggested would constitute a difficult precedent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 180–1.] But, of course, difficult precedents are meant to be tried by bold Ministers. If the Treasury is digging in its heels and saying, "Oh, no, this would really open all sorts of doors," to use one of the favourite Treasury clichés or metaphors, or "This would be administratively inconvenient," I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman thinks there is some intrinsic merit in the suggestion, he would not be put off merely by administrative inconvenience or by fear of creating a precedent or by opening doors which the Treasury might not like opened.

Mr. Swingler

It is important to get this matter clear. Is my hon. Friend suggesting that every soldier taken into captivity should be entitled to ration allowance in lieu of rations, or simply that, owing to the peculiar circumstances of the Korean War, a precedent should be set in that case? Clearly, there is some difference, especially when we look at the circumstances of the Second World War. If he is asking that every soldier taken prisoner should be entitled to ration allowances in lieu of rations, that will involve a great deal.

Mr. Driberg

At the moment I am dealing only with the Korean War. I am trying to deal with it as a special case, partly because it was not a war in which the Red Cross operated in the usual way in which the Red Cross does in modern wars, when they are between nations who are really subscribing to the Geneva Convention. I certainly think that it can be argued that this was a special case and that in lieu of the rations which they should have had from the Army, it is not altogether unreasonable to ask now that there should be some retrospective grant of this modest sum.

As I am on the question of Korea I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can yet make any statement about a subject on which, I think, nothing publicly has yet been said by the Government, and that is the very difficult question of indoctrination in the prison camps. Can he say whether any action is being taken against prisoners who did to some extent, to a greater or a lesser degree, collaborate with their captors?

I know from ex-prisoners whom I know personally—there have also been statements in the papers—that the War Office has recently been making investigations and taking statements from ex-prisoners about the conduct of some of their fellow-prisoners. There might, I suppose, be something to be said for action against prisoners who have actually betrayed their own comrades to their captors or something like that; but I am inclined to think that the right hon. Gentleman will find insuperable difficulties in his way if he tries, in general, to institute any kind of prosecutions or courts-martial for collaboration in this very peculiar war, which is, I suppose, the first war—it only just started in the Second World War—in which elaborate indoctrination has been tried out by a captor power.

It would be hopelessly unfair, and the Minister would find it very difficult, to draw the line between partial collaboration and complete collaboration. I do not know whether he wants to say anything about it yet. If he does, I hope very much that he will tell us that he is not proposing to institute proceedings or courts-martial in respect of this business.

One very small point, as I am referring to the Far East: Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether it is still true, as it was the last time that I was in Malaya, that in the Gurkhas they have to pay United Kingdom Income Tax? It seems very odd. It may be, of course, that it is only the British officers who have to pay it, but even if they do I am not quite sure why they should. If they have no families living in England, and if they are out there for years and years on end, it seems a little unfair that they should have to pay Income Tax at United Kingdom level.

However, there may be something to be said for the officers paying it; but if it were to apply to other ranks—supposing their pay were high enough to qualify for Income Tax at all—then it would be completely unfair, because their homes are in Nepal.

Mr. Wigg

It is a fact that in the postwar years officers serving with colonial forces now pay British Income Tax, whereas before the war they did not.

Mr. Head

Quite recently we made special arrangements whereby the Malay Regiment and the Gurkha Regiment pay the local rate of tax.

Mr. Driberg

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention.

The last point that 1 want to make is on the question of Cyprus. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely had a very interesting passage in his speech, in which he urged some caution before we decide to jump into Cyprus if and when the time comes to jump out of Suez. He advanced various reasons for that, and I interrupted him to point out that we might there also be faced with the difficulty of a hostile local population if the already substantial campaign for Enosis does proceed further.

I can quite envisage that a few years hence, if there are really large British forces in the Island of Cyprus, there might be considerable resentment locally if nothing had been done to meet this popular clamour for union with Greece. I do not want to go into the foreign affairs side of it at all, but, as the hon. and gallant Member showed in his speech, it does have a bearing on the future prospects of the Army.

The point I want to make about Cyprus may seem to most hon. Members a somewhat trivial one, but it does not seem unimportant to me. Cyprus is one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean and, indeed, in the whole British Commonwealth and Empire. It is beautiful both naturally and by reason of many priceless archaeological and architectural treasures, Byzantine, Gothic—buildings of all sorts of periods. I am just a little alarmed at what the Army may do to Cyprus if it is going in there in a really big way.

After all, when one looks around our own beautiful country—East Anglia or Essex—one still sees the devastation caused not by Hitler's bombs, but by our own Army and Air Force; one is appalled by the wreckage left behind by the Service Departments when they leave a site that they have occupied for some years. This can happen in our own land, under the very eyes and on the very doorsteps of all sorts of admirable busybody associations, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and all the rest of them. So it is a little alarming to think what may happen in a comparatively remote island, where there are probably fewer people able to make any effective protest against the spoliation of the island and its matchless architectural treasures.

I see, for instance, that model towns are being built for the soldiers and air men, with shops, cinemas and every kind of modern convenience and civilised amenity. I am very glad to hear that, for the sake of the soldiers, with whose welfare we are chiefly concerned this morning; but I do hope that in doing all this the War Office will not ruin the appearance of the island. It would be ghastly if we had dumped down next to that exquisite row of, I think, sixth-century churches at Famagusta a kind of replica of Peacehaven, or Slough—

Mr. Wigg

Or Aldershot.

Mr. Driberg

—or Aldershot, as my hon. Friend says; or of one of the other hells on earth which western civilisation and capitalist prosperity and the speculative builders created in this green and pleasant land in the last century, and particularly in the last half-century.

Let me end by saying this: If we have to have a businessman's Government, if we have to have a Tory Government, if we have to go on having enormous defence expenditure, I think that the right hon. Gentleman is the best Secretary of State for War that we could have. It is not, perhaps, saying very much, put in that way; but I do, nonetheless, mean it as a sincere compliment to him personally.

5.42 a.m.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

It is rather unfortunate that hon. Members on the Government benches are exhausted and that 1 have, therefore, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg). It makes the debate much less interesting.

This week there has been a great campaign in the House for equal pay. It is a campaign which I support wholeheartedly, the principle being that men and women doing the same job of work should get the same rate of pay. I want that campaign extended. I want the principle extended to men who are doing the same job in the Amy, Navy and Air Force. I do not believe that there is any justification for two different rates of pay for two men doing identical jobs in any of the Services.

Although I might want to reduce every other Estimate, I would be prepared to have one increase relating to pay. The pay that the National Service man is getting is insufficient. I am sure that just as before the war we recruited our Army. Navy and Air Force largely from among the unemployed, who were driven to the Services through economic circumstances, likewise today, the Army is getting a substantial proportion of its Regulars as a result of economic pressure.

Mr. John Hall

Is it not true that throughout the years before the war, irrespective of the amount of unemployment in any one year, the number of recruits was more or less static each year?

Mr. Fernyhough

I can only give the experiences of boys who were my friends, boys of 18, 19 and 20 in North Staffordshire who lost their jobs and could not get others. After five weeks, and particularly after the means test was applied, the lad concerned would be living on his parents or on some other member of his family. So he joined up. Several of my friends were forced into the Forces by that experience. And I say that the Army today is getting a substantial proportion of its Regulars by the same economic pressure.

I am quite sure that when a boy is called up for the Army it decides, if he lives in Glasgow, that the best place to send him is Penzance, and if he comes from London it sends him anywhere north of Edinburgh. What happens? [An HON. MEMBER: "He wants to see his ' mum.'"] The boy is anxious to get home at week-ends and he cannot afford the fare. So what does he do? He signs on for a further year in order to get the extra guinea a week so that he can get home. There are hundreds of lads who, every week, are demanding sacrifices from their parents because what they have at the end of the week after the customary stoppages from pay is not enough to allow them to get home, but they are so anxious to do so that their parents, who can ill afford it, are giving them 25s. or 30s. a week to get home.

I remember one case of a boy who was at Catterick and who wanted to go to his home in North Staffordshire. Every time he came home his parents had to pay part of his fare. I do not think it is a good thing that these young men— who are doing what any decent young man wants to do, go home when there is an opportunity—should be forced to sign on for a longer period to get the money which will enable him to do that.

I believe that to get the Regulars that are required all kinds of pressure is being brought to bear upon the National Service men. I have mentioned previously some of the methods adopted, though I believe they have now largely been dropped. However, I was talking to a number of National Service men last Sunday night and they told me that in Western Command an order has now been issued that no National Service man can be stationed nearer than 30 miles from his home. I do not think that this is the way we shall induce them to sign on for three years. It is a shocking thing that there should be discrimination in that respect, and it ought to be looked into.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

Well, let us look into it now. Can the hon. Member say where he obtained this information? Was it a National Service man who said that no young man finds himself doing his service closer to his home than 30 miles? Is that what the hon. Member is saying?

Mr. Fernyhough

This must have applied to either Saighton, Blayton or Dale because those are the only camps in the area.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Did the hon. Member see a copy of the order?

Mr. Fernyhough

Of course I did not, but I am entitled to believe that man until he is proved to be untruthful, just as much as to believe the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Let the hon. and gallant Gentleman look up the OFFICIAL REPORT and see how we have proved in the past how various things are done. If these things are being done they should be brought to light so that the Minister may deal with them.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Did the hon. Member write to the Secretary of State?

Mr. Fernyhough


Brigadier Prior-Palmer

The hon. Member preferred to use the publicity of the House and get the headlines.

Mr. Driberg

A debate on the Army Estimates is a proper occasion to raise such a subject.

Mr. Fernyhough

All this happened a week last Sunday. If the hon. and gallant Member thinks that I ought not to raise this subject, why did he raise the subject of education? That, of course, was not for publicity. No Tory would ever think of doing anything that involved publicity. Tories are such modest and retiring men.

I want the Under-Secretary or the Minister to look into this matter and inquire whether this order has been issued in Western Command and whether it is now to be said that no National Service man henceforth will be stationed nearer than 30 miles to his home. I hope that the Minister will also see that Service lorries are available at the main line stations to meet Service men who are returning after 24 hours or 36 hours leave.

I should like the Minister to travel on the 2.5 a.m. train from Crewe to Chester on any Monday. It is absolutely packed with Service men and there is a mad rush for the two or three taxis that are available. How, in the name of fortune, somebody has not been injured by swinging doors when the men jump out of the train to rush for taxis I do not know.

There is nothing unreasonable in expecting that Army lorries should be at the station to take these boys back to their respective camps. The Air Force is able to provide these facilities. The soldiers have to pay taxi fares to get to the camps, otherwise they would have to walk six or eight miles. If it is raining or snowing, as it has been on the two or three occasions when I have travelled in that area, I can understand their wanting to take advantage of a taxi service.

Brigadier Clarke

We have heard a lot about "mum" paying her son's fare back, but how many free vouchers does a National Service man have in a year?

Mr. Fernyhough

Not enough. I think that he gets two. [HON. MEMBERS: "Four."] I still say that four are not enough. If a man is granted 36 hours' leave he should be given the fare to get home. If hon. Members opposite are to treat this matter flippantly, I would remind them that these are the boys from whom they hope to make the Regular Army. I do not believe they will get them in the numbers they would like because two world wars in one generation do not make people anxious to become part of the machine to be used in the third world war.

I also hope that the Minister will have a look at the reports which appeared in the Press last week about certain incidents at Catterick Camp. I am sure they must have been brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. They told how non-commissioned officers were trying National Service men and how National Service men were issued with cracked cups and told after a few days there would be an inspection and the cups with which they were issued would not pass, so they had better buy new ones.

The reports said that the old cups were taken back and the same trick served on the next batch of National Service men. The report said that a collection was made by a group of National Service men for a sergeant who was supposed to be posted, but two or three more collections all went to the same man. No one knows whether the story is true, but it is in the interests of the Army that the Minister should make a denial of these things if they are not true.

Mr. Swingler

These things are illegal.

Mr. Fernyhough

Exactly, and they have received wide publicity. If public fears are to be allayed, it is necessary for an inquiry to be held. Another matter I wish to raise is the "Fiddle of the Phantom Army." For the benefit of the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who will want to know if I have raised this matter with the Minister, I will say that some time ago I tried to put a Question down, but could not get it past the Table. I advised the Table that I would save it as it would come in useful in the debate on the Army Estimates. This is what the report says: Taxpayers swindled out of thousands to pay the phantom Army. The giant fraud, the fiddle of the phantom Army has become uncovered after 10 months of investigation. War Office accountants believe that thousands have been paid from Army funds to 'dud' soldiers who exist only on the receipt forms of phantom units throughout the country.

Mr. John Hall

Where was that published?

Mr. Fernyhough

In a Conservative newspaper, the "Daily Sketch."

Mr. Hall

On what date?

Mr. Fernyhough

On 19th August, 1953.

Mr. Hall

Stale news.

Mr. Fernyhough

Yes, but we only have the Army Estimates once a year and the last debate we had on them was in March, 1953.

Mr. Head

As the hon. Member has produced that paper he would be interested to know that about the same date the same newspaper came out with a headline which said: Army swindles in Germany cost the taxpayer £40 million. I rang up the editor and, after inquiry, he admitted that there was not a word of truth in it, but that did not alter the headline, nor the harm it did to the Army.

Mr. Swingler

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that was reported to the Press Council?

Mr. Head

I do not know what happened afterwards, but I had a letter of apology.

Mr. Fernyhough

I will not delay the Minister any longer on the point, but I do hope that he will look into the matter because, if it is not true, it has not been denied, and people become concerned when they read such a story as that.

I now want to have a word on the question of conscription. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely said that speeches such as that made tonight by my hon. Friend the Member for Lady-wood (Mr. Yates), should not be made too often because they were undesirable and gave a false impression. But I would ask whether it would not be a good thing if speeches such as that could be made in every country in the world? If they were, would not our position be very different? And if it would be a good thing to make them in every country, it cannot be wrong.

I have never understood the attitude of most hon. Members on the other side of the House on this problem of conscription. If ever men attempt to force a non-trade unionist into a union, the Conservative party as a whole is outraged. Its members think that there is something wicked, something tyrannical, that men should compel one or two to join their ranks and become trade unionists. Let us also remember that when the Durham County Council decided that a few nonunion school teachers should join their trade union, the defenders of individual liberty on the other side of the House rose in a body to criticise that local authority.

But, surely, how much more infamous is it to compel young lads, who have not a vote, and who have had no say in the running of the country, and who in many cases do not want to go, to go into the Army. How much more infamous is that if we condemn, as some hon. Members opposite condemn, the closed shop and the attitude of the Durham County Council, and then force young men into the Army against their wishes and very often against the wishes of their parents.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Would the hon. Member not agree that there is only one thing which rises above the rights of the individual, and that is the right to serve the Queen and the nation?

Mr, Fernyhough

That is Conservative doctrine. That thought is on a par with the totalitarianism of Hitler or of Stalin. That is the sort of thing they said. In Korea, the armistice was delayed for months because we insisted that it was against our morals, and against our principles, to send back to North Korea those Korean prisoners who did not want to go back. If it is wrong to send a Chinese prisoner where he does not want to go because he faces death— [HON. MEMBERS: "There is no comparison."] We said we would not send them back because they might face physical violence or even death. Are not our soldiers facing death in Malaya? Of course they are. They were compelled to go. They had no choice.

Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)

What faced the Chinese prisoners was a different form of death than might face the soldiers of this country. The form of death the Chinese faced was murder.

Mr. Fernyhough

A man is just as dead all the same.

I support up to the hilt the stand which the Foreign Secretary took on that issue. It would have been indefensible to do otherwise. But it does not strengthen our case for military conscription. It does not make it any easier for our lads to know that there is some difference between them and a Chinese or a North Korean prisoner.

Many of the young men in the forces know that conscription was brought about because of the danger of a war with Russia. But where do they find themselves? In Egypt, in Kenya, in Bermuda, in British Guiana, and maybe in British Honduras shortly. They do not understand how they are waging a struggle against Communism in those countries. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Malaya? "] I did not mention Malaya. They do not understand how they are stopping Russians by killing Kikuyus. Their parents do not understand it either. These boys were conscripted to defend as they thought their own country and now they find themselves scattered all over the world.

These Estimates distress me. They are something we shall have with us for a long time. I hope that hon. Members will remember them when they are discussing other matters. Does anyone believe we shall be able to put into effect the road schemes for which hon. Members are agitating while we have Army Estimates of this size? How is it possible to get on with schemes like the Severn and the Tyne tunnels and other desirable projects so long as defence Estimates are taking up so much of our resources?

Mr. Yates

Do not forget the hospitals and schools.

Mr. Fernyhough

It is an almost intolerable strain upon our economy and is making the nation poorer every year.

Mr. G. Thomas

Where will it end?

Mr. Fernyhough

I believe that the greatest danger to world peace is world poverty. Hungry men are angry men— [Interruption.] If the hon. Member opposite doubts that, let him stand on his feet and say so. Apparently he has not the courage to rise and repeal what he was muttering under his breath. He would not be in order, of course.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member should address his remarks to the Chair.

Mr. Fernyhough

I am anxious to keep in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am always anxious to keep on the right side of the Chair.

If hon. Members opposite do not believe that poverty makes any difference to men's outlook, it is obvious that they do not understand world history and the history of this country. Hungry men are angry men, and angry men are irresponsible men. While three-fifths of the world's population is living in poverty as it is doing today, all the Army, Navy and Air Estimates in the world will not give us the peace that we want.

I remember that during the 1926 General Strike Arthur Cook, the great miners' leader, when the coalowners and Mr. Baldwin's Government were appealing for industrial peace—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is straying from the Estimates now.

Mr. Fernyhough

I am just giving an illustration, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Arthur Cook said that one could not grow the flower of peace in the garden of poverty. One certainly cannot grow the flower of international peace in a world in which three-fifths of the popu- lation is hungry, because hunger will always drive men to revolt.

If we had spent in Kenya 10 or 20 years ago on desirable economic reforms the money that we are spending upon the Army now to suppress the Kikuyu, we should not have had the present trouble there. It is no use pretending that poverty has nothing to do with the struggle which is being waged there. It is no use pretending that hunger is not a substantial cause of the revolt. If we had spent on social reforms the money that we are spending—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must really come nearer to the Estimate.

Mr. Fernyhough

If we had spent the money involved in the military method of subduing the Kikuyu upon the social and economic reforms which are required in Kenya, it would have been more wisely spent and would have given better results. That is true of many other parts of the world.

I now wish to say a word about the problem of the Suez Canal Zone, a matter which has been mentioned by practically every hon. Member who has spoken. I am not an expert, and cannot claim to be. I look at this matter as most ordinary people would. Let us take the case of the man who goes into lodgings. The agreement made when he goes in is alright, but there comes a time when the real owner of the house wants him to get out. It is true that he has a contract which is quite legal, but his position is made so unbearable and untenable that he may have to get out. Ultimately, we shall have to get out of the Suez Canal Zone.

Mr. Speaker

From the hon. Gentleman's last metaphor it appears that he is dealing with the Treaty between Egypt and this country. That is a matter for the Foreign Office, and not the Army Estimates.

Mr. Fernyhough

I am sorry that you have made that Ruling, Mr. Speaker. A harsher ruling has been applied to me than has been applied to many hon. Gentlemen to whom I have sat and listened throughout the night. I made notes of what was said. The Government should take a leaf out of the former Government's book. We got out of India, and because we did that we lost 400 million enemies and gained 400 million friends. [Interruption.] That could apply in the case of Egypt. If one million people lost their lives how many would have been lost if we had tried to hold India?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but that has nothing to do with the Army Estimates.

Mr. Fernyhough

I agree, Sir, but I have sat here so long and heard so many transgressions that I thought I would have my say. To come back to the Army Estimates, I questioned the Minister some time ago about the dumping of some thousands of tins of meat into the sea by the Army. I never heard anything more. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has neither written to me, nor given me any information about the question I raised.

Mr. Head

As the hon. Gentleman is making these accusations to me, although I have not got the facts before me, I can say that he put down a Question on the Order Paper and I answered it. I said that these tins of meat had been dumped because they had been examined and had been found to be bad. He said that it was a waste of money, and I told him we were hoping to collect payment from the firm because the meat was bad. The 'hon. Gentleman never wrote to me. I think it unfair of him to come here and say what he has.

Mr. Fernyhough

The Secretary of State informed me that the War Office would take the matter up with the contractors, because the Department wanted reimbursing. I presumed that the Secretary of State would write to me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] Because I had raised the question. The meat had to be dumped because it was bad. The meat was ordered by the last Government, I know, but it was marked, "To be consumed before 1951." What were the brigadiers and generals responsible for those stocks doing to allow it to go bad? [An HON. MEMBER: "Making sandwiches."] It should have been consumed before it went bad.

Mr. Fisher

I am trying to follow the argument closely. The meat was marked, "To be consumed before 1951." The hon. Gentleman's party was in power during that period, so that the fault lies on his side of the House.

Mr. Fernyhough

In 1951, I could not know that the meat would be dumped in 1953. It was dumped by this Ministry, and this Ministry was responsible at the time. If the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) wishes to ask a question, I will gladly give way.

Brigadier Clarke

Would the hon. Gentleman not ascribe all this nonsense to six years of Socialism?

Mr. Fernyhough

I readily ascribe the nonsense which the hon. and gallant Gentleman talks in the House to the training he received while he was an hon. and gallant Member in the Army.

Mr. Baird

Was the War Office reimbursed? We have not yet discovered the answer to that.

Mr. Fernyhough

That is what I expected the right hon. Gentleman would tell me. It was the loss of public money which caused me concern. I was glad that he was taking the matter up with the contractors and I should be delighted to hear that he obtained reimbursement of the money from the contractors who supplied the meat. I understand that it was supplied by private enterprise.

I will conclude with this comment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Members are anxious to get their breakfasts, and if I thought that by speaking longer I could keep them from their breakfasts, I would continue, because everybody is now quite happy. My hon. Friends intend to continue the debate, so there is no need to think that the show is over when I sit down.

Is the size of the Estimates such as to guarantee peace, as is suggested? I do not believe that the present ideological struggle can be won by military methods. Today it is a battle for men's minds and men's souls.

Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)

The hon. Gentleman says the ideological struggle cannot be won by forces. Will he not agree that it might well be lost without them?

Mr. Femyhough

If I believed that we could beat Communism with bombs, or defeat bad ideas and wicked philosophies by force, I would go with the hon. Member all the way, but this is a battle for men's minds and souls and a way of life. I believe that if we place our values and principles before the world and allow the depressed parts of the world to share in them that I believe we can win this struggle. I am sorry we are doing so little along these lines, and I hope that next year more money and resources will be devoted to uplifting humanity and less to destroying it.

6.26 a.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

When the Secretary of State addressed the House 14 hours ago, his speech contained a curious omission which many hon. Gentlemen were not aware of, although I am sure he is. When in opposition one of his theme songs was the building up of the colonial army. Time and again when we had debates the right hon. Gentleman was the spokesman for his party in demanding the build-up of these forces. He was forthright in his denunciation of the slackness of Labour Ministers.

When the right hon. Gentleman assumed office in 1952, he came to the House, on 10th March, and said: I remember that when I sat on the other side of the House and the right hon. Member for Easington was the Minister I, and many of my colleagues exerted considerable pressure on him on the question of colonial manpower. I think it would be rather dodging on my part were I not to say a word on that subject, now that our roles have been reversed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1034.] He went on to explain how three months of office had converted him from the nonsense which he talked in opposition.

Mr. Head

The hon. Gentleman is indulging in his old game of taking out the bits that suit him best. He is ignoring what I said last year about the striking increase in the colonial Forces.

Mr. Wigg

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I shall leave out nothing.

I have drawn attention to the fact that this year the right hon. Gentleman said nothing about the colonial forces at all, and I have put the House in possession of the fact that in opposition he advocated two things—more pay for the Regular Army and building up the colonial forces. I then came to the speech which he made in 1952. Even then he wished to "dodge the column," although he had not the audacity to say nothing. A year later, he talked once again about the colonial forces, and the raising of 14 battalions. I interrupted him, and he replied: I told the hon. Gentleman quite clearly that 14 of them have not yet been formed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1953; Vol. 512, c. 862.] An hon. Gentleman below the gangway has spoken about "catching the headlines." There is no one better at that than the right hon. Gentleman. But how many of the 14 battalions have been raised since he spoke a year ago? Will he answer now? He will not answer. So we have a pretty shrewd idea of what has happened.

We find the right hon. Gentleman, when in opposition, demanding a great colonial army. I do not know whether there are any of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters here who demanded this build-up to relieve and solve our manpower problems.

Mr. Head

The hon. Gentleman is enjoying himself. I do not blame him for that, but it is only fair to point out that when we were talking about these colonial forces absolutely nothing was being done to increase them. I say that that plan of the 14 battalions and the steps which we took were the first steps to increase colonial forces. If we had had as much success in getting right hon. Gentlemen opposite to do it earlier, we should have been very pleased with ourselves.

Mr. Wigg

The right hon. Gentleman speaks of what he has done to increase them.

I have a good memory, and 1 can turn up references fairly quickly. I look at the Estimates for 1952–53 and I see what were the figures for colonial forces in 1951–52. There were 65,500 men. I look at the Defence White Paper, paragraph 42, and I see that there are about 65,000 men in the Navy, Army and Air Force units of the colonial forces today. After three years of office the right hon. Gentleman has achieved nothing, yet he came to the House a year ago and, when I pressed him, he said that 14 battalions were to be formed in this year. Now he has not got the honesty to answer the simple question, "How many of these 14 battalions have been formed since last year?"

Mr. Head

The hon. Gentleman will get the answer.

Mr. Wigg

Why did not the right hon. Gentleman make some reference in his speech to the fact that he had reached the manpower ceiling so far as colonial forces were concerned? This policy has gone bad on him, the reason being that the major shortage in the Army today is one of N.C. Os. and warrant officers. He has not got the junior officers, N.C. Os. or warrant officers to form the cadres round which he ought to build his colonial manpower.

The consequences of this shortage go far beyond the military consequences. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) talked about the poverty in colonial areas. That is not the real trouble. It is only part of the trouble. The facts are that the Army, in the years between the wars, did far more for our Colonial Dependencies than the Colonial Office has done in all the years of its existence.

The Army took men who had never made any contact with civilisation. It taught them a great deal and put into minds and hearts aspirations which had always seemed far beyond them. It took hundreds of thousands of them from the bush and sent them to fight against the Italians and the Japs. When they came back, what they demanded was not to set up a revolutionary movement but to be given the opportunity to be like us. The Army taught them techniques and gave them ambition.

It is clear that we could have solved a great deal of our problem if at the end of the war we had had available a reserve of N.C. Os. and warrant officers to enable us to build up considerable colonial forces.

Mr. Head

I told the hon. Gentleman that he would get the answer. This is the position: I mentioned these 14 battalions, which I said were to be formed between 1953 and 1955. Of these, six have been formed in Malaya. Of the re- maining eight, we are forming, between January and May, 1954, two and two-thirds; and a further four and one-third in the Federation of Malay States will be completed by September, 1955. There is one which has been deferred. That is the one in the West Indies. The total comes to one less than 14, which is 13.

Mr. Wigg

Can the right hon, Gentleman say how many have been formed now?

Mr. Head

I have told the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Wigg

I am sorry, but the right hon. Gentleman has not.

Mr. J. Johnson

May I inform my hon. Friend that I asked these very same questions five hours ago? I have been waiting all night to get the answer, and I am still waiting patiently now.

Mr. Wigg

I am glad if I have helped the hon. Gentleman to get a reply. We have not received an assurance that the 14 battalions about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke a year ago are anything more than still on the stocks. In any case, even if all the 14 were formed in the period to which he refers, it is still the fact that the ceiling of 65,000 has been reached, and that the right hon. Gentleman's dream of the expansion of the colonial forces has been abandoned.

So that has gone, but, even before that, we saw the abandonment of an even grander policy, although, apparently, a number of hon. Members opposite below the Gangway still do not realise it. In our discussion earlier tonight on Suez, some hon. Members spoke of Suez as a great Imperial lifeline, and a lot of other similar nonsense. Canada is looking to the United States, and Australia and New Zealand are looking in the same direction. The fact is that the Dominion Governments are not looking to this country any more, and the idea of a great concept of Commonwealth defence is just a dream. The Secretary of State for War has also put paid to the idea of a colonial army, and now we are left to our own resources, or rather, the Army of the right hon. Gentleman—an army of adolescents on the one hand, and of greybeards on the other.

Of course, some hon. Members are not very critical, or else they could not have been listening very carefully when the right hon. Gentleman made his speech yesterday afternoon. What did he say when he tried to explain away why he introduced the three-year period of engagement in 1951? He said that he did it because the Royal Air Force had been very successful. The Royal Air Force, faced with a shortage of technicians and realising that two years was not long enough in which to learn the job, and wanting men for three years, varied its terms of engagement and took people in for three years and four years with the Reserve, and then exempted them from any part-time service.

On his own submission, the right hon. Gentleman shows that he is incompetent, because he fails to see what a world of difference there is between the Royal Air Force and the Army. The Royal Air Force is almost completely mobilised. It does not want vast numbers of reservists. It wants people for three years to meet its current commitments, and if war should come it would expand in a much smaller way, whereas the Army has a different job to do.

Every Secretary of State for War for the last 100 years has been faced with the problem of how to meet current commitments, and of how to expand the Army overnight. We could have done it in a variety of ways, but the right hon. Gentleman is very much like a pike on a cold day: if he sees anything shining, he has to go for it, even if it is only a hook. He has taken hook, line and sinker, and, as a result, we are now faced with a bill for £16½ million for pay and bounties. That figure is in addition to the right hon. Gentleman's salary, and in addition to past years, because a year ago, on 26th and 27th January, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who now lies asleep on the bench below the Gangway—

Mr. Crossman


Mr. Wigg

Very well, not asleep, but only appearing to be.

Mr. Crossman

I should like to explain that I concentrate better with my feet up.

Mr. Wigg

Then my hon. Friend had better resume the horizontal if he sleeps better that way, and perhaps persuade the Secretary of State to do the same.

When we debated the Supplementary Estimates on 26th and 27th January last we warned the Secretary of State of what was happening to his manpower; we warned him about the failure of his recruiting campaign. He let a year go by. When this party was in power every opportunity was taken by hon. Members opposite to abuse Ministers; "Too late," they said, "too little and too late." I am prepared to bet the right hon. Gentleman a shilling that in a year's time the manpower problem will be worse than it is now.

The answer to the problem is very easy to see, because the problem of recruiting is affecting all the three Services. The fact is that the disillusionment which is going to hit this country as a result of rearmament is going to put paid to the right hon. Gentleman's recruiting campaign.

Mr. Swingler

It has already started.

Mr. Wigg

Yes. The people of two generations cannot be asked to sacrifice themselves in order to overthrow German imperialism and then be asked to agree to restore it; the right hon. Gentleman cannot ask the sons of the women who lost their husbands in the first and second world wars and the sons of the men who were maimed and killed—[An HON. MEMBER: "Sloppy."] The hon. Gentleman may think it is sloppy, but we shall see. The decision on this point is not settled by the comments of hon. Members opposite. The solution to the manpower problem depends on the willingness of the young men to undertake Regular engagements, and they are not going to undertake them. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) told us of the lack of success of the Home Guard policy in his area. People are not going to join the Home Guard. After all, they can read. They know what has happened.

We are told in the Defence White Paper that the next war is going to open in a great blaze of atomic attack, and after that we are going to have the "broken-backed" period. The right hon. Gentleman talks as if that White Paper did not exist. But sooner or later the truth of the White Paper is going to penetrate. People are going to ask, if the next war is going to start off with this vast atomic attack, if there is to be widespread destruction and damage, why are vast sums not being spent on Civil Defence? Why is the right hon. Gentleman not doing something about training National Service men in Civil Defence so that they can be of use to the Forces and of use in civil life when they come back?

There is a world of difference between what the Government say in their White Paper and what they do in practice. The right hon. Gentleman is a master at making the best of his case, leaving out what he does not want put in and then dressing up very attractively what remains. He talks about travel facilities costing £680,000 for 13,600 men. That is excellent for the 13,600, but what about the rest? What about the young National Service men who want to come home and who have no interest in sitting in the Suez Canal Zone? The 13,600 will find life a little easier, but that will not help the right hon. Gentleman with his manpower problem.

He is considering spending £16½ million on pay and bounties. There have been discussions behind closed doors, and the suggestion has been made that something was to be done. A number of men who were thinking of signing on have postponed doing so until they find out what is going to happen. If there is an announcement about the bounty they will sign on, and a few more perhaps will sign on, too. But ultimately the problem will be settled by the men themselves. As I have already said, my forecast is that a year hence we shall be as far away from a solution of this problem as we are now.

Now I want to talk to the House about another aspect of the Memorandum. It is all very well to form seven new battalions. It is all very well to talk about divisions. But would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us how many units in the Canal Zone are up to establishment? Would he also be good enough to tell us what per centage of our units in Germany are up to establishment? I ask that because if the figures we have been given today are correct, if there are three divisions in the Canal Zone, or if it is two divisions of the 16th Paratroop Brigade—

Mr. Crossman

Three divisions.

Mr. Wigg

—then some of those units must be at very low strength because, as I understand it, the total number of troops in the Canal Zone is 80,000, from which the Royal Air Force personnel, amounting to 20,000, have to be deducted, which leaves 60,000, and from that 60,000 has to be deducted the figure of 10,000 Colonial troops, which brings the total to 50,000. If that figure of 50,000 is correct, and represents nearly three divisions, some of those regiments must be at a very low level.

Certainly that is true of the units in Germany. When some of my hon. Friends and myself went over to Germany last year the Northamptons were on exercises. We found that they were at such a low level that a draft of 60 men had to be brought in the night before the exercises to enable them to be undertaken. My guess is that the Army is so strained from one end of the world to the other that there is scarcely a unit that is anything like approaching its establishment.

During the course of the year we had some evidence of this when the troubles blew up in British Guiana, and Her Majesty's ceremonial guard had to be withdrawn from Balmoral to send it to that country. The Government said we must have peace through strength. The only thing they did not send there was the fire brigade—

Mr. Mikardo

That will be kept for Honduras.

Mr. Wigg

I presume what will happen will be that Bermuda will once again be evacuated and that our strategic reserve is now in Honduras. That piece of imbecility, we now know, was the result of the romantic thinking of the Prime Minister.

The fact is that this country is paying an enormous bill. Next year, with the Supplementary Estimate, it will be nearly £1,700 million. We have these young men in uniform and we are still a long way from security. What the country is doing—and I pray that it will wake up before it is too late—is what the French did after the First World War.

The French tried to buy security through building the Maginot Line, which crashed at the first blow. The British people, under the guidance of this Government, are trying to build up their Maginot Line, the Maginot Line of two years' compulsory National Service, and we think that merely by having an enormous bill and keeping a tremendous number of men in uniform, and having two years' compulsory military service— far more than any of the original members of N.A.T.O.—we are buying security. Yet we are as far from security today as ever, because security can only be obtained by living militarily and economically inside our strength.

Mr. Crossman

That is the answer to hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. Wigg

We have to live inside our manpower strength. This country is unable to afford the military adventures of Kenya and British Guiana. If it has the one, it cannot have the other, whether we like it or not. These illusions of grandeur belong to the paranoiac. They do not belong to the balanced, sensible view of the second half of the 20th century. Sooner or later, consciously, or taught by the hard logic of facts, we must face the truth that we cannot live beyond our strength.

Some hon. Members opposite, and even some of my hon. Friends, may ask why I agreed to a £4,700 million armaments programme during the Korean war at the beginning of 1951. I supported that expenditure and the increase in the period of National Service from 18 months to two years. I believed that we were right at that time. We were attempting to scale an unscaleable cliff but in doing that we were trying to convince those with whom the power of peace or war appeared to rest that if the worst came, cost what it might, this country would respond to the challenge in the same way that it had responded to challenges from the time of Napoleon to that of Hitler. But there is a great difference between making that sharp push over a limited period and trying to keep up appearances with the neighbours next door.

Historians may say that our effort from 1951 onward prevented a third world war, but now that that danger is past there is no possible excuse for the kind of programme that is involved in these Army Estimates. They have no contact with reality. We need at the War Office a second Haldane, an organiser who gets down to essentials, not a soldier, and least of all a Regular soldier. We need a man who will so organise the Army and its system of call-up and mobilisation that it is in accordance with the needs of the times.

As a result of National Service we have built up a vast reserve force which will reach its maximum in about July of this year. If that reserve force is to play its part we must be able to put in five divisions to strengthen the 4⅓ divisions in Germany, not in a matter of weeks but in a matter of days. Let hon. Members consider where the Secretary of State for War has landed us in his anxiety to pursue policies that will produce quick results. He went in for a three years' service and no part-time training for his Regulars. His Regulars, on mobilisation, will be called up, but their military knowledge will be out of date. They have done three years' service but nothing since.

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) was absolutely right when, during the defence debate, he drew attention to the vital importance of training our Army Reserves. They must be men who can take their place in the Army and handle the most modem weapons in a matter of days.

Mr. Head

How would the hon. Member do it?

Mr. Wigg

I should have something like the base that we now have in Suez across the Channel. I should have the mobilisation carried out on the other side of the Channel.

Mr. Head

Of the Reserves?

Mr. Wigg

No. I should use exactly the same system as was used for the Regular Forces in 1914. The kit and equipment would already be in Germany. The men's reporting points would be in Germany. I should have it so arranged that it would be necessary only to fly the men into Germany from their place of assembly to the places where they would put on their kit.

Two years ago I spent six weeks in Israel, which has an even greater problem than we have here because in some parts of that country the distance from the Arab hills to the sea is only five miles. Mobilisation of the Israeli forces is a matter of minutes. A situation might arise in which a man, working on the farm or in the factory, might, within half an hour, have been called up and be fighting. The Israeli mobilisation plan was based on a highly flexible system which produced the result that the men knew where to go, where to get their equipment and arms and where their place of assembly was.

Of course, that plan was not born of any great military theory, but it was born of the exigencies of the Israeli situation. There should be a study of that plan, of the mobilisation plans which were put into operation and of the Expeditionary Force. I believe that mobilisation depots based on Antwerp and places like that is the only way to plan. To assemble the men in this country and convey all the heavy equipment across is something which obviously cannot be done.

Mr. John Hall

Do I understand the hon. Member to say that he would have all the mobilisation equipment, stores, vehicles, guns and tanks, on the other side of the Channel?

Mr. Wigg


Mr. Hall

And the hon. Member appreciates the amount of space which would be needed?

Mr. Wigg

I see no alternative. The right hon. Gentleman can put his movement people on to this. It is a question of train space and shipping space. If, in fact, we had to move all the equipment across, it would take a very considerable time. It is equally obvious that if all that was involved was flying of men over to the Continent, that would be a possibility. I suggest that the present method of giving priority of equipment to a selected number of divisions and giving no priority for training is wrong.

I said it a year ago and repeat it now; I would face political unpopularity by increasing the period of part-time service. I do not believe that a fortnight is enough and if it is enough, no time is given to the Regulars. We should decide on the time which is militarily necessary and not what is politically expedient. I want realism.

Mr. Fisher

As the hon. Member is keen on realism, could he explain how the training is to be done when the tanks and guns are in Germany and the men who have to use them are in England?

Mr. Wigg

AH the training of the four divisions would be done in Germany.

Last year I went with the hon. Member for Wycombe and saw the Territorials in training. Never in my life have I had a more depressing experience. Militarily it was not worth anything. They were "browned off" and were only there because they had to be. It was clear that it was not a mobilisation exercise. They assembled somewhere in Lancashire and were taken to Salisbury Plain. But, as soon as they got there, they were rationed and looked after by Regular troops. That is not an exercise at all. It may have been an excellent operation for the G3's in Southern Command. It got a few lines in "The Times" and the "Daily Telegraph" and found General Martin a job for a couple of days.

Mr. Hall

The hon. Member has not answered my question.

Mr. Wigg

The best training area in Europe is in Germany, and if we are going to call the men up for 15 days I would train them over there: I should carry out the whole of the exercise in Germany. After all, they have not all to be called up in the summer time, and there is no earthly reason why that vast area around Sennelager should not be used; why cannot the four divisions, by which the right hon. Gentleman lays so much store, be trained there? After all, the Germans started the war and they lost the war, and I see no reason why they should not pay for the exercise of our troops.

Mr. Hall

I understood that very shortly we should have to pay for our own troops in Germany.

Mr. Wigg

I have heard that, but I should very much like to know what the bill will be, and I say that it is utter nonsense that we should pay for our troops in Germany. The Germans ought to pay—or at least some of the cost: they should pay for our occupation troops, or for the training of these divisions. The Germans started the first world war, and the second; they started the "fun and games." and I do not see why they should not pay.

But in my animosity towards the Germans, let me not forget the right hon. Gentleman. He appears to have convinced a number of his own friends opposite that he has done a good job during the past year, but to me the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Where do we find the proof about the right hon. Gentleman's tenure at the War Office? I suggest that one should have taken last year's Estimates and the right hon. Gentleman's speech and filed them away, and then brought them out a year hence to see what further damage he had done to the Regular Army.

One could do that with this year's Estimates, but then another year would be lost. We have lost a year on the 1953 Estimates, and it has cost £16 million. Some hon. Members opposite are full of praise for the right hon. Gentleman, but he is very expensive at £16 million a time, and there is no guarantee that we are going to get better results. So long as he, with his purely military background, is there, we shall never face up to this problem. The War Office, being what it is, and not counting moral courage among its attributes, gives him the sort of advice that he wants. There are brilliant paper schemes, but no more divisions to go into Europe.

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman how long he thinks that the four divisions to which he is giving priority would take from the time that the "balloon goes up" to the time when they would arrive on the Continent. Let him tell the House whether he thinks that when these divisions go they will be in a complete state to meet in combat what would probably be the best armour which the Russians could muster. If he can answer that question satisfactorily, then I shall be the first person to throw my hat in the air.

7.5 a.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

If tributes are to be paid to preceding speakers, I will pay mine to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who indicated in unanswerable fashion the disastrous situation facing the country and the state of our military unpreparedness to deal with any situation which might arise.

One of the things the Secretary of State said in his opening speech stuck in my mind. He told us that in the Army there are 180.000 Regulars compared with 214,000 National Service men. As a result of the activities of the right hon. Gentleman, we now have an Army in which the National Service men outnumber the Regular element. The gradual decline in the number of long-service Regulars has had the disastrous result of excessively diluting the Army and has forced us to resort to the wasteful expedient of sending National Service men to the Middle East and the Far East.

That was not the intention when National Service was continued after the war. The whole idea was to provide a reserve for this country. It was never the intention that National Service men should be sent to do the work of the Regulars. In the period between 1945 and 1951, the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members opposite made all kinds of foolish statements about what they would do when they got to power. When the Secretary of State was twitted with some of the things he said, he was able to wriggle out of them by saying that the Korean war had introduced a new factor into the situation.

The views of the Conservative Party about the gradual decline in the numbers of Regular Service men and the sending of National Service men to the Middle East and the Far East will be found in the Conservative publication, "Britain Strong and Free." We must examine to what extent the pledge the party opposite made to the country just before they came to power has been fulfilled. We shall find that from 1951 until today the decline in the number of long-service Regulars has grown and the expedient of sending National Service men to the Middle East and the Far East is still being employed without achieving very satisfactory results.

In the Memorandum accompanying the Army Estimates there are figures giving the comparative strength of the Army in 1951, 1952 and 1953. The figure as at 31st December, 1953, represents a total strength of the active Army, men, women and boys, of 440,997. That includes 4,479 National Service male officers and 214,088 National Service men.

The Government will have to make up their minds whether we are getting real value for the expenditure that we are incurring by calling up young men for National Service for a period of two years. I saw some figures the other day which indicated that the cost of maintaining a soldier in the Army is about £400 per year.

Mr. Swingler

It is more than £500.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I would rather under-estimate the figure than overestimate it, for that reinforces my argument. If there are at present 214,000 National Service men—the bulk of them are just aching for the day when their two-year period of service ends—the cost of keeping them in the Army is about £85 million per annum on the basis of £400 per man.

I am convinced that a little mental exercise would enable us to get better value for the £85 million. If we cut down the number of National Service men by 100,000 and spent twice as much on the remainder in order to persuade them to remain in the Army longer, we should be getting very much better value from them than we are getting from the present 200,000 who are not in the slightest degree interested in the Army and are simply pining for the day of their release.

The Government have not considered as carefully as they ought to have done the social and economic effects of the continuation of the two-year period. It has had all kinds of undesirable social and economic effects which have to be balanced against the other demands which are made upon our manpower.

A lad of 17 was charged at Bromley Magistrates' Court the other day with being found drunk and incapable. He was employed as a plasterer's tacker. The probation officer revealed that the lad had been on probation for two years and that he had been concerned about the lad during that time because he was earning about £18 per week erecting plasterboard ceilings. By reason of economic factors into which it would be out of order for me to delve too deeply, the 17-year-old lad was drawing the equivalent of the pay and allowances of a married captain in the Army. What use will a man like that be when at 18 he is called into the Army to do his National Service and receives the pay and allowances of a National Service man? My forecast is that he will be useless.

There is also the other extreme, of the young fellows from 15 to 18, who drift endlessly from job to job. I have had many cases among my constituents. They have difficulty in finding worthwhile jobs because employers know that at the age of 18 these lads will disappear into the Army to do their National Service and are not likely to come back. So a lad will drift from one job to another, and one gets episodes of vandalism in clubland, similar to the one at Camberwell recently. The head of the particular club, Mr. Butterworth, expressed the opinion that this was a deplorable piece of vandalism, and put peace-time conscription high among the causes, because when a boy reaches the age of 16 he says, "What does it matter, I have to go into the forces?"

I know that that will not prove palatable to some hon. Gentlemen, or to those who think that in any circumstances it is not fair to attribute juvenile delinquency to conscription, or to unite it with the lowering of moral standards which have been noticed by social workers, but which in the opinion of some cannot be attributed to the continuation of compulsory National Service in peace-time. We in this country are making the heaviest and most burdensome contribution to defence of all the countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation by continuing a two-year period of National Service longer than any country in the Commonwealth or in N.A.T.O.

Mr. Swingler

Would my hon. and gallant Friend not draw attention to the moral effect of conscription which has been mentioned in correspondence in "The Times" by very distinguished members of the Upper House, in which particular attention has been put on juvenile delinquency? I am sure we ought to devote our attention to that aspect.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I am aware that more authoritative persons share the view I am expressing, but as time is getting short I have not had an opportunity of weighing up all the evidence of witnesses who can be stated to be in support of the argument I am seeking to adduce.

In the Memorandum which accompanied the Estimates last year, we were given some information about courses for illiterates. There is no reference to those in this year's Memorandum, except in paragraph 145, where there is a bald statement that educational activities continue on the same lines. I hope they do. I should like to have some more information from the Under-Secretary on that point. Last year we were informed that there were five preliminary educational centres in the United Kingdom at which about 1,400 recruits a year were given instruction. These 1,400 men, who otherwise would have been rejected, are being raised to a standard of education which will enable them to be accepted into the Regular Army. Whatever may be the causes of this illiteracy or near-illiteracy, the Army education authorities are doing an excellent job in seeking to tackle the problem. As a result, they are making these men not only better soldiers but also better citizens. I hope the Undersecretary will be able to assure us that this useful activity is being continued and that it will be developed while the need for it exists.

I was particularly interested in the comments of several hon. Members opposite who said we needed more staff officers. The hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Colonel Harrison) expressed that view, and one of his reasons was the need for some counterpoise to or supervision of the new German divisions which we have agreed may be formed.

It strikes me as odd that the prospect of acquiring 12 German divisions to strengthen the European Defence Community should be regarded as a reason for increasing the number of our staff officers or for raising additional forces to act as a counterproise to the German contribution. This is not mentioned in the Estimates, but it is relevant: when the Government agreed that the Germans should contribute 12 divisions to European defence, other consequences inevitably followed. In my view, the European Defence Community will never come into being unless this country is prepared to join it. That will be an essential pre-requsite before France and possibly other countries will pull their full weight.

Mr. Swingler

Where does my hon. and gallant Friend get the figure of 12 divisions? It has been stated from Germany that they intend to raise at least 15 divisions, six to be Panzer divisions.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

That may well be. From the West German point of view 12 divisions probably represent merely a token force by comparison with what they would like to produce and are capable of producing. My hon. Friend's argument cuts both ways, because if they produce 15 to 20 divisions it may well be that we shall have to have more staff officers and a stronger contribution from this country and other Western countries to act as the counterpoise to which the Prime Minister has referred as essential in the present circumstances. If the Government mean business for Western defence, what they must say is how many ships, how many divisions, how many aircraft we intend to place under the command of the European Defence Community and what part we shall take in that command. That is a very apposite question which will have to be answered, and which may well have an interesting effect upon these Estimates.

Other hon. Gentlemen have been trying to find out for some time about the possible cost of our occupation forces in Germany. But their efforts so far have been unsuccessful. The only certain prognostication I can make is that when the time comes on 30th June, 1954; or some other date in the period we are now discussing, figures will emerge which are going to knock these Estimates sideways. It is no use trying to ride off on that issue, because the Under-Secretary knows as well as anyone that at some time or another there will be a very substantial addition to the expenses that this country-will have to undertake. Various figures have been quoted. I have seen figures up to £120 million. I do not know what the figure is. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary knows. Perhaps no one knows; but there is certainly going to be a figure which will have a very unsatisfactory effect upon the financial equilibrium of the country.

For some time I have been trying to find out about various constructions that have been going on at a place called München Gladbach in Germany, and it was with very great pleasure I saw some reference to this in paragraph 71 of the Memorandum. It is worth looking at, because it announces this for the first time, although I have asked questions on previous occasions and have had evasive replies. It states: The new joint headquarters for the commanders of the naval, land and air forces is making remarkable progress. It is intended to move into the new location in the late summer. This will permit the evacuation of large numbers of requisitioned premises in other parts of Germany. The project will on completion provide a satisfactory scale of amenity and there is every reason to be satisfied with the numbers, design and furnishing of the married quarters we are building, within the limits of size imposed by the need for economy. It appears that at this place west of the Rhine we are building married quarters, but I would remind the Undersecretary that he gave me some peculiar replies when I tried to find out about it. A year ago when we were debating the Supplementary Estimates I drew attention to the fact that it had come to my knowledge that a new headquarters for B.A.O.R. was being constructed at a cost of some £12½ million. On 9th December, 1952, I tried to find out from the Secretary of State for War to what extent the cost of this particular job was going to fall on the British taxpayer, and the answer I got was: That is dependent upon a certain number of factors into which I cannot go now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1952; Vol. 509, c. 220.] It looks as though these various mysterious factors have been gone into to some extent by someone, otherwise we should not have had this paragraph in the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates. This headquarters is to provide quarters for anything up to 8,000 people, so it will be an extensive sort of place. The figure I had when I raised the question in 1953 was £2 million. That is not the whole story, because the Under-Secretary endeavoured to answer when he wound up the debate on the Supplementary Estimate. He said: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1953; Vol. 510, c. 973.] I hope that we shall hear a little bit more about it, because it is referred to in the Memorandum. I should like to be directed to the appropriate item in the Estimates, if it appears there, or to the figures within which this transaction has been buried for the time being. It is now time for the whole business to come to light and for us to be given some information about it. I hope that that information will be forthcoming.

I turn to another topic in which I think that reorganisation is required and in which considerable economies could be effected. I refer to the medical services. I appreciate that special medical services have to be provided outside this country, but even there arrangements can be made, and are, I believe, being made, which would make it unnecessary for the Service Departments to construct entirely new hospitals of their own.

I see that, according to paragraph 40 of the Defence White Paper, there is a statement which is confirmed by paragraph 98 of the Memorandum. It is that a Committee has been set up to go into this problem. The reason for the difficulty is the shortage: of regular medical officers and particularly of specialists and surgeons … In the view of the authorities, that has presented a most difficult problem. We are now told that: Lord Waverley"— that gentleman always willing to accept the chairmanship of committees— has generously accepted the chairmanship of a committee to review the arrangements for providing medical and dental services for the Armed Services at home and abroad, in peace and war. The point I should like to make is that— [Interruption.] I am sorry if I awakened an hon. Member opposite. If I did, I apologise to him. He may now relapse into his slumbers and leave the rest of the world in peace. The point I wish to make is that the National Health Ser vice at home is capable of providing all the medical and surgical treatment of which troops stationed at home may find themselves in need. It is quite unnecessary, so far as troops stationed at home are concerned, to have separate military hospitals, R.A.M.C. officers and the whole paraphernalia of a separate hospital organisation. To a certain extent, it is even unnecessary to have such an arrangement abroad, and I was very pleased to see that the Service authorities—

Mr. Baird

On a point of order. This is a very important subject, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and there is no Government spokesman at all on the Treasury Bench. Could we move to report Progress until one arrives?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

We do not report Progress in the House, and an hon. Member is in the middle of a speech.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Then I shall have to do the best I can. I should like to thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, but I do not think it makes very much difference whether Government representatives are present or not. They might just as well go home and allow the Opposition to give expression to the needs of the situation and to discuss the problems involved in the statesmanlike manner expected of hon. Members on this side of the House. Therefore, I make no objection. However, I am glad to see that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has come in. I only wish he had done so a little earlier.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)

I was here.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

There is evidently a muster of forces taking place, and I apologise to the Joint Under-Secretary, who I know has a difficult time. Perhaps the Prime Minister himself will turn up in a minute, and then indeed we shall be a happy family party.

To return to the question of the Hertford British Hospital in Paris, about which I asked a Question a few weeks ago, because I had reason to believe— I am indeed flattered that the Secretary of State for War himself has arrived.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The eternal triangle.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I heard that negotiations of some kind were taking place with the committee of management of the Hertford British Hospital in Paris. The hospital has been going through a difficult time. It received an offer from Sir Bernard Docker, which it refused, and it has found itself in a situation of some financial embarrassment.

Here, I think, the Service Departments have been wise. I do not know to what extent hospital accommodation is required for British Service personnel in Paris, but if such accommodation and treatment is required in that city for our men, then, of course, much the more sensible thing to do is not to build another military hospital of our own, but to make use of existing services.

According to the answer I received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, it will cost about £100,000 to put this hospital in order. The committee of management is to contribute £20,000, and the Service Departments, presumably, will find the other £80,000. As a result, certain beds will be available to Service men, and a small allocation of beds will continue to be available to British civilians residing in Paris.

I shall be glad if the Under-Secretary of State for War can say, if not today, then at some future date, how many beds are going to be made available to British Service personnel as a result of this expenditure of £80,000, which, I am quite sure, is far less than it would cost to build a British military hospital in Paris. I understand that the French Government are also placing at our disposal a small section of a French hospital at Fontainebleau for the use of British Service personnel. It looks at if we are going to save some money at any rate by not constructing a new hospital. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence has now arrived. We now have almost the whole bag of tricks here—and what a bag of tricks they are.

The point I am making is this. What is good for us in Paris is good for us in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That remark appears to have been received by hon. Members opposite with approbation. It is probably the first thing I have said which has received their approval. The same principle could well be applied here in this country, and the cost of the Army medical services considerably reduced by making use of the facilities available to the general body of citizens under the National Health Service scheme.

We heard an eloquent speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) about the moral care and welfare of young men in the Forces. It is quite true that when parents read about certain things they have a right to be anxious about the welfare of their young lads of 18 who are taken away from home and placed in other surroundings for two years.

In that connection, I suggest to the War Office that it should exercise some better care in the kind of books which are apparently distributed through the N.A.A.F.I. organisation to Service men— books which, in the opinion of some people, are obscene and which should not be circulated through official channels to the young men serving in the Army today. We have no control over what goes on through unofficial channels, but at least the official channels of distribution should not be used for the dissemination of literature which cannot be regarded as of high moral value.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley drew attention to the very curious chop-and-change tactics adopted by the Government in respect of pay and allowances. The Code of Pay now resembles the arm of a drug fiend with hypodermic syringe marks all along the arm. The hypodermic syringe is injecting a boost from time to time for different purposes. That is what the Government are doing with their differential pay schemes announced at almost regular intervals.

The result of this process must be this. I should imagine that there can hardly be a battalion in the British Army where there are two men drawing the same rate of pay. What the problem must be to the unfortunate clerk in the company office and the poor officer who has got to do the regimental accounts, heaven only knows. The position is becoming quite fantastic, as will be seen if hon. Members trouble to examine this document entitled "Service Emoluments."

The War Office and the other Service Departments are injecting differentials into the pay code at frequent intervals, and these selective improvements must, of course, give rise to very serious complications; because in respect of these selective improvements the White Paper on Service emoluments admits that each Service has somewhat differing problems and requirements, and there are, therefore, some variations in the form and incidence of the improvements.

That sounds a very easy thing to say, but there are unfortunate clerks and officers in the Royal Army Pay Corps and in the equivalent units in the other two Services who have to administer all this, and the position is becoming increasingly complicated. The time will soon be reached when a man, in order to find out exactly what he is entitled to by way of pay and allowances, will have to consult an accountant and a lawyer, possibly under the Army Legal Aid Scheme, or by some other provision which will enable him to know exactly where he is. Last year in the Memorandum which accompanied the Estimates we got up to the six-star private. This year a seven-star private has now appeared on the scene, and we have also Group A and Group B tradesmen, Class 1 and Class B, and now a new group is being devised, Group X, Group X1, and there is probably a Group X2.

My sympathies go out to the people who, in the various Army pay and record offices, have to administer this complicated phantasmagoria. Even the most experienced warrant officers can become completely bamboozled by this very complicated structure that has now been devised, and I can best illustrate my point by quoting an example of a warrant officer, one of my constituents, who retired from the Army recently after doing 21 years' service or thereabouts. It is interesting, because I want the House to know how complicated this situation is, and how unjustly these long-service Regulars are treated when the time comes for them to take their discharge and how they are misled and what a disastrous effect it has upon recruiting.

This man, who enlisted in August, 1932, was discharged in 1953 after 21 years' Regular service with the Army, without the usual 28 days' terminal leave to which he considered he was entitled. I took up the matter with the War Office, and it took all the resources of the War Office about a month to work out the sum. And, if it takes the War Office a month to work out the sum, how much longer would it take someone in the Pay Office or in the company office of a lower formation—

Mr. Mikardo

A fortnight less.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

That may well be, and in those circumstances I am sorry that I took up the matter with the Undersecretary of State for War. Nevertheless, let us get back to the facts of the situation. They are these. He was discharged under the old Pay Code and he was informed, both by his unit and by a letter from the Record Office, that he would not be eligible for terminal leave. They had done their stuff. But, unfortunately, he was discharged under an authority which entitled him to terminal leave, so that by mistake on the part of someone in the Record Office responsible for quoting the exact authority under which he was discharged, he got the 28 days' terminal leave to which otherwise he might not have been entitled.

While this battle was going on to let him have his 28 days' terminal leave after 21 years' service, he suddenly received another letter from the Service authorities to inform him that he was retired under the old rate of pension of £1 a week less than he otherwise would have received and that his terminal grant of £275 to which he had looked forward would not be paid to him.

It is true that he did not complete the 22 years' service which would have enabled him to receive the higher rate of pension and terminal grant. He was misled because he had either to have served continuously for 21 years or have had a total of 22 years' completed service. There is no point in going into the details. [HON. MEMBERS: "GO on."] This man joined up in 1932 and was discharged into the Reserve in August, 1939. For a period of two days between his relegation to the Reserve and the outbreak of war he was in the Reserve, and it is those two days that have knocked him off the new code which would have entitled him to the new pension.

The War Office has thought out a remarkable and generous proposition The authorities there inquired and discovered that this man enlisted for 12 years in August, 1932, seven years with the Colours and five with the Reserve. He transferred to the Reserve on 8th July, 1939, before his full period of 12 years was completed, and then was mobilised again on 2nd September, 1939. In August, 1944, he re-engaged to complete his 21 years' service. On 31st March. 1953, he re-engaged to complete 22 years' service. The reason he re-engaged was that he thought lie could cover the period just before the war when he was in the Reserve. He thought that he would thus establish his 21 years' reckonable service.

Unfortunately, the War Office discovered that by taking his discharge in November, 1952, he neither had 22 years' full-pay service nor the alternative qualification of 21 years' continuous service. Here is this poor warrant officer with a long record of useful work, who has tried to plan his affairs within the regulations as he understood them after consulting his company officer. He is home and has a job, and the War Office then say that the only way in which he can be helped is to allow him to apply for re-enlistment for one year's service and thus complete 22 years' full-pay service to earn the new pension and terminal grant.

The War Office says that it must be understood, of course, that his acceptance for re-enlistment must be subject to his medical fitness. If he re-enlists he will then be sent back to rejoin his unit, which is at present in the Middle East. That is the dilemma which faces my unfortunate constituent. He goes back to qualify for higher pension for which he thought he was qualified. He is now privileged to rejoin for another year and to go back to the Middle East, if he is medically fit, to qualify for the full pension under the new code.

My constituent, who is a decent fellow, has pointed out that his pension on the present basis is 28s. 11d. after 21 years' service with the Army, whilst his father, an unskilled labourer on the railway for 10 years, get 19s. 10d. The question he put to me, to which there is no answer, was: "Surely the service I have given to my country is just as much, in proportion, as the service rendered by my father as an unskilled labourer on the railways for 10 years, as a result of which he gets a pension almost approaching the one I am drawing now."

I hope that the Under-Secretary, with whom I have had a certain amount of correspondence on this matter, will take a sympathetic view and not treat an old Service man in this way. I know the hon. Gentleman is entitled to the strict letter of the law and to adopt the course he has followed, but the damage done to recruiting prospects in a neighbourhood where a man goes about for the rest of his life with a grievance of this kind far outweighs the small additional expense which I am asking the War Office as an act of grace, without any liability, to incur in this case.

A further point requires to be mentioned before I sit down. It relates to what has been a very long-standing grievance on the part of the Musician's Union about the competition to which they are subjected by Service military bands. It is an old story and the Labour Government did their best to deal with the grievance. It may be of interest to hon. Members to know that in 1909 this union arranged for a barge to float past the House of Commons with a civilian military band playing while Parliament was assembled in order to draw attention to their grievances, which were manifest as long ago as that. I am informed by the union that the police were very active in restraining demonstrations after that.

The field of military band music is now entirely controlled by Service military bands and similar State-subsidised bands. Until 1943 there was a B.B.C. military band, which was recognised as the finest in the country, but it was disbanded in March, 1943, and the B.B.C. now use, almost exclusively, Service military bands and popular brass bands. During the 1939–1945 war the need for entertainment in the Services was very great and there was a substantial enrolment of civilian musicians into the Services, which resulted in a very large rise in Service dance bands. Some of them have become well-known. They include the "Squadronaires," the "Sky Rockets" and the "Blue Rockets," which have performed on the music halls and the B.B.C. from time to time.

In 1942 an Army Council Instruction was issued to clarify the situation. The object of the instruction was to regularise the activities of military bands, concert parties, and things of that kind. Now this Army Council Instruction laid it down, as a statement of policy, that it was not the function of the Army to entertain the public, and that such activities should be kept down to a minimum. That was the A.C.I, of 1942, but the position again became difficult after the war because, under that A.C.I., bands were not permitted to accept fees; and if fees were paid, they had to go direct to the welfare funds of the particular unit. But after the war practically every regimental band produced a dance band, and these undertook civilian engagements. A protest was made to the Secretary of State for War, and there followed discussions between the Musicians' Union and the War Office and A.C.I. 221 of 1949 was consequently produced and reinforced by a letter dated 6th April, 1949, which put these Service dance bands on the basis where they were permitted to continue civilian engagements for payment.

This A.C.I, of 1949 stated, as to the conditions for accepting that payment, that a careful discretion would have to be exercised before entering into a contract. The bands would not, for example, be allowed to assist any political party, although I think there have been instances of Service bands being employed in such a manner. It was further laid down that they should not become engaged in partisan or controversial activities. But, this A.C.I, has not been so scrupulously observed as some of us would have wished. The other provision in this A.C.I, is that the proposed fee would not be at a rate below the commercial scale appropriate to, and acceptable to, the locality, and which might be offered to a civilian band of equal strength. It was further agreed that the Service band would not replace a civilian band on strike, nor cut its fees against any other Service band.

Now all this sounds like a reasonable lot of provisions—if observed. But these provisions, set out in the A.C.I, to which I have referred, and backed up by a War Office letter, were not properly carried out. They were not followed at all faithfully. They did not have the effect of seeing that the restrictions were carried out in so far as the outside engagements were concerned; and I am informed that the Musicians' Union made innumerable protests to the War Office, asking that this A.C.I, should be more closely observed; that this type of engagement should be kept to a minimum, and pointing out that these dance bands were not obtaining engagements, as was intended, from past and present members of their parent regiments. Another ground for complaint was that the spirit of the A.C.I., which was the avoidance of displacing a civilian band, was not being kept. That Instruction was intended, in the view of the Musicians' Union, to mean that Service bands should not accept engagements where there was a long record of civilian bands having been employed. I propose to quote one or two actual instances to prove my point that the complaints of the Musicians' Union are not without foundation.

Between June, 1951, and August, 1952, the Royal Artillery Band at Woolwich performed engagements which represented a possible loss of employment to members of civilian bands which in earnings was in excess of £8,000. The other case to which I must refer is that of the Weymouth Corporation, which engaged military bands from June to September, although for the previous five years civilian bands had been exclusively employed. That represented a loss to the civilian musicians of approximately £4,500.

I think the complaints of the Musicians' Union are abundantly justified. It is not in the interest of individual Service men. The Service Departments have accepted the proposition that the comprehensive fee charged for any civilian engagement should be equated to the current Musicians' Union rate of pay. Therefore it is wrong to allow a state of affairs to continue in which these Army bands receive less than is appropriate to the trade union rate for the engagement they are fulfilling.

The Union is not only protecting the civilian musician but also the position of the Service musician who does not stay in the Army all his life. It will be a poor consolation to him to find when he returns to civil life that his rate of pay is being undercut by Army bands. If Service bands are to continue to undertake civilian work in competition with civilian bands, I consider that there is no logical reason why other Service trade groups should not be given similar facilities.

The hospitals are short-staffed, so why not put in a few R.A.M.C. personnel at cut prices to help them? Or perhaps the engineers or Army drivers could do a little job at an undercutting price when the opportunity presented itself, apart, of course, from times of national emergency when other considerations would apply. The War Office letter of April, 1949, made it quite clear.

Commanding Officers and officers administering bands will, therefore, keep this type of engagement to the minimum. They will take care to avoid displacing a civilian combination that has a long standing record of previous employment for the particular occasion. Dance bands should so far as possible obtain their engagements from past and present members of their regiments and from associations "—

Mr. Swingler

Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that this complaint has been made before by the Musicians' Union year after year, but we have never heard whether the War Office has ever done anything about it?

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Yes. And it looks as if no action will be taken, as will be seen from the further evidence I am going to provide.

I was quoting from the War Office letter of April, 1949. I do not know whether I completed my final sentence, which was as follows, if I may go back to the beginning: Dance bands should, so far as possible, obtain their engagements from past and present members of their regiments and from associations formed there from and not indulge in unrestricted competition with civilian dance bands. Service bands are, I believe, the only branch of the Services which are permitted by the regulations to undertake civilian employment again. That is generally accepted. It is unfortunately the fact that, despite those Army Council Instructions, and despite the War Office letter to which I referred, which sets out the position in reasonably specific terms, civilian musicians are displaced and suffer loss of earnings as a result of the acceptance of civilian engagements by Service dance bands in particular.

I propose to quote three very recent cases in which there is clear evidence of unfair competition: that is to say, undercutting of established and agreed rates of pay, unrestricted competition from a Service band, or displacement of civilian musicians by a Service band.

In the first case a complaint was made to the War Office in August, 1953, against the band of the Royal Engineers which had accepted a military band engagement for one week at Scarborough during the summer season at a comprehensive fee—I should like the House to note this—representing an undercutting of agreed trade union rates of pay by £112 10s.

The rates of pay are agreed between the Musicians' Union and the Association of Health and Pleasure Resorts, of which Scarborough is a member. I ask the House also to note that these rates of pay were known to the War Office. Despite that, the War Office accepted as satisfactory a certificate issued to the director of music of the band by the authorities at Scarborough.

I know what the War Office mind is like. The War Office will say that the band of the Royal Engineers cannot be held responsible for non-compliance with the terms of any agreement to which it was not a party. We know that the band was not a party to any agreement between the Musicians' Union and the Scarborough local authority, but surely it is somebody's job—or it should be—to see that Service bands are not used as blackleg labour to cut the ground from under the feet of civilian musicians.

It is not good enough that the War Office should shelter behind a technicality of that kind. The War Office says that it is not its legal responsibility. Nevertheless, there is evidence of undercutting and evasion of the regulations and yet the War Office, under its present management, regards it as a matter which does not merit any interest or action on its part.

Mr. Wigg

My hon. and gallant Friend keeps looking in this direction, but I hope that he and the House realise that the enemy is on the Government side of the House. That is where we shall find the enemy of trade unionism which is deliberately trying to do down the Musicians' Union.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I hope that my hon. Friend did not think that because I was looking at him in the course of some of my remarks I was holding him responsible in some way for what is going on. I know that the enemy is on the Government side of the House. I have become rather tired of looking at the Government side of the Chamber since about 3.30 p.m. yesterday, and I decided to direct my gaze elsewhere in order to relieve the monotony.

A further complaint was made to the War Office that the band of the Worcestershire Regiment was entering into unrestricted competition with civilian bandsmen in the neighbourhood. This particular band had included 23 civilian engagements in 17 months, which was not apparently regarded by the War Office as unrestricted competition. In any event, the War Office attitude was that the interpretation or definition of unrestricted competition referred to in the Army Council Instruction was a matter for them alone. They would not accept it, nor agree to any further discussion of the matter. In those circumstances, the War Office decided that no further action should be taken.

The third and last case I am going to quote is of a Service band which, in spite of vigorous protests by local musicians, accepted engagements at Darlington and Morecambe, and as a result of the failure of the War Office to honour the Army Council Instruction civilian members of the union of long standing record of employment have had to have recourse to the only action remaining to them and tell the employers that no civilian bands would accept an offer of employment. We do not want this hostility between the Service and civilian bands. We like to see Service bands doing their stuff at the proper rate of pay, but the local dance hall in Darlington or Morecambe cannot always rely on the Service band coming back. If the Labour Party conference ever goes back to Morecambe, we shall have to look into this.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That part of the argument has nothing to do with the Estimates.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I agree.

Mr. J. Johnson

Before my hon. Friend leaves this fascinating story, can he tell us whether there is a share out of the fees, or do they go into a regimental pool?

Lieut-Colonel Lipton

According to the Army Council Instruction of 1949, which still governs the situation, the position about fees is as follows: No fee will be charged for parades and entertainments held as part of Army duty. That is the first thing.

Second, no fee is charged where any profits are applied wholly to the Army Benevolent Fund, or where the band plays at any Government sponsored scheme for a national object. Out of pocket expenses only are not charged where the purpose is wholly for the benefit of a bona fide Service (past or present) charity like S.S.A.F.A., or for regimental functions. Full rate of fees will be charged on all other occasions, unless special War Office authority has been obtained to the contrary. I must have a look at some other part of the Army Council Instruction to find out where the money goes. It is not clear in the A.C.I, where the proceeds of the fees go when full rates are charged. It does not appear in the Army Council Instruction.

Mr. Johnson

Ask the Under-Secretary if he is prepared to give that information.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I am sure that the Under-Secretary knows the answer to the question and will be able to give us all the information we may require, but it is not by job to go through all the regulations to try to interpret them or to explain the curious motives which possibly account for the attitude which has been adopted by the War Office in this matter.

It should be remembered that prior to 1939–45 the present regulations covered only the acceptance of employment by Service military bands, and other Services were prohibited from accepting paid engagements at all. Service dance bands are now apparently placed on the establishment and permitted to accept paid engagements under the regulations.

It is therefore evident that the original intention of the regulations has been extended and that competition experienced by civilian bandsmen has been intensified. I think it is very reasonable on the part of the Musicians' Union to suggest that the authority at present given to Service bands to accept civilian engagements should be withdrawn and the bands restricted to the purpose for which they were originally formed, namely, entertaining the troops and marching at the head of military processions.

I hope that the Under-Secretary is taking counsel on this point and will be able to make an announcement which will provide some satisfaction to many hundreds, if not thousands, of decent men and women, loyal subjects of Her Majesty, in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have a definite grievance as a result of the way in which the War Office is apparently subsidising unfair competition and undercutting the wage rates of a useful section of the population which makes a contribution to the pleasure of many citizens throughout the country.

There are many other points I should like to mention, but time is getting on and I do not want to deprive some of my hon. Friends, who have trains to catch on Saturday night, of the opportunity of making their contributions to what so far has been a very valuable debate and which I am sure, by reason of the further contributions which will be made, will be even more valuable and instructive to the authorities in charge of the British Army.

8.24 a.m.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Reading, South)

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), at the beginning of his speech, which, with an effort, I can just recall, made some complaint about the fact that praise had earlier been heaped on the Secretary of State for War for his speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who spoke earlier, also seemed to take umbrage at the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had been praised for the speech with which he opened the debate. I hasten to reassure my hon. Friends by reminding them that, at least from this side of the House, the Secretary of State was praised for the manner and not the matter of his speech, not for what he said but for being able to remember to say it all.

Having said that, I want to praise him, not for his speech but for the Memorandum with which the Estimates have been accompanied, which is a worthy effort, not so much intrinsically but by comparison with the parallel efforts of the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty. By comparison with these other two documents this Memorandum is much more interesting, informative and evocative than those dealing with the work of the First Lord or the Secretary of State for Air. It is also written in much better English and it has a better style. If it is in fact the work of its signatory—although one must not inquire too closely about that—I should like to suggest to him, without threatening a split in the Government, that he offers his services to his colleagues as a "ghost" writer of their Memoranda. By that means the Memoranda accompanying the Navy and Air Estimates will be greatly improved.

Although this is an interesting, instructive and evocative document, it will be generally agreed that the most interesting, instructive and evocative part is not so much the text written in the right hon. Gentleman's impeccable style but the map which accompanies the document. That map is spotted all over with red in a manner which brings home more vividly than ever before, even to those who have expert knowledge of the Army and its dispositions, how far flung indeed are our commitments and how, in fact, the Army is distributed in penny packets far too thinly over far too long a line for anyone's comfort, including the comfort of the Secretary of State.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I do not want my hon. Friend to be misled. This map is not absolutely complete. The halfpenny and farthing packets about the world are not mentioned at all, including the unit at Akabar.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must not make another speech.

Mr. Mikardo

I take my hon. and gallant Friend's point. If the map is not complete I take it that is not because the right hon. Gentleman wanted to deceive us but only because if he had tried to add anything further the map would have been totally indecipherable. Here we see confirmed as never before the arguments of all those of my hon. Friends who have been saying over the last five years or more that we really will not get any sense out of our defence policy unless we stop behaving like a frog trying to blow itself up into an ox.

We are trying to pretend to be a first-class Power of the order of the United States or the Soviet Union. We have not got the material resources for that. What we have done is to build ourselves an enormous shop window and put all our goods in the window and to leave the counters and shelves totally bare. That has been done to pretend that our shop is as good and as well stocked as that of Mr. America and Mr. Russia, and that pretence really does not come off.

There is a section of the Memorandum, covering paragraphs 116 to 132, which is headed "Armaments and Stores." Here I think the right hon. Gentleman has been rather less informative than he might have been, and less informative than his other Service colleagues have been. Although the Secretary of State describes the work of his Department in this field, he does not say, as his two colleagues said of their Departments, whether the production of armaments and stores in the past year was up to what had been planned; or, if not, by how much it fell short, and why.

I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he is less than fair to the House because of this omission. To an ever-increasing extent, as he knows better than I, the tasks which he has are dependent for their fulfilment on his ability correctly to estimate needs in armaments, stores and equipment, and his ability to get those needs fulfilled. It really is a vital question for anybody who desires to consider the defensive position of the country to have some indication, such as we have had from the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether what has been planned has actually been forthcoming or, if not, why not and by how much actual output has fallen short of what had been planned. We cannot know in detail precisely what is being planned, because in order to tell that the right hon. Gentleman would have to reveal information which doubtless he would want to withhold from a potential enemy.

I was glad that the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) mentioned—he was the only speaker in the debate who did mention it—the brief and perfunctory reference to the Home Guard in a single paragraph of the Memorandum. It is a force of which I have some very pleasant and lively memories and in which I learned a great deal, including a number of card games I had not come across before. It is a force in which, as a result of several years of blind devotion to duty and unfaithful obedience to my officers, I rose to the rank of private.

The paragraph on the Home Guard is an evasive one. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered. We are told that the numbers now are 62,000, of which 34,000 are in the Home Guard and 28,000 are in a Reserve Roll. The hon. Member for Hitchin gave us a microcosm of the picture drawn in this paragraph from his own experience in his own county. He gave some indication of the extent to which recruitment for the Home Guard has fallen short of what was expected and wanted, and of the extent to which even the recruits that are there only partially fulfil their duty.

The Secretary of State owes it to the House to fill in for the whole country the picture that the hon. Member drew for his own county. What proportion of the establishment, or of the total at which the right hon. Gentleman was aiming, is represented by this 62,000 or by the 34,000 which is the active Home Guard? Alternatively, by whatever is the figure that measures the number of members of the Home Guard who are actually turning up for their duties less than 34,000?

The right hon. Gentleman owes it to the House to tell us whether he has given up the Home Guard as a bad job and is prepared to see it vanish and is merely continuing it as a sort of face-saver because he dare not say, for one reason or another, that he has given it up as a bad job. I note with interest that there is a fall in the Vote from last year compared with the coming year on the provision for the Home Guard from £703,000 to £616,000. That is over 12 per cent., and at that rate it would not take many years for the provision for the Home Guard to vanish altogether.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to "come clean" with the House about this, and to tell us what has gone wrong with the Home Guard. Is it merely, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley suggested, that the people are not enrolling because they are disillusioned about the rearmament of Germany against which they enrolled to fight the last time, or is it, as I rather suspect, because they do not see what their function is going to be?

The enthusiasm with which the original L.D.V., which later became the Home Guard, was enrolled was due not merely to the imminence of war, but to the fact that the people who enrolled in it were given a job to do. We all know that a man reacts very well when he is told, "Here is a job for you. Get on with it." The job which the L.D.V. was told to do, at the period when we were expecting an airborne German invasion, was to watch for paratroops and to offer the first resistance to them when they came.

That was something which they could picture in their mind's eye. What is the Home Guard recruit to picture in his mind's eye today as the task for which he is being enrolled? We have the Government's word for it that a war would start with a terrific atomic attack, doubtless both ways, in which the Home Guard could play no role. In the event of such a war, any major role in that phase of it would be played by the Civil Defence service, if we had one, which, as the Select Committee on Estimates recently demonstrated, we have not.

Therefore, there would be no function in that phase of the war for the Home Guard. Then we are told that when that phase is over we shall have a period of "broken-backed" war, whatever that may mean. I am not sure, but I think it is fairly clear that no Home Guard can be sure what it means, and, therefore, no Home Guard can derive from that phrase any evocation of any role which he would be expected to play. I suspect that no recruits are coming forward because men do not know what they are being asked to join for, and unless and until the Government can tell them—and I suspect that they cannot tell them while they adhere to the theory of the future war as laid down in the Defence White Paper —there will be no improvement in the recruitment situation.

One of the things which lead me to believe that the Government are, in fact, going to permit this force to die and that they are merely keeping it on the record as a face-saving device, is the existence of this so-called Home Guard Reserve Roll. Under Vote 2, there is an explanatory note on this, which ends as follows: The names of volunteers who, for any reason, cannot be enrolled in peace are borne on the Home Guard Reserve Roll, which is a roll of individuals who have been earmarked for enrolment in an emergency. I ask the Government spokesman who is to reply to this debate whether he really expects us to swallow this. Here are these men who are not being enrolled at all. This is just a list of names. They are not being called up for training. What they are going to be like when they are called up, one does not know. I should be perfectly prepared to wager that, in common with most of their fellow citizens, they will forget to notify the Home Guard Reserve Roll whenever they change their address. I am perfectly sure that when it comes to it, if it ever does, we shall find that these 28,000 men consist partly of people who have vanished into thin air, or partly of people who for other reasons will be unable to enrol, or who, because they have had no training, will not be of much use if they do. I beg the Government to be frank with us about this matter.

I have one other general point to make before I deal with the Army Estimates. It is a point with which I will deal very briefly, not because I do not think it is important—indeed, it is very important— but because I dealt with it at some length in the debate on the Air Estimates and it so happened that the Secretary of State for War and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence were present during that debate. I think they will have taken what little value there may have been in my observations on the subject at that time, so that I do not need to repeat them now.

The point relates to the inter-Departmental charges. There has been a tremendous amount of accounting work, as one will see from examination of the Service Estimates, merely to render charges from one Department to another. I am bound to say that it does not appear to be so bad in the Army Estimates as it does in the Estimates for the other two Services. The Navy seems to be the worst offender of the three, because it insists on working out oncosts, which are always difficult and complicated to calculate.

I am glad to have the opportunity of putting this matter to a representative of the Ministry of Defence rather than to one of the Services because it seems to me to be a matter which could best be tackled by the Ministry of Defence. I should like to know whether some small expert committee, perhaps assisted by some people from the Organisation and Methods Division of the Treasury and some accountants from outside, could be set up to see whether some of these inter-Departmental charges can be abolished; and, secondly, whether some of those that must remain can be done on a greater basis of approximation than is being done at present.

I want to mention five small points of detail on the Estimates themselves. We had a Ruling from Mr. Speaker when this debate began, and this is our opportunity for raising the detailed points on Votes other than Vote A, because they cannot be discussed in any other way. The first of these points is really of the greatest importance. It has already been mentioned once or twice by one or two of my hon. Friends who have asked for information about it. I want to add reinforcement to their plea because this is something that the House must be told.

At the beginning of the Army Estimates, on page 6, there appear these words: Local procurement in Germany. The Army's local requirements in Germany are obtained generally at the expense of the German Federal Government. No provision is made in Army Estimates for requirements so met. As I said in an intervention some time ago, we are all aware that the moment the Bonn Contractual Agreements and the E.D.C. Treaty come into force, this note ceases to be true. From that moment we shall not only have to pay for the Army's local requirements in Germany, but we shall have to pay for them in a currency which is hard and which every day is becoming increasingly harder. It may transpire that these Agreements will come into force during the year which we have under discussion, and in that case there will be an additional amount to pay over and above this Estimate.

Nobody can blame the Secretary of State for War for not making provision for such a contingency, because although I suspect that he has a pretty shrewed idea of what will be the annual rate of costs in this connection, he cannot possibly have any idea at all, nor can anybody else, of the date from which this cost will start to be incurred, or indeed whether it will begin to be incurred in the year under discussion. But although, because of these reasons, he cannot provide in the Estimates for this, he must surely have had this question very much in mind, and so must the other two Service Departments, especially the Air Force.

Here we have had hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley making a plea to do more and more of the training of our strategic Reserve in Germany, and every time they make that plea they are, in fact, making making a plea for more and more of our Service expenditure to be paid for in hard currency. I make this point because, in the economics of the relationships between the defence burden and the other burdens on our economy, this aspect plays an important part.

When we discussed this matter a little while ago there were some hon. Members, I think on both sides of the House, who argued that whatever the disadvantages and the military repercussions of the build-up of the German defence forces, we should get some economies out of the fact that Germany would now have to devote some of its engineering resources to armaments, which it does not do at the moment, and, therefore, we should be to that extent relieved, and British manufacturers would not be so hardly hit in export markets by German competition. There is a great deal of truth in that, but if our exporters are relieved by that means from competition in export markets, and, therefore, do more business, the first £100 million or £150 million of extra business they do in a year will have to go to meet the Deutschmark cost of these expenses in Germany.

I hope that the Government spokesman who replies to the debate will give the House the best idea he can form of these costs—we cannot expect it to be precise. I can only say to the hon. Gentleman that in Western Germany they are saying that they will get from us, when these Agreements come into force, something of the order of 150 million Deutschmarks a month, which is roughly £150 million sterling per annum. Is that about right, and if so, is that going to be, firstly, an additional charge over and above this Vote? Secondly, am I right in assuming that it will have to be paid in hard currency? If so, does not that throw quite a light different from that which we were led to expect on the economic effect upon us of the build-up of arms in Western Germany?

I pass to another point which arises on Vote 1. I want to ask a question about this because it illustrates a point which I have made already. Amongst the appropriations-in-aid are receipts for the services of soldiers employed temporarily on civil work of urgent national importance. I take it that the sort of thing here included is the kind of work which some units of the Army did, and did magnificently, in dealing with the flood damage which we had on the East Coast a year ago. If that is the kind of thing, then what on earth is the sense of charging for it?

Here we had the Government announcing and reiterating several times that a matter of emergency like that was to be treated as a national matter, that we could not ask the local authorities to bear the cost of it, and so Government money was made available in considerable amounts. What is the sense of the Government generously giving money to deal with that emergency situation on the one hand and then on the other sending a bill from the Army debiting Lowestoft Borough Council for the services of soldiers and the cost of so many sandbags? Where is the sense of all that when, in the end, the money comes out of the same pocket?

There is another point in relation to Vote 3. The Secretary of State for War, in introducing the Estimates, made the announcement, which was greeted with approval from both sides of the House, that he was proposing to reduce the amount of paper work. It looks to me from what little evidence one can obtain about future trends from these Votes, that the right hon. Gentleman does not expect the reduction in paper work to result in much saving in personnel.

I greatly admire the assiduity with which the Under-Secretary of State for War has listened to this debate and made notes of a long series of questions that have been asked of him. Will he add this question to his list: what is a paper keeper? In several places in these Estimates where personnel are listed there are people called paper keepers. They are not filing clerks, because they are not included under that head. They are not included in the clerical staff, and I adjudge that they do not keep things like archives or serious documents, because they are not included among librarians.

What are paper keepers? What sort of papers do they keep? Is it cigarette papers? If the Secretary of State is going on a paper chase to reduce the amount of paper, may I ask why, for example, among the civilian staff of the Department of his Permanent Under-Secretary of State there will be in the coming year not a decrease but an increase in the number of paper keepers? Presumably he would not have more paper keepers unless they have more paper to keep. How does the Under-Secretary of State reconcile this fact with the statement of his right hon. Friend that there will be some reduction in paper work this year?

The House will be relieved to hear that I have only two further points to make. One is in connection with Vote 6, Subhead A—"Food and Ration Allowance." I find no difficulty in understanding the first item under that Subhead relating to food, but I am a little puzzled by the second item devoted to ration allowance. I cannot understand why a sharp increase is forecast of more than £1 million, which is rather more than 10 per cent. The explanatory note states: Ration allowance based on retail prices is issued to personnel who are entitled to rations, and to whom no ration in kind is issued; the rates of ration allowance vary with the appropriate ration scales at home and abroad and are revised periodically to meet changes in prices, etc. When I began to wonder why the global amount of the ration allowance had gone up, the first thing that occurred to me was that prices had gone up. But, of course, as we have been so frequently told by the Chancellor and other Ministers, and indeed by the Prime Minister in letters written to Conservative candidates at by-elections, I then remembered that the cost of living and prices are not going up. Therefore, this increase in ration allowance cannot possibly be due to an increase in the price of food.

Does it come from an increase in the number of people to whom an allowance is made? The answer is "No," because we are told in the Memorandum that in the coming year the number of men in the Army will be 13,000 fewer than in the present year. So far as I am aware, there is no change in the incidence of leaves for which ration allowances are made. I ask the Under-Secretary if he can solve the mystery and explain why it is that, in a situation in which food prices, as we are told, are not rising, it costs £1 million more to give ration allowances to 13,000 fewer men.

Finally, I wish to raise a matter which I raised the other day on the Navy Estimates. I did not get any reply from the Admiralty, but I am quite sure that I shall get one from the hon. Gentleman because he would not show such discourtesy as not to reply to an important point like this. I ask, as I asked his colleague, by what right does the Army imagine that it is a better judge than the officer concerned as to when and whether it is right for an officer to get married? How can the hon. Gentleman justify the provision of a marriage allowance for an officer who is 25 years of age, or more, and no allowance for an officer who marries before the age of 25?

I put it to the hon. Gentleman that this is really a hangover from the days of the Duke of Wellington. It is a hangover from the days when officers were not just discouraged from marrying before a certain age, but were actually forbidden in some of the regiments of the Army, I understand, to marry before a certain age. That was in the days of advanced Victorian paternalism, when each generation thought it knew better than the generation coming on about what was good for the generation that was coming on. We have now abandoned all that and, as we have been told, have got a considerable majority of men in the Army under the age of 25. We have been told, and we have heard it with pleasure, that a much higher level of intelligence, knowledge and responsibility is evinced by the young officer than was the case even a few years ago.

Is the War Office really saying that a young man, into whose hands it will trust not merely hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment, but dozens and perhaps hundreds of invaluable lives, cannot be trusted until the magic day on which he passes from being 24 and 364 days old to being 25 years and nought days old to decide for himself the sort of girl he ought to marry? This is a piece of arrogance on the part of the Army which has no justification. I shall be delighted to hear from the hon. Gentleman that he will ask his colleagues to see if they can depart from the rigid habit and prejudice which has led them to that conclusion.

8.59 a.m.

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

This is probably the last Parliamentary day on which we shall have an opportunity of a free discussion of the Service Estimates without being crushed by the Guillotine. Some hours ago the Secretary of State for War made a remarkable speech. I thought it was a remarkable speech for the head of a Service Department, because he cut out all the customary cant and complacency we usually get from the Ministers of the Service Departments. He addressed himself seriously to the matter of what has became a barrage of criticism of the Service Departments because they are demanding from the nation a total of more than £1,600 million this year.

There is one thing the right hon. Gentleman omitted to say. He said nothing about the programme and plan of expenditure on the Army during last year, or the two previous years. He passed over completely the position and place of the Army in the three years' rearmament programme adopted in 1951. I should like to draw attention to what has happened to that, because I believe that that is the correct starting point for consideration of this claim of the Army for more than £620 millions this year.

Three years ago there was adopted the so-called £4,700 million re-armament programme. It was for all three Services, and the Army's share in that total sum was said to be £767 million. Of course, we were told by the political spokesmen for the Army at that time that that was the absolute minimum expenditure necessary for the Army and its equipment, and that this expenditure had been thoroughly thought out; we were told that a balance had been struck between the amount of manpower and equipment required by the Army for its commitments, and to prepare it for global war. That sum was passed by the House without dissent, although not without criticism of the War Office.

What has happened to that "absolute minimum" of £767 million demanded by the Army for the period 1951 to 1954? The first answer is that the Army has been unable, despite strenuous efforts, to spend more than £616 million, so that there has been an underspending of just over £150 million in those three years. It is interesting to note that if that expenditure is converted into value; ruling in 1950 when this plan of expenditure was first adopted, we find that the worth of this expenditure of £616 million since 1951 is actually £525 million worth of men, materials and equipment.

So the real "cut" in three years in this programme of what was held out to the House as an absolute minimum of expenditure for the Army is £240 million, and we are now told by the Minister of Supply: "Of course that programme of expenditure was wholly unrealistic, and not in accord with the capacity of the time."I think that that should be the starting point from now on for all consideration of Service Estimates, because the Service Department got the approval for the money from Parliament year by year virtually by fraud.

What we wish to hear from the Undersecretary is something we did not hear from the Minister when he made his defensive speech in opening this debate —an explanation of how this expenditure has been so scaled down. On what has it been scaled down? How can the right hon. Gentleman claim there is a proper balance between expenditure on manpower and expenditure on equipment, if in fact there was any competence about the figure of £767 million that the Army demanded in 1951? Either those who planned the 1951–54 programme for the Army were incompetent or else, since we know that more men have been demanded year by year, the scaling down of the expenditure has been at the expense of equipment, so that by now the whole thing must be completely out of balance.

There is another thing which the Secretary of State did not mention and which the heads of the Service Departments seem to be very reluctant to mention, although they insert into their White Papers and speeches vague clichés about Commonwealth and N.A.T.O. cooperation. They are less frank than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although he had to go to the other side of the world to be frank at the Sydney Conference. He revealed that this country carries the heaviest defence burden of any country in the world. The demand on the population of this country is higher in proportion than on any of our allies in N.A.T.O. or the Commonwealth countries.

In most of those countries there is no system of conscription. In the Army of the United Kingdom we have 87 per cent, of the total population. In Australia the estimate represents 32 per cent., in Canada, 34 per cent., in New Zealand, 20 per cent., and in South Africa, 036 per cent. I hope that the Under-Secretary will note that this country has twice the proportion of its population in the Army by comparison with any other Commonwealth country. It is time that the Army, the principal user of manpower, and the principal reason for this long period of conscription, revealed these facts to the nation and attempted to produce some justification for maintaining such an excessive manpower burden.

We have had running through the debate the same assumptions about defence policy that we had in previous debates. I find the assumptions no more acceptable in this debate on the Army than they were in the case of the debates on the Navy, the Royal Air Force, or defence as a whole.

We were told in the Defence White Paper that the great deterrent to aggressors was the atomic bomb and we were supposed to be preparing for a possible war in which atomic weapons would be used on both sides. However, the Secretary of State knows better than anybody else does that in the abandonment of the three-year rearmament programme the major cut that has been made has been in industrial production and equipment. In fact, reading between the lines of the Secretary of State's speech, one can see his fear that the programme of production and equipment has been cut so low that there is now a dangerous relationship between expenditure on manpower and expenditure on equipment.

The assumption about atomic war which is put forward does not reflect itself in any way in the Government's policy for civil defence. The Government gaily assume in the White Paper the possibilty of war with atomic weapons on both sides but give to the defence of the civil population the lowest priority, and in its management of the rearmament programme adopted in 1951 it has continually scaled down the production of modern weapons while maintaining the same high level of expenditure on manpower.

The second assumption is that the creation of a German Army will strengthen the position of our Armed Forces in the West. But we are warned by the Prime Minister—we have now been warned by other Service Ministers—that the German Army, with its 15 divisions or whatever the number may be, is something against which we must create a counterpoise.

The Secretary of State knows—he disclosed it in his speech—the extremely dangerous situation which is created by this policy because of the fact that 80 per cent. of the Army's fighting formations are distributed across the globe carrying out commitments which have nothing whatever to do with the defence of the West. Yet the Secretary of State has no proposals for cutting down those commitments. In fact, he is faced with the grave possibility that the Colonial Secretary is just about to create another commitment for him which will call for the use of troops still further away from the defence of Western Europe.

We thus have a double demand presented to us. We have the prospect that the Government are deliberately pursuing a policy to create German armed forces in the West which, precisely because of the global commitments of the British Army, must within a short time become the most powerful army in Western Europe. The Government have no policy which could possibly prevent that.

Secondly, that policy inevitably involves an extra commitment being placed upon the British taxpayer, the amount of which is not disclosed to us. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be more forthcoming than the Minister was on this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) interrupted the Secretary of State yesterday and said: What are the plans about quarters in Germany? When the Germans rearm, will they take over their own barracks? Are we to put up brand new barracks? Or are these questions being left to be answered when German rearmament starts? The Secretary of State replied: No. We have thought carefully about that. However, I do not think the House wants me to go into the details."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 2478.] I do not know what evidence the Secretary of State had for thinking the House did not want him to tell us and the citizens of this country what would be the extra cost to the taxpayer of going ahead with the policy of German rearmament, and what would happen about the distribution of barrack accommodation when the German war units were created. We may have to face this situation in this financial year, and the Secretary of State may be compelled to bring forward a Supplementary Estimate at the end of the year because of the implications of the policy.

I should have thought that if it is true that the Secretary of State and his other Service colleagues had carefully thought about the question of barracks and the payments involved, it was their bounden duty to tell us what the extra cost would be, where the extra accommodation would come from and how the programme would work out. I hope that the Under-Secretary has a powerful note of this point, because if we fail to get a satisfactory answer in the winding-up speech, it will be necessary to raise the question again in Committee when we come to Vote A.

There is a particular to which I would draw the attention of the Secretary of State. He made no mention of it in his speech, but it is a policy that he has advocated strongly in the past. Last year in his Memorandum accompanying the Estimates the right hon. Gentleman put in a special paragraph with reference to the substitution of civilians for soldiers.

If a job can be done as well by a civilian as by a man in uniform it is our policy to employ a civilian, subject to financial and manpower limitations and to certain other considerations of policy which I need not detail here. The Secretary of State made many speeches when he was in Opposition strongly advocating that where possible military manpower should be saved by the employment of more civilians.

There have been the Templer and Callender Committees. What has happened to the reports of those Committees? When one looks at the Royal Army Pay Corps and the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, about which strong recommendations were made by those committees, we find that nothing has been done about them at all. The Templer Committee recommended that 1,900 posts should be given to civilians to relieve the pressure on military manpower. We should like to know why more progress has not been made in this sphere. Statements have been made that the Army Council accepted the principle enunciated by the Templer Committee, but in the Pay and Ordnance Corps the main recommendations of these Committees have not been carried out. There has been considerable resistance to the policy, and we find that in the Memorandum with these Estimates mention is no longer made of it.

Apparently the right hon. Gentleman has now dropped the policy which he supported so strongly last year—the policy that if a job could be done as well by a civilian as by a man in uniform, he preferred to employ the civilian. Has the policy of "civilianisation," so-called, been abandoned or not? What has happened to the Reports of the two Committees? Is anything happening in the principal corps to which the inquiry related—the Pay Corps and the Ordnance Corps—to carry out the recommendations?

Mr. Head

As a result of the two Committees, 10,000 men have gone from the tail to the teeth and there has been a cut of about 10 per cent, at the War Office.

Mr. Swingler

The right hon. Gentleman will have some difficulty in substantiating that statement, because if he analyses the military and civilian manpower figures under the War Office Votes he will find that the figure of 10,000 transferred from military to civilian employment is not reflected in them.

Mr. Head

I said, from the tail to the teeth.

Mr. Swingler

That is not the point I am making. It is not a question of from the tail to the teeth but of the policy specifically outlined in paragraph 68 of last year's Memorandum—the substitution of civilians for soldiers, not the transfer of soldiers from the tail to the teeth. This is a question of the employment of civilians as pay clerks or in the Ordnance Corps in order to replace men in uniform. We can judge how far that has gone by looking at the figure of the number of civilians employed. We can see the change in the civilian percentage of the manpower on the War Office Votes. I have worked it out, and there is an alteration of 04 per cent.; it was 256 per cent, last year and is 2602 per cent, this year. That is the total transfer. In view of the recommendations of the two Committees, that does not show that great progress has been made in the substitution of civilians for soldiers

Mr. Head

The year before gave the relevant figure. I am getting rather tired of the hon. Gentleman misrepresenting the situation. The two Committees reported in 1951, and we went ahead then with civilianisation. To give a fair picture, the recommendations of the increased number of civilians should be considered in relation to the year before these proposals.

Mr. Swingler

If the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to be able to consider this problem he must be more forthcoming in telling us the facts. We have to dig out the facts for ourselves. I did not suggest that nothing had been done. That would have been entirely wrong. It is true that some of the recommendations of the Committees have been carried out and some progress has been made, but it is nothing like as great as the right hon. Gentleman suggests. I am asking why that is so.

If we take the figures in the recommendations of the Templer and Callender Committees and compare them with the number of transfers which have taken place, comparatively little progress has been made. In the case of non-industrial workers, the two Committees recommended that 1,493 posts should be transferred to civilians, and the progress has been the transfer of 833. In the case of industrial workers, the Committees recommended 2,127 possible transfers, and progress has been 1,431. The Secretary of State has said that this has been going on now for two or three years, but I assert that greater progress should have been made, and I should like to know what the difficulties have been. What is the objection of the R.A.P.C. and the R.A.O.C. to carrying out in full the manpower recommendations of these two Committees?

I recognise that the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary may be getting rather tired, but nevertheless we have a job to do when the Army is asking for a Vote of £628 million, and more than 500,000 men. It is one of the few occasions on which we get an opportunity of cross-examination and can insist upon answers from the Ministers. The Army is the principal Department concerned. The procedure enforces upon us these prolonged sittings because, as the Secretary of State knows very well, there is no way of avoiding them under the procedure now adopted, and I hope we are going to get full and detailed replies to these many important questions that have been raised so that it will not be necessary to prolong the discussion when we get to Vote A.

9.27 a.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I have listened to most of the speeches in this debate, as I have listened to many in debates on Army Estimates now for a good many years. I usually come along in what the Secretary of State has described as the "tail." I have listened to many gentlemen and distinguished Gentlemen giving their very interesting experiences upon military matters. Among them, of course, I listened for many years to the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Secretary of State, and I cordially agree with every commendation that has been made about his courtesy and his ability in matters of military detail.

If I were a Conservative Prime Minister, I should say that the right hon. Gentleman was the best of the brigadiers and the best of the brigadiers that could be chosen for the job. I have a high respect for the others including the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner), the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer).

Mr. Crossman

And the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low).

Mr. Hughes

Mine is a universal commendation of all the brigadiers, even including the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West, because there is always a chance of the greatest sinner repenting. In view of the progress that I have made with the Labour Party, I am quite sure if I am in this House for 20 years I shall hear the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth asking some of the questions which I put in 1948. I also wish to pay a tribute to the Undersecretary of State, who has been assiduous in his duty and has been the very embodiment of informativeness in the debate.

I have a high opinion of the colonels. I have a high regard for the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) and the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan). I have a great appreciation of the knowledge of the colonels, and on this side of the House I have a special regard for the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), and a particular regard for the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), who sometimes advises me confidentially on some of those abstruse military matters.

Nevertheless, I think of all the speeches that I have listened to during the last eight years and of all the calculations and prophecies that have come from these military gentlemen and of how many of them have been absolutely wrong. Therefore, I am forced to the conclusion that the ordinary civilian like myself, who never rose above the rank of private in a detention barracks, can make a useful contribution. My career may be epitomised in this way: I was Private 53075 of A Company, 3rd Welch Battalion, charged with refusing to obey orders given by a superior officer.

When we try to understand these matters and how they affect the country and our constituents, there is a very strong case for the purely civilian approach. I listen very carefully and respectfully to those Members with much experience, but I always remember that events change, that military ideas change and that conceptions of what are likely to be our strategy and the tactics of the next war have to be judged by the ordinary civilian like myself, very ready to learn but always sceptical of these professional authorities.

There should always be somebody in this House ready to criticise the Military Estimates, and especially the Army Estimates, just as there have been critics for many years past. I recall that one of the first books I read in which there was detailed a struggle between the civilian and the military expert was "The Life of Lord Randolph Churchill" by the present Prime Minister. I remember—I often quoted it with great enthusiasm— that when Lord Randolph Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer he had a terrific fight with the War Office because he thought that the War Office was asking for too much.

However much the War Office might have asked in those days, it was infinitesimal compared with the gigantic sums which are now being asked. Over and over again in our debates it has been estimated that we are spending about £560 million to £600 million annually. Although, unfortunately, we may have caused some inconvenience to hon. Members and to servants of the House, which incidentally we very much regret from the point of view of their personal comfort and convenience, there will be people who will say, "Yes, those people who are challenging these gigantic Estimates are doing a national service."

It is quite right that a vigilant scrutiny should be exercised on all of them, especially when they grow more astronomical as the years go by and we remember that this means a heavy burden on our national economy. This expenditure has to be paid by poor people. When we spend £1,600 million on the Services —£500 million to £600 million on the Army—we are inflicting a heavy burden on old-age pensioners and on people with low incomes, and we are injuring the economy of the nation.

I do not represent what is termed a military constituency, except that my unfortunate constituents are called up for this activity which hon. Members describe as National Service, but which I prefer to call forced labour. Because my constituents are very vitally affected by the demands that are periodically made upon them by the Services, I have to speak on their behalf.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

And also on behalf of the National Farmers' Union.

Mr. Hughes

Certainly. That is quite correct; I do represent a great number of farmers, and the greater the number of demands that are made for manpower by the War Office, the greater are the attempts made to call up the farming population. I have frequently had to call the attention of the Minister of Labour and of the Secretary of State for War in this House to the calling up of farm-workers in my constituency. It is quite true, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton says, that the farming community of this country is also keeping a very watchful eye on the War Office and its never-ceasing demands for more men.

What are the problems with which the military experts at the War Office have been perplexing the military experts in this debate, which has lasted so long? They are worried about recruiting. I have taken a great deal of interest in the debates of recent years, when hon. and gallant Gentlemen have said that what we needed in order to get more recruits was a more enthusiastic recruiting campaign.

I remember the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), when he was Secretary of State for War, coming along and speaking very conscientiously and faithfully from his brief prepared by the War Office. He assured the House that what was needed was a really thoroughgoing recruiting campaign. When I used to put Questions to him after the campaign had been running for six weeks or so, asking about its results and what we were getting for our money, he used to say, "Wait. In due course the recruiting campaign will bring the recruits, and the result will be that the British Army will grow from strength to strength."

I remember one particular recruiting campaign which the right hon. Gentleman conducted in Aberystwith. I remember calling his attention to it in the early hours of the morning. I believe he went, full of enthusiasm, to open that campaign. He was quite confident that the recruits would come in shoals. He went to address the students, and I remember reading in a local newspaper that they all turned up in black ties and bowler hats. At a certain point in the proceedings, they solemnly walked out.

The right hon. Gentleman got no male recruits in that campaign, the cost of which to the nation was £40. But the right hon. Gentleman had a certain amount of success. The sum total of his efforts was that two girls joined the A.T.S. I remember saying at the time that it was due not so much to the oratory of the Minister as to his sex appeal. That was the result. All these recruits who were going to swell the ranks of the British Army never materialised.

We have heard all sorts of hints about how to get recruits, and I have made some of them in my time, but unfortunately the hints that I made were never adopted by the War Office. I remember offering the suggestion that far more recruits were likely to join the Army if they were able to retire on giving a month's notice. I did not see anything particularly wrong in that, and even now I am prepared to hand that suggestion over to the Secretary of State for War. Unfortunately, he relies upon these mass sentimental appeals that appear on the hoardings. I remember the Kitchener campaign; there was a magnificent picture of Kitchener pointing and saying "Kitchener wants you."

Brigadier Clarke

What did the hon. Gentleman do about it? Nothing.

Mr. Hughes

It frightened me. In fact, I never recovered from it.

What are the kinds of recruiting campaigns that are being conducted today? I use a certain Tube station, and I see two great big recruiting posters when I enter the gate of that station. They have not given up hope of attracting me yet. They are very captivating posters, and underneath them is the slogan, "You are somebody in the Army today." The words "today" are in black letters and bigger print, implying that "You are somebody in the Army today but you were nobody in the Army the day before yesterday"—which was the time when I was conscripted into military service.

It should be remembered that an enormous amount of public money has been spent upon a poster which no intelligent person who has been in the Army for 24 hours really believes. The attempt to convince the young men of today that the Army is a cross between a technical school and a nursing home simply does not carry conviction. Why is there this reluctance among people who have been in the Army as National Service men to rejoin the Army? It is simply because they have seen what modern war is like. They have seen Korea, Malaya, the Suez Canal and a good many other places. They know that the Army is not the sort of beautiful idyllic career that it is represented to be on these recruiting posters.

I suggest that the Secretary of State for War and his publicity experts are spending a lot of our money on recruiting appeals which simply do not convince in these days, when the people have a good idea from their own experiences and the experiences of their lathers and relatives what the Army is like. The fact is that in these days people are not likely to make the Army a career to the extent that the Government wish. Of course, there are always hon. and gallant Members who come from distinguished military families and who will follow the family tradition and go into the Army.

But there is no rush by the ordinary people of this country to join the Army today. I have little doubt, and the figures prove it, that after the people who are being dragged into the Army have had two years of it, they have had enough. We must also remember that young people are reading and listening to the wireless and following events on the radio and television as they have never done before, and they are asking, what were the last two wars about? We have had two wars in my generation to destroy German militarism, and many of the young people who have been students at our colleges and universities and have read the memoirs of the statesmen and the politicians and the soldiers know what happened in those two wars.

They have read the late Lloyd George's story of Passchendaele, and no one who has read his memoirs could have a very great admiration for the military profession. Indeed, the military profession have always been very candid about their own job. It was the Duke of Wellington who said quite accurately, "The military profession is a damnable profession."

Now we are asking people to go into the Army, not to take part in the defence of their homes because, as the Defence White Paper tells us, the next war is not going to be a war against militarism but a war against world Communism. A lot of young people are asking, "Why should we go into a war against world Communism and can world Communism be destroyed by a war?" If young people read the defence debate and the debates on these Estimates, and hear the various opinions of hon. and gallant Members on their idea of a future war, they come to the conclusion that hon. and gallant Members are no wiser than they are, and of course they are right. Because in the old days war was a comparatively simple affair. People went into the Army in defence of their homes—

Brigadier Rayner

They might do so still.

Mr. Hughes

I agree, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman is 50 years behind the times because, if he were a young man today and joined the Army and was landed out in the Suez Canal, he might be there when somebody dropped an atom bomb on Totnes, so he would not be defending his home at all. That is the dilemma in which ordinary sensible people find themselves.

There has been one predominant thought voiced on all sides of the House in this debate, that we only have a very small number of soldiers to defend this country against enemy invasion. We have even been told that when soldiers were sent to British Guiana, they had to be taken away from Balmoral, so that if a Russian parachute division had descended upon Balmoral that week-end, we do not know what sort of moral victory it would have achieved.

It is not easy to defend military expenditure these days on the ground of defending our homes. Then there was the old idea—which still remains in some parts of the world—that captivated the ideals of youth in the time of the French and Russian revolutions, that these were great revolutionary wars to liberate humanity. But in these days, when the atom bomb has come, we must revise all our conceptions about war.

The result is that every sensible person, every Government in the world, is so stupefied over the possibilities of the next war that they will not go into the next war because they are afraid of what will happen. That is the situation. There are no clear ideas in the minds of the Government of any country in the world, and least of all in the mind of the Government of this country. That was clearly illustrated in the speech of the Secretary of State for War yesterday.

Where are the soldiers who should be protecting the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner)? I am certainly obliged, as must be many other hon. Members, for the map which the Government have circulated. It gives details about various parts of the world and it is the best piece of publicity that the War Office has carried out. I hope that it will be sent to every recruiting office in the country so that recruits will know exactly which of the 21 places they can go to if they wish to defend their country.

Some of the places where our soldiers are at present located are shown in rectangles on this map of the world. Suez is one of them. We have heard a great deal in this debate about Suez. I do not wish to elaborate on what has been said, except to say that, after listening to the debate, I am more than ever convinced that the greatest military genius who ever meddled in the affairs of Egypt was Moses. He led the people out. He did not bother about the intricacies of the base. He said that he would lead his people out of the land of bondage. If the Government did that they would regain the popularity which they have lost recently.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

Will my hon. Friend also recollect that Moses led his people into the land of Israel and that there is a very good case now for leading our men and our base into that land?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that Moses is in the Army Estimates.

Mr. Hughes

Moses was a very great military leader who operated a great strategic movement in that part of the world, but I will not follow that subject beyond the bounds of order.

I am not so sure about the thesis that Suez is one of the reasons why people do not join the Army. In my part of the world one of the reasons, much more than Suez, is Korea. Can the Under-Secretary of State for war tell us how long Scottish and other soldiers are to remain in Korea? I was one of the people—I believe that I was one of two—who did not agree to our going into Korea.

I remember that when the suggestion was made by the then Prime Minister that we should join in the Korean campaign it was explained to us that it was not a war at all but a police action. It was many months before we could get out of the heads of Front Bench people, including the present United States Government, the idea that Korea was being fought by the police. But now everybody realises that Korea was not quite the beautiful, altruistic campaign which the nations rushed into in its early days.

When we consider what our soldiers were involved in in Korea and speculate on what they are doing there today, I am quite convinced that a war under the auspices of the United Nations, which is called a respectable international police war, can be as disastrous as any type of war in the past. I should be very glad if the Under-Secretary of State announced that we were coming out of Korea. I do not know what is likely to happen in Korea if we do come out, except that I have a very shrewd idea that even after all the blood, tears and destruction in Korea the forces of history will move there and ultimately we shall find that, as a result of the destruction of the existing society, Communism has risen in its place.

I do not for a moment accept the thesis that we can destroy Communism by war. I am not by any means a Communist or a 100 per cent, admirer of the Soviet Union. I may be a Communist in the sense that the early Christians were Communists or Sir Thomas More, the Utopian, was a Communist, but, as people have prophesied, my life under a Communist Government would be "a short life and a gay one." When an hon. and gallant Member said of me, "That is the voice of Moscow," I replied, "I wish I were." I hold no brief at all for the Communist countries, except that I regard the people living under Communist rule as human beings who are just as anxious for peace and just as anxious to live their lives in their own way as the so-called democracies of the West.

I want to say one or two things about our soldiers in Germany. I have seen a great deal of them. I would say of the British soldiers in Berlin—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) will agree —that they are respected, and that the people of Berlin hold the highest opinion of them. I am quite sure, too, that our soldiers in Berlin look around them and do some serious thinking. I am not so sure that being in Berlin is good for their morale because they see around them all the horror, destruction and futility of the last war. I am sure that a soldier who has been in the Army of Occupation in Berlin is quite convinced that he does not want to see a war of that kind engulfing Europe.

I wonder how far we have got in our progress—if we can call it progress— towards rearming the Germans. I have no hatred of the Germans at all. Some of the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) were so anti-German that, as an international Socialist, I repudiate them. The Germans have suffered intensely as a result of two world wars, and there is a strong body of public opinion in Germany itself against the rearming of Germany. When I say that our soldiers should not be in that set-up at all, I am glad to see that that is also the opinion of the German Socialists.

I am not at all satisfied, as some hon. Members are, that N.A.T.O. is such an excellent organisation as it is held out by the Secretary of State to be. When the North Atlantic Treaty came up for consideration in this House, I was one of the Tellers against it. I happen to be the only one who survived, and I well remember the look of affection with which Ernie Bevin and the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) greeted me when they saw that I was telling against the official Labour Whip.

But today, I look back on that beginning of the so-called North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and what were the arguments of the late Ernest Bevin in introducing it to the House? He persuaded the great majority of people here to accept the Treaty. I was a great admirer of Ernest Bevin as a trade union leader, but not as a Foreign Secretary, and I recall him standing at that Box and saying that if we had this North Atlantic Treaty we should cut our military expenditure. His argument was that if we all united in a great co-operative effort we should not have to pay so much for armaments. But our armaments bill is going up and up, and N.A.T.O. is not reducing it.

There is the danger that when we have established a military vested interest, we find that the very excellent military gentlemen have been given a permanent interest in maintaining the set-up which gives them their military jobs. I cannot see these illustrious military men coming along and saying that they have been wrong. The people will have to re-assert themselves over the military will so that every Government in western Europe may reflect the views of the ordinary people.

I have heard the argument about the 12 divisions; but they seem to be growing to 50. I have carefully followed what General Gruenther has said in his Press interviews because we have accepted the idea of these 12 divisions in order to improve our strength in western Europe. But what does General Gruenther say? He points out that as a result of the rearmament of western Europe, there are now about 70 extra divisions in the satellite countries.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is really getting too wide of the Estimates. These matters about N.A.T.O. are in the field of foreign affairs; they are not matters for the Estimates.

Mr. Hughes

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, but the N.A.T.O. forces are mentioned in the Memorandum to the Estimates, and one of the little rectangles on the map at the end of the Memorandum is over Germany; and now we are in Germany, I presume, not unilaterally, but as part of the N.A.T.O. agreement. But I will move away from this point, because I have not studied military strategy for so long without realising that one must sometimes retreat to a new defence line.

We are supposed to be afraid of the Russians. They have 175 divisions, which represent an enormous military power. Furthermore, Russia has a most formidable manpower which may be organised into her armies. What can we do about that? Russia has this huge population, and the West has not, and the more soldiers we put into western Europe, the result is that more divisions are created on the other side.

I talked in Berlin to a Polish military attaché the occasion was the recent four-Power Conference. I asked him, "What do you think of the Eden Plan?" He replied, "It is quite irresponsible that the British Foreign Secretary should ask us to take risks for democracy in Europe. If the Foreign Secretary had seen Warsaw being burned and sacked by the Germans he would not have been so enthusiastic about the possibility of German rearmament."

Mr. Speaker

Order. I thought that the hon. Member was moving to other positions which he had previously prepared. He seems to me to be hanging on the same vulnerable ridge on which I attacked him earlier.

Mr. Hughes

Like Horatius, I cannot stand on the bridge alone, Mr. Speaker, so I must execute another retreat—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ridge."] I thought Mr. Speaker said "Bridge."

I cannot see any justification for the expenditure outlined in these Estimates for our armies in Germany.

Then I look at some of the other places where British soldiers are stationed. There is British Guiana. I asked some questions of the Secretary of State about British Guiana during his speech. I wish to know how long the Scottish and the Welsh soldiers will remain there. There are the Welch Fusiliers and an Argyll and Sutherland regiment in British Guiana. Presumably, they are there to maintain law and order, and not, as they are in Germany, to fight for free elections. They are in British Guiana to suppress them.

I wish to know exactly how these proposals for our soldiers outlined in the Minister's speech apply, especially to the Scottish soldiers in British Guiana. Are they to be brought home or are their wives and children to be sent out there? Would it not be common sense to cut our commitments and send these Scottish and Welsh soldiers home? If we had an intelligent foreign policy, which I am not now allowed to discuss, we should succeed in cutting many of our commitments, with the result that we should not have this huge bill for the Army.

I should like to know something about the colonial forces in British Somaliland. Exactly who are they? And what about the colonial forces in Mauritius and the local levies in the Persian Gulf? Those are some of our commitments. Concerning Malaya, I have recently been more enthusiastic about General Templer than I have been for a very long time, as a result of his activities in the State of Perak, in which he has been investigating certain economic conditions and finding out how the middlemen exploit the consumers.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

Pronounce "Perak" properly.

Mr. Hughes

I admit that I do not know how to pronounce the name of that State but I know the reality behind it

There are all these other places, including Gibraltar. What is to happen there? I imagine that there will be some difficulty about Gibraltar, but I will not discuss that as I do not want to be on the side of General Franco. I should like to know what are our responsibilities there and at Malta, Cyrenaica, Tripoli and Trieste. In all these little pockets there are numbers of British soldiers, presumably in order to give us better security, and the whole thing boils down to fantastic nonsense. If the argument is that conscription is necessary in order to maintain the Army here to defend us against invasion, I reply that we simply have not got that Army. My main criticism has never been seriously answered throughout the debate.

Then there is the question of Cyprus. I was in Cyprus for a short time. I do not believe that there is any enthusiasm in Cyprus for the British soldier. If there were free elections tomorrow in Cyprus, we should go out. We cannot pretend that British soldiers are the instruments of democracy in Germany and the instruments of the other thing in Cyprus. Cyprus is in exactly the same situation as British Guiana.

The patchwork of our military commitments throughout the world does not make sense. As we go on from year to year this will become more and more obvious to the people of this country. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite may think that my hon. Friends and I have been nuisances in pressing all these issues in debate, but we are doing a great service to the country, and in the future our people will thank us for our activities.

10.12 a.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)

I was very interested to learn from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes') that he now has an admiration for General Templer and that in his wide charity he embraces all brigadiers and colonels in the House. Speaking as a mere captain, I was sorry to discern what I can only regard as a vein of military snobbery in my hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), who was a wing commander, feels equally strongly on the matter. I fear that my hon. Friend may have caught this from some of the people with whom he has been associating.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I apologise very humbly to my hon. Friend. I will make proper amends when we come to discuss Vote A.

Mr. Stewart

That is a thought on which we may all wish to reflect rather quietly.

We have by now, in the course of a long and very interesting debate, discussed most of the issues which are raised in the Army Estimates, and, indeed, a number that are not. Certain propositions arise from the debate which I do not think will be disputed anywhere. If we desire value for the money which we shall shortly, in Committee of Supply, be asked to vote for the Army, we should have regard to six considerations.

First, the Army should contain a Regular element of high quality, and for that element to be of high quality it must contain a sufficient percentage of men of experience and reasonably long service.

Secondly, such National Service element as there is in the Army should be there primarily for the purpose of training a reserve—

Mr. J. R. H Hutchison

Training a reserve?

Mr. Stewart

Yes. Those men should do their National Service primarily as a means of training them so that they may subsequently be a reserve.

The other purpose to which National Service men are unfortunately put, that of being used as trained soldiers even in fields of warlike operations, is something that we ought to regard as a use of National Service which we want to cut down as speedily and as effectively as possible. I am not going to pretend that that aspect of National Service can be immediately wiped out; that would be completely unrealistic—but one must say with equal emphasis that it must be our policy to get that element out of National Service and get National Service back to the function it was first intended to perform. I think it is necessary that it should perform that task so that in the due process of time there will be a properly trained reserve.

My third consideration arises from the second, and it is that we have to see that in this country we have a considerable reserve of men who can be mobilised very quickly indeed. There is in this respect what I think it is an elementary and extremely important consideration which at times we are inclined to lose sight of, and that is that the method of modern communication and warfare do not give a lapse of time such as we had at the beginning of the First World War and, to a certain extent, in the second. The speed with which Reserves are to be mobilised if the country is to survive, should the worst come to the worst, must be greater than ever before.

My fourth consideration is that an Army composed of Regular and National Service elements ought not to be stretched over the world as is the case today. History has made us the heir to an Empire which today is a heritage more of problems than of advantages, and we have difficulty in reconciling that historical inheritance with our present resources and position in the world. We must try to see that our Army is so disposed that it will not be excessively stretched and leaves us without a strategic reserve in this country, or possibly as one hon. Gentleman suggested, that Germany might be a place where that reserve could be collected. Obviously when one says that one could not be thinking in terms of a permanent arrangement in this country's defence.

The fifth consideration I have in mind is that the Army is to be provided as far as resources allow with the most modern weapons, equipment and transport it can get. Otherwise it is largely a waste of money. The sixth consideration is that in deciding the size of the Army one must consider it as part of the defence budget and weigh it in its proper proportion with the other items; and then consider the defence budget as part of the national economy. If we look at these six considerations which are vital to an understanding of this problem, then I am afraid we find, in the light of the information given to us, ground for anxiety on almost every one.

I regret that I cannot join in the compliments to the Secretary of State, and I hope he will forgive me for that. I am sure he made a good speech with the minimum of notes, but things have come to a pretty pass when a Minister is congratulated because he does not read his speech. I could not feel that the matter of the speech gave all that ground for compliments.

Let us look at my first consideration— the importance of a Regular element in the Army in which there is a considerable percentage of men with experience and a reasonably long service. To meet that we have to see that recruiting is going properly, and it is quite clear from the Secretary of State's own anxieties and his Memorandum that he is worried about recruiting, although I freely confess that no one has yet found out what is the answer to the question of how to persuade a larger proportion of our young men to take up the profession of Regular soldier. No doubt pay has something to do with it, but nobody has yet stated in precise terms what is the co-relation between pay and the number of people who come forward.

As for the recent pay proposals, 1 am bound to say that I found it rather surprising that they were thrust on the House in the middle of the defence debate and that the White Paper which describes them does not mention—unless I have read carelessly, and I do not think I have —what is the total sum of money which they will cost the nation. We rely for that on the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, and it was not until his second shot that he got it right. We have still been unable—and perhaps we may now be told—to discover how much of the £16½ million is the Army's share. Are we to take it—as I think we must—that these figures are additional to the Estimates which we shall be discussing as soon as you, Mr. Speaker, have left the Chair and we go into Committee of Supply?

We have a Supplementary Estimate, as it were, which has been presented practically simultaneously with the main Estimate. I feel that the House should have had earlier notice of what was intended so that we could have had more opportunity for the consideration of these proposals and for studying their effect. If I say that about the explanation in Parliament, there is another body to whom they have to be explained—the troops themselves. I do not necessarily quarrel with this, for it may be unavoidable, but inevitably the proposals make the pay structure yet again more complex. It is most important, as the Undersecretary will no doubt agree, that there should be adequate publicity to the troops as to what the pay structure will be after these modifications have been made, in order that the ordinary soldier may find out with the least possible diffi- culty what he should receive. As hon. Members who have studied the concluding pages of the Estimates Book and the White Paper on Service Emoluments no doubt know, it is not easy even for those of us who are used to studying public documents to find out at once how much a certain staff sergeant of so many years' service should be receiving.

As a matter concerning recruiting apart from pay, we have to consider the conditions of life. Recruiting must worry the Secretary of State, although he does not seem particularly worried about anything at the moment; at any rate, recruiting, which ought to worry the right hon. Gentleman, has two aspects. There is that of getting men who have been Regular soldiers for a certain period to continue in the Army, and there is that of getting from each intake of National Service men a certain number who are prepared for the first time to turn themselves into Regular soldiers.

If we look at the matters which are of concern to the man who is already a Regular soldier and is considering whether he shall continue and make that his career, possibly for the greater part of his life, we must realise that that kind of man looks to the future and to the present needs of his family. It is for that type of man that steps which have been adumbrated about the provision of education for the soldier's children, where he is serving overseas, and the provision for him to have a house when he leaves the Army, may be useful steps if we can know a little more of what is proposed.

I do not think I am doing the Secretary of State an injustice if I say that he described quite lucidly the problem of the Regular soldier who has come to the end of his time and has to find a house in the middle of the present housing shortage. But having described that problem, he did not tell us the measures he had in mind for solving it. It is not an easy matter, I agree. He has to consider first of all that it is a problem concentrated in certain areas of the country where there are large concentrations of married quarters for Regular soldiers, and it may be a matter of first approaching the local authorities in those areas. Indeed, I know in the past some approaches to certain local authorities have been made successfully.

This matter was raised quite recently in another place by Lord Lucan, and the Minister of Defence's reply can really be described in terms of three initials— N.B.I.—which stand for "notice board information." His reply was to the effect that by means of notice board information the Regular soldier is told what he ought to do by way of getting into touch with the local authority if he wants a house on getting out of the Army. Lord Lucan pointed out that this was an inadequate approach to the problem. Side by side with an approach to the local authority, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take every possible step to ensure that officers see to it that men under their command are likely to be in this position, even some years ahead, are fully informed what is the best way of proceeding. I hope in due course we shall be able to hear a little more about what can be done in that field.

I should like to express agreement with the anxieties expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) about the education of children of soldiers of all ranks serving overseas, and if the Secretary of State can lure the Minister of Education away from the practice, for example, of sabotaging the London School Plan, and the other things occupying her attention at the moment, and direct her energies to more constructive work, it will be to the advantage of the Army and the nation.

Mention of education reminds me of a Question which I asked the right hon. Gentleman a few weeks ago. It seems to me unfortunate that the Director of Army Education should be of a lower rank than his opposites in the other two Services, because a great deal of the work of Service education has to be done conjointly with the three Services, and the lion's share is done by the Army. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to find some solution of that difficulty. With regard to attracting into the Army young National Service men who have not yet decided to become Regular soldiers, there I think the War Office have to look at certain matters of Army discipline, and there are two things I have in mind.

First of all there is the discipline quite frequently imposed on men joining the Army. National Service recruits often find that the Army greets them determined to show just how tough and strict discipline can be. I do not mind it being strict provided that every requirement it makes is sensible and is not just a case of looking for things to be strict about for the sake of strictness. I think that if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on the Army Council look closely enough they will find there is still a too unintelligent approach. Let him remember that the type of man he is seeking to attract into the Army is skilled, shrewd and sophisticated.

I think he will find that there are perhaps still too many senior N.C. Os. who feel that it is good for a young man on first entering the Army to have it made clear that far from being "somebody" he is as insignificant as a human being can be. There may be those for whom that may be suitable, but I doubt it. But, in any case, it does not apply to the present day, and particularly not to the kind of man whom the Army wants to attract.

The fault of the discipline I have been describing is perhaps due to over zeal. It is not to be compared with the scandalous abuse of discipline to which my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) referred. It is true that gross abuses of disciplinary power either by officers or N.C. Os. are extremely rare, but when they do occur the news is likely to spread far and wide and to have a most disastrous effect on recruiting.

My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow mentioned certain abuses to which publicity had been given in the "Daily Mirror." I read that reference and was glad that the newspaper said that it was going to supply the Secretary of State with the information by which he could identify the cases. That is what any responsible person who has such information will do. I hope that, whenever the right hon. Gentleman is given good grounds for believing that abuses of discipline are occurring, he will investigate them and deal with them very heavily indeed. In my judgment, an abuse of power by an officer or N.C.O. is a far greater outrage on discipline than is insubordination by a private soldier. It does very much more harm to the Army and to recruiting.

I have spoken at length on the Regular commitment. I now want to take together two or three other considerations which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. There is the consideration of National Service and the training of the Reserves. The other consideration—the disposition of the Army all over the world—is closely bound up with those two.

When we ask ourselves how speedily can we reach the point where we no longer have to use National Service men as trained soldiers but can put National Service to its proper use as a means of building up a reserve, our minds are driven inevitably to the Egyptian commitment. So much has already been said about that since yesterday afternoon that I do not need to add very much.

I would, however, beg the Government not to be dissuaded from trying to seek —if only for the sake of the troops in Suez—a reasonable solution of the Egyptian problem; and not to be deterred by the attitude of some of their own supporters. I will not make any comment on that dissident group on the benches opposite, because I think that adequate comment was made by the noble Lord the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lamb-ton). Speaking of that dissident element, he said: I believe that this is an association of different elements, and that there are some among those who oppose what I am saying who have acted with the best of intentions and who have the highest possible moral integrity, and also a religious belief in the Empire. But there are others who have done it because they think it is a step up the ladder. I think that the third group about which I have spoken have done this because they have not been included in Her Majesty's present Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1953; Vol. 522, c. 625.] Against that comment I invite the Government to weigh this passage from the Memorandum: During the period from 15th May and 15th November, 1953, there were no less than 885 incidents in the Canal Zone directed against our men or their families. During 1953 there were 127 attacks with firearms, 34 attacks with knives and 93 attacks with other weapons To me that is too high a price to pay for the appeasement of the group so accurately described by the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed.

The importance of the Egyptian question is that once we are free of that commitment those who are responsible for the organisation of the Army gain at least some room to breathe. Reducing the National Service element in the Army by reducing the length of service then becomes realistic to them. I do not want to overstate the case, but we are free of that commitment it becomes realistic to begin to plan a reduction in the length of National Service.

I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) is still in the House, because in this connection—both in this and our earlier debate on defence—he referred to the relationship between the period of a man's full-time National Service with the Regular Army and the period of time thereafter which he spends each year on his training during his Territorial liability. The hon. Member said: … we may have to reconsider the spread of National Service time as between the Regular Army and the Reserve forces."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 1079.] We, on this side, might have expressed more vigorously our view about the time spent with the Regular Army, but I will simply invite the Government to consider the interesting contribution made to that defence debate and to this present debate by an hon. Member who sits on their own benches.

In the debate on these matters last year, I suggested that it was at least worth while the Government considering —as a beginning—a cut of three months in the period of full-time National Service and the raising of the annual training thereafter from two weeks to three. The argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wycombe—and I think of others—was that, to make the Reserve efficient we ought to increase the amount of annual training time. But every one knows that the National Service man could not possibly be asked to accept that added burden unless his liability was cut somewhere else.

Mr. Ian Harvey

It is not just a question of the National Service men. It is the Territorial Army which has to train these men and it cannot be expected to do three weeks annual training.

Mr. Stewart

With great respect, I was putting it to the consideration of the Government. I know the hon. Gentleman's experience in this, but I think that the Secretary of State can call on people with even wider experience and greater knowledge of the problem involved, if I may say so.

I know that it is a big problem. It is much easier for me to call attention to it than for the Government to sort out the difficulties involved. But that arises from our comparative positions in the House. It is our duty to make constructive and intelligent suggestions. It is, I fear, only too often the Government's part to tell us repeatedly that they cannot be put into operation. All I say is that I want them to look at this one very hard indeed because, from whatever angle we look at this problem, we seem to be driven back to the consideration that, sooner or later, we must reduce the period of full-time National Service.

If we start by looking at Egypt merely as a foreign affairs issue—if that were in order in this debate. Sir—and if we find here a commitment which positively does us harm militarily, the conclusion is that here is a way of giving ourselves elbow room to do something about National Service. If we are worried about the training of National Service men we shall not find it possible to do more for their training time without making some relaxation elsewhere of the burden on the National Service men.

If we look at the later considerations in the listed six which I gave at the beginning of my speech, the disposition of our Forces over the globe, and if we want to get a better disposition, that action is bound up with the length of the period of National Service. One of the reasons for the period being what it is today is the terrible overstretch of our Armed Forces.

If we look at the question of weapons and equipment, why is it, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), that we know that in the defence programme as a whole there has been a steady shortfall on the amount of money that should have been spent on equipment year after year since 1951? It is because, in effect, manpower has eaten it up, and we shall not get the Forces properly equipped with up-to-date weapons unless we can somehow reduce the amount of money we are spending on manpower. We are led to this in every direction.

I would mention two minor points on manpower. One is that the War Office should look at this Home Guard business. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) gave us an account of the Home Guard in his area. I am sure he will agree that it was not very inspiring?

Mr. Fisher

indicated assent.

Mr. Stewart

I wonder if the Secretary of State would not have been wiser to have listened to the advice which the Opposition gave him when this Bill was before the House early in this Parliament? He has got so many unavoidable manpower problems on his plate— the Regular recruiting, the National Service men, the necessary Reserve forces. Here is another little one, but it uses up men. Men are needed to administer it, for paper work, for administration. It seems to me that the Minister ought to be trying to cut down everywhere as much unnecessary administration in paper as he can, and he should address himself afresh to the question of the Home Guard. Is it really worth it, in view of the many other more important tasks that press immediately on him?

The other small point about manpower is that my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) mentioned misfits in the Army. I have heard it calculated—and I expect it is correct— that half the time of the medical officers in the Army is taken up by about 10 per cent, of the men and probably about half the time of the military policemen and provost officers is also consumed by 10 or 5 per cent, of the men in the Army. It is a question of whether, if the Army did not require some higher medical and, particularly, psychological standard for its men, it would not actually find that it was, paradoxically, saving its manpower by admitting rather fewer men. I think it still admits a certain number of men—it is not their fault—who constitutionally cannot make a go of Army life and they are, from the point of view of manpower, a minus quantity and not a real addition to the strength of the Army. I shall say no more, but the problem is worth consideration.

Now if I may turn to the fourth consideration in my list, that of trying to get the Army less severely stretched. That is, I suppose, more a political than a