HC Deb 08 March 1955 vol 538 cc248-405

8.3 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House, while welcoming the education provided in Army schools overseas for the children of serving officers and men, urges Her Majesty's Government to make better provision for the education of such children in the United Kingdom. In raising the subject of the education of the children of serving officers and men, I realise that I am narrowing the wide scope of the general debate. But, at the same time, I am slightly widening it, since it would be wrong, even if it were possible, to consider the problem of educating Army children without at the same time looking at the problem from the point of view of the other two Services, for the problem in each of the three cases is identical.

Indeed, all Service education is based on the principle that, wherever possible, the three Services should share the facilities which one of them provides. Wherever the Army happens to be the predominating Service in any given area, it is the Army which sets up the schools, but it enables the personnel of the Navy or the Air Force who happen to be in the same locality, to share them. And when the Navy or the Air Force is in that position, they reciprocate and allow the Army children to come in.

Yet it is particularly an Army problem, and that is why I have raised it in the Army estimates debate. Of the 24,000 Service children now being educated in schools abroad, 15,000 are Army children. Half of them are in Germany. Again it is the Army which in Germany has the ultimate charge of the education of these children, working with and through that most excellent organisation known as the British Family Education Service. That Service is wholly civilianised, and long may it remain so, but it is the Army and the War Office which hold the ultimate administrative responsibility for it.

I do not want to talk about the question of educating the children of Service men when they are stationed in this country. There are large numbers of them. There are 16,000 children of Service men being educated in United Kingdom secondary schools and I do not know how many in primary schools. They present no problem, for the local education authority looks after them in exactly the same way as it looks after their other children in the towns and villages.

I want to talk about the larger, thornier problem of what we should do about the education of the children of men who are serving overseas. Most Service men spend two-thirds of their careers abroad. Usually they are accompanied by their families, and the War Office has accepted responsibility—not for any statutory reason, but as a good employer Service—for educating the children of those men. The Memorandum accompanying the Army Estimates puts it this way:

Our aim is to provide so far as possible those facilities which would be available to them had they remained in this country. That is high intention, and I want to pay a tribute to the Army for what has been done to meet it. However, I contend that the Army can never fully meet it; that it can never, for reasons which I shall give, provide overseas the same facilities which those children would have if they were the sons and daughters of civilians permanently living in this country.

There are obvious difficulties. In some cases there can be no schools at all, for operational or other reasons. There are no schools in Korea, and there should not be. There are no schools in Japan, because the numbers of British Service men's children there are too small to make schools worth while. With those two exceptions, there is some kind of school provided by one of the three Services, usually the Army, for the education of Service men's children in every part of the world where our Armed Forces are stationed.

It should be remembered, moreover, that in many parts of the world the climate is so bad, so harmful to the health of young children that, even though the Army provides schools, in many cases the parents do not want their children to attend. Exactly the same thing applies to the recruitment of teachers. It is easy enough to obtain excellent teachers from the schools in this country to go to such places as Germany, but inevitably the Army must accept a lower standard of civilian teacher when he or she is asked to go out to the Far East. In Singapore, for instance, owing to the climate it is impossible to hold any classes in the afternoons at all. No hon. Member needs to be told what effect that has upon the education of children.

Those are minor difficulties, but there are two major ones, the thin dispersal of our troops on the ground and what the Army calls "disturbance" and the Royal Air Force calls "turbulence," which means the constant moving of men, and their families with them, from one place to another.

The thin dispersal on the ground is something which can never be overcome. Even in B.A.O.R. we never get a concentration of families equivalent to the concentration found in any English town, and in other parts of the world the distribution of our Service men and their families is even thinner. For that reason, the Services have been obliged to provide not a small number of large schools but a very large number of small schools. Any hon. Member who has had any experience in education will realise that in consequence there will be children of widely differing ages in every class and that such classes are extremely difficult to teach.

I will take an extreme example; it happens to be the worst, but it best illustrates my point. In the Army school at Tobruk there are 10 infants, eight juniors and six children of secondary school age. None of them can have much chance of a good education under those conditions. Again, there are not enough children to make it worth while to form a secondary school in East or West Africa, in the Caribbean, and in one or two other overseas stations.

Even where there is a sufficient concentration of children, the secondary boarding schools, such as we now have in Germany, are inevitably co-educational, comprehensive, all-denominational, and inter-Service. I am not saying that any of these things is bad, but it indicates how we can never set up abroad, under any circumstances whatever, even the best, the same pattern of education as that to which we are accustomed in this country.

The greatest difficulty of all is "disturbance." I do not expect my right hon. Friend to cut down the movement within the Army any further. There is an indication in the Memorandum that he has done his utmost; he has managed to cut it down by 10 per cent. in the forthcoming year in spite of the increased movements which will result from the evacuation of the Suez Base. In theory, no man or officer is required to move more than once every two or three years. That is about once during his tour of duty in any overseas or home command. However, matters do not work out that way. Men are constantly moving for reasons of promotion and experience, apart from operational reasons.

The result is that in Germany, where we have the very best conditions, less than 7 per cent. of the children have spent more than two years in the same school; the average length of time spent by a child in a primary school is three terms, and in a secondary school five terms. This means that the child is moving constantly from school to school and from teacher to teacher. He is taught in one school to learn his lessons in a certain way and in another school, to which he may be moved within a few weeks, he may be taught in quite another way.

When I was in Germany last week-end, I talked to a child of 13 who had been to 14 schools. These children arrive in the middle of a term, they leave in the middle of a term, and they have very little opportunity to finish courses which they have begun. This has a bad effect, not only upon the children who move, but also upon those who remain, for they lose their companions and are subject to constant disturbance. The teachers themselves naturally feel thwarted through the disappointment of losing bright children whom they have trained during the year or two, at the most, since their arrival at the school.

Yesterday morning I was in a primary school outside Dusseldorf, and there I saw children from two separate battalions. One of the battalions had arrived 10 days previously from a year's tour in Berlin; the other battalion had had the good fortune to be in that same station for a year and a half. I could tell, simply by looking at the children's copy books which belonged to the men of the first battalion and which to those of the second. The children who had come from Berlin were a long way behind those who had been at the school for a year and a half.

Commenting upon this very evident fact to the headmistress and the director of the B.F.E.S., who accompanied me, I said that it must surely prove that the teaching that the children had received in Berlin was comparatively second-rate. I was told that I was quite wrong. The reason for the difference in the standard of writing between the two sets of copy books was psychological upset caused by the move from Berlin. I found that difficult to believe, but I was assured that it was so and that if I had come a few weeks later I should have found little difference between the two sets of books. If a move from Berlin to Dusseldorf can produce that result, what must be the result of a long trooping journey out to Malaya?

The children of secondary school age are handicapped even more. They have reached the most impressionable of all ages. They require not a few months but several years of continuous education under the same teacher, but they are not getting it, not even in Germany. I went on Saturday to the big new boarding secondary school at Hamm. I can only say, that, in spite of all its other virtues and qualities, it had the characteristics of an educational marshalling yard. The children were being shunted in and shunted out, and the teachers, who were of the highest quality, were sometimes in despair about the abilities which they saw going to waste.

To sum up, the average child drops below the average as a result of this constant movement, and the bright child manages to keep just level with the average child in this country. However, it is the bright children that we want to encourage; their parents have every right to look forward to a university education for them, but there are very few Service children who are approaching anywhere near that standard.

I do not want to draw too gloomy a picture. There are many compensations even for this constant travel. There are better premises in schools in many parts of the world than we find in England. In Germany, there are much smaller classes, and there are excellent teachers who are hand-picked from volunteers from our own schools here. The very fact that the children travel so much broadens their minds. They have an astonishing maturity and elasticity. They learn languages with remarkable facility. To them, geography is not a matter of books; it is a matter of places which they have actually visited. The teachers of languages and geography sometimes find themselves embarrassed by the knowledge possessed by their pupils.

These children know the world, but they do not know its sorry politics. To them the Mohne Dam is a place where one can sail on a Saturday afternoon, and Belsen is the name of a primary school. There is no snobbishness in these schools, and it struck me very forcibly that a silent social revolution is taking place. A colonel or brigadier will not for one moment think it strange or unusual if his child is sitting in class next to the child of his own corporal.

The children have no sense of rank. We might have expected them to have adopted among their schoolmates the ranks of their fathers in the unit, but they never do so, and the rivalry, such as it is, is healthy inter-unit rivalry and never inter-rank rivalry. The children have the advantages of being in the Army. They have the transport, the stores and the entertainment facilities which the Army can provide; and they are growing up within the traditions of some of our finest regiments.

In Germany, which is the only area I have been able to visit before this debate, there is an excellent educational system, but we must realise that it is unique. I was seeing the very best that there is. There is a concentration of troops which permits the setting up of permanent, large schools. We now know that British troops will be there perhaps for 50 years. A second advantage not enjoyed by any other theatre is that the Germans themselves have had to pay for the capital costs of the premises which we occupy, and, in many cases, the equipment within them.

The expenditure, had we had to pay the whole cost, would have been appalling. The Army statiticians in the Northern Army Group Headquarters have worked out the real cost of keeping a child at King William's School, Wilhelmshaven, at £562 per child per year, and, for the whole of the Zone, at £499 per child per year in the secondary schools. That figure is a lesson for us. When the Paris Agreements come into force we shall probably lose that advantage and have to pay.

So, when we are thinking, as we must, of building new schools in Germany for these children, we must realise that the capital cost alone will be between £800 and £1,000 per child, that cost of constructing those schools must now fall on the British taxpayer, and that to run the schools the cost will be about £400 per child per year. The numbers of children there are increasing. By 1960, they will have risen from 11,000 to 16,000 in the B.A.O.R., and 70 per cent. of the increase will be in respect of children requiring a secondary education.

I want to make one or two suggestions resulting from my visit to Germany, without, of course, expecting my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to give me an answer tonight. It struck me very forcibly that one way of mitigating the disadvantages of this constant change from station to station and school to school would be for the Army to adopt, not only in Germany, but throughout the world, standard syllabuses and to a large extent standard text books, so that on arriving at a new school the child would be able to pick up where he left off at the old school.

At the moment that is not so. It is not so, because the teachers coming from England have always been used to choosing their own textbooks and following their own methods of education. I fully sympathise with that, but I think that there ought to be a greater degree of standardisation in Service schools for the sake of the children themselves. I cannot believe that the teachers' initiative and power of choice would be too greatly limited if the schools were required to work on more or less the same lines, and with more or less the same books.

Secondly, I suggest that there should be teachers upon the troopships when they go out to the further corners of the world. In some cases the children are losing six weeks or two months' education during the voyage. The Australian Army has teachers on all its troopships, but we have none. Could not this six weeks' gap at least be partly eliminated in this way?

Can the Army not make serious efforts to give the children their holidays at the time their parents take their leave? No effort, as far as I could make out from questioning a number of orderly room quartermaster sergeants, who are the people who should know, is being made in this direction. The result is that the soldier's leave is allotted to him at a time when his children are at school, and the children's holidays coincide with his periods of duty, so that neither gets a proper holiday. Surely it cannot be a very difficult administrative task to see that whenever possible the two coincide.

Even if some of these changes can be made, there still remains the major problem, which is the one with which I want to end. So many parents feel so strongly about this disturbance element in their children's education, that they are voluntarily and at their own expense sending their children to complete their education in this country. I want to ask whether the Government consider that they should be given help in so doing. Six hundred children from B.A.O.R. are being educated in this country at the moment, in spite of all the facilities available in the Zone itself.

I have been told in a very high quarter that the difficulty of providing their children with a proper education is the biggest of all the deterrents to long-service officers and men. We are losing the most valuable men, our senior N.C.Os. and warrant officers, captains, majors and lieutenant-colonels, the men who are old enough to have children of school age and are resigning because they are dissatisfied with the system that exists.

In many cases it is possible for an officer or man to send his children home with his wife, so that they can live in England and attend the ordinary day school. That involves a family separation, a principle against which we have set our faces for the Army as a whole. Many Service men are spending far beyond their means on high school fees so that their children can be taught in private schools in this country. The Education Act is of very little help to parents in that position. The Act places upon the local authorities the power, but not the obligation, to help the children of parents who are serving overseas.

Many parents have found it extremely difficult to establish a local connection with any education authority. They are told that they do not belong anywhere, when they are serving their country in some far-off land. They are told that although local education authorities may give financial help for the education of children in this country, they are not bound to do so; and most do not.

Moreover, in the scales suggested by the Ministry of Education to local education authorities, the major, the lieutenant-colonel and all ranks above are virtually excluded from any assistance whatever. The result is that men who have made the greatest success of their careers are penalised, and those who have done not so well are given assistance.

There are very few boarding places here to which children can be sent. In my own local authority area at Bournemouth there are only nine children whose parents are overseas who are being educated under this general Ministry of Education scheme, and not one is a Service man's child. Five are the children of colonial officials; three are children of missionaries and one is the child of a pilot in a civil airline.

I suggest that the War Office should implement very soon the promise implied in the statement made by Earl Alexander, the former Minister of Defence, in another place on 3rd February, 1954, when he said: … we realise only too well that … provision must be made for the boarding education of the children."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 3rd February, 1954; Vol. 185, c. 682–3.] That promise has not been implemented and I do not see any sign of it being implemented.

The whole reason for my initiating the debate on this subject this evening is to try to extract from the War Office a slightly firmer explanation of what is intended. It has been urged on me from a very high level that the right answer is that an education grant be made to the families, such as the Foreign Office pay for the children of their own officials who are abroad, a grant of up to £150 per year per child.

As it has been urged upon me so strongly, and from men of such high experience, I naturally have great reluctance in disregarding their advice, but I do not think that this is the right way to do it. There is no true parallel between the children of Service men and the children of Foreign Office officials. There are very few of the latter and, so far as I know, there are no Foreign Office schools in any Embassies or Legations abroad. Presumably, Service men who chose to educate their children where they are stationed would not get the giant allotted to the parents who chose the other alternative of education at home, and the former might well feel rather disgruntled.

The real difficulty involved in the suggestion of a grant is that there are no boarding places, or virtually none, in the United Kingdom to which these children could be sent. A grant would be perfectly useless to any parent were it not matched with a boarding place. It would be like allotting a scholarship to a boy and then finding that there was no school at which the scholarship was tenable. It would be very wrong were we to oblige parents—officers or warrant officers—to use these grants to supplement their meagre resources in order to pay the extremely expensive fees of private schools.

And so I come to my own final suggestion for the solution of this problem. It falls into two parts; an interim solution and a long-term solution. The interim solution is that the Ministry of Education should form itself into a central authority for receiving applications from parents serving overseas, and for allotting school places in this country. An example has already been set this week in the case of housing. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government saw that there was an injustice to Service parents and made arrangements to remove that injustice. I think it time for the Ministry of Education to follow suit.

The Ministry would receive inquiries from overseas and would lay down the scale of assistance and the conditions under which assistance would be given. Thus we should avoid the present anomaly whereby half-a-dozen officers, sharing the same mess overseas, who have managed to attract the attention of different local education authorities in England, are treated in radically different ways. But this act of mercy and of good administration by the Ministry of Education can only be an interim measure. The final solution must be the provision of boarding places in this country for any parents whose needs justify them.

I suggest that the Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Service Ministries, should reserve places in existing boarding schools specifically for these children, and that, in the last resort, as it becomes necessary—and when finance becomes available—we should build wings on to existing grammar and secondary modern schools, or, if it is thought wise, even build special boarding schools for children of Service men. These schools should also be open to children of colonial officials, Foreign Office officials, and a few others, but closed to the general body of civilians.

I suggest that Army parents should be required to accept the Army primary schools as the main basis of their children's education. These boarding schools would be required only for children of secondary school age. The parents would have the option of choosing between Army schools overseas or Army or Service schools at home. They would make a contribution—and the best contribution scales that I have yet seen are those of the B.F.E.S., at present in operation in Germany. The Ministry of Education would be responsible for coordinating all this activity.

As an essential part of the scheme, every child should be allowed one free air, sea or rail ticket once a year to enable him to rejoin his parents during the holidays, and he should be able to travel at concession rates at other times. If such a scheme were adopted the children would receive the continuous education which they ought to have; the wives would be able to stay with their husbands during term time, and the children could join them during the holidays. This scheme would be infinitely cheaper than building secondary schools in overseas stations.

I have given figures relating to Germany, and they cannot be so very different in other parts of the world. If a school were built in an overseas command there would always be the possibility that it might have to be abandoned owing to a change in strategic policy or for some other reason, but if it were built at home it would always be of use, and nobody would regret the amount of money expended upon it.

Circumstances have greatly changed since the early years of the century, when a serving soldier could take his family out to India, stay there for many years, and give his children an education as good as they could obtain in an English public school. The situation has also changed in that we now—thank goodness—promote our officers by merit, and draw them from every social class. One disadvantage of this change is that officers very often have no capital behind them. They marry early; they have children early, and they have not reached a very high rank at the moment when they have to find the money to educate their children.

We cannot afford to lose these men; they are the most valuable in the Army. We want to attract others like them, but if their children's education suffers these men will leave before their time, or they will be subjected to the unnecessary hardship of separation from their families. Let us plan now for 50 years ahead, and do something to alleviate these conditions. If my plan is not adopted, I hope that some other plan will be, which will have an equivalent result.

8.40 p.m.

Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)

I beg to second the Amendment.

It is with the very greatest pleasure that I second the Amendment, although I can add very little to the able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson). He rightly said that one of the matters which disturbs the middle N.C.O. group and the officers more than anything is the education of their children. Exactly a year ago I had the luck to be able to raise this subject. As a result—I like to think that it was a result of what I said—an inter-Departmental committee was set up between the War Office and the Ministry of Education to go into the whole matter. I was able to provide it with a considerable amount of confidential examples of the sort of hardship I have in mind.

I gather that the committee has reported. A whole year has passed, and it is alarming to contemplate the slow speed at which the Civil Service works. I am not sure that the recommendations of that committee even now will be accepted. We have had a change at the Ministry of Education, and it may be that the new Minister does not see eye-to-eye with his predecessor on some of the policies which were initiated. That is perfectly natural. I am grateful that the Minister is here tonight, because I am discussing a very serious matter.

It is not only a question of what is good for the Army, but of our duty to these young children. That is where the Ministry of Education comes in, because the education of our children, irrespective of whether they are in the Army or not, is its responsibility. This position affects more severely children who are in the last four years before they sit for their general certificate of education. My hon. Friend spoke a good deal about education abroad; I want to say a word or two about what goes on in this country, owing to the constant moves of Army units within the British Isles.

As the Minister of Education knows, there are four boards with four different syllabuses for the general certificate of education, covering Oxford, Cambridge and London, and there is the joint board. The boards teach the children under one or other of the syllabuses, and when a child is moved in those four years he may go to a school studying a totally different syllabus. Apart from the interruption in his studies, he may have to start all over again.

I want to stress, as I did on the last occasion, the question of grants by local authorities for the assistance of people applying out of the Forces for them. There are two points about this and, if the Minister is not aware of them, I hope he will listen very carefully. The first point is that no local authority has the faintest idea of the standard of living and costs in the places abroad from which these children come. The local authority assesses need on the basis of need in its local area, although that may have absolutely no relation to the need in Singapore, Nairobi or any other part of the world. Local authorities have no method of assessing it, and therefore the most appalling injustices take place.

The other point which needs looking into is the question of an unduly uniform basis of assessment throughout the country. The Minister of Education may have heard the suggestions made in regard to long-term policy; I am not sure that a tax-free grant would not be cheaper for the Treasury in the end and might be a simpler short-term solution. After all, if it is costing £400 or £500 a year to educate the child abroad, it would be cheaper to give the parent £200 a year, which, I am sure, he would welcome, to educate the child fairly well at home.

However, the suggestion I have to make is that meantime and immediately—do not let us wait for any more committees to report—the Minister of Education should make up his mind about the choice he has. Do not let us forget that it is not the local authority that pays the grant. The local authority merely assesses and allocates the place. It then applies to the Ministry to get a grant from the pool. In my opinion, the Ministry ought to deal with all these cases. All these applications should be made to the Ministry, and the Ministry should make the allotments of places and pay the grants. If it does not want to do that it must, alternatively, circulate to local authorities a standard set of bases on which the local authorities should work in order that there should not be this great variation as between local authorities. The Minister should make up his mind now which course to follow.

That is all I have to say on the subject this year. I hope that I shall not have to say it again next year. I do hope that the Minister of Education will seriously study that report, and also some of those examples which I sent in, which he still has, and which I should not mind having back, and see the appalling hardships which do accrue from the present situation.

8.47 p.m.

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

I think we would all like to congratulate the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) on having introduced this subject tonight, even though precious few Members seem to take an interest in it, and also on the very interesting and useful way in which he has raised it. I also have a rather close interest in the matter. It is now some two years since I intervened upon it in the House and received a letter from the Under-Secretary of State for War at that time, setting out the problem that we all know faces the War Office, especially in secondary education for these children.

He put down on paper very clearly the three alternatives which the War Office at that time was considering. First, the possibility was that it might continue …the present policy towards full and effective provision for secondary education overseas in day and boarding schools according to need and facilities available locally. The second possibility was To make partial provision overseas and set up Service schools in U.K. for selected children. The third was To set up Service schools in U.K. for all children of secondary school age. He went on to say: As you will appreciate, while this matter is still under consideration both in my Department and also in other Departments it is not possible to say what the final outcome will be. As I well know, those alternatives have not only been under discussion during the last two years, but for a quite considerable time before that. It is right that we should press for some information now from the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary of State as to just where they have got to in dealing with this very difficult problem, which, I appreciate, is by no means an easy one to settle. There is the narrower problem dealt with by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), and there is also this wider problem of what attitude we should take about the educational facilities available to these children, whether in Germany or elsewhere.

May I raise one or two points on this subject? I was in Germany, looking incidentally at some of these provisions, about 18 months ago. I saw the alterations which were then being made in the barracks at Hamm to provide for this new boarding school for secondary children on a comprehensive basis—a school which, alas, has now been classified by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch as providing for a shunting operation. I could see the great expense of the alterations which were being made for this new school, but I can well believe that the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the bulk of the time of the staff must be occupied with providing for new pupils coming in and other pupils going out, for that is an almost continuous process.

I also had the opportunity of going to Plön to see one of the schools in operation there. Again, the general provision is magnificent, and there is no doubt that the standard of the staff is good, but there is this appalling problem of not being able to give settled tuition to a child for anything like a period of time which we would regard as satisfactory.

The point has been put on many occasions, and probably put as well as anybody by the director of the British Families Education Service in magazines produced by the Service. He rightly points out that not only is there a continuous change in the children attending the schools but there is almost inevitably a pretty continuous change amongst the teaching staff.

I should like to join the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch in congratulating the staff on the excellent efforts which they make and on the way in which, amazingly, they sometimes manage to overcome their difficulties. They show highly creditable initiative and ingenuity in trying to meet this hopeless problem. Nevertheless, it undoubtedly means that many of the staff are on the move very frequently—much more frequently than in schools in this country.

We thus have the children moving and the staff moving. But even that is not all because, as it were, the buildings are moving too—or, at least, it was certainly the experience in Germany, where I assume that conditions are better than anywhere else in this connection, that in the first few years these schools were continually moving from one set of premises to another. I quite agree that on many occasions they were steadily improving the facilities available.

We thus have all three factors on the move—the children, the teachers, and, as it were the buildings. Nothing is stable. I think it is fair to say that even the home background, which we all agree is so important for children, is not particularly stable. It would be reasonable to say, I think, that the child of a serving officer or a serving man abroad does not have the same stability of home conditions which he might expect in an average home and an average family in this country.

It seems to me that almost everything militates against a proper standard of education being provided. The hon. Member suggested that one minor change which might be made and which might assist—I imagine he had junior children particularly in mind—was a standardisation of textbooks and of teaching.

Although that seems to be attractive—and it was mentioned to me when I was in Germany by one or more of the brigadiers I met—I am by no means certain that in fact it is attractive.

The teaching staff very properly wish to have as near the same freedom as they would have in this country; indeed, it would be fair to say they often have even more. I think the very initiative and ingenuity they often show is due to their feeling that they have that liberty to take whatever action they feel right in relation to particular children. There is the slight advantage in Germany that they have somewhat smaller classes than are common in this country. That means it is a little more possible to give individual attention to the child. That individual attention needs to be emphasised in every possible way. If we were to adopt a method of standardisation of textbooks, however attractive for other reasons, I am not sure that we would not lose something else in the initiative and imagination of the teaching staff. In any case, before any proposal of that kind was accepted it should be thought about very carefully indeed.

The position is now such that we ought to ask the War Office and the Ministry of Education to state what their views are about the future. I am very glad the Ministry of Education has held on to its very close interest in this matter. Although it is right and proper that the War Office should be in charge and local units should be in charge for all local matters of organisation and provisioning, it is very important that the actual education should be retained in the hands of the Ministry of Education and not transferred to the hands of the War Office. So far as I know, that is still so.

I have not got recent figures, and I do not know whether it is still true, but certainly when I was in Germany it worried me considerably to find that very large numbers of children over 11 were still in primary schools, often because there was no other accommodation available for them. That is just one of the examples of the sort of difficulties one is up against in trying to make as wide a provision as possible overseas where obviously we have not the numbers needed to make the normal provision which is expected. I should be very sorry to see schools like Plön disappear. That is a very imaginative venture, a comprehensive co-educational school. There are not many like it, certainly not in this country. The cost of running a school like that must be very high. I asked some questions about it, but they were very anxious not to give me an answer and I do not altogether blame them.

Mr. N. Nicolson

In order that the hon. Member should not have a wrong impression, I should say that I did not in any way want to suggest that the existing secondary boarding schools in Germany should be done away with. All I suggested was that instead of building new ones in Germany at colossal expense they should be built in this country.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I quite appreciate that the hon. Member had that in mind. I was assuming that the War Office and the Ministry of Education have under consideration the whole problem of what the future should be, even including Plön and problems of that kind. I must admit that it is sometimes rather hard to justify the provision of places like Plönwhen, because of the repeated interruption of a reasonably continuous period of education, we cannot hope to get the result that we ought to expect from the expenditure incurred. That is a matter one has to think about very seriously indeed.

I wondered whether it was possible for the War Office, now that there appear to be slightly more settled conditions so far as the maintenance of troops in Germany is concerned, to give rather more settled conditions, at any rate for a limited number of pupils, in places like Plön, Wilhelmshaven and Hamm. Unless some sort of general undertaking can be given that the children will be able to enjoy the teaching facilities there for a longer period than is possible today, I very much doubt whether the expenditure at these centres, much as I like them in many ways, is justified.

I doubt also whether we will continue to get the staff that we need for those schools, because I noticed that there as in other schools in Germany, there is a constant movement to and fro. I do not think we will check that constant flow unless we can give the teachers as well as the children more settled conditions in which to work. These are circumstances that we cannot allow simply to drift on indefinitely into the future. A decision must be made fairly soon by the War Office and the Ministry of Education, either on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch or, if it is felt that more settled conditions can be envisaged in Europe, by further developments in Europe itself.

I want to finish on a slightly more controversial note. In one of the issues of the British Families Education Service Gazette some little while ago, the Director of the Service very fairly made clear all the difficulties that he had to face. He said, for example, that There are … peculiar difficulties in B.F.E.S. Service life is, at best, unnatural for both parent and child, and it offers no very tangible cultural pattern into which a school can be fitted. That is true also. He continued: The schools, suffering in any case from chronic discontinuity in their children—"

that is a nice phrase— are not themselves stable (the ghosts of defunct B.F.E.S. schools would populate a tolerably large mansion).In a number of cases, the home life of the children adds nothing by way of stable emotional relationships, and the child is considered a member of the family mainly in that he has equal rights of prescription on the services of the German maid. I think that there is some truth in that paragraph.

It is unfortunate that the very encouraging way in which the schools themselves have broken down some of the barriers between officer and other rank so far as the children are concerned have not achieved similar results at home. It is something of a tragedy that at the home, apparently, in many cases all that the wives of many serving officers, and, perhaps, other ranks, can have to discuss and to occupy their minds is the problem of the satisfactory or other conduct of the maids and batmen that are provided for them.

When we consider the whole problem of children's education abroad, we have to think not purely of the provision that we make in the schools, but we must think also of the sometimes very unhappy conditions in the homes which are generated partly by the continual movement of serving men all over the world. I hope, therefore, that some of the interesting suggestions of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch this evening will be followed up by the Minister and that in any case he gives us some up-to-date information of what action he proposes to take.

9.5 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Fitzroy Maclean)

We should be extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) for raising this most important topic. Clearly, he has given much thought to it, and has also taken a great deal of trouble by way of research. Both his speech and the discussion which has followed have been extremely valuable. Certainly all those who have taken part in the debate are extremely well qualified to speak on the subject.

I should like to begin with a few words about the problem in general, and the way in which it has been and still is being tackled. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch said, the Army, like the other Services, in its capacity as a good employer, accepts responsibility for providing free education for soldiers' children abroad. As most soldiers spend two-thirds of their careers outside the United Kingdom, that is clearly very important.

Our intention is that the education thus provided should correspond as nearly as possible to that provided at home by education authorities under the Education Act, 1944. The Army provides both primary and secondary education. Where there are more than 10 children in any one station primary schools are provided, or, if some of the children are older, all-age schools. I shall say something about them later. Where there are fewer than 10 children they are sent elsewhere in the command, if necessary as boarders, or where that is not possible, or where they are outside major commands, arrangements are made for the children to attend local civilian schools at public expense.

So much for primary education. Secondary education, as hon. Members have pointed out, is a much more difficult problem for a number of reasons. Where there are enough older children we are able to establish secondary schools which give secondary modern and, as far as possible, secondary grammar school education. In Singapore, we actually have a separate grammar school, but unfortunately in a great many stations and com- mands there are too few children of the right age to make that possible. Forty children are considered to be the lowest number for which it is practicable to open a separate secondary department.

The result is that we have to fall back upon all-age schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch mentioned the school in Tobruk. Altogether, the Army has no fewer than 13 all-age schools where there are fewer than 10 secondary-standard children. As my hon. Friend said, such an arrangement is likely to provide a less satisfactory education for the older children. On the other hand—and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) brought this point out very well—it is possible that if one secures a really good teacher and conditions generally are favourable, children in those sorts of cases may obtain a really good education. It depends on individual circumstances.

All-age schools, especially when they are as small as that, are not likely to be very satisfactory. On an average, at least 1,000 families are needed to provide the 60 secondary grammar school children which we require in order to justify the employment of suitable specialist teachers to set up a separate school. Of course, in some places where there is a large Command with scattered stations the difficulty can be overcome by concentrating the children at a boarding school, but this only applies to large Commands.

Another obstacle to satisfactory education which has already been referred to is the difficulty of attracting suitably qualified teachers from the United Kingdom. Not many teachers are prepared to jeopardise their prospects of a career by undertaking a prolonged tour overseas, but I think that all the more credit is due to those who are prepared to take on a job of that kind. I was very glad to hear the tributes which were paid to teachers in Army schools by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch mentioned that he had been to Germany this week-end, and he told us something about what he had seen. Germany, of course, is the best example. It shows the education of children of Army personnel at its best. The large numbers—and it is half of all the children being educated in Army schools—are bound to be a great help. The schools there are administered, as my hon. Friend said, by the British Families Education Service. That was started originally in 1946 by the Foreign Office, and only taken over by the War Office in 1952. It is administered by the Chief Education Officer, B.O.A.R., and the director and his staff are civilians. They have their own separate headquarters.

Altogether over 10,000 children attend these schools, of whom about three-quarters are Army children, the remainder being from the other Services or children of civilians and officials. There are altogether 78 primary schools—that is day schools—three small nursery schools and three secondary boarding schools, which are bilateral. That is, they have a modern and a grammar side. We anticipate that by 1958 we shall need another two such schools to meet the increase we expect.

Secondary education in Germany is, as I have already stated, more satisfactory than it is in any other Command. Most of the older children attend boarding schools where there are both modern courses, and grammar courses for the General Certificate of Education. There are also some facilities for secondary technical education.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, can he say whether there still are a large number of children in the primary schools who are over 11 years of age? Two years ago about 800 were stated to be in such schools. I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to give a spot figure, but can he say whether this is still a problem?

Mr. Maclean

So far as I know that is not the case. I do not think there are any all-age schools. They are mostly either primary schools for the younger children or secondary schools for the older children. But I will look into that point and let the hon. Gentleman know.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I do not want to make difficulties but there was a serious problem in that there were many children who were not getting a secondary education being crammed into the primary schools by force of circumstances, and I wanted to know whether that was still the case.

Mr. Maclean

I can give the hon. Gentleman a little more information.

There are still several hundred children over 11 who are not in secondary boarding schools. The reasons are various. In some cases the children are about to go home to the United Kingdom; in others the parents prefer to keep the children at home rather than that they should be boarders. As I have said, we are aiming at opening two more secondary boarding schools. Until we get more boarding accommodation, there may continue to be a problem, but we are pressing on with it.

It gives some idea of the standards which have been attained when I tell the House that the average result for the General Certificate of Education was 62 per cent. successful in our schools in Germany as compared with 60 per cent. in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps I may say a word about the conditions which we aim at establishing in Army schools. In spite of the obvious difficulties, which have been mentioned, we make every attempt to ensure that conditions in Army schools abroad approximate as far as possible to those obtaining in comparable schools in this country. The curriculum is based on that in use here. I thought that the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch that there should be standardisation of the syllabus and textbooks used was interesting and worth looking into in order to provide a greater continuity of education than exists. I was also interested by what the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East said on this subject. It is certainly a consideration to be taken into account.

The staff of our schools is mainly seconded or appointed through local education authorities in the United Kingdom and they are, in general, extremely well qualified and experienced. As in England, there are regular dental and medical inspections. Milk is supplied. In Germany and Austria school meals are also supplied, elsewhere they are covered by special allowances. Finally there is free transport to and from school for the children.

All children's schools are periodically inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectors, and here I should like to express our gratitude both to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education and also to local education authorities in this country for the co-operation they give us in helping us with our schools abroad. It has been mentioned already that most of our schools are co-educational. In that respect we may claim to be well in advance of schools at home and, as far as I know, the experiment has worked out satisfactorily.

It has already been mentioned that the rank of the father confers no privileges on the child. I am sure that hon. Members will be glad to hear that, and to know that the fact that the child is the son of a general or of a regimental sergeant major does not enable him to throw his weight about more than anybody else's child.

The accommodation and the equipment of schools is bound to vary with local conditions. We make every effort to secure as high a standard as possible whatever the conditions may be. I will give the House two examples. In Germany the three boarding schools at Hamm, Plön and Wilhelmshaven are really very luxuriously established in naval or army barracks, and we are fortunate in having good accommodation at little or no cost to the taxpayers. In addition to being visited by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch, the schools were also visited by the Parliamentary delegation under the leadership of the right hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wilfred Paling) which recently visited Germany, and we can be grateful for the very valuable comments contained in their Report.

At the other end of the world from Germany, there is the Slim secondary school in the Cameron Highlands of Malaya. It provides a very marked contrast, not in the standard of education but in the surroundings and the conditions of life of the children. Instead of being in well-equipped barrack rooms, the classrooms are in straw huts.

When the 138 boys and girls come back from their holidays, they travel under armed escort in order to protect them from the bandits who infest the whole area. In spite of that, the children carry on very much as they would in England. They are under a headmaster, a major in the Royal Army Education Corps, who was formerly a housemaster at Bedford School. Like most other Army schools, it is co-educational, and the pupils include a certain number of Gurkha children. The ages range from 11 to 18.

It will be clear to hon. Members from what I have said that the commitment which the Army has thus assumed is an extremely heavy one. At present, £1 million a year is included in the Army Estimates for the education of Army children. What is more, it is an increasing commitment. Since 1950 the number of pupils in Army schools has risen from 4,000 to 20,000, the number of schools has increased from 60 to 160, and the number of teachers has increased from 300 to 1,000.

It is true that the increase is very largely due to the increased responsibilities that we have assumed in Germany, and that that is now a thing of the past which will not recur; but it is also due to some extent to the bulge in the birth rate. The bulge in the birth rate is proportionately larger and more sustained in the Fighting Services than among the civilian population. I am told that it is largest of all in the Royal Air Force

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

House counted, and 40 Members being present

Mr. Maclean

I think it has emerged from our debate that the arrangements made for the education of Army children overseas are, so far as they go, comprehensive and not unsuccessful, and I can assure hon. Members that steps are constantly being taken to introduce further improvements wherever possible. But for all that, it cannot be denied that Army children overseas are at a definite disadvantage, particularly in the case of secondary education, compared with children at home.

What is more, the provision of more and better schools overseas cannot provide the whole answer. In the main the difficulties are inherent in the special conditions of Service family life. As has been emphasised by everyone who has spoken in this debate, the biggest single handicap to Army children is the frequency with which their families change homes. In this way they are bound to lose continuity in instruction, and the result, of course, is a fundamental weakness in the basic subjects, particularly in English and in arithmetic.

There is also the difficulty, which I mentioned just now, of providing experienced teachers, a continuity of teachers, and also a sufficiently wide range of education for secondary pupils. Although there is no doubt that the wider outlook which Army children acquire is a great asset, for which many of them are grateful in later life, and even the smallness of the classes and the individual attention which children get may also be a help, none of that really makes up for the ground which they lose in other respects.

For all these reasons, no solution undertaken overseas can really remove the basic difficulties, for it cannot do more than minimise their effects. Army parents are as anxious, perhaps more anxious, than any one else to give their children the best possible start in life. The result is that many of them are obliged to decide between three unsatisfactory choices; their child has to undergo frequent changes of school, or husband and wife have to be separated for long periods, which generally speaking means setting up a home in England, or, the child has to be sent home either to relatives in the United Kingdom or to a boarding school.

None of these three possibilities is entirely satisfactory. What is more, if the child is sent to a boarding school, that is bound to involve additional expense. In addition to that there are the other difficulties which have been mentioned, the difficulty in particular of finding places in schools at home. In the circumstances, it would be useless to pretend that there is no problem. There is a very real problem.

Hon. Members have suggested various possible solutions. The possibility of a central agency has been mentioned, and direct grants, and the possibility of building special schools in this country for Service children. All these possibilities are being given careful and close consideration by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence and also by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. It would be wrong for me to say more than that at the present time, but I can assure hon. Members that the problem will not be allowed to go by default.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, West)

The hon. Gentleman said, "It would be wrong for me to say more than that." It would certainly have been impossible for him to have said less. He has not answered the debate at all. He has read us his prepared piece, with, I am bound to say, a monotony which did nothing to relieve either the pedestrian quality of his style or the prosaic nature of the matter he was putting forward. He simply described the situation as it is at present.

If I may say so without patronage to the hon. Members concerned, the hon. Gentleman had the advantage of three constructive speeches full of suggestions from the hon. Member for. Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop). The hon. Gentleman made no comment upon them, except to remark that he thought there might be something to be said for the suggestion about standardised books and syllabuses. He also thought that there was something to be said for the criticism of that suggestion made by my hon. Friend. From that he went on until we were told, in the last sentence, that he realised that there was a problem.

I hope that the three hon. Members who took part in the debate realise that they have at least scored that measure of success; that that point has been hammered home inevitably, and that the suggestions they made—and the hon. Gentleman reminded them of what were the suggestions—are to be given close and careful consideration. I had hoped to hear that the consideration would be active as well. They are to be given consideration, not only by the right hon. Gentlemen at the War Office, but by the Minister of Education.

I had hoped that the Minister of Education would make some comment in this debate. When the late George Tomlinson was Minister of Education, and went to make a speech somewhere in the provinces, a number of boys from the local grammar school played truant merely in order to see the Minister of Education. They did not wait to hear him—it was enough to see him. In this House, however, we require rather more than that.

Important suggestions have been made to the Minister of Education and I wish to put this point. I do not believe—and I quite agree with the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch—that the education provided abroad in the Army schools can be the equal of what is provided at home. With the best will in the world, and despite the splendid work of the teachers and the amount of money spent, it is a sheer impossibility. Therefore, some part of this problem must be solved by the kind of methods referred to by all three hon. Members, and particularly by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing. I hope that the Minister of Education will give most serious consideration to that matter.

I do not regard this problem light-heartedly at all. It is a very serious and difficult problem which deserves more consideration than it has so far received from the Government. There should be provided some way in which these children can be educated in this country, if their parents so wish; but although the provision for education in Army schools abroad cannot be as good as that at home it ought to be available for those parents who require it, for the reason that children react very differently to these moves.

One child will triumph miraculously over being moved from school to school, provided that it has the emotional security of being with its parents all the time. Parents who feel that their child will react in that way ought to have the opportunity of sending it to an Army school. Other children are able to go to boarding schools and be away from their parents often for long periods, but they apparently require to have a very solid and good basis for their schooling if they are to get on. Children vary unpredictably in this way, and we need both types of provision. It is a more serious problem than the hon. Gentleman seems to have grasped.

It is customary, in this kind of a debate within a debate, for the hon. Member who has moved the Amendment to say that in view of the not unsympathetic reply he asks leave to withdraw it. The claims of party loyalty are strong, and we realise that the hon. Member may have to mumble through that form of words, but I assure him quite seriously that if he finds that he cannot bring himself to do so and takes the unusual but not impossible course of dividing the House upon the Amendment he will not go alone into the Lobby.

Mr. N. Nicolson

With great respect to the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), it is easier to be a back bencher or even a Front Bencher on his side of the House than it is to be a Front Bencher on this side. I have no inside knowledge of this matter, and I do not want to have any. Presumably there are wheels within wheels, because this matter involves not only the Army and the other Services, but the Ministry of Education, the Foreign Office, the Board of Trade, and several other Ministries which employ men who serve overseas for long periods.

I feel confident that discussions are going on in this matter, and I do take the course which the hon. Member said that I might do and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, in anticipation of further news later.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

9.38 p.m.

Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)

Returning to the main subject, I want to refer to the speech made by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), whom we were all pleased to see speaking from the Front Bench opposite. He made a very pleasant speech, but I want to take up the point he made concerning strategic reserves because, as in his argument about tanks—in which he got a little involved—I did not follow his reasoning.

The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be wise, if we are to have a strategic reserve, to have it dispersed in various parts of the world in which it was anticipated that trouble might arise. I should have thought that that would completely vitiate the whole idea of a strategic reserve, because the whole object is to hold it as an entity in a position from which it can be used at any point where there might at one time or another be difficulty. If it were dispersed it would not be a strategic reserve. It would be a reserve, but not a strategic one.

When we had this argument last year, the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) made some very strong comments upon the subject of a strategic reserve. Now that he has his strategic reserve, he is not quite so strong upon it.

Mr. Strachey

The reason why I may not be so strong about it is that the hydrogen bomb has made far more vulnerable and doubtful the proposition of keeping large numbers of troops in this country.

Mr. Harvey

I do not concede the point entirely. If we are to have a strategic reserve anywhere it should be concentrated to a certain extent, and it will be equally vulnerable wherever it is concentrated.

Let me move from that point to the issue which I would like to bring out, and which the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw thought I might touch on, although he referred to me as the "hon. Member for Hendon." It is the question of Anti-Aircraft Command. Closely linked with that issue is the defence of the home front and the relationship of the Territorial Army to the whole organization. I was very anxious that the question of air defence should be brought to a head quite a long time ago. I feel that it has now been brought to a head in such a way that it may well lead to dislocation, and we must look at the matter really seriously.

To begin with, the umbrella of air defence must be controlled by a single force. The Government were absolutely right in selecting the R.A.F. to be responsible for the total control of the air over Britain. There were reasons in the last war why control of the air should be vested in the R.A.F. while the ground troops in their general administrative rôle were controlled by the Army. Directly the Government decided that the ground-to-air missile of the future should be in the hands of the R.A.F., the Army, in the form of Anti-Aircraft Command, was put out on a limb. The minute that that decision was taken, measures should have been begun to transfer complete and absolute control of that operation to the R.A.F.

The Army, however, remained for some time after in control of Anti-Aircraft, but quite suddenly Anti-Aircraft Command has been disbanded. I am in agreement with the comments made by the right hon. Member, but he should not derive much satisfaction about Anti-Aircraft Command's failure to develop. The atom bomb and the supersonic fighter all arose in 1945. The consequences of those developments must have been clear to anyone, even then.

[Interruption.] They either occurred in 1945 or they were on the way, and the consequences must have been obvious to those in control. I can say without fear of valid contradiction that from 1945 to 1951 there was no progressive development of any kind in the anti-aircraft defence of this country. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite who criticise the Government for lack of development of antiaircraft defences have a great deal of the blame to carry.

Let me revert to the particular situation with which we are now confronted. Anti-Aircraft Command is the repository of a great deal of ballistic and technical knowledge about anti-aircraft defence. There are still, as the Secretary of State pointed out, anti-aircraft units remaining in the field force, but antiaircraft units cannot be allowed in any circumstances to fire on the home front without some sort of control. From the proposals before us, I cannot see how that control is now to be exercised, because the machinery of Anti-Aircraft Command has gone.

It has been admitted that the guided missile is not at the moment available, but it would seem to me that it is very important that preparation for the use of the guided missile should now be going ahead, and I find it disturbing that in the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for Air, to discuss which now would not be in order, there is no evidence whatever of the structural arrangements proposed for the anti-aircraft defence of this country.

It comes to this, that at the moment the structure of Anti-Aircraft Command has gone, there are still some Army antiaircraft units left, there are no Fighter Command guided missile units at all, and there is no anti-aircraft defence of any kind in Britain at the moment. I think the Secretary of State for War must face up to this situation and tell us, since he is no longer responsible for the guided missile, what exactly would be the rôle of the anti-aircraft units still remaining in the Army and which are in this country. At the moment there seems to be no provision for them, and I do not know how they would operate if there were any crisis, and I do not believe that the commanding officers of those units know either.

The disappearance of Anti-Aircraft Command has, of course, disrupted very considerably very many Territorial Army units. I say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw that this is not necessarily an innovation, and I will tell him why. After the war I was entrusted with the command of an anti-aircraft unit which first was a light anti-aircraft unit, which then became a light anti-aircraft-searchlight unit, which was then divided into two and became a heavy anti-aircraft unit; then the two parts were joined together again, and, having been a heavy anti-aircraft static unit, it became a mobile unit. Through all those gyrations we were expected to keep complete interest and to maintain loyalty and enthusiasm. While I admit that the unit was still operating within the same arm of the Royal Artillery, nevertheless, the situation was a confusing one.

I say to my right hon. Friend that the time has come when the Territorial Army wants a bit more assurance as to its future. As so often has been said in this House, the Territorial Army has performed great tasks, and has performed them well and loyally, and to great effect. However, we cannot place too great a strain upon the loyalty of people who have other things also to do. I think that this consideration is part of the wider question of the future rôle of all the voluntary services in this country.

I agree with my right hon. Friend that we must aim in future at building up our permanent Regular corps in every Service, and I think that all hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with us that the new developments in warfare are likely to make it possible for fewer people to do more things. That will help with the development of the Regular corps.

Furthermore, if we are eventually to get the economic structure of the Services in its proper perspective, we have to look ahead to the time when we can cut down National Service. We are all agreed that if we can, with security and safety, and in accordance with our commitments, cut down National Service, we should do so. I do not agree, however, that the moment has come when that can be done. I do not want to enter into an argument on that matter, for my right hon. Friend is likely to deal with it and he is much better qualified to speak on the subject than I am. However, I believe there is a tendency, and a dangerous tendency, in the arrangements that now obtain to rely too much on the National Service men and too little on the volunteers. That will make it impossible to rid ourselves of the heavy economic strain placed upon the country at the present time.

Let us face what has been done with Anti-Aircraft Command: many units have been left in doubt and many have been told unceremoniously to go and find something else to do. I say quite frankly to my right hon. Friend that that is not the way to talk to the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army will do anything if it is told why it is expected to do it and if it is given a good reason, but there is a stage beyond which it cannot and will not go, and I think we are asking a great deal of the Territorial Army today in treating it in the way in which many units have been treated over the disbandment of Anti-Aircraft Command.

I feel that I can speak strongly in the matter because I was one of those who pressed for its disbandment a long time ago. Indeed, I think that the disbandment could have occurred much more easily had the R.A.F. gradually been brought into the picture and the Army eased out. But that has not been done. There has been a sudden termination of one rôle and no new rôle has been produced in its place.

As has already been said, many units of the Territorial Army of very long standing went over to Anti-Aircraft Command before the last war and are still in anti-aircraft rôles. They are units whose background goes very deep into the history and tradition of the Territorial Army, and we must not tamper with that history and those traditions without exercising great care. I am sorry that precipitate action has been taken in this direction, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to do something more than has been done to ensure that the technical skill of those who worked for a long time on anti-aircraft rôles, that the loyalty and enthusiasm of those who have been in the Territorial Army for many years, are not lost. It need not have been lost had measures been taken very much earlier to indicate what was the general plan.

I was glad to hear that the proposal about the mobile defence corps may well encourage members of the Territorial Army to join it, but I am sceptical about whether that proposal has been put over with such an alluring appeal that many members of the Territorial Army will go for it. I hope that will be done, because home defence is an operation of the greatest importance and one into which the Territorial Army traditionally ought to fit.

The fact remains that, as things stand, there is a serious danger that many of these people will go away and not take up other employment with the Army. I believe that a clear explanation and a lead by my right hon. Friend and the Government can do much to remedy that situation if it is done rapidly, but if it is not done we shall reach a point at which we are relying, to meet our commitments, more and more on the National Service man, who has to be trained by the Regular, and that vital expanding link of the voluntary Territorial Army will be very seriously damaged.

In those circumstances, I ask my right hon. Friend to look very carefully at the situation which has been brought very much to the fore by the measures which have been taken over Anti-Aircraft Command but which is related to the much bigger and more important question of the voluntary element in our national Army.

9.54 p.m.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

Our position in a discussion of the Army Estimates in these days of nuclear warfare is that we do not quite know what rôle would be expected of the Army in the event of war. I can visualise a possibility that the entire Army would be a vast pioneer corps, engaged purely on salvage work. I say that I can visualise it, but of course we do not know, and we have to probe and try to find out what are the possibilities.

There is no yardstick by which we can measure the duties required of an Army in a press-button war. It is clear that the cold war needs a streamlined, mobile, lightly-equipped Army. The pack mules of the P.B.I, of the First World War—and I was one of them—are things of the past. The old soldier's opinions are brushed aside by the new experts, scientists and people like that. The streamlined, mobile Army may be a good thing, but possibly the P.B.I., staggering along under the weight of a heavy pack, with his trenching tool, his haversack, his water bottle, and perhaps a few yards of duckboarding to make weight, was better off than the modern soldier whose prospect in a war of the future is that of being atomised.

Discussion of the Army Estimates is futile unless we face the facts of war as designed by the scientist. The pattern of our debates is bound to be different. The shadow of nuclear war eclipses tradition. I do not claim to be an expert. We have in this House, on both sides, many who speak very learnedly from great knowledge and experience on details of the inner workings of the various Services. I do not pretend to be clever like that. Although I say our debates will take a new pattern, there are one or two outstanding points in the White Paper, in the statement of the Minister, and in the debate which I think worthy of consideration.

On the question of reduced commitments, are we likely in the near future to have a definite statement as to the length of service for National Service men? If our commitments are being reduced, and we have to face the new kind of warfare which is threatening, and have a streamlined, mobile Army, there should be an enormous saving of manpower. If there is to be an enormous saving of manpower, why can we not make an all-out effort to raise one of our old Regular Armies? After all, it was the Regular Army which did the job in 1914.Old Kaiser Bill called them the "Old Contemptibles" but they made a very good show.

In 1911, I joined the Worcestershires as a special Reserve in the 5th Worcesters Reserve Battalion. We did six months' training, and a month's training every year. I say without any fear of contradiction from those who know what they are talking about that those six-month soldiers gave a darn good account of themselves when war came in 1914.They did not need two years' National Service or two years' training; they did not need bedside lamps and the rest of it. Most of them were working-class lads. They went through their training in the old Norton Barracks in Worcester. They had good N.C.Os. and Regular soldiers with them, and they gave a good account of themselves when war come.

We ought to have another look at this question of two years' military service in the light of reduced commitments, a streamlined Army, and the experience of the past when the last soldiers' war was fought. The 1914 war was a soldiers' war, when the Regular Army, plus men with six months' training, won the battles.

The Secretary of State's Memorandum mentions military hospitals and the proposals to rebuild and recondition some of them. But we have a National Health Service, and I should like to inquire whether the military hospitals could not be integrated into the National Health Service. If the military hospitals are not used to capacity, their beds could well be used in the National Health Service. An inter-related service for civilians and soldiers might be worth considering.

On the subject of Territorial formations for the reinforcement of N.A.T.O., I do not know whether I am out of date, but I seem to remember that the Territorial Army was a Territorial Army based on home territory, and that except in war it operated only in this country. Can the Minister say whether there has been any alteration in this policy?

We are also told in the Memorandum about nuclear and atomic weapons. Can we be told whether these are now conventional weapons?

Mr. Strachey

Conventional nuclear weapons.

Mr. Simmons

If not, under what circumstances would they be used?

On the question of air trooping, I should like to know why the Army does not go in for self-service instead of employing private enterprise to do the job. Surely, it would be cheaper for the War Office to do the job itself. As we are told that there is to be more air transport for the movement of supplies and of men and materials, there will be an increasing need for aircraft of this kind and increasing use of them. It might be a good idea if the War Office thought of having its own fleet of aircraft for these purposes.

On the disbandment of regiments, I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) on tradition. We old soldiers in county regiments had a great regard for tradition, and it is sad to think that tradition, which was so important in a soldier's war, is not necessary today now that we have a scientists' war. I fully support what the Minister has said in his Memorandum about the conduct of our troops. In 99 cases out of 100, the British soldier is a credit to the nation and to the organisation which he serves.

The first time that I spoke in a debate on the Army Estimates was in 1929.I voted for an "absolutist" Amendment against the Army Vote. I spoke passionately from the heart. The 1914–18 War was still a vivid memory, and I regarded voting for the instruments of war as a betrayal of those who were slain in a war to end war.

Since I came back to the House in 1945, I have been constrained to vote for the Service Estimates reluctantly, and with a heavy heart. My memory of war is just as vivid. One does not forget such experiences. Time can heal wounds but it never eliminates scars. My hatred of war is just as fierce, but experience has taught me that there is no easy way to peace.

One does not secure peace simply by repeating "No more war" or shouting "Ban the H-bomb. "By so doing, one wins popular applause from those who are fearful, in an emotional sense, of the future. Our task is to convince other nations to see things our way, and to plan and to prepare, not for an international slanging match, but for a fruitful disarmament conference.

The events of the past decade have proved that weakness is an invitation to the aggressor to do his worst. He is invariably a cowardly, blustering bully and the absolute knowledge that swift and final retribution would follow aggression is the only deterrent that he fears. In the days of the First World War, armaments were no real deterrent because each side's statesmen and civilians fought by proxy—the soldier was the "mug." The last war brought the civilian more into the battle zone, but even then those who had the means and influence could secure "funk holes" and be relatively safe.

Today, there are no safe areas. Soldier, civilian, man, woman, child, adult, rich, poor—all will be in danger of atomisation if the nuclear bomb goes off. We have been used to taking risks for war. New we must be prepared to take as great risks for peace. There is no risk in addressing great demonstrations, playing on emotions and hysterically shouting, "Ban the H-bomb" while one's potential enemy is making the bomb which one wants one's own country to ban unilaterally.

Those who plan aggression will not be deterred if they are assured that Britain—in the spirit of the hand-washing Pilate—is prepared to allow freedom, liberty, democracy, and those intangibles we hold so dear, to be crucified because we are too spineless to face unpleasant facts. The H-bomb is here. In the hands of one Power it could be used to enslave the whole world. Held as a threat to those who dare to start aggression on a world scale, it could be the deterrent that could save the world for ever from the threat of war.

Let us face facts. There would be a risk, but is it not worth taking a risk for the possibility of saving the world from the man-created folly of mutual total destruction? The risk of disarming unilaterally is the risk of a world spiritually and morally enslaved. The risk of having an effective deterrent is complete destruction of material things, but the awful power of the deterrent is such that the second risk is far less than the first. Let us maintain our armed strength, let us hold the ultimate deterrent in reserve but, above all, let us realise that these things alone will not suffice.

Unless real leadership is given for world disarmament, time will weaken the power of the deterrent. Some madman will let off the bomb. I believe with all my heart that it is our nation's destiny to give the necessary moral and spiritual leadership to the world. If civilisation is to be saved, it must give that leadership without delay.

10.9 p.m.

Brigadier Christopher Peto (Devon, North)

All hon. Members who have just heard the speech of the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) must have been as convinced as I was of the deep sincerity with which it was delivered. The hon. Member was, as I was, a soldier in the First World War. It is particularly noticeable that when we are discussing Army Estimates and the dangers of war, those who have seen those dangers at the closest range can speak perhaps with the greatest authority and sincerity about how to stop another war. But they do not say "Ban the bomb" and do not say, as the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said in the closing sentence of his speech during our debate on defence, "Pacé, pacé, pacé." That does not make peace. It is the strength of adequate deterrents and the knowledge by the enemy that these deterrents will be used which is the most likely course to preserve peace.

We have heard pleas from both sides of the House for a reduction in the period of National Service. No one would be more anxious, particularly in an election year, as we suspect it may be, to go to the polls with a programme including reduced National Service than the Government. If it were possible to do so with our present commitments I am sure it would be done, but I do not myself think, from the little knowledge that I have, that under existing circumstances even if our commitments were reduced in many respects such a reduction would be possible.

In an earlier speech, I interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) before he finished a sentence. I took it that he was not quoting a minority, as he in fact was, but a majority of National Service men who were malcontents. For that I apologise, but that is one of the things which, in a very humble capacity, I, as an honorary colonel of a regiment, have taken the keenest interest in, that there should not be at any stage a waste of time in the training of a National Service man, a National Service officer or a potential officer.

I can say with complete sincerity that things have been put right since the occasion two years ago when I brought to the attention of the present Secretary of State for War the waste of time that there was between a potential officer's passing of the War Office selection board at his training regiment, and passing on to a cadet unit at Aldershot, when at that time there was up to three months' complete waste. That was done through a personal visit of my right hon. Friend. I have had no complaints since from the regiment of which I am colonel, or from individuals going to it.

I do not say there is now no waste of time. There must be in every Service, but I would not agree with my hon. Friend in saying that the opinion of industry is that the boys who go out from doing their National Service in the Army have to be reconditioned before they can do their work. If I may be permitted to say so, that is an insult to the Army training, and I do not believe it to be true.

Mr. Hurd

My hon. and gallant Friend is as ready to give way to me as I was to him. If he will look in Hansard tomorrow, he will see that what I said was that some industrialists, personnel managers and welfare officers will say that there is definite evidence in some cases that that has been the effect of National Service; certainly not in all cases—I hope in only few cases.

Brigadier Peto

I accept what my hon. Friend has said, but it has not been my experience, and I hope it is only in a very few cases.

What I am particularly interested in, and why I have intervened in this debate tonight, is to suggest that the Army and recruitment for the Army both of officers and other ranks. Regulars and National Service men shall be made as successful as it can be, and I want to investigate for a few minutes whether there are not some ways in which it can be improved.

The Secretary of State for War in his opening speech mentioned most of the ways in which he thinks such improvements could be made. He mentioned married quarters, he mentioned pay, and he said that it would be costly to bring these things into line with what could be expected in industry. I do not believe that the British soldier today feels that he is underpaid. I do not think that it is for this reason he will not extend his Service. What he cares for far more is that his life shall be fairly secure. If he extends his Service he wants to feel that he will stay in the regiment with his friends, and not be drafted somewhere else where he will have to make a new start. It is far more the amenities of life and the prospects of useful, long Service in the Army with his friends that really matter to him. In that connection, naturally, I include his wife and family and how they are housed and educated.

With regard to officers, what matters to them is their pay from the time they become fairly senior officers—majors and above that rank—and their prospects thereafter. Some hon. Members may have read in "The Londoner's Diary" in the "Evening Standard" of last Wednesday a short account of how a big store in London invited 28 careers masters from various schools to visit the store with a view to getting public schoolboys and others to enter the industry. This was the comment of one of the masters: Commerce and industry are attracting more boys every year at the expense of the Church, the Services and teaching. We all know that the Church and the Services, compared with industry, are grossly underpaid. I dare say the same applies to teaching.

I have made a comparison to the best of my ability and, if the House will forgive me, I will give hon. Members a few of the figures which appeared from that research. I took a young man, who might be a graduate from one of the universities, at the age of 23 and compared what he would be getting in the Army with what he would receive in a big store. I took him again when he was 30 years old, a captain and still unmarried, and then again at 35 years old, still a captain but married. Those are the most interesting interim periods in the Service of an officer.

The average pay of a subaltern at 23, with his allowances, is £650 a year. In a big departmental store at that age he would get £550. When 30 years old, single and a captain, he would be drawing £800 a year, whereas in a store he would be drawing £800 a year upwards. At 35 years of age, having married, having had 14 or 15 years service, and having not quite become a major—even if he had become a major it would not make much difference—he would be drawing £1,200 per year, whereas if he were in a store he would be drawing between £1,000 and £2,000 according to his capacity.

So far so good, one might say, and the Army appears to come out of it very well; but it is after that stage that the Army officer does not appear to advantage. As a lieutenant-colonel after 25 years' service he draws £1,770 per year; but after that length of service in a store, provided he was a good man and of the capacity of a lieutenant-colonel, a man who had got to the top of his unit, he could not be drawing less than £3,000 to £4,000 per year, being in some form of departmental managerial capacity.

The man in the store has, in addition, the sense of security not only of his home but of the education of his children, and prospects of further employment and considerably increased emolutions, whereas a lieutenant-colonel coming to the end of his time has not that same sense of security, has very little prospects of further employment in many instances, and has—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

A pension.

Brigadier Peto

Yes, a pension. I had not intended to mention the word "pension" tonight, but as the hon. Gentleman has now done so I should like to point out that in stores and in nearly every branch of industry those employed therein, whether among the workers or among the managerial staff, are encouraged to contribute—in most cases they are made to contribute—towards their ultimate pension. When I thought of that it seemed to me to be wise to ask the Secretary of State whether it has ever been thought possible or advisable for officers to augment their pension by contribution. There is no reason, as far as I can remember from my own experience, why an officer who becomes a captain or above should not put away, as one does by means of an insurance policy, a yearly sum from his pay. That would be to a great extent get over the disadvantage from which officers now suffer of retiring on a totally inadequate pension at an age when they are too old either to earn or to learn.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton

Especially if they retired in 1919.

Brigadier Peto

I have here a note about 26 ex-Army officers who are still living. They retired prior to 4th August, 1914, on pensions under a code introduced in 1887.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

How much?

Brigadier Peto

It is a very small sum, a great deal less than is now drawn by retired officers. This is a matter of detail which can be better dealt with on a later Vote. That is indeed the bogey which every officer has before him. It is one of the reasons why in many instances fathers of boys thinking of going into the Army now advise them not to do so, but to go into industry to earn their living.

In the days when there were large private incomes—and there are not many now—a boy joining the Army and becoming an officer had some prospect of an inheritance. Now, under the existing forms of taxation and with inflation, the prospects of a private income to augment one's pay are pretty dim. I go round recruiting potential officers a good deal, and I think that there are two things to note. One is that fathers of boys at school have never suggested to them that they should go into one of the Services. Secondly, I find that the boys themselves have never had that presented to them in any other way by any other body.

That brings me to my last point. In the "Sunday Times" last Sunday there was a good article on publicity. I wonder whether the Secretary of State is satisfied that sufficient is done to bring to the notice of potential officers—and indeed, to all others—the merits of service for the Queen and the country and in the Army. I very much doubt it, to judge from my experience. I very much doubt that it is brought to the notice of public school boys and boys in other schools that there is something to be gained from service of that sort—that the life is a good life.

The hon. Member for Brierley Hill said that he took the greatest pride in his regiment, and I have the greatest pride in mine. There is something that one gets from service with friends and comrades, whether at war or peace, a continuity of friendship, which one does not get in any other walk of life. I should like to see public relations—I do not like that expression—some form of publicity, lectures and cinema shows, explaining what the Army can do for one, and at any rate putting the thought of joining into the boy's mind while he is still at school.

In conclusion, my recommendations are that the men need better conditions of service. They need greater security of tenure in the Army. In that connection, may I ask my right hon. Friend to notice paragraph 110 on page 18 of his Memorandum. There is nothing that units dislike more than being told that there is no room for private armies, and that people must be prepared to be moved from one unit to another at the shortest possible notice. Nothing can more easily destroy a man's desire to prolong his service than being told that.

The Memorandum says: We cannot afford a number of 'private armies'; we must be able to switch individuals and units from one task to the other at short notice.

Mr. Head

That is a thing about which I feel very strongly. I do see that it is a little ambiguous, but paragraph 110 is concerned not with cross-posting between battalions, but with quite a different problem, and that is the functions of the Army in a nuclear war, in a conventional war, and in a war of infiltration. It is the various rôles of the Army that are being discussed. I could not be more at one with the hon. and gallant Member than I am in being against the switching of individuals from one unit to another.

Brigadier Peto

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. Nothing that he has said in this debate could have done more good than that statement in assisting N.C.O.s to make up their minds about prolonging their service.

Men need better prospects on leaving, and in that connection I should like once again to say how grateful I am to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government for what he has said about housing. Officers need better prospects, including better pensions, perhaps with a contributory element, and better pay for senior officers is very much called for

10.31 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I agree with the main point which was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Devon, North (Brigadier Peto). Civilian employment in circumstances of full employment has a great deal to offer which the Army cannot offer—liberty, continuity of living in the same house and the same district, and continuous education for one's children.

The only thing which the Army really has to offer which civilian employment has not, is that very thing to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred—the continuity of friendship, the pride in the regiment, the sense of security, the sense of being in a niche in a social milieu in which one has an assured and established place. That is important to many men. But with cross-posting that one attraction which the Army has got and which no other life can offer disappears. It is, therefore, profoundly important, although terribly difficult to achieve.

Now I will come to the right hon. Gentleman's speech to which I listened, as always, with the utmost interest and admiration. But there is a certain law of diminishing returns with regard to speeches even of the quality of the right hon. Gentleman's speeches. Each year he conveys the impression that here is a really sensible, forward-looking man who realises the stupidity of the Army as it is at present organised; and the next year he comes back to us and he still realises the stupidity of the Army as it is at present organised, but it is still organised just the same and its inertia is too much for him.

Then we hear people saying, "Of course, National Service for two years is not to be a permanent arrangement, but really this is not the occasion to alter it. "But if, with the reorganisation that is imposed now, this is not the opportunity to consider a reduction of the period, when might one conceive to be the opportunity to bring about such a reduction? It is very difficult.

Let us see what the new context is. It is the context of a very terrible sentence in the Defence White Paper, in which N.A.T.O. recognises its incapacity to protect Europe save by atomic means. That, in a sense, is a very great confession of military failure. When we created N.A.T.O. Europe was defended by the American possession of the atomic bomb. That was the very position from which we wished to escape, but we are now told that it is a permanent position; that we can still never defend Europe save by the atomic deterrent.

If that is so, we should do a little more to realise the consequences, and I would say immediately that the first consequence is that in the defence of what I call, loosely, the Christian values of liberty as we see them, we in Britain accept that our island is a war expendable. Let us have no delusions in the matter. This island is and must always be indefensible from atomic attack. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) talked about Anti-Aircraft Command, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having at least abolished this Command. It seemed to be the only point at which his actions—as distinct from his words—really came into contact with reality.

Surely we are going into a quite absurd world when we talk about developing the guided missile from land to air and imagining that that is really going to defend us. Does anybody really think that the terribly difficult task of directing the missile on to the aircraft is not vastly more difficult than jamming its controls and turning it away from the aircraft? This is a field in which offence is always going to hold an advantage, and in any event all my scientific friends tell me that the rocket with a range of 450 miles is going to be in production a long time before a satisfactory guided missile, and there is nothing which can stop it. We have to face the situation that this island is indefensible from atomic attack, and recognise that it is quite ludicrous to imagine that we can use this island as a base to reinforce armies on the Continent in any future atomic war. It is an absurdity.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman faced that fact. Our N.A.T.O. commitments require us to have 12 reserve divisions here. The right hon. Gentleman did not even suggest that those reserve divisions could conceivably be used to reinforce the armies on the Continent. Of course they could not in any atomic war. He said that we should need them for our home security. I entirely agree, but why not organise them for our home security? That is just what is not happening.

I spent a most fascinating if rather terrifying day last year in a Jeep with General Festing watching Territorial divisions manoeuvring over Salisbury Plain with tanks. What on earth were they up to? What conceivable rôlewere they exercising? The task of the Army here, the very first task, in atomic war will be that of government, and I hope they are considering it and being exercised in it. Central government and local government will be destroyed. The organisation in the pockets of survival—one cannot speak of more than that in this country after atomic attack—of those who have escaped the bomb can only be provided by the military.

The moment atomic or hydrogen attack comes on this isle government will have to pass into the hands of the military commands, where at least there is a hierarchy capable of organising, of control, of stopping the sort of panic which will kill far more people still. Salvage and survival will depend upon the Army, and I would like to hear that it is receiving some train- ing and being taught to appreciate that rôle.

We are told that the Army is receiving training in civil defence. To talk about civil defence in an atomic age is ludicrous It will be a question of salvage. The job of the Army will be to bulldoze a way out for the people who are cut off by the blockages of rubble in the cities that have been destroyed, and to seal off, it may be with machine guns, areas which are contaminated. In those circumstances, if people are to be saved the most brutal methods are very often necessary. All these grim steps have to be taken. The military must be brought to realise this.

This is the function of the home Army; not being equipped with highly-expensive tanks to waltz across Salisbury Plain for a fortnight in the summer. Do not let us have this nonsense in the future. The home defence Army has no conceivable other job in an atomic war than salvage. Let it be trained for that.

We shall greatly increase the safety of this country that way. If we rely upon deterrents, we shall succeed only if the other side take our deterrents seriously. If we go on organising, deploying our Army, and making our arrangements as if atomic weapons were not going to be used at all, nobody will believe that we shall use them. Hence the danger in which this sort of thing puts the country. So much for the position of the home Army, if we take our policy seriously. If we do not take it seriously, it makes our position vastly more dangerous and brings much nearer to us the danger that we wish to avoid.

Now let us think of the rôle of our Continental divisions. In the history of war we always get at one phase the superiority of movementover fire power, and at another phase of fire power over movement. When fire power is superior, movement is bogged down. With the arrival of the atomic age, with nuclear weapons of differing sorts, we have had the greatest addition to fire power which the world has ever seen. But we have had it without any corresponding addition to one's capacity to move. I think it was Marshal Petain who said during the 1914–1918 War—which was another occasion during which fire power had gained superiority over the capacity to move—that today the artillery captures ground and the infantry only occupies it. That was said about 40 years ago.

If anything is going to capture ground today it is the atomic explosion; and the rôle of the infantry will be very much the same. Indeed, when my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) was speaking just now and said that we should never see the circumstances of the 1914–1918 War again, I thought that we should be far better advised to prepare for a 1914 type of war than for a 1939 war, when movement for a short time at intervals had advantage over fire power. Yet, in large measure, it is the 1939 war for which we are still preparing.

The function, as I see it, of our troops will be to stay put; to stick it out; to let enemy go round; to form their hedgehogs, and fight it out. Above all, they will have to do without supplies. Such movement as may be possible will have to be airborne. Yet we have an organisation which provides very few people to fire rifles because there is an immense group of services whose primary function is to provide ground movement which is no longer practical. Let us look at the division. Our divisional slice is still in the neighbourhood of 50,000 men. The Russians have made it about 22,000.

Mr. Head

If the hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to me in an interrogatory way, I would remind him that the war-time slice was something of that nature. If he had listened to my speech he would have known that I indicated that the whole object of the experimental organisations we are drawing up was a radical reduction behind the division and a simplification of weapons so as to reduce exactly what he complains about.

Mr. Paget

I did compose my remarks on the basis of what the right hon. Gentleman said today; but here and now the divisional slice is about 50,000 men. We hope that it is going to be very much fewer; but in doing the figures so far as I am able on the latest information which I can find available, the division itself costs us in the neighbourhood of £27 million a year. It is, of course, a little difficult to get exact Russian figures, but against ours the Russians would appear to spend £9 million. The daily supply requirements—and here I have had to take as an example an American division because I have not the comparable British figures—seem to be 600 to 800 tons a day, whereas the Russians apparently do with 150 to 200 tons.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

The Russian division is of a different size.

Mr. Paget

The Russian division has about 10,500 men against the American figure of 18,500 and our figure of between 16,000 and 17,000. But remember this: the Russian division has every bit as much fire power as the American division; the Russian division is not smaller at the fighting end but has very much less tail and fewer services.

Some of the Russian divisions are motorised, but some have horse transport. My hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill said that the mule was out of date, but I am not at all certain that that is so. In the slower war which is imposed upon us today, we must learn to live on the supplies of the country, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman made some comments on that. It may be that pack mules, which can fairly easily be dispersed, are still of great value. In this slower tempo of movement, we must realise that if units are cut off and must survive without normal supplies reaching them, then it may be much easier to keep mules going than to keep vehicles going which drink petrol. These are considerations which we must bear in mind.

Out of our old form of division, out of roughly 16,000 men—the division of the last war—about 7,000 men were in headquarters. Even within the infantry division—this is not within the slice—only 10 per cent. were riflemen. In that organisation we have so few people who do the fighting and so many who serve them, partly with fire power but mainly with movement—a movement which, in the circumstances of atomic power, will no longer be practicable.

I believe that one of the lines on which we must re-think is that of considering the Russian type of division and of considering that we are likely to see a war of much less movement, not more movement, in which the essential function of our troops will be to hold land, to occupy. It is the rifleman who occupies, and we must create an organisation in which a far higher proportion occupies and a far lower proportion serves.

As we must get units which require less maintenance, and as the only prospect of being able to move is by air, we ought to organise at Supreme Command level airlifts for divisions. These would be under the hand of the commander and would be attached to the division for a particular movement one wanted to make or would be used sometimes for supply where troops had been cut off. Except on that basis. I cannot see a great prospect of very much movement.

It is getting late and I do not want to waste the time of the House, but I am conveying the sort of general ideas which ought to govern our re-thinking.I will deal, too, with the function of the Army in the cold war, which I hope will be the most important function; for, as has been said, our interest in an atom war is largely posthumous. The real interest of this country is in the cold war. The most important function performed by our Army on the Continent in the cold war is simply that it exists. That is an enormously important function. The fact that there is a British Army there—it does not matter how it is organised, it does not matter within fairly wide limits how large it is—the mere fact that there is that substantial block of a British Army there on the Continent is the thing that holds Europe together today. But for that contribution West Europe would have disintegrated by now, and if ever it were withdrawn it would disintegrate. It is the thing which gives the French a sense of security with the Germans and which gives the Germans a sense of equality with the French. It is the force which holds Europe together. While N.A.T.O. has had to make a confession of military failure, its political success has been overwhelmingly worth anything that has been contributed to it.

As to the colonial aspect, I would say that the type of forces we require for a Malayan war, for a Mau-Mau war and that sort of operation is wholly different from the type of organisation which we have for those purposes. The sort of forces we want in Malaya are forces with the Bren carrier level of equipment. We want the very light vehicle, armoured to give some protection against light arms, we want a good rifle and we want very little in the way of supply or the elaborate organisations we have today. Instead of producing, as we do, about one rifle for 20 Service men, we ought for this purpose to produce a force in which at least more than half use rifles and fight.

This is the sort of activity in which the established organisation of supplies and services is wildly superfluous for its purpose. I would follow the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) in urging the creation of a gendarmerie. I believe it should not be simply prepared locally for each Colony. It should be a force capable of switching. It should be organised somewhere between an army of the rather old-fashioned type without modern elaborations and a police force. It should be very highly trained and, in order to get the recruitment we require, very highly paid, if necessary. If we are raising a special gendarmerie of a police kind, we need not go into competition with the other Services. We should say, "If we pay a little more for these special chaps who have to go into the Malayan jungle, if we pay them twice or three times as much, it does not matter. They have a special job not comparable with the other Services. It is worth paying and the amount it will save the Army is overwhelmingly worth while."

Finally, I agree that one does require some strategic reserves, remembering that one can always call to some degree on Germany—about a division—for a contribution to a U.N.O. war, or something of that sort. If one tried to cut out these present military commitments, such as Cyprus—which I regard as an absurdity today—and a good many others, such as British Guiana, and handed those over to a specially-organised gendarmerie, one could pull out of these commitments which one cannot afford.

I always remember my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) saying on one occasion that he had always had some difficulty in understanding what the word "commitments" really meant until one day he was in a police court where a man who was asked to support his wife said that he was unable to do so because of his commitments, which turned out to be another lady and two children. One has to remember that commitments sometimes are something one cannot afford, which will only destroy one if one goes on attempting to afford them.

I believe that one must cut out these commitments, get a gendarmerie to take the job over, really make an attempt to get away from the two years' National Service, which I think puts an economic strain on this country which is beyond what it can bear, and, as that is done, it may be possible to get nearer the point where one can get Regulars for the divisions which are maintained in Germany. With the smaller manpower it may be possible seriously to get away from this two years' service.

I urge the Government not merely to use words but really to think out what would be the consequences of the decision to defend Europe by atomic means, and to draw the real consequences and not to go on maintaining forces who can perform only an imaginary rôle.

11.3 p.m.

Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)

I shall not attempt to follow the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). The views he expressed are of great interest, and I think that no doubt there is a great deal to be said in support of what he has put forward. I want for a few moments to deal with the more domestic side of Army matters. I think it is some time since the representative of Aldershot constituency has had an opportunity to address the House on the Estimates, as my predecessor for some time was a Cabinet Minister and therefore was unable to speak on these matters.

Aldershot is proud to call itself the home of the British Army, and there is one of the best possible feelings between the local authority and the local population, and between the Army representatives and the Army personnel there. I should like to say a word on one or two matters of importance from this—some might say—rather parochial point of view. I regret that no reference is made in paragraph 90 of the Memorandum to improvements in the barracks at Aldershot. A number of places are referred to, but not that town. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke about the question of barrack accommodation, he spoke with considerable sympathy but pointed out the considerable commitments that would be required and the long time that would be taken to bring barrack accommodation up to date.

I beg leave to differ from that point of view, because I believe that the structure of the barracks is not in bad condition. What is needed is the bringing up to date of the internal conditions and improvements which do not involve considerable structural alterations. I am satisfied that if this was done, there would be far less criticism of the conditions under which the Army personnel live.

The other matter which I should like to raise arises from paragraph 73 of the Memorandum, which indicates that according to the view of the Secretary of State, The officer situation is in general satisfactory. The number of officers in the Army is little changed from last year. … But I should like to add force to what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devon, North (Brigadier Peto) as to the importance of the conditions for officers.

I should probably be out of order in referring to the thorny question of the retired pay of officers, but I should like to point out that for the junior officer the situation is that a Regular full lieutenant with service, presumably, of at least three years gets the same pay as a sergeant on appointment: namely, £6 16s. 6d. weekly. The officer has a great deal of expense which the noncommissioned officer is saved, and consideration ought to be given to the younger officer with regard to pay.

Some of us who remember the First World War know what wonderful work was done by the young platoon commanders under the most difficult conditions, and I believe that if my right hon. Friend's ideas are right, the small section will become more and more important under conditions of nuclear warfare. I hope the War Office will not take the view that all is right with the officer, because I believe that there is considerable disquiet amongst Army families at the way in which the retired pay has been dealt with.

I come, finally, to a matter which I believe to be of considerable importance and which was touched on by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devon, North: that is, the question of publicity. I fear that the Army generally does not show its best appearance to the public. It projects itself very badly on the public mind. Something should be done about it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War should consider seriously the issue of No. 1 dress uniform. That has not been done. At the moment, battle-dress is the uniform that is used almost entirely, with the exception of members of bands and some special individuals. The result of the use of battle-dress is very often a sloppiness and unattractive appearance which some of us believe is a bad thing from the point of view of the Army.

Prior to the First World War one of the things that was most attractive to the people in the Army was the scarlet uniform. It may not be possible to bring that back, but at any rate it is possible to give the troops a really good walking-out dress. There seems to be no indication that that is being done. It has been suggested that officers should have mess kit again, but that does not really meet the situation. I hope that consideration will be given to the suggestion that I have made.

Another matter in somewhat the same line is giving some idea to the public of what the Army is doing. When one considers that pre-war 600,000 people attended the Aldershot Tattoo and enjoyed the interesting evolutions there, one realises that the Army then was projecting to the people the things it was doing. At present, we have the Royal Tournament. That is something which keeps that idea alive, but in a rather more personal way than what I have in mind.

Bearing in mind the number of troops in the country, it would not be expensive to renew the tattoo. I am told that it is possible at the Aldershot Tattoo to use the various arms of the Services in a way that is not possible at the Royal Tournament in London. I suggest that the difficulties of interference with training, which are sometimes put forward against holding the tattoo, are not real difficulties which cannot be overcome. That kind of tattoo would publicise and popularise the Regular Army.

In present conditions, with the three or four types of commitments which may arise at any time, we must have National Service and we must have it for a substantial period, but if we can make an effort to do something to popularise the Regular Army in a way I have suggested, it will be possible at an earlier date to dispense with a long period of National Service.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. M.Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) will not expect me to follow him in what he has said. But I am also going to take a different line from that taken by other hon. Members. I wish to say something about the rôleof the Army in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Secretary of State for War has spoken of three types of warfare which we may have to face. First, a nuclear war; second, the conventional type of war, and third, what I think he called the infiltration type of war, the guerilla type which we deal with in Malaya and Kenya. I think there is no doubt that the first type of war, the nuclear type, has caused us to revise our ideas not only about war in Europe, but warfare in other parts of the world. I refer to the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.

I think there is little doubt that what persuaded the Prime Minister, and other members of the Government, to revise their ideas on whether we should keep our forces in the Suez was the change of function which a large depot would have in the Suez Canal area in view of nuclear warfare. That seems to be reflected in paragraph 51 of this Memorandum on the Army Estimates, which states that our commitments have been reduced by withdrawals in the Middle East, while it also refers to Korea and Trieste, and states that this has made it possible to reduce our commitments overseas and to build up a strategic reserve at home.

It is satisfactory that the Government have come to that conclusion in regard to that great depot which we had in the Canal Zone. It is right in this atomic age to reduce the concentration of stores and equipment which we had there. I am wondering whether we have gone far enough in that direction. I was in the Canal Zone last autumn, when I visited some of the great stores camps which remain there. I fancy that stores and equipment to the value of about £100 million worth of the taxpayers' money are still lying out there, some of it probably deteriorating. Also, I do not know whether, under the new set-up there, we shall be able to prevent pilfering. We were able to stop it when we were in occupation. In paragraph 23 of the Memorandum it is stated there are still 600,000 tons of material of all sorts which is being sorted.

Standing on a tower on a big camp and looking over the Great Bitter Lake. I saw acres and acres of stores and equipment, and I wondered whether it was going to be one of the "sitting ducks" in the atomic age, to which the Secretary of State referred just now. I hope that our military authorities are taking steps to sort the stores over still further to determine how much it is necessary to keep out there.

All sorts of things that have been there for years and years, many of them doing no good at all, are being discovered. In one camp only the other day a lot of lances were discovered which were probably there at the time of the Battle of Omdurman. It may be that the Prime Minister himself saw some of these lances in action during that Battle. In this atomic age, lances are really mediaeval.

Mr. Strachey

Very useful, perhaps, for the next war but one.

Mr. Price

Paragraph 26 of the Memorandum speaks of the redeployment of our Middle East Forces mainly in Cyprus and Libya. I do not know how far Cyprus is in a position to receive the forces that we are sending there. There is no harbour there that I am aware of, and the equipment and general layout for a military force seem to be very inadequate. I should like to know what is being done in this connection.

While I was in the Canal Zone I heard that a small force of our troops has recently gone to the Gulf of Akabah in Jordan, no doubt with the consent of the Jordan Government, in connection with the training of Jordan forces. I do not know whether the Secretary of State would like to say something about that. For my part, I am very glad to hear of that redeployment of our Forces, because I believe it will have a stabilising effect in the Middle East and particularly on the Israel frontier. The British soldier is generally a good ambassador wherever he goes. If it were possible with the agreement of the Jordan Government to increase that force a little, I believe it would have the effect of reducing the number of incidents on the Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan frontiers a great deal. I make that suggestion; I do not know whether the Secretary of State would like to say something about it.

In general, the difficulties in that part of the world are largely due to the strong nationalist feeling which is running through the Arab States. The Arab States will not co-operate in any defence system based on N.A.T.O., which they think is an international organisation which might interfere with their rights as nation-States. Egypt seems to be more prepared to work with us as a so-called "imperialist" Power than with an international organisation like N.A.T.O. Nationalism is very strong out there. I am afraid that it has been fanned by anti-foreign demagogy for a long time, and it will take a little time to die out, but I am not unhopeful that in the long run it will be possible to get the Arab States to work with an international organisation like N.A.T.O.

I now want to say a word about the three types of warfare to which I referred in my opening remarks, the nuclear, the conventional and the infiltration types, and how they are likely to affect strategy in the Middle East. I do not think that nuclear warfare in the Middle East is likely. All the same, it is desirable that we should have our stores and equipment depots dispersed as much as possible. That is why I favour the idea of reducing the Suez depôt even more than it is today.

As for the second type, conventional warfare, the only kind of conventional warfare that I think is possible is a direct Russian attack upon Eastern Turkey, upon the military positions of Turkey in Eastern Anatolia. I believe that that would not happen if the Western Powers were in a position to give Turkey the assistance which she must have in order to resist such an attack. Turkey has great manpower, and she also has the will, the strength and the tradition to resist, but she has not got the equipment, particularly in the air. But I believe that she could be assured of that.

I do not believe that a conventional type of attack upon Turkey is likely. But I should like to have the assurance that we are thinking out these problems, in order to ensure that we are preparing for a situation of that kind, because I am certain that if we prepare for it, it will be avoided.

Much more likely in this part of the Middle East is the third type of warfare to which I have referred, namely the infiltration type. I refer particularly to what might happen, say, in Northern Persia or Iraq. It is quite likely that Persian nationalist fellow-travelling bands trained in the Caucasus, or some Kurdish tribes whose leaders are known to be trained there, might infiltrate into that part of the Middle East and try to filter their way down to the Persian Gulf. That is the most dangerous type of warfare which might easily happen. It is towards that danger that I hope our military authorities are looking, to see how far they could help Iraq and Turkey who are now prepared to organise their own defence mutually.

I now wish to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) who referred to bases which he considers we ought to have in East Africa as a possible means of defence of the Persian Gulf. He referred to the Persian Gulf as the most vital area, with which I entirely agree. I think that the hon. Gentleman's remarks link up with mine in this respect. I was arguing just now that the Suez Canal depot should be still further reduced. He was arguing that the existing one in East Africa should be built up further. That is all in line with the general idea of dispersion.

It would possibly assist the defence of the Persian Gulf and that area of the Middle East, because with the aid of airborne troops, in which I know development is proceeding as quickly as possible, it should be possible to give assistance to those countries like Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan if they are threatened by infiltration from the north.

Finally, I want to say a few words about East Africa, which is dealt with in paragraphs 27 to 37 of the Memorandum. The type of war with which we should be concerned there is the third type—guerilla warfare in the jungle, such as we have had in Malaya and now have in Kenya, in our fight against Mau Mau. Since I was in Kenya last autumn the evidence is that we are gradually getting the better of the forces of darkness there. At the same time, the more I saw there the more convinced I became that military measures were by no means the only ones that we should take.

I am very glad therefore that the Memorandum refers to measures for concentrating Africans in villages and getting them to reorganise their lives in such a way as to give them proper protection. Not only military measures but measures for improving the methods of cultivation of the land and the education of the Africans are vital in our struggle in East Africa against the forces of darkness. I saw areas where this process had not begun, and where the African huts were scattered about on the edge of the forest, and it was very easy for Mau Mau agents to get in and terrorise and blackmail the people.

In those areas where the people had been concentrated in villages that was not possible, and I saw some very good work being done there. All the Africans had new and better houses; they had an educational centre where they could all meet and discuss their problems. There was the Home Guard, and an observation tower which enabled watchers to give warning of any danger. All that seemed to me to be a move in the right direction, but it had not been going on for long, and I should like to know by how much it has progressed and been extended since I was there. I am certain that it is a move which will enable us to settle this difficulty eventually. Educational and protective work is just as important as the carrying on of the campaign of bombing the hideouts of the Mau Mau.

11.34 p.m.

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

I am delighted to learn that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) has joined the select band of hon.

Members on both sides of the House who, in successive Army Estimates debates, have advocated the setting up of a base in East Africa. I can assure him that the arguments in favour of that course have increased in importance and urgency during the last few years.

I understand that it is now the accepted theory that it would be possible to reinforce various areas in the Middle East and in Africa direct from this country by flying out troops. But it is also part of the process which has taken place during the last few years that the facilities to overfly countries between the United Kingdom and parts of Africa to which troops may need to be flown have lessened. It may be necessary, in order to ensure that troops are available to fly to the point endangered by some sudden crisis, to have them in East Africa so that they can be flown there, which might not be possible if those troops were stationed in the United Kingdom.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman did not join with other of his hon. Friends, including the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), in trying to impress the House with the possibility and practicality of a reduction in the present length of National Service. The right hon. Gentleman must know that it is not possible for that to happen at present.

Our predecessors and ancestors were warned always to be particularly cautious of the Greeks when they came bearing gifts in their hands; we should be equally careful of right hon. Gentlemen when they come to the House bearing a Select Committee. That means almost certainly that they are trying to find a way of doing something which they know to be wrong but which they are being pressed to do by influences outside this House, in this case by trade unions.

My right hon. Friend has been asked the size of the Regular Army needed to take over all the commitments at present being fulfilled by Regular and National Servicemen together. A reasonable estimate, based upon what my right hon. Friend has said and the figures in the Army Estimates, would be about 325,000. The Regular Army is 190,000. Right hon. Gentlemen know from their own experience the insuperable difficulties that would be faced by this or any other Government in trying to recruit an additional 135,000 men for the Regular Army.

One of the steps necessary, if the Army is to make a greater recruiting appeal as a career, is the provision of greater stability. That is more important than better pay or any of the advantages which my right hon. Friend outlined in his speech. We have an example in Colchester of what happens. We have had during recent months some 80 families of soldiers threatened with eviction, or pressed very strongly by the authorities to move from their existing married quarters in Colchester to married quarters or hostels elsewhere. I know the argument used, quite rightly, by the War Office. It was used by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) when he was Minister for War. It is that it is most important when troops come into a garrison town that their families should be reunited with them as soon as possible after their arrival. If there are not sufficient married quarters for them, then families where the husbands have gone to some other station or overseas must move out to make room for those who are coming in. That is understandable but it causes great anxiety to those who have to carry out the evictions—for that is what they come to—and to the husbands and menfolk overseas. It is much harder for them to face this crisis in their families when they are not there to help their wives through it. The military authorities in Colchester have handled this difficult and human problem most carefully and have done the best they could.

The truth is that we have remaining on in Colchester the wives of at least four different lots of units who have passed through the garrison during the last two or three years. They are now faced with removal to other quarters which they have to find for themselves, to an uncongenial hostel, or to married quarters in some other garrison town. I believe that if that sort of thing could be avoided—if it could be made certain that the moves of units, or of men within units, should not be so frequently as at present, or at least not under a minimum, say, of two years—the whole of the morale and outlook of the Regular soldier in respect of his career would be changed. I realise that there are very great difficulties in this, but many of these moves could be avoided if, in fact, this particular aspect of the problem were borne more clearly in mind by the War Office when making its various plans for deployment.

I find that this problem affects particularly the infantry soldier. I am sad, to say the least, about the decision to disband the eight infantry battalions which were raised during the Korean crisis of three years ago. I say that because if we had these additional units available it would be much less necessary to move infantry units from one garrison to another as has happened in the last few years.

My right hon. Friend may say that these units are redundant, but here I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who said that infantry in the cold war is a major arm. Whereas we often find ourselves with more artillery than is necessary—and certainly that was the case at the end of the last war—never, I think, in history have we found ourselves with too many infantry. I hope that my right hon. Friend can retain some of these battalions, because the decision to disband them has struck a blow at the morale of the infantry which is perhaps no less drastic than the blow struck at anti-aircraft artillery by the decision to disband that arm of the Service.

I would now like to say that I welcome very much indeed the announcement in the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates that improvements in barrack accommodation are going to take place at Sandhurst, Purbright, and Colchester. There is particular reference to accommodation for single men. But the problem is not one of the single man's accommodation; it is all the time a problem of the married soldier and the married officer and their families, and in the plans for improvements in barrack accommodation to be carried out during this year in Colchester, I hope that this is to include improvements in the somewhat antiquated married quarters which have existed for the last 60 or 70 years. They will need very considerable improvement if they are to come up to modern standards.

If I might now turn from a subject which does affect the whole of the Army, but which is perhaps a local one, I would like for a few moments to deal with the subject of the colonial forces. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser), I warmly welcome the appointment of General Templer under the Minister of Defence to investigate the whole problem of the organisation and future of the colonial forces; and I hope that this will be the forerunner of a decision by the War Office to appoint, if not an Inspector of Colonial Forces attached to the War Office such as existed with the Colonial Office before the last war, at least a department in the War Office which can deal with the particular problems of the colonial forces.

Although there are in the War Office many officers who know the problems of the colonial troops, there is no special man, no liaison officer, or a branch of G., A or Q. specially entrusted with the work of looking after the interests of our colonial troops, particularly in Africa. I ask my right hon. Friend to pay particular attention to the possibility of establishing a branch or inspectorate of this sort, because it has been quite clear from our experience of the King's African Rifles during the Mau Mau crisis that the standard of the officers being sent out there is in no way comparable with the standard of the officers who went to the King's African Rifles regularly in pre-war days. In those days, service with African colonial forces was service with a corps d' élite. The British N.C.Os. and officers who went out there were specially picked, but today there is no selection board, as far as I know, to select those men.

Would my right hon. Friend consider setting up a selection board, consisting of experienced colonial soldiers, who would be entrusted with the task of choosing officers to serve with African troops—officers who are fitted and qualified for that form of service; because I can assure my right hon. Friend that service with colonial forces presents a different problem from that of serving with United Kingdom troops in Europe or even in Africa or the Middle East. For colonial troops we require a special type of officer, preferably with special training but certainly with a special attitude of mind, who can gain the confidence of African troops, something which is by no means easy.

Would my right hon. Friend consider very seriously the argument put forward earlier in the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton in favour of the establishment of a gendarmerie—and here I speak without very intimate knowledge—associated more closely with the Army than with the police, which would be trained and equipped specifically for dealing with the internal security tasks which the Army has been called upon to carry out too often in the last few years in assistance of the civil power?

I feel that it must be wrong that time and again troops have been called out to aid the civil power in circumstances which perhaps should never have arisen and in circumstances in which the action should have remained, in my view, in police hands and not handed over to the Army. There has been a tendency—perhaps it is the fault of the civil administrations—to call too early upon the military for assistance when the situation could most effectively have been dealt with by the police. Does not my right hon. Friend think that a gendarmerie organisation could be established, trained, equipped and organised for internal security duties—perhaps established independently in each Colony—and, if he does, could General Templer, in his mission to the Colonial Territories, be asked to look into this point?

Finally, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he would consider how effective is the colonial intelligence service? Frankly, I do not know whether this comes under the War Office or under the Colonial Office, nor, perhaps, is it my place to find out, but I am convinced that time and again the crises which have occurred in the Colonial Territories could have been prevented, or could have been prevented from spreading if they had been dealt with early, and if there had been better intelligence, and preferably better military intelligence.

I therefore hope that when General Templer carries out his mission to the Colonial Territories he will be given the opportunity not only of considering the problem of military organisation, but also will be asked to inquire into the intelligence service and the relationship between the civil intelligence and military intelligence as existing at present and how it can be improved.

I cannot pretend that those of us who, like myself, have taken a close interest in the development of the colonial forces and their use feel that their ability to tackle the tasks they are likely to be called upon to tackle at present is adequate. I believe nothing could be more timely than the decision to send General Templer on his mission of investigation, but I hope very sincerely that as a result of the investigation improvements and changes which are long overdue will be carried through quickly and effectively and that the mission is not regarded merely as a stop gap before General Templer undertakes even more important duties in the military sphere.

11.52 p.m.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

It seems to be my fate to follow the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport), but this evening I am not going to follow his argument or even his reference to the Forces in the Colonies.

I wish towards the end of this debate not to deal with the effect of nuclear weapons upon war preparations, nor with the issues of strategy which have been so much discussed during the last five hours. I want to turn to a very human problem, the problem of the men in the Forces who are the victims of accident, of mutilation, or disease, and of their parents and near relatives who suffer also when they are such victims. I have indicated to the Under-Secretary of State for War that I intended to raise this issue tonight. I am not going to do so in an attitude of opposition, but I hope, in a constructive spirit which will contribute something towards a solution of a problem which I recognise is difficult. I want to propose changes in the routine related to soldiers undergoing medical treatment, particularly in the routine of informing parents and closest relatives of the nature of their illness and of its development.

I raised this matter last June in the case of a boy who came from my constituency and had been serving in the Far East. His name was Whitten. I refer to that case this evening because there has been a tragic conclusion to it since 1 brought the attention of the War Office to his position. On 5th July last year his parents received a formal card, A2042, stating that he was sick in a Japanese hospital. Except for a communication on 22nd January reporting that he was in the hospital at Netley, no further information at all was given to his parents about his illness. The first intimation of his serious condition was when they saw him suffering from contortions being dragged down a corridor between two orderlies at Netley Hospital when they visited him.

One can imagine the shock of parents going to visit their son, finding him in that condition, and never having been given any warning by the War Office that he was in that serious state. Indeed, the explanation from the War Office was that he was not in that serious condition, but later it was diagnosed as torsion dystonia, which was not thought to be associated with Army service, but in his later days at St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington, was held to be probably inflammation of the brain caused by a germ picked up during his service. He died of that disease. I am glad to say that the War Office recognised that second diagnosis to the extent of giving him a 100 per cent. disablement pension from 24th May, 1954, to the date of his death. The matter of a dependent's pension is still unsettled.

The point I am emphasising today, and which I shall illustrate from later cases, is not so much the matter of pensions as the absence of information to parents and relatives about the conditions of these boys when they are in these hospitals. My experience has shown that the Whitten case was not isolated. Only the fact that I have had others from my constituency, one of which I shall deal with in detail now, has led me to raise this matter during this discussion on the Army Estimates.

The story which I am now going to tell will seem incredible to hon. Members of this House. Incident after incident, which become a mountain of inhumanity, which reaches a point of an absolute scandal which should be exposed as an illustration of Army methods. I am referring to Trooper Colin Wheatley, who was a member of the First King's Dragoon Guards. He was serving in Germany. In September last his mother was informed by the Red Cross that he was in hospital with injuries, though those injuries were not specified. Six weeks passed with no further information to his parents. I telephoned at the request of his parents who are my constituents, on 4th November, to the War Office, and I wrote to the Minister. I had no reply until 10th November, which was seven weeks after his admission to hospital.

I was informed that there had been a car accident—I believe, during the "Exercise Battle Royal" manoeuvres in Germany—between a scout car and a jeep, and that Wheatley had received cuts and slight concussion, for which he was immediately treated at a German civilian hospital. He was discharged next day, but on 25th September was admitted to the military hospital at Munster, where he was treated for concussion, and on 22nd October he was transferred to the military hospital at Hanover, suffering from post-concussional neurosis.

The explanation given to me by the War Office of the fact that Wheatley was left in that condition for seven weeks, without his relatives or parents being informed, was that he was not dangerously ill; that As he was not on the dangerously ill list or seriously ill list, official reports on his progress would not have been rendered as it is normally considered better in such circumstances to leave the soldier himself to inform his relatives of the reasons for his admission to hospital in his own way. I was told that there was always someone ready to write if a soldier did not feel up to writing, and that the medical officer at Hanover had urged Wheatley to write to his mother. But this boy was suffering from neurosis as a result of that concussion.

I suggest that when a soldier is in that condition in a hospital, it should not be left to the boy to ask someone to write; it should not be left to the medical officer to urge him to write. There should be someone present who offers to write the letter for him and who will normally do so unless the permission of the boy is withheld. This boy, a patient in bed, suffering from neurosis, was not in his normal state of mind. Instead of waiting for him to take the initiative to write to his parents or his relatives, someone ought to have been in the ward who would go to him and offer to write to his parents for him, and to do so unless he himself indicated that he did not want a letter to be sent.

When I received that letter from the War Office saying that the boy's illness was not serious, I hoped that he would soon be home and discharged, because his period of service as a Regular soldier ended on 7th December, but on 15th December I heard that on arriving in England he had been moved to the Tidworth Hospital. When his mother was informed and telephoned to the hospital, the reply was that he was in bed and the hospital could not say how long for.

That is only the beginning of the story. In the letter of 10th November, the Parliamentary Secretary had said to me that it was expected that the boy would make a good recovery. The hon. Gentleman said: I am sorry that Mrs. Wheatley should have had this anxiety and I am glad that we have been able to obtain reassuring news for her. That was on 10th November. On 15th December, the mother wrote to me in these terms: The War Office wrote to me and said his condition was satisfactory and he would be discharged from hospital on 12th November. I am not at all satisfied about the satisfactory condition, as he arrived in England only to be sent to hospital. Once more no information was given to the mother. She said: No one can tell me how long it will be. I am still hoping that someone will enlighten me how long, or if he will ever be cured. She was then informed that he would be home after Christmas. She telephoned the hospital on 28th December. She was informed rather crudely as a result of that telephone message that he had run away. On telephoning again later in the day, she was informed that he had been given a railway warrant and was on his way home. She was told, "He should be there now."

She and his wife stayed up all night to await him. In the morning he had not come and she reported his absence to the Slough police station. Inquiries showed that he had been sent from the Tidworth hospital, not home, but to Bovington Military Hospital. He was allowed sick leave there from 30th December, to 1st January when he returned to hospital again.

Meanwhile, I wrote to the Under-Secretary of State for War on 22nd December asking for a report on the condition and prospects of Trooper Wheatley. The War Office replied on 5th January, three weeks later, that Wheatley would be leaving the Army on completion of his Regular engagement on 6th January. On 6th January, the War Office wrote to me once more: …some slight delay over his discharge from the Regular Army as he has had to attend hospital again for a final check-up. Three more weeks passed without further news, but on 2nd February we were informed that he was being transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley for further observation.

I was given this promise: As soon as this hospital has had an opportunity to report on his condition I will write you again. On 10th February there was another letter from the Under-Secretary saying, … he will by now be returned to his unit in a low medical category and can therefore be released. When I received that letter I expected that he would be discharged, and would be returned home and that he would be at least reasonably well.

On 17th February I heard from his mother that he was home at last. These are her words: He is a very sick lad and it is heartbreaking to see him. He tries very hard to keep well, but when he goes out I am always on edge, wondering where he is and whether he will be all right. He went out last Wednesday and was found in a dazed condition and taken to hospital until he had recovered, and then brought home in an ambulance. The same thing happened yesterday—he was brought home in a car. The local newspaper reported a third occasion when he was found in a state of collapse, taken to hospital and brought home by ambulance again.

When I read that report I wrote to the Under-Secretary and asked him whether he would send the report which he had promised in his letter of 2nd February. Not only had I not had that report: even the doctor who was attending the boy at home had not had it. Two weeks passed. The War Office had not even informed the doctor who was treating the boy at home—a boy in such condition that on three occasions when he left home he collapsed in the street—of the War Office diagnosis, of the boy's case history, of how he ought to be treated, or of what was wrong with him.

I wrote to the War Office asking that the medical reports should be sent to his doctor. A week passed and I had no reply. On 3rd March I telephoned to the hon. Gentleman's private secretary. Then I was informed that it was the practice to send medical reports from the Army to a doctor attending a boy who had been discharged from the Army in the condition I have described, only when the boy's doctor made a request for them and it was certified by him. I recognise that in view of the urgency of the case the War Office instructed that a report should be provided pending the sending of the form from the patient.

The latest information I have is that this boy is very ill in the Lipton Hospital, Slough, and that the medical authorities at that hospital have approached the medical officer at the War Office for his reports. There are three conclusions to be reached on the appalling story I have recited. The first is that the War Office must find some method of improving communication with relatives when men are ill in hospital. The second is that when a man has been ill he should, on discharge, be given a form to be filled in so that the case history, diagnosis, and suggested treatment can be sent at once to his doctor when the man goes home. The third conclusion is that there ought to be more immediate contact between the War Office and the local medical officer in the Army to prevent the kind of delay which occurred when I applied to the War Office concerning this case. Despite the urgency, days and on one occasion weeks, passed before the necessary information was sent to me.

I have raised this case not only because it refers to Colin Wheatley, a boy in my constituency, but because letters I have received indicate that this case illustrates something which the War Office must put right for other men in other parts of the country.

12.14 a.m.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), who is one of my Buckinghamshire neighbours. I have listened to the cases he has brought to our notice with a great deal of interest and sympathy because I had a similar case which I had to bring to notice of the War Office. I must say that the War Office treated it with sympathy and attention. I do not want to deal with the more human side of the problems discussed recently, but to return to the wider aspects of the form which the Army ought to take and the problems which it has to face.

I want to deal specifically with the question of reserves. There has been a certain amount of argument, both in the defence debate and today, as to exactly what type of war we are preparing for. It has been suggested that the Army has a treble duty to face. It may have to face an all-out nuclear fission war, or merely an extension of the cold war breaking out in large-scale local wars in different parts of the world, or, less conceivably, a major world war with conventional weapons, possibly with a limited tactical use of atomic weapons.

I doubt very much whether the last one is a possibility. If we are really to believe what the Defence White Paper says, and if we are to accept as accurate, as I believe we must, the estimates of Russian strength, an outbreak of a major world war inevitably means the outbreak of a nuclear fission war. In these circumstances, many of the things that we have been talking about really do not matter very much at all.

Therefore, there are two alternatives. Are we likely to have a nuclear fission war? I am not quite so pessimistic as some hon. Members who have spoken today. I very much doubt whether any Government will be so insane as to initiate, directly or by provocation, a nuclear fission war when it is remembered that not only those who take part in it but the whole of civilisation will be affected and destroyed.

If we are to believe the scientists, should there be a world-wide nuclear fission war, the atmosphere is likely to be so saturated with radio-active particles that we shall be affected unto the third and fourth generation—the old Biblical saying will come true—the evolution of the species will go into reverse and man will descend unto the ape. In the circumstances, I doubt very much whether we stand a great risk of nuclear fission war all the time we have in our own possession weapons which are as strong as those which can be brought against us.

I believe that we have really to plan for a development of the cold war, localised wars which can become quite large and absorb a considerable amount of manpower and materials. In those circumstances, the Secretary of State, in his brilliant opening speech, gave what I thought was a very good indication of the form which our Army should take. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) confirmed the outline for the Army which had previously been given when he talked about the way in which it should be streamlined, the necessity for cutting down the number of vehicles that it had, learning to be tough and living on the country, doing away with the extensive commissariat and so on. Undoubtedly, that is the form that the Army should take.

However, there is one thing that nobody has touched on except very slightly, and that is how, in those circumstances, the Army can be reinforced. It seems to me that the reserves, as we have them now, are not really applicable to the type of warfare that we have to face. We have two main sources of reserves, the Army Emergency Reserve and the Territorial Army. I want to deal first with the Army Emergency Reserve.

What is to be the future rôle of the Army Emergency Reserve? As I understand it, it is likely to be used to form or implement the Mobile Defence Force battalions. Also, it will apparently be used to provide units which will, in the case of nuclear fission warfare, be used together with Territorial units to restore order and government to this country. I can hardly conceive of that happening. If we have an outbreak of nuclear fission warfare, there will not be very much to restore in this country, for it will be a blazing inferno.

In any case, how will the Army Emergency Reserve be mobilised? It is drawn from people all over the United Kingdom who meet only once a year for a fortnight's camp. Its officers and N.C.Os. are mostly National Service men. It has not a continuity of volunteers to the same extent as the Territorial Army has. We want something like 15 per cent. volunteers to get efficiency in an Army Emergency Reserve unit, and I think we have reached about 5 per cent. How is the Army Emergency Reserve going to work? I should have thought that if we believe—and, after all, we have got to make a guess about this—that the threat we have to face is an extension of the cold war, we ought to be prepared to reinforce our regular troops, which may be required to be reinforced very quickly, by our reserve troops.

Let me take the example of Indochina. If the Indo-China war had continued, we might have found it very difficult, if we were brought into that war, to reinforce our regular troops. We might have wished to call up Territorial divisions to do so. Our reserve, as it stands at the moment, is not organised for rapid mobilisation and deployment. It is not trained or organised for it. If we are going to get an effective reserve in the future, we have got to consider how we are going to do so.

I would have thought that the best rôle for National Service men coming out of the Forces from now on is twofold. First, I think the Territorial Army should absorb them to the maximum extent. We ought to develop far more Territorial divisions if possible. By all means let us have the streamlined version, but we ought to have more men getting longer training than they get in the two weeks Army Emergency Reserve. They have certainly got to be organised in a way which makes it possible to mobilise them rapidly, and we have got to accept the fact that the Territorial divisions may be mobilised at a time when a world war has not broken out but merely to participate in a localised war.

Those men who cannot go into the Territorial Army because they may be some way from Territorial Army headquarters may have to go into the Army Emergency Reserve. There may be some Service units of the old style which could be maintained, and which might be of use, although I can hardly conceive of that in the circumstances. They may be required in the Mobile Defence Corps, although I am not at all convinced that that is not a complete waste of manpower. I doubt if a civilian defence force of that kind would be of real use for the purpose for which it is required if a nuclear fission war were to begin. However, civil defence is an attitude of mind, and it might be of some use in maintaining morale.

The other members of the Army Emergency Reserve who cannot be absorbed into those tasks might well be put into the Home Guard units. There are—or there should be—Home Guard units situated in different parts of the country. There are little localised units, very often in small country areas, which obtain their men from small hamlets. Those are about the only military units which will be capable of functioning in the type of cataclysm which we are considering. I cannot conceive of a large military force remaining in existence after a nuclear fission attack on this country which would be able to restore order. There would only be small units. Therefore it may be advantageous to strengthen Home Guard units with those men who go into the Army Emergency Reserve and who live in isolated areas, thus making it difficult for them to get into the Territorial units.

There are many others who wish to speak on this subject, and therefore I am going to restrict my remarks to this question of the reserve. I beg my right hon. Friend to consider this matter carefully, because I am convinced that the reserve is wrongly organised at the moment for the type of warfare we might have to face. Twelve or 18 months ago it may have been right, although I have my doubts, but it certainly is not right now. We have got to make certain that we have a reserve which can be deployed rapidly in a cold war and which can be utilised usefully—or the remnants of it—if we have a nuclear fission war

12.25 a.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

I distinctly remember the speech which the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) made a year ago, and I am not sure that he entirely agreed with the way my mind was then working in the light of the situation facing us. In the White Paper of a year ago we were given a description of the opening phases of a fission war, which would be followed by broken back warfare, and, like him, I had my doubts whether it would be possible in those circumstances to undertake an elaborate scheme of mobilisation, to equip the mobilised forces and then transport them to the Continent. My idea then was that we should establish our mobilisation centres on the Continent, because I believed that the N.A.T.O. conception had not finally broken down, and that the four divisions on the Continent would be reinforced.

It is perfectly clear that that conception of 1954 has gone, and we now have to start off with the public statements of General Gruenther and Field Marshal Montgomery, that the basis of N.A.T.O. planning is the use of nuclear weapons, not only of fission but of fusion.The reason why General Gruenther is committed to that is that the conception of a screen of some 40 or 50 divisions behind which mobilisation could take place until the counter-attack was ready is clearly not going to work any longer.

We must therefore accept that if the planning conception is based upon the use of nuclear weapons, whether or not we like it, we should find ourselves in a position where they would have to be used to redress the conventional balance against us. That is a highly dangerous situation, because the American forces on the Continent are already liberally armed with tactical atomic weapons, and from the statement of the Secretary of State today it is clear that within a few months, or a year at most, British forces on the Continent will possess those weapons.

That is the situation which we must face, and the hon. Member for Wycombe is quite right to express doubts about the possibility of those four divisions on the Continent being reinforced. It is a truly alarming situation, and seems to me to rub any brilliance off the speech of the Secretary of State, because he said nothing about it. If we are right about this; if those four divisions are on the end of a limb and no plans have been made for their withdrawal or reinforcement, the rôle they will play, whether in a cold or a hot war, is that of the tethered goat. They are there, and the best that they can hope for is another Dunkirk.

That seems to present a very odd picture, in which this country is being asked to pour out some £1,500 million a year to maintain the two years' compulsory National Service to keep our youngest and best men on the Continent, knowing that in no conceivable circumstances will they ever be able to fight effectively. That is where the Government's policy has got us. I think it likely that some person with an able pen is now compiling the material for the second volume of "Guilty Men." There is no doubt that the Prime Minister has established his right to inclusion in that volume, and I do not think that the Secretary of State has done very badly. However we look at this matter, these are the bare and cruel facts of the situation.

I can understand that it came as a very great shock to the Prime Minister when he discovered the full implications of the fusion weapon, and he told his colleagues that we should have to think again. It would not be so bad if it were clear from the Defence White Paper that the picture painted for us this year was being followed by some hard thinking against a time-table, but the Prime Minister has done something which is quite shocking. He has told the young people—not the children, but the young men and women in their twenties—"You have three or four years left." They will get into the attitude of mind in which they say, "Eat, drink and be merry, because in three or four years' time we shall have had it."

As a result of this attitude—of which the godfather is the Prime Minister—we shall get the worst form of neutralism. I have a certain respect for the manly neutralism of the Swedes and the Swiss, who put their hands into their pockets and give of their leisure time to preserve their freedom and their way of life. I have no time at all for the kind of neutralism which I have sometimes seen expressed. I will not particularise what I have in mind, but I reject it because it is alien to our way of life. If there is one thing calculated to bring us down to disaster, it is that conception of neutralism.

From my reading of history, I believe that the people of this country have reacted properly whenever they have been faced with facts put to them honestly, as the Prime Minister put them honestly in his great moments in 1940 before he was captured by the Tory Party. I believe that the people would react again, but we want clear, honest statements and clear, honest action. We have not got them in the White Paper. Confusion of thought exists not only among members of my own party, but on the Government side too. If anybody doubts that, let him read the speech of one of the hon. Members for Portsmouth in the debate on the Navy not long after the Prime Minister's speech and see the effect it could have on the Government benches. Let him also see what has appeared in the Press since the Defence White Paper was published.

I do not believe that we have three or four years. That was a device by the Prime Minister. I concede that the Prime Minister's speech was a masterly political effort, for he realised that the Government's efforts were not very good and he therefore tried to elevate the discussion to the rarified air by ascending into the stratosphere. If we asked hon. Members on the Government side what the Prime Minister said, they could not tell us. They would say that it was a remarkable speech, but what it was about they could not say, except that we have three or four years to wait. I do not believe we have. That is not the way to talk to the British people. In the last year we have had a complete change in the situation, in which everything we stand for and hope for is challenged. It may be successfully challenged unless there is a very quick reaction.

My second approach is to realise that as a result of the last war our position in the world has changed. If we try to have a great Navy, a great Army and a great Air Force, added to that an adequate Civil Defence, and now try to make nuclear weapons we shall end up by getting absolutely nothing. We have therefore to choose our priorities.

I sat all through the Navy debate, prepared to listen to the experts saying that we must have cruisers, aircraft carriers, and so on. I accept that. We are now at the half-way stage; we have the Bill for the Army in terms of cash and manpower. What do we get out of it. The Army is out on the end of a limb, and we are building up 12 divisions which hon. Members on both sides of the House say can never be used as originally planned.

In these circumstances, is it not sensible to get back to fundamentals and look at things again? I am trying to prevent myself from quarrelling too early with the Minister in what I have to say. One of the great lines that the right hon. Gentleman ran in opposition was the use of colonial forces. That was the great story of the Tory Party then. They said, "This is a reservoir of manpower." It was not very long, say three months, before the right hon. Gentleman, as Secretary of State for War, said that that cock would not fight. The reason was that we were short of junior officers and N.C.Os.—the very people wanted in the colonial forces.

If we are thinking in terms of the cold war, which would make great demands upon us, or of continuing policing action in different parts of the world, then I should have thought that we should have looked at this problem. But the Secretary of State for War says nothing about the colonial forces. As hon. Members know, I am not one of his most ardent admirers, but I watch him very closely: and, therefore, I was not surprised to see in today's "Times" that General Templer had been appointed to report on the colonial forces. On the very day that the right hon. Gentleman was likely to be questioned, we are told in the Press that General Templer is going off to have a look at the colonial forces.

We had an important paper on this subject—West African Forces Conference (Colonial No. 304)—published in July of last year, and I think that my own party is rather remiss on this matter. This was a major document virtually setting up what was an Army Council for West Africa, leading us to believe that we could never find the officers and N.C.Os. ourselves, and making the suggestion that members of the Commonwealth should come in, and help to set up a Sandhurst in West Africa. But. from July of last year, when that paper was published, we have heard not one word on the subject until being told today that General Templer is going off. If he is filling in time until he becomes C.I.G.S., or whatever the Government have in mind for him, then I do not mind very much, because if the Government meant serious business, or had any successes to claim, I am certain that we should have heard more from the right hon. Gentleman today.

This is the fourth speech we have had from the Secretary of State on the Army Estimates, and the right hon. Gentleman should look at some of the things he said when in opposition. Pay was one of the things with which he used to try to throttle us in those days, and the colonial forces was another. So far as the colonial forces are concerned, all we have heard now is that General Templer is to make a report on them. Not a word about the Report of the West African Forces Conference, and I hope that influential hon. Friends of my own party will not be satisfied with the present state of things. I hope that before the Summer Recess we shall have a proper discussion on the subject of the colonial forces.

There is a committee of inquiry going on into the recent unfortunate happenings in Freetown, and when the report of that committee becomes available I think that once more we shall find that the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the right hon. Gentleman. I must say that I am full of alarm at the manner in which troops were rushed from the Gold Coast to Sierra Leone and how they behaved when they got there. I am surprised that we have not heard of the part played by the troops in those recent regrettable incidents in Freetown.

I want now to turn to the question of the Territorial Army and the question of Anti-Aircraft Command. I was extremely surprised during the course of the defence debate we had last week to find that nothing was said about this disbandment; and surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman waited until today in order to tell us something of the organisation which was to flow from the abolition of this Command.

Nor did he tell us very much today. He said it affects the Royal Artillery, but that is fairly obvious. He said these men would be absorbed. But what about the promotion prospects of officers serving in Regular units and of Regular officers serving with Territorial units? This must have been a tremendous shock to those men. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that periods of reorganisation are bound to bring some hardships in their train, but we must remember that it is 20 months since the decision was announced that guided missiles would become an R.A.F. responsibility and four months since the Minister of Defence announced that Anti-Aircraft Command would go. It seems that the right hon. Gentleman has had plenty of time.

But I want to deal not only with that aspect of the matter. I want to deal with another aspect to which reference was made during the defence debate. It is, what takes the place of our anti-aircraft defences? The right hon. Gentleman is, again, on record about this. He seems to have forgotten what he said in his memorable speech of 10th March, 1952, the first time he came to the House as Secretary of State, when he came with all the bounce in creation. It was a very different Secretary of State on that occasion from the Secretary of State we saw today. He was a little timid, a little diffident, even a little shy today. In 1952 the right hon. Gentleman said: Another problem is anti-aircraft equipment, particularly of this country. We have got new inventions of Radar and predictors and new inventions for increasing the rate of fire of guns. They are expensive and difficult to manufacture, but we cannot let up on that particular aspect until the quantity production of guided missiles is in sight."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1042.] One thing is quite certain—that the quantity production of guided missiles is not in sight; and yet Anti-Aircraft Command has been disbanded. We have had the White Paper on Military Aircraft and the statement by the Minister of Supply, who tried to tell the country and the world that we had the best night defence in the world. The argument of the Minister of Supply was a little different from that of the White Paper, because in the White Paper it was the "best defence," whereas when he spoke it was the "best defence system."

It reminded me, particularly as the right hon. and learned Gentleman is an accomplished lawyer, of the man in the dock at the Old Bailey who confessed to the judge that he had lost all his money, all his wife's money and all his employer's money by gambling on horses and who said that he had never backed a winner but, never mind, he had the best system in the world. That seems to sum up the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, because we have no guns, we have no guided missiles and, as I shall show in the debate on the Air Estimates, if I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, we have no aircraft. It is a dismal picture.

I want to turn to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, where he dealt with the question of manpower. Perhaps he will recollect that we have had previous discussions on this subject. I must tell him that he really is a corker; he either does not understand—and it would be uncharitable to suggest that, so I take it that he does understand—or, if he does understand, he comes here and tries to exploit the ignorance of hon. Members on the subject and the rather tiresome detail associated with it.

The first comment he made was one to which I personally took exception. He suggested that we on this side of the House took delight when recruiting figures were bad. I think that is rather a mean thing to say. I do not much mind; if he gets any satisfaction from it, well and good. But it is not true.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that more than two years ago, when he announced with great glee the highest recruiting figures of this century—we were debating a Supplementary Estimate and many hon. Members, perhaps even the right hon. Gentleman himself, will remember that debate—we pointed out to him that, although his figures looked all right on the surface, we must warn him of what was to come. There was no question of delight about it, and the idea that we are being wise after the event is absolute stuff and nonsense. In the course of those debates we tried—heaven knows how many times I tried—to get the right hon. Gentleman to accept the point of view he put across this afternoon.

Of course, there are only a certain number of men who find any delight in military life. If we put up the pay it would have an effect of perhaps a fraction of 1 per cent., and if conditions are bad it will go down. On the other hand, if the Royal Air Force manages to step up conditions that may be only at the expense of the Army. But the basis of this planning is not in terms of men at all. In assessing it no competent staff officer would look at it in terms of men recruited. What really matters is the number of man years. That is the point at which the right hon. Gentleman has broken down completely. I entirely agree that in 1951 he had a very difficult situation to face, but in my judgment—I have said it consistently—he found the wrong answer. He went for the three-year engagement. If one looks at the total number of man years recruited over the years 1950 to 1954, we find that in 1954 from the 13,000 men recruited he got 68,000 man years. That was internal recruiting, and in 1954 the bulk of the 68,000 recruited came out of the 26,000 man years from the five years with the Colours and seven years with the Reserve—the one engagement which the right hon. Gentleman has put on one side.

The difficult situation which faces the right hon. Gentleman and his successors—I emphasise the plural—is that once this step has been taken I frankly do not know the way out. Once we have introduced the short service engagement of three years, which gives only one extra man year, because the man who undertakes it would do two years' National Service in any case, it is very difficult to see the way back. But that is not the end of the story. If it was only a question of quantity it would not be so bad. What about the question of quality? Many hon. Mem- bers opposite who have had far more years Regular commission service than I have had know that in every unit there are a number of people whom commanding officers would sooner not have. Before the war, when a man applied to re-engage he had to show that he was a fairly respectable and worthwhile man. It is true that in certain cases such as that of a sergeant with nine years service they had a right to re-engage, but the number of years for which a man had the right to re-engage was limited, and if a man was not an asset to a unit he was not allowed to do so. Now it is really a farce that right throughout the British Army anybody is given a statutory right to stay in the Army. The bad hats, malcontents or in efficients whom commanding officers would sooner be without can demand as a right that they be taken on. That is not all; if, for example, they stay on for 12 years the right hon. Gentleman gives them a bounty of £100.

A mistake was made—Ithink it was quite unwittingly made—when we allowed people in the Services to marry too early. I think the Army requires a number of single men. For part of my service I was married, and I know that there are occasions, particularly in the case of N.C.Os. when the Army wants all their attention, not merely to be using the sergeants' mess to have a drink and then go home to their wives. The regiment really needs to be their home. But now, by allowing men to marry much too young, this is the situation arising—and it concerns regiments in this country today.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

Whose business is it? Does my hon. Friend not think that there are some things that are a man's own business, and not even that of the Army, when he gets married?

Mr. Wigg

I am only saying that one has not only to consider the rights of the individual but the efficiency of the Service. Before the war, a man could certainly get married if he wanted to and could get a marriage allowance, but he did not get the privilege of having a right to married quarters until he came on the married quarter roll. I am saying where the hon. Gentleman's soft heart will lead him. This is the situation of a Regular battalion stationed in this country. It is at present fortunate enough to have a considerable number of married quarters, but it is shortly moving to a station where there are not so many married quarters, and that means that some men will not be able to get married quarters.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

As far as I can see, my hon. Friend is arguing that young soldiers must not get married. Does he want to increase the illegitimate birth rate?

Mr. Wigg

I am not saying anything of the kind. I am saying that the privilege of allowing young men—officers as well—to get married and have married quarters does, in fact, create tremendous hardship and works against the efficiency of the Army. I want to show how. It is impossible for the Army to guarantee married quarters to everyone. Someone has got to go without. In the past a man had an entitlement to a quarter: 100 per cent. in the case of a warrant officer, 50 per cent. for a sergeant, and so on. Now it is allotted on a points system, with the result that when units change from one place to another it is very likely that, because there are more married quarters where they are now than where they are going, a number of people will have to go out. Those who have to go out are senior N.C.Os., who will say, "Very good, if there are no married quarters, I am going back to civilian life," and if they do not say it, their wives will. This is, in fact, what is happening. The consequence is that the bill goes up and efficiency decreases. I am not pretending that I know the answer. I do not. but I still have family ties with the Regular Army, and this does not work for the well-being and happiness of the soldiers or their families, or for the efficiency of the Army.

I am making no party point. I am saying that both parties, by introducing what appeared to be a reform, have landed the Army in a very difficult situation, which is bound to get progressively worse, because the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. One will only get so many recruits anyway, and whatever is done in publicity and advertising will not increase it.

The best recruiting sergeant, in my judgment, both for officers and other ranks, is the contented ex-soldier. If he goes out fed up to the teeth, the link is broken. One of the things that is happening is that that link has been broken. Because of the conditions under which people lived in the inter-war years, and the way the Army treated them regarding pensions and the like, fathers are saying to their sons, "Whatever you do, do not go into the Armed Forces." That, of itself, is bound to create a most difficult situation. I was extremely amused to hear the right hon. Gentleman today talk about the married quarters and say, "Well, of course, between the wars both parties would not spend money on married quarters." That is not all the explanation. The explanation was that it was a class Army before the war, and those of us who lived in other ranks' married quarters were never visited or worried by those who lived in officers' married quarters. The differing standards were quite marked, and nothing was done about it when there were millions of men unemployed who could have put things right. The barracks were a disgrace, the married quarters were a disgrace. That is a legacy from the past, and it cannot be liquidated very simply.

Those of us who remember those days sometimes feel a little bitter about the conditions we were asked to accept, without any opportunity of protesting. The problem is one of tremendous complexity, and there is no easy way out of it. In the introduction of reforms we can spend money, and as a result we might make things much worse than otherwise would be the case.

I am sure that we cannot indefinitely sustain a period of two years' military service. We have heard different alibis put up at different times. Until this year, the alibi of the right hon. Gentleman has always been commitments. He said that we could not make a change because we had tremendous commitments, but that if we came out of the Middle East that might make a difference. I have never subscribed to that view, nor do I subscribe now to the view that National Service can be reduced drastically. As a result of the right hon. Gentleman's recruiting policy, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee.

West (Mr. Strachey)

we have got two years' National Service round our necks, and it will stay round our necks for a very long time.

The right hon. Gentleman can come here and make speeches which satisfy hon. Members on his side of the House, but one year from now the test of his recruiting policy will be, not his speeches, but the length of National Service. He says in his Memorandum that recruiting has been moderately successful and is down by only 10 per cent. from last year. My guess is that it will be down a bit again this year. The Secretary of State says that he cannot give the information to show to what extent the three years' engagement has been successful and we must wait until May, but one thing which I am quite sure about is that the right hon. Gentleman's estimate—I must not say "hope"; he objects to that—of 33 per cent. of prolongations from three years onwards will not be the answer.

Mr. Head

The hon. Gentleman has raised the matter of 33 per cent. Perhaps I should have left it until I wound up the debate. What I said—the hon. Member tries constantly to pin this on me—is that the optimum re-engagement rate from the point of view of the manpower structure of the Army would be 33 per cent. The hon. Member also said that recruiting was down last year by 10 per cent. That is quite false. It has remained absolutely steady. As I pointed out in my speech, it has remained steady at 25 per cent. The hon. Member went on to say that recruiting will be down this year. It is unwise to forecast what will happen, but for the first two months of this year it is up by 13 per cent. So practically every remark of the last few minutes, to which I have been paying attention, has been wrong.

Mr. Wigg

The right hon. Gentleman ought not to do this. The Statement on Defence for 1953 said that the Army would recruit 50,000 Regulars in that year. The Statement for 1954 revealed that the number recruited was 42,700. Then, the right hon. Gentleman's estimated number for 1954 was 40,000, and he got 36,000, excluding boys. These figures are beyond any doubt. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman simply getting the applause of his hon. Friends behind him. The figures are in the Defence White Papers. We can trace them through. In actual fact, the right hon. Gentleman got 42,700, and now it is 4,700 less. If that is not 10 per cent., what is it?

Mr. Head

The hon. Gentleman is speaking of different figures. I was trying to explain that the field for recruiting, as I said in my speech, is the National Service intake. I was pointing out to the hon. Gentleman that if one takes recruiting as a percentage of that field of National Service intake the recruiting of men on three-year engagement has remained absolutely constant for the last three years.

Mr. Wigg

I am pointing out that the Statement on Defence for 1954 said that the number of recruits was 42,700 and now it is down to 38,000, and that is down by 10 per cent. None of the arguments in the world will alter that. The right hon. Gentleman has now used the new word "optimum." In the past, I have been charitable and said that he hoped to get 33 per cent. extensions, because that was what he said and what his Under-Secretary at the time said in the same debate on 9th March, 1953. I am not saying that the right hon. Gentleman said he "hoped." He said that he wanted 33 per cent. I assumed charitably that he hoped he would get that percentage. It would have been grossly unfair to say the right hon. Gentleman did not expect his own policy to be successful.

The right hon. Gentleman introduced this policy and said, "In order that this policy shall work I want 33 per cent." I know that he has not obtained that 33 per cent. This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman once again falsified the record. He said something which would not deceive even the most junior subaltern in the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman had the audacity to talk about the extensions at 12 years. He said, in effect, "We had 'X' extensions at 12 years. That has gone up and is very good. "He omitted to tell the House that everyone who has studied this problem for a split second knows, that the longer a man remains in the Army the more he is inclined to take on. An average worked out over a considerable number of years has shown a rate of prolongation of about 15 per cent. at three years, rising to 70 per cent. at 12 years. If the right hon. Gentleman had not got extensions from his 12-year men there would be no Army at all.

Mr. Head

I am afraid that the hon. Member is wrong again. It was not "from" the 12-year men, it was the prolongation "to" 12 years. I do not want to spoil the argument, but once again that is wrong.

Mr. Wigg

The right hon. Gentleman is not spoiling it at all. I want to pin the right hon. Gentleman to this—that he said that he wanted 33 per cent. Does he deny that he said that at the beginning of the debate on 9th March, 1953, and that his Under-Secretary said it again in that debate? What is his estimate of what he will obtain? The right hon. Gentleman must put the intelligence of the House at a very low level. He said this afternoon, "I have not the figures. It would need a special investigation. "Does the right hon. Gentleman tell me that he does not know how many men were transferred to the Army Reserve from November to 28th February? They have gone to the Reserve and he knows it.

Last Tuesday I was astonished to read in "The Times" and announcement of the recruiting figures for January. It is ages since there was an announcement in the Press of the recruiting figures for a single month. I knew, therefore, that they were up. In fact, they had risen by 51 over a year ago. We have an announcement when the figures favour the right hon. Gentleman but—

Mr. Head

They have always been announced monthly. I do not want to spoil the hon. Gentleman's wonderfully "factual" speech, but they have been announced over the last two years.

Mr. Wigg

All I can say is that they may have been announced, but the hon. Gentleman's public relations department has taken great care that they have not been published. The manuscript statement of recruiting figures which is available in the Vote Office is on a quarterly basis. We do not get monthly figures. This is the first month for ages which has shown an increase over the comparable month of the previous year. There is a rise of 51. I do not complain. I am delighted. The more recruiting goes up the more substantial will the case become for cutting down National Service. All I am pointing out is that if the right hon. Gentleman could find out what the figures were for January, why could he not tell us in this debate the number of men transferred to the Army Reserve in the months of November, December, January, and February? He assures me that the figures are always sent out monthly. I am prepared to believe him, but if he can get information which suits him, why cannot the House be told the figures of the transfer to the reserve for the four months of men who enlisted on a three-year engagement? He knows the figures. One thing which is certain is that they are not 33 per cent. They will be nearer 15 per cent.

All I want to do is to expose the right hon. Gentleman. It is clear that he has dropped his colonial policy like a hot brick. That has gone. We have had the appointment of General Templer. We can draw our own conclusions from that. The right hon. Gentleman has no idea about the reorganisation of the reserve force. That is a subject for the future. Reorganisation of Anti-Aircraft Command, he said, would not take place until we had guided missiles. We have no guided missile. We have no gun defences. His recruiting policy is a shambles; but we still have the right hon. Gentleman. That means that he can score all the points he likes, but I make the same challenge tonight as I made a year ago. I said then, in effect, "One year from now we shall be even weaker than we are today." I say now that one year from today the Army will have gone down the slope, and every year which goes by—I will go further and say every month which goes by—makes it more difficult to bring it back, until, as General Gruenther has said, one passes the point of no return. We shall reach a point when we have on the one hand a sergeants' mess with three years' service, and on the other a host of people who are afraid to return to civilian life. When that has happened we may still have the right hon. Gentleman, but we shall have paid a lot of money and got no defence.

1.10 a.m.

Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)

The unusually quiet tones in which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) addressed the House belied the characteristic irresponsibility and inaccuracy of his remarks. He described the decision to commit four and a half divisions to the Continent of Europe in the hydrogen age as "a tethered goat, "and suggested that future generations would judge the decision as a crime. It seemed to me that he was here at variance with his right hon. Friends the Members for Dundee (Mr. Strachey) and Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), who several times proclaimed their belief in the necessity for a protective screen in Europe. I must leave it to the hon. Member and his right hon. Friends to sort this out among themselves. It will be part of the interesting process of putting Humpty Dumpty together again.

The right hon. Members for Dundee, West and Bassetlaw and other hon. Members opposite expressed regret that the Memorandum gave no indication of a possible reduction in National Service in the near future. I cannot help thinking that that expression of regret was a little disingenuous. I certainly did not find that it was supported by any very concrete argument.

There is a general consensus of opinion that we shall need ground forces if only to prevent local wars and incidents from becoming nuclear wars. There is also a very wide measure of agreement that we need to have a forward defence in Europe. I do not want to go over the arguments in favour of these two points, for they have been very fully developed by other hon. Members, but they go to show that the strain on our manpower will be considerable in the hydrogen bomb age as it has been in the past.

There is another aspect of the rôle of the ground forces which has received rather less attention, and I should like to say a word about it. If the deterrent power of the hydrogen bomb is to be effective, it is not enough just to have the bomb or the strategic aircraft. We have to have the bases from which those aircraft can be launched. We have a widespread network of bases stretching from the Mediterranean across the Middle East

to South-East Asia, and it has never been more necessary in our history to ensure their security than it is today.

The problem of ensuring the security of bases is two-fold. There is the problem of the local security of the area of the base itself. This will call for garrisons. There is also a rather wider point. We can only ensure the security of a base if we can ensure the security of the region in which it is situated. The security of bases in Cyprus, Iraq, Aden or Singapore will depend on the security of the Middle East as a whole and of South-East Asia as a whole.

The organisation of regional security is very largely a political matter, a question of winning the co-operation of the local governments and peoples concerned; but I think no political arrangement will endure very long in the face of hostile pressure unless it is underpinned, as it were, by the knowledge that ground forces are available to protect the area in question against local attack, hostile encroachment or infiltration. It is only if the local governments know, and can demonstrate to their peoples, that we should stand by them in the event of an attack that we can count on their support in the cold war.

This raises the question, how are we to ensure the security, as far as ground forces are concerned, of the Middle East and South-East Asian regions? Until the advent of the hydrogen bomb, there was a fairly simple and clear doctrine as to how the security of those overseas regions was to be attained. The War Office conception, if I understood it aright, was that there would be local garrisons defending the individual bases, then there would be a Strategic Reserve at home which could be shipped out or flown out to the threatened area in the event of an emergency, beyond that if it came to local war or full war, it would always be possible to call up the Territorial Reserve and send out Territorial Forces to reinforce the strategic reserve.

As several hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, this conception is now out-of-date. If war should come, something could and should be done to fly out young men of military age to safer areas where they could be assembled and trained to fight another day; but it is plainly out of the question to believe that we could mobilise the strategic reserves, still less the Territorial Reserve, and fly or ship it out of the country to a particular threatened area. The conclusion that we have to draw from this is, surely, that if we are to defend the Middle East or South-East Asia in a hot war we have got to be prepared to establish regional strategic reserves in the Middle East and in South-East Asia in time of peace.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Where are these regional strategic reserves coming from—from the United Kingdom?

Mr. Amery

I will deal with that in a moment. I do not pretend to be able to say where those reserves should be stationed or what their strength should be. This is a matter which will be largely determined by their function. The function of those regional reserves, as I see it, should be twofold—first, to serve as a fire brigade, as it were, to meet any local emergency which should arise, and secondly to be the nucleus around which Commonwealth and other forces could asssemble in the event of an emergency.

I have no idea, as I said, of what their precise number should be, but I see from the Army Memorandum that it is proposed to have, at any rate, one division in the Middle East. I do not know if that figure is large enough, but what is clearly essential is that such forces should be additional to the forces which are committed either to garrison duties or to internal security duties, as in the insurrections in Kenya and Malaya. They have got to be available for major emergencies, for attacks from outside, and not be absorbed in advance in dealing with day-to-day threats to law and order.

Plainly, if that is the pattern—and I do not see how we can escape from it—there is not much prospect in the near future of relieving the strain on our manpower. Indeed, if we are to discharge our responsibilities fully, it seems to me to be urgent that we should seek to make further economies in the use of manpower and also inquire whether there are no additional sources of manpower on which we could draw.

The advent of the hydrogen bomb may have reduced to some extent the risk of a general war—we all hope it has—but I think, as several hon. Members have remarked, that it may well lead to an intensification of the cold war. Already the cold war is imposing a very serious strain on the British Army, and there is plainly a danger that its intensification might so sap our military power that we would not have sufficient forces left to meet an external threat.

This prospect raises the question: Is the cold war being as efficiently conducted as it could be? It seems to me from the Army Memorandum that we have learned a good deal from experience in Kenya and Malaya; but I still cannot help feeling that there is too much of a tendency to regard the developments in Kenya and Malaya as an emergency which will soon be suppressed and which is unlikely to be repeated elsewhere. I do not think there is yet enough recognition that this type of resistance warfare is a distinct type of warfare that is likely to recur in the generation in which we live.

I happened to be associated in the late war, both on the staff and in the field, with resistance movements, and their organisation in Europe and in the Far East. My experience is—and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War can confirm this better than anyone—that much the greatest contribution which resistance movements make to a war effort is in tying down enemy troops. My recollection is that much the greatest contribution of the resistance movements which we sponsored—although there were sabotage operations and actual attacks were made—was in tying down enemy troops. They did not prevent the German exploitation of the countries they occupied, but they did absorb Hitler's strategic reserve in a critical moment.

We are, in a way, enduring that experience ourselves. The insurrections in Kenya and Malaya have not interfered with the economic production of either of those countries, but they are tying down far too many British troops.

Guerillas are easy enough to attack and disperse, but they are very difficult to crush. My own recollection, when I was on the side of the guerillas, is that the presence of German troops deterred us from attacking some targets and obliged us to keep our numbers fairly small and restricted, but it never really threatened the existence of the guerilla movement. This was mainly because conventional forces are so organised that their powers of pursuit are rather limited.

Far more dangerous from the point of view of the guerillas were attacks by other guerillas. Indeed, the two or three British missions which were destroyed or captured in the course of the war were, without exception, I believe, captured not by regular enemy forces but by guerilla forces sponsored by the enemy. I recall particularly the destruction of the British mission in Albania, which was carried out by guerillas sponsored by the enemy. Towards the end of the war the Germans organised counter-guerilla groups, which were much more effective in threatening resistance movements than any action of their regular troops. The conclusion I draw from all this is that although we need Regular troops to guard fixed installations, including roads and vital targets—to hold the ring as it were—we also need counter-guerilla or raiding forces which can take the offensive.

The Army Memorandum recognises this fact, at least by implication. It describes how small patrols of three or four men are being used to chase bandits in Malaya, and describes the training of tracker combat teams, in quite small numbers, in Kenya. The Secretary of State told us that he thought that operations of this kind were good training for the type of warfare which Regular forces would have to face in the event of a hot war. I think that I understand what he meant, but I wonder if it was not rather an overstatement? The differences in equipment between troops having to fight in a hot war and troops chasing bandits or insurgents are very great, to begin with.

I appreciate the need for versatility, but, like the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser), I wonder whether the time has not come to recognise that infiltration and resistance is a distinct dimension of war which calls for the formation of forces specialised in that type of warfare. It seems to me that what is needed is a combination of gendarmerie and what were known in the late war as the S.A.S. and the S.O.E. The functions of such forces would be the organisation of light, overland and airborne raids; the organisation of local home guards, and counter guerillas to fight against the insurgents; the scientific guarding of vital installations which can be guarded with far fewer men than Regular troops are apt to employ; and, not least important, the penetration and subversion from the inside of hostile movements. I remember that one of the greatest dangers confronting the different resistance movements in the war came from enemy agents infiltrating into the movements and breaking away certain portions of them.

The formation of specialised forces of this kind would make for economies in training, equipment and supply organisation. It might also help in the problem of recruiting. Such forces would appeal to a number of people who would not otherwise think of joining the Regular forces. Such forces would conduce to the more effective conduct of a cold war. They would also be very useful in preparation for a more general war. They would provide the training and create the organisation for just that type of raiding activity which might be most helpful in the broken back warfare that might come to pass.

We have a long tradition of this kind of warfare, and no one has more experience of it than my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. I hope he will have time to talk on it when he winds up the debate.

This is one way in which war might achieve economies in the use of manpower. But even if we relieve the strain on Regular troops by substituting a specialised gendarmerie, there still would be need for troops to do garrison and guard duties. But here the question arises: need they be drawn from the troops which are intended one day to be pitted against the Regular Forces of the other side?

Ever since the independence of India, experts have been bemoaning the loss of the Indian Army. There can be no full substitute for it, partly because it was paid for by India. The strain on manpower, however, might be mitigated by expansion of our colonial forces. Like other hon. Members I have been much encouraged by the news that General Templer has been appointed to look into the question.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Dudley that all this is an alibi. It is the first move in the fulfilment of the plan which the Secretary of State developed with great foresight when he was in opposition.

Mr. Wigg

How can the hon. Member square what he is now saying with the statement made by the Secretary of State for War in his first speech in that office, when he dropped that plan like a hot brick?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Member may learn later that when one assumes office the circumstances do not always make it possible to fulfil one's ideas at once. One of the limiting factors of the military position was the shortage of officers, but that has to a very great extent been overcome. This obstacle indeed may well have seemed greater than it really was. I believe there is a large element in this country which would be attracted to join African forces but would not volunteer for service in the Regular Army. Service for British officers and N.C.Os. with African troops should be a life career. At present it is not. Most of the officers are on short attachments of two or three years. Some of them are National Service men with less than six months' service, this hardly gives the officers time to understand their troops, and still less time to the troops to learn to understand their officers. That has a serious effect on the relations between African troops and their officers.

I do not want at this late hour to go into all the aspects of an expansion of African forces. I believe, however, that it should be possible to raise two or three divisions from East and Central Africa alone, half of which might be available for service outside Africa.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

The hon. Member said he would answer the question about strategic reserves. Are they coming from this country?

Mr. Amery

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not understood the drift of my argument. If we economised in the use of existing manpower by forming a gendarmerie to undertake internal security risks and if we also expanded the African Army, we would liberate a number of British troops now on garrison and guard duties, which could then constitute reserve formations, in the sense that they would not be committed and tied down as they are at the present time.

Opinions vary about the martial qualities of African troops, but experience in Malaya and Kenya in recent times has shown that they can be relied upon to give a very good account of themselves. After all, it is not a question of pitting them against highly trained Soviet troops, but of entrusting to them internal security commitments, thereby liberating our own Regular troops for their real task of preparedness to meet an attack from the outside.

The fundamental significance—indeed, the challenge—of the White Papers is that they have proclaimed the Government's intention of keeping Britain a world Power in this hydrogen age. The decision to make the hydrogen bomb is the crucial step in this. It calls for a series of consequential decisions about the organisation of the ground forces. The hon. Member for Dudley and the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), in a very remarkable article which they contributed to "The New Statesman and Nation," took the view that it was not within our strength to provide for all the contingencies which a world Power should meet. I disagree profoundly with that view; but I also recognise that it is only if we practice the maximum economy in the use of our manpower, and draw on all available extra sources of manpower that we shall be able to match our strength to our responsibilities and our dangers.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Mr. Michael Stewart.

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you have called a Front Bench speaker, and I should like to ask, therefore, if it is still the tradition of the Chair that a Closure Motion will not be accepted during a debate on Estimates.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

So far as the Closure is concerned, I cannot accept that anyway.

1.30 a.m.

Mr. M. Stewart

I rose because I thought that it was well known that it is not within my power to exercise any limit on the length of this debate. Although it is perhaps proper to recollect that we shall have further opportunity for discussion of Army matters when the actual Votes come before us in Committee, and later on Report, I thought that was a matter upon which hon. Members could exercise their own discretion. I wondered if it might not be for the convenience of the House if I intervened at this stage and if, also, the right hon. Gentleman made some comment on the very many important points which have already been raised.

We are discussing tonight the Army Estimates and one section only of the whole problem of defence; but that section involves certain major considerations which affect defence as a whole; and, very briefly, I would remind the House of what some of them are. The first overwhelming consideration is that we are now living in a world armed with weapons of a destructive character the power and horror of which beggar description; that, in consequence, any proposals with regard to defence make no sense at all unless based on the assumption that mankind must seek to achieve, and seek very speedily while there is still time, three things.

The first of these is relief of international tension; the second, in so far as it can be achieved, some measure of disarmament; and the third, something which is perhaps very far off—some degree of reconciliation between the great Powers of the world. If those things are not done, no other preparations intended to secure the safety of this country or any other country will make any sense at all.

The whole and only purpose of defence measures, whether in the Army or in the other Services, is to give us some breathing space in which relief of tension, agreed disarmament and ultimate reconciliation may be sought. If those considerations of foreign policy and of diplomacy are the considerations which are chiefly important in the long run, it is equally true that in the immediate present we must most urgently consider the needs of defence, because unless this country wields defence of a kind which will prevent it and its Allies from being the immediate victims of aggression, we shall have no opportunity to pursue the more long-term policies in the field of diplomacy on which, ultimately, the chance for mankind's future depends.

That is why we have to consider defence at all. It is a reason derived from the need to pursue peace in the field of diplomacy, but it is none the less a real reason. When I speak of "appropriate" defence, I would explain that I believe it has been almost common ground amongst speakers tonight, and amongst those who took part in the earlier debate on defence as a whole, that appropriate measures for this country mean measures connected with two things—the hydrogen deterrent, on the one hand, and the capacity to repel aggression in what is commonly called the cold war, on the other hand.

I use the phrase "cold war" as it has come commonly to be used, perhaps rather loosely, to mean anything from a small frontier incident to a campaign the size of the Korean campaign. The common feature of the two is that we know, while they go on, that neither side is prepared to commit its whole power and its whole destinies to the struggle. I shall use the term "cold war" throughout in that sense.

I believe that in planning our defences we have simply to look at those two things—our capacity to repel the cold war, on the one hand, and our capacity to possess and to wield the hydrogen deterrent, on the other hand. Both of those are, in a sense, deterrents, because the more effective we are in making it clear to an aggressor that he cannot succeed in the cold war, the less likely he is to embark on anything more, ambitious. As an even greater measure of deterrence, there is that terrible deterrent which can be used once and once only—the deterrent of the hydrogen bomb.

If we are to provide for those two things, I think it follows that we cannot also plan our defences on the assumption that we might have to wage a major war with conventional weapons. That point was made effectively by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall). Indeed, I think it is almost common ground, except for certain utterances which have fallen from members of the Government both in this debate and in earlier debates.

I think it is clear that we can have limited war with conventional weapons but that if major war comes, quite irrespective of what policies and declarations any Government enters into in advance, once the temperature has risen to the point of waging major war in which the nations begin to commit their whole forces and to gamble their whole destinies on the event, war will be waged by all the participants with all the weapons on which they can lay their hands. I believe that to be a fact, not an attractive fact, but a fact on which we have to base policy.

It is, therefore, a grave error of defence, in addition to hydrogen preparations, to try also to provide against a contingency so unlikely that it ought to be ruled out of calculation—the contingency of a conventional major war. If any proof of that were needed it is to be found in the comments of the right hon. Gentleman on the atomic weapons with which our troops in Europe are to be provided.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the use of those weapons was a political decision, but the decision to provide atomic guided missiles means that a political decision has already been taken. If our troops are to be equipped with those weapons it can only be on the assumption that if the troops are engaged in a major conflict those weapons will be used or, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) put it, land war is becoming nuclear. Major land war is bound to be of that character.

What follows from those premises? It is here I think that the whole defence policy of the Government, of which the Army Estimates are a part, is most vulnerable, for the Defence White Paper and the Memorandum on the Army Estimates, unless I gravely misunderstand them, accept and are based on the premises I have mentioned. But, having accepted those premises, the Government resolutely refuse to draw the inevitable conclusions. The essential conclusion, surely, is one I have mentioned, that we cannot provide against major conventional war in addition to making the other far more important and obvious preparations.

It is true that one corollary which follows from the premises is the disbandment of Anti-Aircraft Command. The Government have at last grasped that, although I gathered from the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey), who speaks on these matters with some authority, that even in carrying through that necessary and indeed desirable step they have managed to do it in a bungling and clumsy manner. Since that verdict was passed on them by one of their own supporters, it is not necessary for me to labour it any further.

Another consequence is that we have to ask ourselves what is the meaning of all the talk about divisions, either actual or potential, in Europe? I agree with those of my hon. Friends who have said that the decision to have four divisions in Europe is a political decision and one on which this country could not go back except as part of a general re-appraisal by the West of what its policy for defence in Europe was. But it seems to me that our Government ought, with its N.A.T.O. Allies, to be asking that question.

If we look at what is said about divisions in Europe today we find repeated reference to the great screen of defence that would be thrown out. I think we must be more precise about that. Is it imagined that on some future occasion there will be a major conflict in which the bulk of the terrifyingly large number of Russian and satellite divisions in the East would be launched against us, and in which the forces of the West would try, with their far fewer divisions but armed with more formidable weapons to match it? Is it imagined that a land conflict of that kind would go on without developing into a hydrogen conflict which would make most of the arrangements for divisions in Europe out-of-date and irrelevant?

It seems to me that in that respect thought is hovering undecided, as if the Government have begun to think out the implications of the invention of the hydrogen bomb but are not quite sure what conclusions they had come to on the point.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Does not the hon. Member agree that one would also have to contemplate what would happen if those divisions were not there, and there had not been a war declared at all?

Mr. Stewart

That is possible, but what I am really wondering is whether the size of forces being maintained in the West, in Europe, is really related to their possible fire brigade work, or whether they are based on the assumption that one could wage a major conventional war with them. I do not believe that that has been properly thought out.

If there are doubts about the number of active divisions that should be maintained in Europe, what should one say about the possibility of reserve divisions from this country being transported across the Channel to take part in a European war in the future? The point was raised by my hon and learned friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) very forcibly, and was not answered. I think he is quite right to suggest that it is impossible to conceive of the sending of expeditionary forces across the Channel to take part in a major conflict in Europe in the future.

War could not develop on those lines, in the light of modern weapons, and we have to take up and develop more fully the idea that is in the Memorandum on the Army Estimates, that one of the functions of the Army is to engage in helping with Civil Defence, and, should the greatest disaster of all come, in endeavouring to re-establish some element of ordered life among such people as might be left alive in these islands. So again it seems that the Government's approach to this problem is that of a man who has seen half way to the conclusions but is still hovering uncertainly between the past and the present realities.

I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman has considered this. He spoke very rightly of the fact that after a war, and even perhaps after a hydrogen war, one of the duties of troops is to restore the bare framework of civilised life to make things go on at all. It is true that our troops have been engaged in that kind of work in the country of a defeated enemy, but he is thinking of them now being engaged in that kind of work among their own countrymen. That is a task with very different political implications.

I do not dispute that the necessity might arise, but it is a very different problem from administration in the territory of a defeated enemy, and I am wondering what kind of training and instruction the right hon. Gentleman has in mind to fit officers and men in the Army for that kind of work. I agree that he could not be expected to have got courses of training of that kind in operation already, but it is clearly a question to which he must give his attention, and I hope that he may now, or later, be able to tell us something about it.

Another conclusion that seems to follow is that one really cannot talk in terms of a base in Cyprus, as if no one had ever invented the hydrogen bomb. The argument that has been applied to the base in Suez applies with equal force to that in Cyprus. It is sometimes supposed that we can exercise some kind of vaguely-defined policing function in the Middle East, that if there are British troops standing there as a kind of policeman on point duty to whom some agitated Middle Eastern Government can beckon, it will somehow have a stabilising effect.

The fact is that it has been rather easier to manage the politics of the Middle East since those troops were withdrawn. If it is really suggested by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), or anyone else, that it is part of our duties to take on the policing of the frontier between Israel and the Arab States, I would advise him to think again.

Major Legge-Bourke

I would ask the hon. Gentleman to remember that this country, the United States and France are guaranteeing the frontiers.

Mr. Stewart

As the hon. and gallant Member has quite rightly remarked, we are concerned in a guarantee with other Powers as well, but one of the difficulties is that this country has been behaving again simply as if Britain, and Britain alone, were responsible for the political stability of the Middle East.

It might be a much happier world if this country, schooled by adversity, and having learnt the lessons of patience and moderation, were in command of such power that it could lift up its hand and influence the whole course of world events by that means alone. But we are not living in that kind of world, and if we tried to behave as if we were we should hopelessly overstrain our Forces and end by doing nothing because we had tried to do too much.

Another consideration that we must bear in mind is whether, if we are to cut down—as, I think, we must—on anything that resembles preparations for a major conventional war, which, in my view, is not likely to occur, we have got to think in terms of a lighter and more mobile Army. I was interested to notice that this idea was played with in the Memorandum. Certain paragraphs on page 19 seem to suggest that official thought was moving in that direction; but lest it should be thought that official thought was moving too rapidly, a special dose of cold water was poured on the idea in paragraph 116.

I was very interested to notice that at the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech—I thought it was one of the most important things he said—he spoke of a new type of organisation in the Army. Some of the phrases that he used to describe how the Army might operate in future were these. He said that the men would be living at a lower standard of life. I think I know what the right hon. Gentleman meant by that, but it requires perhaps a little further elaboration.

Mr. Head

I said that they could not take their standard of living with them.

Mr. Stewart

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.

He said that there would be simplicity of weapons and fewer vehicles, and that divisional headquarters would be reduced or, in some cases, would disappear altogether. That seems to be not entirely in line with the conclusion of paragraph 116, but I do not complain of that.

Mr. Head

I am fairly sure that I said "headquarters," and not "divisional headquarters."

Mr. Stewart

I readily accept the right hon. Gentleman's correction.

Later in the year, in August and September, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we shall see a little more how that works out in practice. But I could have wished that the right hon. Gentleman's brief sketch could have been set out rather more fully and rather earlier for our consideration, in the Memorandum itself. Once again, the Government and the right hon. Gentleman seem to have caught a glimpse of the future but to be not quite sure how far they are prepared to walk towards it.

The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) gave an interesting description of another way in which land forces ought perhaps to be reorganised to carry out certain of their tasks. Many of us would defer to the hon. Member's knowledge in that direction, although I think he would agree that, to do work of the kind he was describing, one of the things that is desirable to possess is the political support and agreement of the population among whom the work is done, and that the successful waging of the cold war is quite as much a matter of colonial policy as of the right organisation of forces.

I quoted the right hon. Gentleman's phrase "simplicity of weapons," and it might be convenient to say a word about the Belgian rifle. We have discussed it so much that I will be content to say only a word or two. I am obliged to comment on two aspects. In an article in the "Operational Research Quarterly" by someone who previously held the position of being in charge of operational research, Far East Land Forces, there is described the work of the Operational Research Society and its section at Singapore.

It says Amongst other things, extensive trials were carried out on the E.M.2 .280 rifle"— that was the British rifle in its original form— which was greatly liked and respected by all who saw it, and on the Belgian FN. rifle, which is to be adopted by the British Army but which received a much more mixed reception. At the very least, there has always been great doubt whether the Belgian rifle was the superior weapon. The final argument that was always brought out to tilt the scale in favour of its adoption was that we should secure standardisation. The standardisation of the round was secured anyhow and is really not in issue in this argument.

The question was the standardisation of the rifle. We have not got that, because there are now two versions of the Belgian rifle—what one might call the Continental and British versions. As was stated by the Minister of Supply quite recently, in a reply of engaging naivety, many parts of the two were interchangeable, the inevitable implication being that by no means all the parts were interchangeable.

The Secretary of State for War, in discussing the matter during an earlier stage, regarded interchangeability as of great importance, and he poured scorn upon my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) because he was not sufficiently aware of that, but today the right hon. Gentleman tried to reverse the argument and to suggest that it did not matter so much after all. The question is what is meant by standardisation. The right hon. Gentleman, I understand, has standardisation with Canada not only of the round but of the rifle. With whom else besides Canada has he got it, and on what evidence are his expectations based? If he cannot answer that question satisfactorily, the whole case for the Government's policy in this matter falls to the ground.

I shall refer briefly to National Service, because I have been arguing that the whole premise upon which our policy is based means that we must be economical and sceptical of any preparations for a major conventional war. The decision to make the H-bomb alone involves this country in very considerable expenditure of finance, skilled labour and materials. We then have to look for possible economies not merely of money but of men and resources.

What is the history of this matter? By the way, I would say to the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) that nobody advocates the abolition of National Service at this time. What is in issue is the possibility of reducing the period. The period was raised from 18 months because of the Korean campaign. That campaign is now over. It was then said that in view of overseas commitments we must keep it at two years. A very large commitment—that of Egypt—has disappeared. It has been argued that if there could be some air trooping we should save on the number of men in the pipeline, and that that might help to reduce National Service. The right hon. Gentleman painted a most optimistic picture of what is being done in air trooping.

It was suggested that under the previous Government the time of soldiers was grossly wasted. It was not said by the Secretary of State for War, but if I may borrow a magnificent phrase of the Prime Minister's, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen cannot entirely dissociate themselves from the feckless and crack-pate elements from which they draw their support. That suggestion about wasting time has been made in the course of political propaganda. Now we have a Government who, we are assured, are diligent in ensuring that time is not wasted. Furthermore, there are possibilities of developing the use of colonial manpower. It is also the duty of the Government to remind our Allies in N.A.T.O. that no other N.A.T.O. Power bears so great a burden as we do, and very few one so great.

These arguments have been advanced before, when we on this side of the House put the case for having an annual inquiry into this matter. I then suggested that we ought to have an annual inquiry so that every year the Government could be required to tell the House what they had done to try to reach agreement with our Allies in N.A.T.O. for a more fair sharing of this burden; what they had done to try to promote the use of colonial manpower; what they had done in the matter of economising on the number of men in the pipeline and securing the best use of their time.

It was decided that it was better not to put the Government to that work every year. I believe that from the nation's point of view it would be better if it were under the obligation to run the gauntlet every year to justify not cutting National Service from its present level.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Is the hon. Gentleman advocating reduction of the length of National Service, or reduction of the entry?

Mr. Stewart

I am advocating reduction of the length.

I was about to say that we have only spoken in terms of a reduction of six months, but we must be prepared to defer to the Government's knowledge in this matter, if they will start to take the question seriously. Therefore, I say that if the right hon. Gentleman feels that six months, with the loss of 60,000 soldiers is too much, will he consider three months? If he cannot commit himself to that, is he prepared to have an inquiry by a Select Committee, or by other appropriate means, to find out how National Service men are used, and what reduction of National Service might reasonably be made? If he is not prepared to do any of these things, we shall find that year after year there will be a new reason why National Service cannot be cut. Korea has gone; Egypt has gone. This year it is a mixture of redeployment, strategic reserve, and the run-down of the Army which is produced against the case for a reduction. Unless the Government will take a firm political decision that some reduction, even if it is only three months, is to be made, there will always be some reason, with a wealth of expertise behind it, why nothing can be done. That is why the right hon. Member for Dundee, West was right when he said that with that way of dealing with the matter we would have it round our necks for ever, because it is bound up largely with recruiting.

I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that the right hon. Gentleman is learning his lesson on that subject. The proposition that the dismissal of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) or the right hon. Member for Dundee, West from the War Office would produce a wealth of recruits immediately did not prove correct. It is now largely a question of prolongation, of getting men to prolong their service.

There are two other issues to which I will refer. One we debated on the Amendment. It was that if one wants men to stay a long time in the Army one must make it possible for their families to be properly educated. I trust that at the appropriate moment the hon. Member who raised that matter will get a better answer than that given earlier.

The other issue is housing. Recently we had a statement from the Minister of Housing and Local Government; but I will put a point to the Secretary of State which he can discuss with the Minister of Housing. According to the Minister's statement, local authorities are to be told by circular that if an ex-Regular has been out of the Army for a year and is living in an authority's district, the authority ought then to treat that man as eligible for re-housing and simply take into account his housing need.

Unfortunately, that instruction is not well adapted to fit into the way local authorities run the matter. Some authorities deal with all housing on a need basis, with a points system, perhaps giving little attention to the time a person has been on the register. In such an area, an ex-Regular will get nothing which he does not possess. Other authorities deal with the matter on a time basis. All the instruction will give to an ex-Regular living in such an area is that at the end of a year he will at least be eligible to go on the authority's housing list. However, authorities of that kind have no scale for assessing and balancing needs, so that the suggestion that he should be treated according to need will have no meaning there.

Although this is a different field, it is again an example of the tendency of the Government to begin to look earnestly and intelligently at a problem and then to pause half way; but it may be that, in the light of experience, and with prodding from the Secretary of State for War and the other Service Ministers, the Minister of Housing and Local Government will have more to tell us about the matter later.

I conclude as I began. Essentially, the nations must try to get from relief of tension to agreement to disarmament and then, probably at the end of a long road, to reconciliation. In the meanwhile, we have to see not only adequate but appropriate defence. That means, in the case of this country, the hydrogen deterrent and competence in the cold war. That again means that we cannot afford to go on playing with—for we are doing no more—the kinds of defence that were appropriate only on the assumption that there was major conventional war.

Every now and again, in a paragraph here and a paragraph there in the Memorandum and, more promisingly, in certain parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, a spark of realism appeared; but the sparks were too few. All too often, not only in the Army Memorandum but also in the other Service Memoranda, wherever a point of policy had to be decided, from the maintenance of aircraft carriers to the decision against a light and mobile Army in this Memorandum, the decision taken has been that which involved most expense, most adherence to convention, and most tenderness to the professional vested interests in the three Services. We must ask the Government to let more realism appear in their policy, and to follow out more logically and courageously the premises on which they correctly began their planning of defence.

2.8 a.m.

Mr. Head

I hope it will be for the convenience of the House if I make some remarks now on the many, and, in many cases, most interesting, speeches that we have had

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Head

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to comment on my speech already?

Mr. Fernyhough

If I had been called before the right hon. Gentleman rose to reply, I should have commented on the speech which he made earlier. I want to ask him now whether, when he has finished, he will be packing his bags and leaving the Government Front Bench so that there will be no one left to reply to any of us who wish to speak later.

Mr. Head

With the permission of the House, my hon. Friend has a right to speak again to answer any points raised by hon. Members. On the Army Estimates last year there were some hon. Members who made speeches at about 5 p.m. and had them answered just in time for them to hurry off for lunch the following day, and that is not altogether satisfactory. Therefore, whatever may happen afterwards, I think there is something to be said for my rising now to answer some of the points which have been raised.

I would also remind hon. Members who are panting to make speeches that in the near future, by arrangement through the usual channels, there will be another opportunity to discuss the subject. The hon. Gentleman need have no great fear of going to bed with an in growing speech. He will have a further opportunity to make his speech.

Mr. Bellenger

And on Report.

Mr. Head

Yes, there will be other opportunities.

Having listened to the debate, I feel that there has been a greater measure of agreement on the major principles than I perhaps anticipated from the defence debate. I say "on the major principles." There is a great measure of agreement that we are right in attempting to prevent war by a deterrent. By and large, there is a good deal of agreement that if we are to avoid being committed to the absolute necessity of using atomic weapons, we must have a conventional shield in Europe and that there is a justification for retaining an adequate Army of the conventional type which can play its part in the event of either small conventional wars or wars of infiltration which may happen throughout the area in which our Colonial Empire runs around the world.

There have been, on the other hand, a great many points of disagreement, and the right hon. Gentleman will know that these debates are examined meticulously at the War Office when the Report comes in, and the proposals are considered very carefully. One of the subjects of disagreement has been the question of National Service. Some hon. Members have said that they doubt whether the Government are taking this matter seriously and that we have accepted National Service as a kind of permanent institution. I cannot convince hon. Members opposite in every way, but I ask them—what Government with the likelihood of a General Election before them would not take National Service seriously? Frankly, it is politically one of the most unpopular things there is, and to suggest that the Government say, "Oh well, two years National Service is all right; let us continue the same this year as before" is really quite wrong.

I was rather shaken by what the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said. He spoke of vested interests and so on, but there is great unanimity in all the Service Departments, and certainly in the War Office, that if an Army could be run on a voluntary basis everybody would infinitely prefer it. But the job that the Army has got is to fulfil the commitments as they are assessed by the Chiefs of Staff, the Foreign Office, and so forth. What has not been apparent in today's debate is any suggestion of how one can contrive and train a Regular Army of the size adequate for our present commitments together with, what I believe to be essentially a strategic Reserve. There has not been a constructive suggestion in that respect, and that is the problem which confronts the Government and which they wish to solve.

There is no Government which will ever have a policy other than of reducing National Service by as much as it can as soon as it can. The reduction of National Service is one of the very few aspects of defence in which there are a few votes. Otherwise, I do not believe there is a vote in the whole of the defence programme.

The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw asked me a number of questions which I will try to answer as briefly as I can. He asked me why the Minister of Defence announced the policy relating to Anti-Aircraft Command. That was because that announcement was inter-Service in character in so far as it included an announcement about the auxiliary squadrons. It was purely for that reason. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to know the inside story, it is this. I was going to make the announcement but the Air Force decided that they would like to do it at the same time, and it became an inter-Service matter. There was no arrière pensée or other such difficulty.

The right hon. Gentleman said he had looked at the statistics carefully and that there were 170,000 men and only 127,000 had done part-time training. All the men concerned do their part-time training, and the gap betwen 170,000 and 127,000 was the gap between the end of the camp period and the end of the annual intake of part-time men. We do not, like the Air Force, have a number of men whom we do not bother with part-time training. They virtually all do it. That missing link, which the right hon. Gentleman spotted with a hawk-like eye, is that particular gap.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the production of the Sterling gun. I do not know where he got his figures, but the figures of production of the gun are far in excess of what the right hon. Gentleman told me. I do not want to give the exact figures in the House. As a matter of fact, if the right hon. Gentleman will have a talk with me I can give him some indication of them, but for obvious reasons I do not want to give exact figures of production of that weapon. They are, however, very much in excess of anything he put before the House.

Mr. Bellenger

From this particular firm.

Mr. Head

I am not being specific about the firm in question. It may be that the firm is sticking to the number mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, but there are other methods of making guns besides getting them from this firm, and we are not going to proceed on the basis of rearming the British Army with a gun at the rate of 10,000 a year.

Mr. Bellenger

If the Secretary of State will answer the question more precisely he will satisfy me. If the production is adequate, is he going to place the orders and see that he gets these weapons, whether it be from this firm alone or with the assistance of Royal Ordnance Factories?

Mr. Head

The orders are placed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) made a speech concerning some of the difficulties and problems of National Service men, and their discontent. I should never deny—and I never have, at any time—that many of the men who are called up for National Service dislike it intensely and gain little profit from it. We try to do what we can in the matter, but I do not think that there is any solution of that problem. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has read or heard of a very interesting investigation into National Service which was carried out by Tube Investments. They found that the men called up could be roughly divided into three parts. The first part consisted of the best men, and it was found that they returned to civilian life even better than when they left it. The second were the middle men, who had improved a little but not so much as the best—and the worst third not only had not improved but in many cases had deteriorated.

That is an interesting and significant fact, but it remains true that the men least suited to National Service—the men who perhaps because of their character or their past, or for other reasons are up against it—not only do not gain but may suffer a bad and lasting effect. It is a difficult problem for the Army, and also a difficult social problem for the nation. I have considered the matter very carefully, but I cannot say that a hard and fast solution has been found. Hon. Members must realise that we are given all the bad boys.

The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) made some remarks about the necessity of having troops in the Middle East. That was also the subject of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), who has given us a good deal of his views about the Middle East at varying times within the last few months. I do not think that at 2.20 a.m. the House would wish me to diverge into a long debate upon the strategic considerations on having troops in the Middle East, but I would point out that British influence in the Middle East has been of great importance, and we have a commitment in the area, in that in its general defence N.A.T.O. extends up to a line which ends with the Turks. Troops in that area not only form a part of that N.A.T.O. defence but implement the guarantees which we have, notably with Jordan.

They are of very great importance to the pacification of a very volatile situation between the Arab world, Israel and other interests in the Middle East. I do not believe that the presence of that division in time of peace does anything but decrease the likelihood of an explosion, and in war it is extremely well placed, strategically, to play its part, within the general N.A.T.O. structure, in the defence of that area.

The right hon. Gentleman said that Episkopi was terribly vulnerable, but if we went round the world to any of our headquarters, like Singapore and Hong Kong—I shall not say London—almost any place of concentration would appear vulnerable. We must have headquarters somewhere. We must not vacate everything on the basis that there will be a thermo-nuclear bomb for every one of them. I do not believe that the headquarters in Episkopi is more vulnerable than a great many other headquarters we have had established for a long time but upon which so much attention has not been focussed.

Mr. Strachey

Would the right hon. Gentleman or his staff consider whether it may not be necessary in the future so to organise armies that they do not have these nerve centres, which are very useful while they are not vulnerable but, when they are, may completely dislocate the whole Army if those nerves and sinews are in one place? I do not pretend that I know the solution, but the point is worth looking at.

Mr. Head

It is a question of the merits of dispersion against the disadvantages that it brings. These weapons can only be dropped in a certain number of places. Beyond a certain number, we get to the limit of the number of bombs of that type that can be dropped. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is a conflict between the merits of dispersion and of concentration, and I doubt whether any other country has such a problem in that regard as we have.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) made an interesting speech about the cold war. He discussed the Army, with reference to its integration and co-operation with other forces, particularly from the Colonies. That is a department of which he has had much experience. I know he has been both to Malaya and to Kenya, and has seen the Army, the colonial forces and the Security Forces working together. His speech was of particular interest to us, especially in the light of the inquiry which General Templer is carrying out. I am not trying to butter him up, but I assure my hon. Friend that General Templer will read that speech, will take an interest in it, and will have a lively appreciation of his experience, knowledge and information on these matters.

I thank the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)—who is not now in the House—for the speech he made on the hospitals. It was effectively helpful and instructive. The hon. Member paid a tribute to the Royal Army Medical Corps, and I agree with him that they have done a wonderful job. I do not think that the Secretary of State or anybody in the War Office think that the military hospital buildings are all that they ought to be. I was obliged to the hon. Member, in his interesting and helpful speech, for taking such an impartial and factual view of the tour he did of our hospitals. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey), who is a great expert on anti-aircraft matters, indicated in a speech of great argumentative power that the War Office had made a pretty good mess-up of disbanding Anti-Aircraft Command. The only thing he omitted from his speech was how he, as Secretary of State, would have disbanded it. There was not a single word on that subject.

It is never easy to disband anything. If a command is disbanded it always has, and rightly so, engendered a lot of rage. I have seen the whole process of disbandment, with its incredible complication of lists which have to be got out, and the innumerable conferences which have to be held, and I would ask my hon. Friend that, since he can handle this matter so well, he should lend his assistance next time we have to disband a unit so that we can profit by his knowledge.

Mr. Ian Harvey

I should like to point out to my right hon. Friend that in an Adjournment debate some 14 months ago I ventured to suggest that this was a process which would have to be embarked upon and that something should be done then in order to avoid a last-minute rush but that I was then told, in effect, by my right hon. Friend who is now Minister of Works that there was no intention of disbanding.

Mr. Head

What I said in my speech today was that one cannot start before, and in anticipation of, the announcement, because the decision involves consultation with Territorial Army Associations and the Honorary Colonels, and there would be the most fearful rows if any statement were made prior to an announcement in this House. We had to wait, and I defy any hon. Member, or anybody else, to have got this out very much more quickly than we have done.

The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), as usual, delivered himself of a most direct and strong speech, during which he urged the reduction of the term of National Service, as other hon. Members have done. I have already stated that any Government are with him in this, but the first obstacle, and a major one, is the commitments which we have and the number of Regulars whom we can recruit. He also cast a fly over me, and over my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air—who is not here, but who will no doubt read the remarks in HANSARD—by asking why the Army should not run its own air transport. I think that my best answer to that is: I have no comment.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devon, North (Brigadier Peto) made a helpful speech in which he mentioned, first, a matter with which I am in entire agreement, namely, that what might be termed club life helps to keep men in the Army.

Mr. Simmons

Could I remind the right hon. Gentleman about my point concerning military hospitals and their integration into the National Health Service, and whether the beds in military hospitals are fully occupied?

Mr. Head

Yes, about the medical services I should explain that for all three of the Services there is a large scale inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Waverley. That is considering the whole question of medical services, and I cannot anticipate the results; but there is no doubt that the recruitment, and the general future of these services is a major issue. I cannot say more at the moment, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we must await the result of that inquiry.

I was saying that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devon, North had reminded us that club life helps and that men like to stay together. Nobody is more averse to cross-posting than I, and I do assure him that I will do what is in my power to keep it to the minimum. He also said that he wondered why we had not started a contributory pension scheme for officers. The answer is that it is open to any officer to undertake the equivalent of a contributory scheme by taking out a normal insurance policy. That would be exactly equivalent to anything which the War Office could start. The only advantage which the officer would gain if the War Office started a scheme would be if the Government made an added contribution, and our policy at the moment is that all the Government's contribution should go into retired pay, leaving the officer to take out an insurance policy for the equivalent of a contributory pension.

Brigadier Peto

In the case of industry, men are bound to contribute. No officer would take out an insurance policy; he would prefer to buy something quite different.

Mr. Head

It would be very difficult for the War Office to force officers to take out contributory pensions. I do not know how firms do it. Possibly it is done because they do not necessarily give a pension, as is given in the case of an officer. An arrangement is therefore made, perhaps, which allows a firm to discharge its obligation, not by giving a pension but by automatically making a deduction from the man's emoluments. We have no statutory right to force an officer to take out an obligatory, contributory pension.

My hon. and gallant Friend said that he thought the publicity about the officer's career was bad. I do not know whether he has seen—and if not I 'will send him a copy by early post this morning—a document which has recently been produced which is known as "The Queen's Commission." It is a good document which is sent to all schools.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), as usual, made one of the best speeches in the debate. It was a very thoughtful speech, most deep in its thinking, and it raised some interesting and some controversial points. To me it was a most interesting speech and I intend to read it. I am not trying to butter the hon. and learned Gentleman up. I found it indeed a most interesting speech.

He made a number of comments which we could debate between us and on which we could detain the House for a long time. Probably it would save a lot of time and be more useful if we had the debate in private. There is one controversial remark which he made which I cannot let pass unanswered, however; he said that only 10 per cent. of the strength of a division were riflemen. I do not know how he worked that out, for the strength of a division at the moment is about 16,000 men, which gives 1,600 riflemen in a division on his calculation. That is about three battalions. He will have to explain that to me, perhaps behind Mr.Speaker's Chair rather than by argument across the Floor.

Mr. Paget

There are only 25 per cent. of riflemen in a rifle battalion.

Mr. Head

We shall have to do the percentages later in the morning on another day.

The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) who, if anyone, has a right to speak in the debate, said that publicity for the Army was bad. My answer is that publicity for the Army has always been bad. We have made attempts to improve it, but the finest publicity for the Army—it is rather a late hour for me to say this—can come from the Press. I say this with the utmost feeling: I wish the Press paid more attention to the Army's good deeds, especially overseas, than it pays to the bad deeds in the more squalid establishments where people get into serious trouble.

One should not take this too much to heart, however, because, when the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) started a serious alarm about the recruiting failure and about nobody joining the Army, it was taken up prominently in one of the newspapers and I was very worried about it; but, although for two days it had banner headlines, the following week was one of the best weeks we have had. So the effect of publicity is not always entirely predictable

Sir E. Errington

Will my right hon. Friend particularly bear in mind the tattoos, because I think they have a tremendously good effect?

Mr. Head

I agree with my hon. Friend, but the trouble, especially with the Aldershot Tattoo, is that they make a large demand on manpower. It is very difficult with the number of troops we have in this country and with the training of National Service men, to stage a tattoo. I could see a large tattoo taking place, and hon. Members in this House asking why so-and-so joined the Army and spent six months making cardboard scenery for a tattoo?

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire (Mr. Philips Price) has gone to bed so perhaps I shall be able to communicate with him in another way than by replying now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) talked about the difficulty of any reinforcements for the Army going to Europe. I meant to acknowledge and 1 do acknowledge now that in the event of a nuclear war the likelihood of any large reinforcements being transportable rapidly to Europe is, and always will be, remote. I do not think any plan can bank on the fact that large numbers can be transported to Europe.

Mr. John Hall

I was mainly concerned about the ability to reinforce our troops anywhere in the world during the cold war—ability to reinforce them quickly in those circumstances.

Mr. Head

I am sorry, I misunderstood my hon. Friend.

During the cold war, I would not entirely agree, because we have two sources of reinforcement in a cold war. Supposing there were an incident in the Middle East, there are Reserves there who would go immediately to the seat of the trouble. They would be replaced by troops from the Strategic Reserve in this country who could be flown out. That does provide a fairly rapid means of reinforcement. There have been a certain number of incidents in which that technique has been used.

The hon. Member from Dudley made a long speech in which he made a number of assertions, most of which were familiar to me in the past, but he also made a number of critical remarks about the question of men being married too young.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Hear, hear.

Mr. Head

He has an ally in the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes).

Mr. Hughes


Mr. Head

Oh, then I have an ally in the hon. Member for South Ayrshire.

All I say to the hon. Member for Dudley is that that was a decision made during the time of the previous Government. Generally I do not believe that the main difficulty over separation and the married quarters problem is due to that reason. Of the men wanting married quarters in the average battalion now a comparatively small number are in established stations and without married quarters. The difficulty has decreased in the last three or four years, and a great deal of the credit goes to the previous Government. With the dent which has been made in the problem of provision of married quarters, the difficulty is much less.

My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North made an interesting and characteristic speech about general questions in the Middle East. I felt in strong agreement with him on the points he raised about having mobile strategic reserves available in those areas. The whole problem in the Army today is to get an adequate force to a place of trouble quickly enough to nip that trouble in the bud, and that is what we have in mind in planning an airlift and a strategic reserve in this country. Even so, we cannot be too quick in these matters.

I am not making a party point, but I cannot help feeling that, if in the past we had had a strategic Reserve and an airlift, and a good intelligence and security service throughout, many troubles which have now boiled up into some major trouble might have been nipped in the bud. I believe that an ability to move quickly to a source of trouble will in future be a great asset to the Army.

My hon. Friend made some remarks about the S.A.S., a unit in which the Under-Secretary and I have a particular interest, so it is well represented on the political side of the War Office. I believe it is a significant unit in the sense that it is capable of operating independently, relying entirely on air drop, and can be dropped almost anywhere.

It is of great use in the cold war, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that both of us have a sympathy with it, that recently the numbers have been increased in Malaya, that I think there will probably be still further contributions to it in Malaya, and that the technique and use to which it has been put in that country has been of great value. As some hon. Members know, these are now, I think, the only airborne troops in the world who jump straight out of the aircraft into the tops of trees, to which they tie a rope, and then lower themselves. Any hon. Member who has been to Malaya and knows the conditions there will know that that is a very dangerous manoeuvre.

The hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), who wound up the debate made the thoughtful type of speech that we would expect. He made some controversial points and some accusations against the Government. He even went so far as to say he thought there was in the Government a glimmering of sense.

But the special point he made concerned the general question of National Service, and I would repeat that the Government's intentions here are, and will, remain absolutely clear: that continual pressure will be put on the Secretary of State for War and the War Office all the time to justify up to the hilt their requirements for National Service, and I can assure him, from personal experience, that that has happened constantly. I am equally certain that it will also happen in the future, and I realise fully my own responsibility in so far as, unless I am satisfied that the National Service period is absolutely justified, in the light of the size of the Army and its commitments, then I am failing entirely and seriously in my job.

I would apologise for having been so long, and would also like to thank hon. Members for many very useful speeches which they have made in this debate. It is entirely in the hands of hon. Members how long it is to go on. I would like to remind hon. Gentlemen competing that we have another fixture in the near future, at which there will be an opportunity for them to speak again. The Under-Secretary will no doubt reply to any points of importance that are made, and I hope it has been for the convenience of the House that I have summed up the speeches which have so far been made.

2.44 a.m.

Dr. A. D. D. Broughton (Batley and Morley)

The subject under discussion tonight is one of such great importance that I regard it as unnecessary to apologise to the House for continuing the debate after the Minister has spoken.

Mr. G. Thomas

Not at all. He should not have spoken then.

Dr. Broughton

I will try to console hon. Members opposite who are wanting to go to bed at this very late hour, by saying that my speech will be a short one, that it will take no more than a few minutes. I wish in the first place to thank the Secretary of State for War for his courtesy in allowing me, in company with other hon. Members of this House, to visit British troops in Germany in January of this year. My colleagues and I sent the Minister a Report, in which we told him of our observations and opinions, and we hope that he found the Report useful. I found the tour interest- ing and instructive, and I am appreciative of the Minister's kindness in arranging the visit for us.

As the delegation has given a Report to the Minister, and as hon. Members will be aware, through the medium of the Press, of the salient features contained in that Report, there is no need for me to repeat its contents in detail.

Mr. Fernyhough

Can my hon. Friend say whether the Report has been published as a White Paper? I have been to the Vote Office to try to get a copy, and am told that there is not one.

Dr. Broughton

I understand that the Report was not published as a White Paper, but that the Secretary of State for War gave permission to the leader of the delegation to hand copies of it to the Press. I understand that that was done, and in quite a number of newspapers I saw lengthy accounts of the Report that we had sent to the Minister.

All that I wish to do in my short speech is to underline a few of the points that we mentioned in the Report. First, it would not be out of place to pay a further tribute to the welfare workers operating in Germany. In particular, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Catholic Mothers' League, the Salvation Army, the Church Army, Toe H, the Methodist and United Board Churches, the Church of Scotland and the Women's Voluntary Services are all carrying out most useful work, and I was pleased to find that these voluntary welfare services are greatly appreciated by a large majority of the troops in Germany.

Of the complaints to which we drew the Minister's attention—they were very few in number—I would say that the most serious was the grievance of wives about the high cost of living.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

N.A.A.F.I. prices.

Dr. Broughton

The wives find it difficult to manage when they have to pay overseas prices on home service rates of pay. As a further example of this problem, I should like to quote from a letter which I received from the wife of a sergeant serving in Austria. The letter is dated 17th January, 1955, and reads:

It is with interest that I have read several articles in national newspapers during the past few days. I refer to interviews between Service wives and personnel and yourself and other Members of Parliament visiting B.A.O.R.I think that perhaps it is a pity that the tour was not extended to the forgotten few of B.T.A. Like the wives of B.A.O.R., our big grumble is the cost of living, especially the N.A.A.F.I. prices. These are even higher here in B.T.A. as we have the extra freightage charge from Germany to bear. I could give dozens of examples of the difference between the prices of certain articles in the United Kingdom and out here in B.T.A., from cleaning materials to canned goods and children's clothing. Worried and disgruntled wives cannot be raising the morale of our troops in Germany and Austria. I hope that the Minister is giving this difficult problem his very careful consideration and that a solution will be found before very long.

I should like to turn the attention of the House for a moment to the National Service men who are serving in Germany. Sending our young men into the Armed Forces for two years is like paying an insurance premium. It is something which we do not like doing but which we regard as necessary for the sake of security The purpose of putting National Service men in the Army is to teach them and to train them to be soldiers. Bearing that in mind, my first inquiries in Germany were directed towards finding out what kind of a soldier the National Service man is making.

I asked officers of all ranks from subalterns to generals, and I asked many senior N.C.O.s, and, without exception, I was told by them that the National Service man is a really good soldier. On one occasion, when I was having conversation with a lieutenant-colonel who commands a famous fighting regiment, and who wears the ribbons of several campaign medals and the Distinguished Service Order, I asked him how he would feel if he had to go into action the following day with the unit which he commanded, 50 per cent. of the men being National Service men. He replied without hesitation that he would feel confident of success because the National Service men were fine fellows and good soldiers.

Many of these men are away from home for the first time. They have to learn to be efficient soldiers. They have to conduct themselves in a foreign country and on ex-enemy territory in a manner becoming British soldiers. They are in the front line of defence in the event of aggression from the East. Their duties and responsibilities are certainly not light. Most of them do not like being soldiers but they accept their obligations philosophically and even cheerfully. I was pleased to find that not only are they making splendid soldiers but their behaviour in Germany is very good. It ought to go out from the House that we appreciate the service which the National Service men are giving to the country, and that we are proud of the way they are carrying out their difficult but essential duties.

3.0 a.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

Three o'clock in the morning is not the best time to address the House, especially when I know that hon. Members want to go home. [Interruption.] I know that there is little prospect of that for a few hours, because many points have yet to be raised. I am sorry that the Secretary of State for War has gone, because as yet in the debate I have heard no protest against the idea of our defence system being based on possession of the hydrogen bomb.

I want to register my protest, because it is not in the best interest of the British people, or of the world. I recognise that there is no difference between the parties about accepting the necessity to produce the bomb in this country as a deterrent. We are told that Russia and America possess the hydrogen bomb, and that if we are to be a world power independent of America, and if our defence is to be assured, we shall need the hydrogen bomb. The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) asked when the hydrogen bomb would be used. It is a dangerous question to ask these days.

Mr. Simmons

I was talking about the atomic weapon mentioned in the Minister's Memorandum, and asked whether the atomic weapon had now become a conventional weapon, and when it would be used.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

I hope that the hon. Member is going to relate his argument about the bomb to the Army Estimates.

Mr. Thomas

I shall endeavour to do so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because I realise that I shall be in trouble if I do not. From both sides of the House there have been long discussions about the cold war, about the nature of the cold war, and about the effects of the hydrogen bomb when it is used. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made a powerful speech, in which he said that clearly we had decided that in another war this island will be regarded as a war expendable. By that I assume that he meant that we are prepared to give up this island, that it becomes untenable. The hon. and learned Member said that the only role of the Army is to provide a government for this island after a possible hydrogen-bomb war, and that even the talk of Civil Defence is ludicrous; that the Army which is being trained for Civil Defence can only be used for salvage; namely, to shield off the contaminated area, if necessary with machine-guns.

That is the picture which has been presented to the House and, I gather, accepted by the Government Front Bench.

Mr. Wigg


Mr. Thomas

I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on the speech he made. It is about time that the Government were honest with the people. It is clear that there is no defence for anyone in these islands if there is a hydrogen-bomb war.

One would have thought that if, in any case, we are to be blown to dust and our people destroyed, that is the worst risk that we can run if we give a moral lead to the world and say that we shall not make the hydrogen bomb and shall not regard it as a prime factor in the defence of these islands. I suggest that the very possession of the hydrogen bomb makes our position more dangerous and not safer, for it is clear that if the hydrogen bomb is to be used in anger by any country, it will be used in anticipation and not by way of retaliation.

No one will be permitted to return the favour of the hydrogen bomb, for its effects are so terrible that whoever uses it will have to make sure that there is no reply coming to him. That being so, the hydrogen bomb, which is apparently the cardinal feature of our defence, or is to be, will have to be used in anticipation of a blow being struck against this country. That is going to expose us to terrible danger, for apparently the deciding factor in the use of this terrible weapon is going to be fear. When we are most afraid that somebody else will anticipate our use of the bomb, we shall have to let it go lest others use it first upon us.

Mr. Wigg

My hon. Friend has falsified the argument a little. He himself has said that there is no defence for us. If there is no defence for us, there is no defence for other people. Therefore, if we possess the bomb—we recognise that there is not defence to it—what about its use as a deterrent? That is the argument that he has to meet.

Mr. Thomas

My argument is that the weapon is not a defence but an offence and it is only of advantage to him who is offensive. It is likely to be used when people are most afraid. If terrible tension is created between the major Powers of the world and it seems that war is likely to break out, who believes that 48 hours' notice of a major war will be given in the future? The very possession of the bomb invites the enemy to use its weapon upon us lest we seize the advantage.

We have reached a point where good morality is good business and good politics. It has not always been regarded as such. However, it is clear that somebody somewhere has got to call a halt to this nuclear weapons arms race. Are we giving notice to the world, on both sides, that, whatever weapons are produced in the nuclear sphere, we are in the race with the next terrible weapon, the cobalt bomb or the hydrogen-uranium bomb, which is, I think, the one recently exploded by the Americans? It is a suicidal race. There will be no defence but only growing insecurity as a result of our following the policy which apparently both sides of the House are bent upon pursuing.

It may be said that this House is the custodian of the people's safety, that we have no right to leave the people of these islands defenceless, and that responsible government calls upon us to swallow principles in the name of expediency and that what is expedient is what is right. It is said, "It is expedient to have these arms. We will trust in God, but we shall keep our powder dry because our trust is not too great, and God might let us down."

I do not want to lecture the House on my theology, which may not be acceptable, certainly not on the Army Estimates at this time in the morning, but I suggest that we are exposing the people of these islands to the use of a weapon which depends upon emotion rather than upon thought. Fear works in strange ways, and it is both immoral and unwise for us to devote our talent and our time to the production of this weapon. The production of the hydrogen bomb ought to have changed our attitude to the military machine.

Many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have referred to the question of conscription. The other day I asked the Secretary of State for War how many grade 3 men were called to the Colours, and I learned that the numbers were over 8,000 last year, 8,000 the year before and 7,000 plus the year before that. I want the Under-Secretary to tell us whether the War Office propose, in this hydrogen-bomb age, to keep dragging these invalids, these grade 3 men, into the Forces. The War Office will know that it has taken forcibly, by the power of law, from his home in Cardiff a young fellow with emphysema and asthma because the safety of the realm apparently requires his presence at Catterick.

There is something wrong with the War Office when it feels that it has to drag into the Forces these unfit people who, by their own standards, ought not to be there. These boys will never be good soldiers. They will never be of much use to the War Office, and I suggest that sheer common sense and the love of economy ought to be enough for the War Office to send these people back home.

All that I have waited all these hours for was to register my protest about the hydrogen bomb, and to make it perfectly clear to my hon. Friends, as I do to the Front Bench opposite and to those whom I have the privilege of representing in this House, that I believe that something new and terrible has come amongst us that we have no moral right at all to use, that no one, even by way of retaliation, ever has the right to use a weapon which might destroy a nation. Having made that protest, I leave the matter to the House.

3.18 a.m.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

I, if no one else, am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for the speech which he has just made, because I believe that he has brought this debate back to reality. I remember that in 1951, when we started the great rearmament programme, £4,700 million was going to give us the security that we felt we needed. We spent the money.

Mr. Swingler

Not all of it.

Mr. Fernyhough

Well, we have spent at least nine-tenths of it.

Mr. Swingler

Actually, only just over £4,000 million out of the £4,700 million was spent. Therefore, the over-estimate of the Service Departments in 1951 amounted to £700 million.

Mr. Fernyhough

The point is that that programme and that expenditure was supposed to give us security. The danger was going to be between 1951 and 1954. Now we find that we are no longer secure. We find, in the words of the Prime Minister, that we have two, three or four years in which to reach international understanding, and that if we fail goodness only knows what may happen.

We are told that our friends across the Atlantic have the hydrogen bomb, and that we are going to make it. If the truth were told I believe that the Government already have the hydrogen bomb. The fact that they have it was indicated by the language used by the Secretary of State today. He said that in a nuclear war we should have no ports to use, and that troops stationed at home would have to restore order.

Mr. Wigg

My hon. Friend must not take too much notice of the language used by the Secretary of State, which is always akin to that of a Boy Scout. If there is one person who does not know whether or not we have the hydrogen bomb it is the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Fernyhough

I thought from the language which he used in introducing the Estimates that we had got it.

The Government, in their own simple way, have tried to assess the damage that would accrue to this country in the event of its being dropped here. If one is dropped here, we shall have "had it." One thing that is perfectly clear is that there is no defence against it. No matter how much money is spent, we cannot guarantee either security or immunity to our people. Whatever war we may be engaged in the future, it is crystal clear that there will be no victors; there will be only vanquished. It is now a case of peace or perish; of co-existence or no existence.

In the struggle against Communism, the outlook of those who have been in charge of our affairs has been completely wrong. In 1941, when the Germans attacked the Russians, we were told that the Russians would not last six weeks; that theirs was a cardboard army which would collapse at the first impact with the enemy. It was our intelligence service which made these estimates upon which we based our initial judgments. We were grossly wrong.

Mr. Garner Evans (Denbigh)

Would the Prime Minister have said that he would support the Russians at that time if he had thought that theirs was only a cardboard army?

Mr. Fernyhough

When we were standing alone and looking for assistance from any quarter we would have welcomed the support of anybody. But it was said that the Russians were so weak that they would collapse at the first impact of meeting the enemy.

In 1950, we asked our intelligence service, "What are these fellows capable of?" and this time, knowing the grave mistake which they had made on a previous occasion in ridiculously underestimating the strength of the Russian forces, the intelligence service swung to the other extreme and over-estimated it to such an extent that we have had to bear an economically disastrous burden, which, up to now, has failed to give us the security that we sought, and that we thought we had got. It is difficult to understand why, if we have been so weak and they have been so strong, the Russians have stayed their hand, and have made no advance, and why they have waited for us to get overwhelming military power on our side.

I believe that the Russians will deliberately make as many alarms as possible so that the Western Powers undermine their own economies in the building up of huge military systems, because that will create the conditions under which the Communist philosophy can thrive and can make recruits. That will ultimately mean that, even in the West, where we ought to be strongest, they will have their fifth column, because of the deterioration of conditions arising out of the heavy arms burden.

Paragraph 18 of the Memorandum deals with the position in Malaya, and says: The end of the emergency is not yet in sight. Although the situation has improved, there is no room for complacency, and I cannot yet foresee any reduction of the number of troops committed to operations in Malaya. We were told originally that in 1948 there were 3,000 rebels in Malaya, but in the last seven years we have had tens of thousands of troops in that area. We are told that though the end cannot be foreseen there is no possibility of reducing the number of troops engaged in the operation. Does it not strike the War Office that there is something wrong with our Malaya policy, and that victory there will not be won in the military field? We cannot give the people of Malaya social and economic advance so long as the present struggle goes on.

Paragraph 16 of the Memorandum says: Recently a Malayan engineer unit has constructed several miles of road through virgin jungle to link up a series of riverside villages, helped by the villagers themselves. If we were doing far more of that sort of thing, we should win the struggle more quickly than by trying to wipe out the rebels there. The same applies to Kenya. Every time the Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs speaks, the Kenya expenditure has gone up. The expenditure this year is greater than last year, when it was higher than the year before. Despite the increase, there is no sign of the struggle coming to an end.

We are doing the wrong thing. If we had spent on social and economic development in the previous five years in Kenya what we are now compelled to spend for military purposes, I believe that the position in Kenya would have been very much better and the need for armed forces there would have been non-existent.

I turn now to that part of the report which deals with the Army of the Rhine, and I should like to ask, what is the position of our troops under the agreement which has been negotiated with the Federal Republic of Germany in relation to the occupation machinery? Can we be told whether, once Germany becomes an independent and sovereign nation, our troops will be there as their guests? What happens to our serving men? Will they be turned out of the German houses which they now occupy, and which are paid for through the costs of occupation?

Can we be told if the duty-free facilities of the N.A.A.F.I., which tend to protect the Service man's wife from the higher prices which obtain today in Germany, will be withdrawn? Can we be told if those privileges will still be obtainable by our people in the Rhine Army? Could we be told if the special travel concessions on German railways which our men now enjoy will be continued or whether they will be withdrawn? Can anything be said as to whether our men will still be immune from the power of the German courts, and whether they will still be able to buy the cheap petrol which they now obtain, or whether they will have to pay the high prices which the Germans have to pay?

Could we be told, if the answer to all these questions is in the negative, whether the boys serving in Germany will then be looked upon as having a home posting? I ask that because, obviously, their position will be very materially worsened once the new agreement comes into operation, unless one of two things happens: either that the Government negotiate an agreement covering all these points, or that such additional concessions are made to these men as will recompense them for the facilities and advantages which they lose when the agreement comes into operation.

I turn to another matter. In the Memorandum, the Secretary of State for War makes it clear that he is highly delighted and satisfied with the number of officers he has in the Army. The problem seems to be in the matter of other ranks; and I should imagine that anyone very concerned about the state of the other ranks would ask why is it that in the case of officers all our needs are met, whereas in the case of the Regular other ranks there is this great deficiency.

I should have thought that the answer is very simple. In the main, the officers are on a reasonable standard, and have reasonable conditions, and reasonable facilities. For the ordinary Service man, the position is vastly different. The right hon. Gentleman does not move in my circles; probably I meet only the ordinary rankers, for I have many friends who are National Service men, and I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman frankly that if he wants these boys to become Regulars he must do something about their pay, their conditions and the petty, irksome restrictions which are placed upon them.

If some of the commanding officers in charge of National Service men were in charge of the industrial establishments of this country, there would be strikes every day. They ought to be sent to a centre where they have had a course on personnel management and personnel relationship, because, in view of some of the things which these boys are made to do, it is no wonder that they are glad when the end of their period of service is reached, and no wonder that in no circumstances are they prepared to sign on for even an extra day.

In these days of the hydrogen bomb, does the right hon. Gentleman think it still sensible to give the raw recruit the type of boots which are issued in the Army and then make him spend hour after hour on the rough leather until it is as smooth and shiny as a mirror? But that is still being done. A boy who had been in the Army for about three months came to see me the other day and told me what he had to do to get those boots up to the standard demanded. He told me what happened about the belt which he wore. The recruit is issued with a belt, but the edge is rough and he is expected to rub and rub and rub until the surface is fiat. Some boys are so sick of doing this that it has been the cause of some concern.

If the Army wants these boys to have a flat belt, why not issue them with one instead of having reasonable, decent and intelligent lads, who have been doing decent jobs where intelligence and common sense are required, doing this sort of thing? If it is thought that that is the way to make them enthuse over Army life, let me assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is the way to make them so sick and fed up and "browned off" that they are the worst possible recruiting and advertising agents for the Army. That is something which could be put right at no cost. The difficulties could be liquidated without inconvenience to any one—except for the inconvenience to the pride of those who want to shout at and dragoon men about something which does not matter.

The next question which I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman concerns suppers. It is not a very big item, but these boys get only 28s.a week when they first join, and out of it they have to meet several commitments which make substantial inroads into it. I am told that if a man wants a supper in the barracks or in the canteen—after he has had his evening meal at five o'clock—he has to do something for it; or, alternatively, he is marked, and the cook takes it out of him in one way or another. Usually these men have their last meal at 5 o'clock, and they have breakfast at 6 o'clock in the morning. It ought to be possible for them to get a snack or supper in the canteen without having to do a fatigue merely because they happen to be about the barracks at that time.

Another question in regard to manpower is that of batmen. Mr. Percy Cudlipp in the "News Chronicle"—a reliable journalist—said: A National Service man at Catterick Camp told a reporter this week that although he had passed a course as a drill instructor he had given no drill instruction. For eight months he had been a batman in an officer's home. His tasks include house-cleaning, washing the officer's wife's 'scanties,' cleaning her shoes, making her afternoon tea and acting as butler when there are guests. Another batman at Catterick Camp, he said, regularly takes out the officer's child in its pram. I had a case brought to my notice a fortnight last Friday in which a National Service man is acting as a batman and doing the domestic duties in the home of an officer while the officer's wife is going out to work. I do not mind her going to work, but I do object to her having a National Service man to do the chores which she ought to be doing

Mr. Swingler

Have details of these cases been given to the Secretary of State for War? What answer has been made by the War Office to complaints about them?

Mr. Fernyhough

I am giving details of the cases mentioned by Mr. Cudlipp now. If the right hon. Gentleman wants particulars of the other case, he can be supplied with them.

Mr. Head

I do not know whether it would be any help to the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) to know that there is a very strict ration of batmen and control of those who are entitled to a batman, or half a batman. I should be very interested to see particulars of these cases. I would also point out that any batman who does not like being a batman can demand to go back to duty. He has that right; therefore I am always a little doubtful about some of these stories.

Mr. Fernyhough

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he is doubtful and looks up the records he will see what happened during the war. I had two officers' batmen staying with me and I agreed to take up their case. They were making tea in the morning, doing a bit of shopping, washing and doing all manner of things. This was at a time when the country was engaged on a so-called life and death struggle. Has that sort of thing been wiped out? Of course not. My own brother-in-law in Germany had to do a bit of it. I know it still goes on, and will go on until we get a Minister at the War Office who says that that is not the purpose for which National Service men are conscripted.

We have to face the fact that the great struggle with which the world is confronted is not a military struggle. It is largely a struggle for men's minds, a struggle for men's souls. I believe that struggle will be won in the social and economic field rather than in the military field. As far as I am concerned, I believe that the greatest evil which confronts humanity today is not Communism but the twin evils of poverty and disease, which were largely responsible for the movement to which I belong coming into existence.

I should like to feel that this nation, knowing full well that there is no defence in the hydrogen bomb age, and that if ever nuclear war breaks out this island is finished, would now give a clear lead to a world ridden by fear, and say: "We recognise that today tens of thousands are still dying because of poverty and disease, and for our part we, as a nation, will now start the greatest battle in which mankind has ever engaged—to remove from the whole world the poverty and disease which still threatens millions in many parts of it."

3.36 a.m.

Lieut-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The last reserves are now about to be thrown into this battle of the Army Estimates. If I may say so, the speeches which have been made since the right hon. Gentleman half wound-up the debate were quite as good as those made beforehand.

Mr. G. Thomas

Would my hon. and gallant Friend give way, because I did say that the Minister was not here, and I see that I did him an injustice, which I am glad to correct.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton

The Minister did come back, but as soon as I rose to my feet he retired. Perhaps he will make a third appearance, who knows? No. he is definitely disappearing now.

I would say that my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) did bring the House back to the fundamental, harsh realities of the problem with which we are faced, and as my hon. Friend, the Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) pointed out, the Government have not faced up to the logical consequences of the admissions with which they started, namely, that we are living in the hydrogen-bomb age, and that, as my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, West, and Jarrow pointed out, the use of the hydrogen bomb involves nothing less than mutual suicide.

To the extent that people or nations do not wish to commit mutual suicide, and to that extent only, is the hydrogen bomb likely to serve as a deterrent, and the House has already decided in the defence debate that the hydrogen bomb would be used in certain circumstances which have not yet been too clearly specified. If my hon. Friends are dissatisfied with that decision, the debate must be continued outside, so that perhaps a four-Power conference may be called at an early date, which will tackle these problems. So far as the House is concerned, the issue has been settled, and the House has come to the conclusion that, in certain circumstances, the hydrogen bomb should be used.

I endeavoured to find out from the Minister of Defence a few days ago whether he could give us any information about the number of nuclear or thermo-nuclear weapons held by the American forces in this country. His reply was not without significance. He said he was not in a position to give that information. Had he been able to give that information he would probably have said it was not in the public interest to disclose it. That I would have expected, but the fact that he says he was not able to give that information seems to indicate that he has not been given that information. How is—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

It would be out of order if he did give it. It has nothing to do with these Estimates.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lipton

What I am trying to find out from the Under-Secretary is how we are supposed to decide upon the extent to which hydrogen bombs or atomic weapons are to be used by the British Forces if we do not know to what extent stocks of these nuclear weapons already exist in this country.

We are supposed to be part of N.A.T.O. To the extent that we have integrated our Forces with those of either the Americans or of other countries of Western Europe, we should be able to effect economies. If, however, we are continuing our own defence policy and continuing to produce our Service Estimates quite irrespective of what those other countries are doing, one of the primary objects for which N.A.T.O. was formed is not being properly fulfilled. That must inevitably mean a certain amount of wastage and overlapping. That is the only point that I seek to make on this aspect.

I should have liked to have taken part in the difference of opinion which has manifested itself between the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) and the Secretary of State for War on the disbandment of Anti-Aircraft Command. I speak with some little feeling on the subject, because for a little while during the war I was associated with one of the "ack-ack" divisions. Having heard the Secretary of State's reply, the weight of the argument seems to me still to rest with the hon. Member for Harrow, East.

The position seems to be that for a variety of reasons, the War Office is being very dilatory in letting the Territorial A.A. regiments concerned know what their future is likely to be. Some of those A.A. regiments will cease to exist. The tragedy is that we have had large numbers of men tied up in one form of defence, and in their case the future is wrapped in obscurity, which must inevitably create a feeling of dismay and despondency. I hope that the War Office, in association with the Territorial Army associations or whatever other bodies have to be consulted, will soon let all these officers and men know what their future rôle is to be.

At the moment, it looks as if the War Office is changing over from something, however imperfect it may be, to nothing at all, and that is not a situation which can be accepted with equanimity. There is a hiatus between the exit of the A.A.Command and the weapons it formerly employed and the entry and use of the guided missile.

We do not know exactly when guided missiles will be forthcoming in sufficient quantities, and at the moment, apparently, we do not possess a missile, let alone a battery. We are sending a few people over to the United States in April to practise on the "Corporal" Mark II atomic gun, and perhaps a little while after that a few more people will be let into the secret and be provided with the modern methods by which it is hoped that this country will be defended.

At the moment, one of the things which we know is that we have four divisions in Germany and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) pointed out, goodness knows what their rôle will be if and when major nuclear war breaks out. It will be quite impossible for them to be reinforced from this country. It will be impossible to bring them back here. It will not be possible for them to advance after the territory towards the East has been atomised or hydrogenised. Therefore, we are making the worst of all possible worlds.

As Field Marshal Sir John Harding pointed out in August last year, If anyone thinks a Territorial Army division can be made battle-worthy within two or three weeks of mobilisation, I believe that they are deluding themselves. The idea apparently is that if trouble breaks out these four divisions in Germany will be reinforced by Territorial Army divisions. Goodness knows when they will materialise, because on the authority of no less a person than Field Marshal Sir John Harding, it will be very much longer than two or three weeks before they can be put into the field.

We have not been given the information we should like to have on that point. By accident I came across some words uttered by the present Prime Minister in this House on the 13th May, 1901.One or two sentences of what he said then are still relevant. He was talking about expenditure upon the Army when the House was being asked to vote £13 million. He said: If this vast expenditure on the Army were going to make us absolutely secure, much though I hate unproductive expenditure I would not complain; but it will do no such thing. The Secretary for War knows, none better than he, that it will not make us secure, and that if we went to war with any great power his three Army corps would scarcely serve as a vanguard. If we are hated they will not make us loved; if we are in danger they will not make us safe. They are not enough to irritate; they are not enough to over-awe. Yet while they cannot make us invulnerable, they may very likely make us venturesome. Bearing in mind the speech made by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery on 21st October, it may well be that Territorial divisions will never get to the battlefield. If the War Office wants to be quite sure of reinforcements reaching anywhere in time, it certainly looks as if they will have to be Regular Army reinforcements. We have about 400,000 men at our disposal in the Army. That number is quite inadequate for duties in Europe, police work in other parts of the world and the creation of a strategic reserve at home.

It is obvious that the setting down of four divisions in Germany is a purely political decision which was made because in no other way could the adherence of France to the European Defence Community have been secured. That adherence has not yet been achieved and is still not very certain of achievement. On top of that, a new obligation has been imposed upon the Army to provide something in the way of Civil Defence. It is common knowledge that Civil Defence arrangements in this country have not been adequate. Public-spirited men and women have volunteered and done their best in the last few years, but, faced with the possibility of hydrogen-bomb warfare, the existing Civil Defence arrangements are woefully inadequate. Therefore, the Army has to come to the rescue.

It appears to me that the main justification for continuing National Service is that at the end of the purely National Service period these men will be switched to the job of Civil Defence and will be engaged in the mobile defence columns. Goodness knows where the senior officers and N.C.Os. will be found, because at the moment they are not available for Reserve battalions and the Army Emergency Reserve. I suppose that one of the ideas of the Government is that officers and N.C.Os. who will become surplus as we dispense with the Anti-Aircraft Command units will perhaps volunteer for service in these mobile defence columns.

Those words might be used again in this Army debate 54 years afterwards, because we have not been given additional security by reason of the reluctance of the Government to face up to the consequences of the new age. If, when it comes, the war is to be a brutal affair, decisive in 30 days or thereabouts, what is the sense of amassing a vast Reserve for the mobilisation and training of which 90 days will be needed? That is the dilemma facing the Government, a dilemma to which they have given no satisfactory reply.

We are still faced with a shortage of key men in the Services. It is useless to have masses of National Service men if the War Office is unable to retain the services of key men, especially among the senior N.C.Os. Although at present we have about half the Army in the United Kingdom, we still have no strategic Reserve to speak of which could be quickly flown to any part of the world in which its services might be needed.

There is to be an experiment some time in August which will show whether we can dispense with divisional headquarters, corps headquarters, and all the paraphernalia which is likely to become more and more unnecessary in modern warfare. That is a long time ahead. In the meantime we do not seem to be doing anything to create smaller formations, not cluttered up with all these supplies, or dependent on distant bases, with which some of us are only too familiar.

Those are some points which I think have been worrying people interested in the future of the Army and of the other two Services. It is vital that the men serving in the Army should feel that they are doing a useful job. The Secretary of State, in his White Paper, pays a deserved tribute to the fortitude and endurance of the men in Malaya who are fighting in the most filthy conditions in which it is possible for men to serve.

There is no disputing the fact that if the National Service man or the Regular Service man is given a job to do, he does it as well as anybody would. It is the people who are kept hanging about here with no useful job to do who become demoralised and fed up, and become the worst advertisement for the Army. It is they who are the deterrent to recruiting.

No matter how much the War Office spends on publicity, no matter how many high-powered publicity experts it uses, whether paid or in an honorary capacity, it cannot get over the basic difficulty which will continue to exist so long as the men serving in the Army—officers, N.C.Os. or privates—will not advise any of their friends or relatives to follow in their footsteps by joining the Army.

Even if the Under-Secretary is unable to deal with all these points now, I hope that he will at least ensure that some consideration is given to them, because upon the solution of these problems depends whether we get any value at all for the vast sums of money that are now being spent.

3.56 a.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

We have had a very long sitting, but we have to remember that we are being called upon to approve Estimates amounting to more than £521 million.

In a few weeks' time we shall have a Budget in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be talking about the need for economy and restraint, and hon. Members in all parts of the House will be talking about the burden of taxation. As is the tradition, we shall probably have two or three all-night sittings on the Finance Bill arguing about 3d. off here and 6d.off there and odds and ends of that kind.

However, it is now, when we are spending the money, that the House should be really interested in the bill which has to be paid. If the House were to be a little more interested when the Estimates are being submitted and the bills are being passed, the Chancellor's duty would not be so onerous and the problems of taxation would not be so difficult. I always approach these debates from the point of view of the Member of Parliament who has to approve expenditure by the Government, and when we are asked to approve expenditure of a sum of about £530 million we are entitled to scrutinise it very carefully indeed.

I have criticised Army Estimates for a number of years, while the Labour Government were in power and since the present Government took office. I remember the great debates that we had in 1951 on the rearmament programme. I remember the arguments put forward by the spokesmen of the Government of the day. Hon. Members who figured in those debates argued that we needed a three-year rearmament programme so that at the end of that time we should be able to negotiate with the Russians from strength. That was in 1951.

I remember a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) who was then Under-Secretary of State for War. In 1951, he said that in 1954 we should be able to negotiate with the Russians from strength. It is now 1955, and my hon. Friend is now telling us in the Press and in the House that we have spent more than £4,000 million and yet we are practically unarmed.

The Prime Minister says that in three years the Russians will be able to negotiate with us from a position of strength. Every year this country has become more insecure, and today it is anybody's guess as to what should constitute the best military policy for this country. There are no experts in this matter.

I asked the Secretary of State for War a question—probably it was an impertinent question—and he said that I did not know a great deal about these matters. But neither does anybody in these days. We all start from this position of almost complete ignorance. I have been reading a series of articles by one of the best-known military writers of the day, who is read in this country, in America, Germany and all over the world. I refer to Captain Liddell Hart who, in the "News Chronicle" on 1st March, wrote: All military knowledge is now useless. Nobody can say that, from a position of superior knowledge and as a result of experience in the last war, he has any greater authority than the rest.

Mr. Head

It puts the hon. Gentleman in a very strong position.

Mr. Hughes

Yes, it puts me in a very strong position. We all approach this matter from the position of relative ignorance, and I am now negotiating from strength.

We have been called upon to find £530 million. After having listened to nearly every speech in this debate, I am beginning to wonder what the debates will be like next year and the year after. I have been preaching pacifism in this country for about 40 years, but the hydrogen bomb has succeeded in making more, perhaps not abstract pacifists, but potential pacifists, than all the preaching of anti-war agitators has ever done. It is beginning to have its effect.

I read from Captain Liddell Hart's article in the "News Chronicle" that: There is a tremendous gulf between current military planning under N.A.T.O. and the scientific realities of warfare in the atomic age. Since the advent of the H-bomb the gulf has been growing wider into a suicidal chasm. He goes on to say: But although the logic of the situation is extremely clear, it will not be easily accepted. Vested interests are sure to oppose any re-planning and redistribution that follows out the logical conclusion. The reluctance of these interests will be enforced by a cautious reluctance to abandon any form of defence even though these provide no real safety. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) asked about the position of the strategic Reserve. It is rather curious that the strategic Reserve is to be concentrated in the most vulnerable part of Western Europe. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)—I do not know where he has gone; he is not here now—spoke about a Dunkirk. But at Dunkirk the men knew that when they reached this country they would be coming back to safety. If there is a Dunkirk this time they will come back to a radioactive ruin.

Both the Secretary of State for War and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton played around the subject of what would be the Army's rôle after that had happened. Presumably the Army is to be concentrated in this country. There is now a new word for the Army. It is called a gendarmerie. But to call it by a different word is not to solve the problem.

If half a dozen hydrogen bombs were dropped half the country would be in ruins, and in those circumstances we are asked to consider what would be the rôle of the Army. The Secretary of State became angry when I intervened earlier and wanted him to be a little more explicit. I should not rely too much upon the Army in a situation like that. We know what happens to armies which are disorganised and which no longer fulfil their traditional rôle. In Russia, in 1917, the front collapsed and a revolutionary situation arose, which led to Communism.

I would ask hon. Members who hate Communism to remember that if this country is devastated by war and the civil population is required to be mown down by machine guns—which was the prospect envisaged by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton—the Army may mutiny; there may be a revolution, and Communism may emerge at the end of it. All these great military preparations, which have been taken in order to preserve freedom, may end in military Communism, which is the worst form of Communism.

That argument applies also to Western Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey), who is one of the Labour Party's authorities upon international affairs, and is a very strong supporter of the rearmament of Germany, has often argued that we should be mainly concerned with America, and that the Continent of Europe is something rather remote from us. I wonder what effect such a statement is likely to have upon the people of Germany. When mention is made of the likelihood of atomic artillery being used in Germany I do not wonder that a very strong feeling exists among Germans that this attempt to give them new armed forces will not be very pleasant for them.

If I were a German, and read the speeches which have been delivered by hon. Members on both sides of the House in this debate, I should say that my country's rearmament would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to it. What will happen to our soldiers in Germany? Presumably they will not be able to come back here, because of the state of affairs which will exist here, and if any of Western Europe survives, a revolutionary situation will arise there also. The idea that we are saving this world from Communism by going through this process of rearmament requires further examination.

I listened respectfully to the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons). I do not see that we are justified in sacrificing human beings all over Europe just because we may dislike Communism. Everybody in this House may dislike Russian Communism and say that he would prefer to die rather than to live under a Communist regime, but we have to consider that millions of people in this country and in Western Europe would prefer to live under a Communist regime.

I have seen the Communist regime as it exists in most countries which have Communist Governments, and I do not like it. I have seen it in China, the U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany, and although I should prefer to live under a democratic institution I would rather see a dictatorship of that kind, even in this country, than see the whole fabric of our industrial life dissolve, with nobody knowing what might emerge at the end of it.

In the light of that argument, pacifism is not sentimental and Utopian, but practical. People are beginning to say that there is something in it after all, and I make no apology for being a pacifist. That is a far more logical position than that of the official Labour Party. If the Labour Party had been in power there would have been the same bottlenecks and shortages of aircraft, guns and all sorts of things, because these are mainly technical.

The real criticism of the Government, as of the last Government, is that they have a foreign policy which makes a huge armaments bill necessary. Now we have reached a cul-de-sac in which the experts do not know what to do. For a time they tried to retreat from it. But when we read what Lord Montgomery and General Gruenther said—

Mr. G. Thomas

And General MacArthur—

Mr. Hughes

—we realise that the world will be destroyed unless we become pacifists.

If war develops into a hydrogen-bomb war, the whole of Western civilisation will be in danger. I do not agree with M. Molotov that capitalism and not Communism will be destroyed. There is great danger for both of them. The essential element for safety is international agreement. That is why I look forward to a four-Power conference. These huge expenditures do not get us nearer to a solution, although I do not blame the Service Ministers. Until we fundamentally change our policy we shall have to find these huge sums every year.

The second basic factor is that the building up of large Forces every year merely wastes many thousands of millions of pounds which could be better spent. War is now either antiquarian or lunacy. I think it is both. I have armed myself with a good many war quotations from Captain Liddell Hart. A fortnight ago there was a very interesting article in the "Spectator," one of a series of articles. It was by the leading expert of "The Times"—Mr.Cyril Falls. This series was headed "Can Britain Fight?" The fact has emerged today, and it has emerged pretty clearly, that despite all the suggestions and ideas about the future rôle of the Army and what part the Army will fulfil in the next war, the Army has no rôle but to disintegrate. There will be a revolutionary situation, to which I have already referred, and I should not like to be in the shoes of those who have to be in charge when war breaks out.

These are the realities which we have to face. Attempting to re-arm Germany is irrelevant now that Russia and the United States have the hydrogen bomb. The hydrogen bomb is the enemy of all humanity—Communist or capitalist, black or white. We are in an age when all strategy is in the melting pot. Captain Liddell Hart refers to the vested interests; and there are vested interests in the War Office, just as there are vested interests at the Admiralty. The Air Ministry is full of them.

We have gentlemen in high positions engaged on some technical aspect of war preparation, and they will always find excuses for spending huge sums every year. The Admiralty will come along and ask for aircraft carriers or submarines.

So far as the Army is concerned, we were told last year about tanks; this year it is atomic artillery, and the vested interests in the Service Departments come forward every year with a demand for more money.

Service Ministers stand at the Dispatch Box and put forward plausible cases in support of very large expenditure, and until the House decides that it will control this expenditure by facing up to the Service Ministers, there will be no real progress. After all, it is an old subject of controversy in our political life. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) has quoted what the present Prime Minister said in 1901; but there was a controversy involving his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, before him.

Lord Randolph Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, and he got into trouble with the War Office because he said "You are wanting too much money for the Army." There was a ferocious quarrel between Lord Randolph Churchill, the Chancellor, and the then Secretary of State for War who, I believe, was Mr. Broderick; and the Chancellor lost. The history of politics throughout the years is mainly concentrated on the struggle between the so-called Defence Ministries and the great conglomeration of vested interests which surround them.

What we have to try to do in this House is to get democratic control over the vested interests and over foreign policy, and to do our best to compel the Government to face the hard fact that the old days of diplomacy and of negotiating from strength are no longer with us; that the methods used then are no longer applicable to the world of today.

If we cannot force the Governments in all countries to accept that view, then the only alternative is catastrophe; and catastrophe, as the Prime Minister has pointed out to us, is very near. It was, I believe, another Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru, who was asked what were the chances of survival for the human race, and he replied, "Fifty-fifty." That is the stark reality today.

We think we are doing our duty to our constituents, to this country and to the whole world by exercising our rights as Members to criticise these Estimates, and the policies which lie behind them, with the utmost vigilance. I believe that we are doing this duty and that we shall have to do it year after year until we have hope that new ideas are coming which will enable us to spend the money which we are now spending on armies and weapons on more useful and constructive things.

It is nine years since I first opposed these Estimates. It will not be so for another nine years. In the next few years—probably in the next two or the next three years—the fate of humanity will be decided. We in this country must realise that we are in the most vulnerable place in Western Europe. We have become America's Heligoland in Western Europe. It is our duty to the people of this island not only to see that we avoid war but also to see that there is no possibility of war. We shall not do this by re-echoing the old catchwords, by coming along with the old platitudes, but by asking the House to face the grim realities.

4.22 a.m.

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

It is evident that Parliament is increasingly critical of the Secretary of State for War. It is critical of his handling of commitments, of his failure to recruit volunteers, of his broken promises on conscription, and of his way of creating and liquidating units.

In this debate we have had a powerful contribution from my pacifist friends. I am glad that the Secretary of State was in the House to hear some of the contributions because I hope the Government will take heed of what was said. In my opinion, the present defence policy and the present development of science is making more pacifists. When we find a state of affairs in which weapons have been developed against which there is no defence—and it is now generally admitted that there is no defence against them—and when we find that our strategic policy is based upon a threat to commit national suicide, it is natural that many people are driven to the conclusion that there is no sense at all in military preparations.

I do not agree with my pacifist friends in the conclusion which they draw; I do not believe that the unilateral renunciation of the H-bomb or any other bomb by this country would lessen the tension or remove the threat of devastation from Britain, but I say that unless the Government have the statesmanship and the stature to rise to the situation they will inevitably multiply the number of pacifists in the West.

Unless the Government appreciate the gravity of the nature of the present defence policy, appreciate that extraordinary political and diplomatic measures are required to meet the situation, appreciate the insistent demand for high-level talks, and refrain from provocative and useless military measures which accentuate tension, then they will be responsible for spreading defeatism and despondency.

In his speeches the Prime Minister dramatises these developments. The Prime Minister has a great aptitude for depicting the possible doom of civilisation, but when we listen to the spokesmen of the Navy, of the Army—and I expect the same will be true of the spokesmen of the Air Force—we find a very different situation. Instead of basing themselves on the categorical assumption put into the White Paper on Defence that aggression will have to be met by thermonuclear weapons, instead of drawing conclusions from that, the Secretary of State for War announces "Business as usual."

Much the same arguments, much the same plans and policies, commitments and manœuvres are described to us. By so doing, and by playing down the threat of hydrogen-bomb war, the nature of it and the implications of it—political and strategic—the Army's spokesmen and the spokesmen of the other Services create a false impression both abroad and at home which increases the danger of tension for this country.

I want to turn in particular to the subject of conscription. To my mind, there was no more unsatisfactory and unconvincing part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman than the part which he devoted to conscription. I protest at Parliament double-crossing the nation on conscription. We have now reached a serious situation where the people of this country have been sold down the river on this subject.

What are the facts? After the Second World War it was recognised, as the Secretary of State more or less admitted today and yesterday, that conscription was an undesirable, an expensive, an uneconomic and an elaborate system of raising an Army, but, because the country had just come through a long war, because of the pull of full employment in industry and because of the necessity of building up what were then called "masses of trained reservists" in preparation for a possible repetition of the Second World War, it was necessary to continue the system of conscription.

Any hon. Member can look up the debates in 1946, 1947 and 1948 and see that those were the arguments. They were the arguments of the present Secretary of State, that the system was only to be justified because it was necessary to build up masses of trained reservists. I want to know how many hon. Members believe today in the necessity for building up masses of trained reservists, or having this tremendous manpower, and these colossal sums of money devoted to training enormous numbers of potential divisions for a repetition of the Second World War, whereas in fact we are presented in the White Paper with the assumption of a third world war on a quite different pattern.

In the second place, it has been argued that this system was necessary, and in particular that the extension from 18 to 24 months' training for conscripts that occurred in 1950 was necessary because of commitments. The arguments in the last few years, as distinct from those from 1945 to 1948, have been that this conscription must be continued for a little longer because of the Korean war, because of the tension in the Middle East, and because of other commitments. The Korean war has ceased. Troops have been and are being withdrawn from Korea. Moreover, other commitments have been substantially reduced.

The Government were eventually forced, in these last 12 months, to face the facts on Suez, in spite of the colossal delay. Troops have been withdrawn from other parts of the world. Indeed, the Secretary of State for War comes forward and admits that there has been a substantial reduction in commitments. It is very difficult for most hon. Members to justify, in terms of the assumptions of the White Paper, many of the commitments to which the Secretary of State still holds.

There is no hon. Member who has really advanced in this debate any proper justi- fication for the commitments in Cyprus in terms of a thermo-nuclear war. Any attempt at justification by the Secretary of State seemed to be complete nonsense: merely the argument that we should multiply targets for the hydrogen bomb. No one has brought forward any real argument why, if what the Prime Minister said about the Suez base was correct in relation to a possible thermo-nuclear war, that does not apply to Cyprus and to many other commitments as well. But it is clear, from what the Secretary of State said, that the commitments have been sufficiently reduced to enable immediate consideration to be given to the fulfilment of the pledges given in 1950.

I want to protest again, with all the vigour I have, at the fact that no mention is made by Ministers of the pledges that were given. Now it is assumed that they can treat two years' conscription as they like. That is what the Secretary of State assumes: that they can say: "We should like to reduce it, we should be popular if we did, and might cull a few votes at the Election, but, on the other hand, we have these commitments; we must have these divisions in Germany to look after the Germans," and so on.

But I want to remind those who are in charge of the Services that they, as much as my right hon. Friends, are committed to the reduction to 18 months. If they will look up once again the speech of the present Lord Chancellor, speaking from these benches on behalf of the official Opposition in 1950, when the period of conscription was extended from 18 months to two years, they will see that what they are now doing is breaking the pledge which was definitely given to the people. Since this combines with the fact that the commitments have been reduced, and it is admitted that this pledge could be fulfilled, this creates the impression in the country, and certainly in many parts of the House, that there is no intention on the part of the War Office to reduce this period of National Service.

The Secretary of State thought he made a great argument because he justified himself on the grounds of the unpopularity of the measure he was selling to the House. He said that we on this side do not believe that it is absolutely necessary to have the two years' conscription, and that he would make himself popular if he reduced it. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to be aware that some of us know something about the inertia and extravagance of the Army Council. When the Minister comes to the Box to say that he cannot now, in 1955, reduce the period of conscription, the War Office indicts itself for failing to take the necessary measures to be able to fulfil the pledges that were given in 1950.

The argument is now moved on to the third plane: that is, the lack of recruiting. First, we were told that we must have conscription for the purpose of Reserves, then for commitments, and now because the right hon. Gentleman cannot get the recruits—

Mr. Wigg

He never will.

Mr. Swingler

—although we have probably more than we have ever had before. The Secretary of State tries to wrap up the recent falling off in recruiting. He is unable to give any indication that he will get more recruits or will get anything like the number that he says he needs to reduce the period of conscription. Therefore, he gives to the country no indication whatever of any possibility, so long as he is in charge of the Army, of ever reducing the period of conscription.

What does the Secretary of State say in regard to recruitment? Apart from being complacent about it, apart from challenging my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), and trying to pretend that there has not been much reduction and that quite a lot of men have extended their service, and apart from arguing about the statistics, all the rest that the right hon. Gentleman says on the subject suggests that he is very sceptical of getting any more recruits unless the period of conscription is increased.

The Secretary of State's argument was virtually that he can only get more recruits for the Regular Army if more men are called up in a system of conscription. He is forced to use the whip of conscription as a means of stimulating recruitment. He is in a vortex of circumstances. He cannot reduce the period of conscription, and he has to use it as a means of getting more volunteers. But the Secretary of State knows quite well that conscription is one of the great millstones that hangs round his neck, is one of the reasons that prevents the Army Council from modernising the Army, and prevents the Army from pulling itself together.

One of the reasons why there is not the money substantially to improve the conditions of service and the pay and allowances is the very expensive and elaborate apparatus of conscription. Everyone in the Administration must know that. So long as there is this expensive, uneconomical and elaborate apparatus of conscription, there will not be the money so to improve the conditions of service and pay as substantially to increase the number of volunteers. The right hon. Gentleman is caught up in that vicious circle.

The Secretary of State and the present Administration have no positive or constructive policy to bring to the House that promises any relief to the nation from this burden, which has weighed down upon the young men and upon the national economy for so long. It is a crying shame, and it is one of the most powerful reasons why this Administration should go.

4.40 a.m.

Mr. F. Maclean

During the last phase of the debate the discussion has tended to centre round the hydrogen bomb, and the opinions expressed have mainly come from the pacifist point of view. It has been suggested that the Government have sought to play down the hydrogen bomb. That is quite certainly not the case. Neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, nor my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did anything of the kind.

Mr. Wigg

Of course.

Mr. Maclean

That was not my impression.

The fact remains that none of us likes the hydrogen bomb. We respect the sincerity of the views which have been expressed by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), and other hon. Members who expressed their detestation of the bomb. We share that detestation. It is a subject upon which one has to take a point of view, and the view taken by the majority of hon. Members is that there is less likelihood of war as a result of the existence of the bomb. That, after all, is what we are trying to effect.

The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) said that it is a matter of peace or perish. I entirely agree, but the question is how we can secure peace. The view of the Government is that we are more likely to get peace if we deter a potential enemy from attacking us by possession of the hydrogen bomb. That is a subject which one could discuss for hours from both points of view, but even when one has such fascinating combinations as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, General MacArthur and Captain Liddell Hart, and even when one hears the conclusion announced that all military knowledge is useless, it would not be profitable if I were to pursue that argument any further at 4.45 a.m. Therefore, I will go on to deal with some specific points raised by hon. Members.

The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) mentioned a Report which he and other hon. Members of the Parliamentary delegation to Germany sent to my right hon. Friend on their return. That report is a most valuable document. I think that I am right in saying that we are in general agreement with the greater part of it. It is being studied carefully by my right hon. Friend. He is considering the recommendations which were made and how far it is practicable to implement them. The tribute which the hon. Member for Batley and Morley paid to the National Service men in Germany was most gratifying, and I am sure that it will be received with great pleasure, not only by the National Service men themselves but by all concerned with them in the Army,

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West mentioned the number of grade 3 men who are kept in the Army. They are kept there because, in spite of their not being top grade from the health point of view, they are nevertheless able to do useful work which does not involve 100 per cent. physical fitness. They are thus able to release for more active tasks men who are fitter.

Mr. Fernyhough

Can the hon. Gentleman say why, if calling up grade 3 men is to continue, men of this category who volunteer for the Regular Service are turned down, and are subsequently sent for under the National Service Act? Is not that stupid?

Mr. Maclean

The reason is that we require a higher standard of fitness in a man who is going to make the Army his career than we do in a man who is simply going to do two years' National Service.

The hon. Member for Jarrow also raised the question of the future of the British Army of the Rhine after the change of status of Germany. That matter is under negotiation. Therefore it would not be proper for me to say more than that our troops in Germany will be in the same position as they would be in any other N.A.T.O. country. In regard to matters like price privileges, arrangements will be made for them to continue, or a local overseas allowance will be paid in lieu of them. In any case, the soldier will not suffer.

The hon. Member also mentioned suppers. They are a matter on which I feel strongly. I have not had mine yet. When I was a private soldier, it was not always easy to get supper. It was not always easy to get a meal after 5 p.m. When I went to the War Office I made inquiries, and was glad to find that suppers are now generally available. If the hon. Member knows of cases in which individual soldiers have not been able to get suppers from the cookhouse—they will not get free suppers from the canteen—I shall be pleased to investigate.

Mr. Wigg

The hon. Gentleman appears to have made an important statement. Will he be good enough to confirm that he is giving a firm undertaking on behalf of the Government that no soldier, or soldier's family will be worse off after Britain becomes responsible for the cost of the occupation of Germany?

Mr. Maclean

There will be compensation for any losses incurred.

Mr. Wigg

That applies to the soldier and his family? They will get a personal service allowance, or something like that?

Mr. Maclean

They will get the overseas allowance, or the present arrangement will continue.

We have had quite a good debate. Perhaps I might now turn to points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton).He mentioned the disbandment of Anti-Aircraft Command and asked why there had been such a long delay in reaching, and publishing, a decision. The reason has been given by my right hon. Friend.

It was that it was thought desirable, from everyone's point of view, to get the views of the associations and of the various other organisations, and of units, before taking any firm decision. It was thought that that was preferable to simply imposing a solution. We wanted to get the local point of view. It seems to me that it was well worth doing that, even if it did mean taking a little longer. In any case, a final decision will be made known in the very near future.

The hon. and gallant Member also raised the question of the mobile defence columns, and asked where the officers and N.C.O.s were to come from. The mobile defence columns will be part of the Army Emergency Reserve, and the officers and N.C.O.s will, it is hoped, be volunteers from the Territorial Army. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested, it is hoped that a number from Anti-aircraft Command may volunteer for this extremely important service. It may even be possible for all the officers and N.C.O.s of disbanded units to volunteer en bloc.

Those are the main points which have been raised since my right hon. Friend spoke, and as it is now after 4.50 a.m. I will not—

Mr. Swingler

Has not the hon. Gentleman a word to say on the subjects of recruiting policy and the reduction in the period of National Service? The reduction in the period of National Service is one of the most important matters affecting the Army, but we heard very little about it from the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State made no reference at all to the pledge which was given to reduce the period to 18 months. Can we at least have an assurance from the Under-Secretary that the pledge given by the leaders of both political parties has not been overlooked?

Mr. Maclean

The whole question was dealt with in considerable detail and at considerable length by my right hon. Friend, who made it perfectly clear that we on this side of the House do not like conscription any more than hon. Members opposite do, and that we realise that it is extremely expensive economically and that it goes against the traditions of this country. My right hon. Friend also said that it was only natural that any Government would get rid of it if they possibly could, and that the reason why we keep it is that, in spite of all those reasons—in spite of the fact that we should get rid of it if we could—our present commitments make it simply impossible to do so.

Mr. Wigg

Surely the hon. Gentleman can reaffirm the pledge given by the Lord Chancellor or say that the Government have departed from it. Surely we are entitled to that reassurance.

Mr. Maclean

We have already made it clear that it is our intention to reduce the period or get rid of conscription altogether as soon as our commitments make it possible, but at present our commitments do not make it possible.

Mr. Wigg

Then the Government do stand by the pledge to reduce the period of service from two years to 18 months? Is that so? Will the hon. Gentleman make that clear? It is very important indeed.

Mr. Head

Perhaps I might answer that question. I said in my speech—I thought I made it quite clear, and the Government have announced it twice in defence debates—that it is our policy to reduce National Service as much as possible as soon as possible, and that remains the Government's policy today.

Mr. Swingler

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the pledge to which my hon. Friend is referring is that which was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and which was endorsed by the present Lord Chancellor on behalf of the then Conservative Opposition in 1950, when conscription was lengthened from 18 months to 24 months, that it was a temporary measure because of the Korean emergency? That was the pledge, and it was implied that as soon as the Korean emergency came to an end there would be a reduction in the period of service to 18 months.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member cannot now make a second speech.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]