§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ That a sum, not exceeding £44,280,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, etc., of the Army, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1958, in addition to the sum of £48,450,000 to be allocated for this purpose from the sum of £210,000,000 voted on account of Army Services generally.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Hare)
In the Memorandum which I circulated with the printed book of Army Estimates I have endeavoured primarily to give hon. Members a background of what has happened to the Army during the past twelve months. In my speech today I wish to concentrate on the problems which face the Army now and, at the same time, to give some idea to the Committee of how I think the immediate future may work out.
I would like to say a word about finance first. For the current financial year the total net sum required for the Army is estimated at £401.4 million. This represents a reduction of nearly £100 million on the total provision made for the Army last year. We did, of course, take a Supplementary Estimate of £39 million last year, of which £30 million was on account of the Suez emergency. All the same, I think that the Committee will agree that the sum for which I am now asking represents a substantial relief to the country's economy. Furthermore, this reduction has been achieved in the face of a steady increase in both civilian wages and in prices.
The reduction has been made by several means. Almost half of it comes from the stores Vote. We are not expecting so much equipment to be delivered. We shall save £14 million by using existing stores for day-to-day maintenance purposes and £3½ million by running down food stocks. There will also he a 227 considerable increase in receipts from the sale of surplus stores. The smaller Army will require more than £10 million less in pay and allowances and the ending of certain oversea commitments in Korea, Jordan and the Suez Canal Base will save nearly £6 million.
But I think I must warn the Committee not to expect comparable reductions in future years. As I pointed out in my Memorandum, eating into reserves for maintenance purposes is, largely, a non-recurrent operation. Although the size of the active Army will be progressively reduced during the next few years, economies of the size which have been made this year could only be achieved either at the expense of the soldier or at the expense of the efficiency of the Army.
Today, there seems to be a tendency to concentrate on the spaceman rather than the human being. We are apt to talk in terms of press button war and tend to think of the soldier as a robot. I do not take that view. Whatever the weapon may be that is put into his hand, the same qualities will be needed of the soldier as served his predecessors on battlefields from Crecy to Arnhem. He must be well disciplined, well trained, well equipped, well led, courageous and sure of his cause.
Equally, in my opinion, we should be most unwise to minimise the importance of conventional weapons because of the ingenuity of the scientists who are producing nuclear weapons of varying shape and size. Indeed, there are many who think that the existence of the megaton bomb and the approach of what is called the "ultimate weapon"may make it increasingly unlikely that this ghastly instrument of war will ever be used.
The Army must take its share in forming part of the deterrent and the shield to prevent global war, but, at the same time, it must be prepared and equipped to carry out its Commonwealth and worldwide responsibilities and also be capable of taking an effective part in limited war operations, if need be.
We need our complement of tactical nuclear weapons, but it would be folly to assume that because of that, conventional forces armed with conventional weapons do not remain of paramount importance. We have to be sure that the Army is equipped and trained to carry 228 out its varying tasks and yet, at the same time, be certain that it does not place too heavy a strain on the national economy. Properly organised, equipped and led I believe that it can deal with these varying types of commitment.
May I say a word about organisation first? In nuclear war, dispersion on the battlefield will be essential if overwhelming casualties are not to result. Communications will be uncertain and there is an undoubted requirement for a smaller basic fighting formation capable of fighting on its own under a looser overall direction from higher headquarters than we were accustomed to in the last two world wars.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State mentioned in the debate in March on the Army's Vote on Account that, to meet this requirement, we were thinking in terms of the brigade group. He outlined the composition of the two types of this group, the infantry brigade and the armoured brigade group.
No final decision has yet been reached on this important question, but we are continuing a thorough examination of it. Its special attraction is that the brigade group would form a closely integrated force, trained as a team and sufficiently self-contained to be able to fight, to move and to maintain itself over long periods. Further practical experience will be gained in the British Army of the Rhine this year and I hope to be able to keep the House in touch with the progress we make in this direction.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Does the Minister hope to be able some time this year to form some definite conclusions on what is to be the fundamental formation basis of the Army?
§ Mr. Hare
I certainly hope to be able to do that within the next twelve months. We shall get a lot of experience, I hope, from Germany this year.
It may well be that some such form of organisation would also fit our commitments in cold war. The essence of success is to be ready for instant action. We aim to reduce our garrisons overseas by our ability to reinforce them from a central reserve with up to a brigade group on a jeep basis. In limited war a brigade group could be married up with its heavier supporting arms in the theatre.
229 Both these concepts require mobility. I shall deal with this problem of mobility later, but in mentioning this new type of organisation I must emphasise that it does not differ greatly from the ideas of our allies. They are all tending towards smaller and more closely integrated compact divisions. Some of these divisions have little more fighting strength than the groups that we are considering.
I should now like to say a word about equipment. By the end of the five-year period on which we are now embarking the field Army will he completely rearmed and the weapons of the 1939–45 war will have almost completely disappeared. I mentioned in my Memorandum the progress being made in the issue of the F.N. automatic rifle, the new submachine gun which will replace the Sten, and the development of a possible replacement for the Vickers medium machine gun. We are also considering a replacement for the present battalion anti-tank weapon with a lighter version capable of a more impressive performance.
The Conqueror tank is already on its field trials with units and. in our opinion, is capable of defeating the heaviest known tank, but I would point out to the Committee that it may well be the last of the heavy tanks which we shall produce. We have under development an anti-tank guided weapon which should, if all goes well, remove the heavy tank from the battlefield. Medium tanks, on the other hand, will he required for some time yet to provide the close support for infantry which the guided weapon cannot give. A new medium tank is in an advanced state of development. In armoured cars we shall have the Saladin with an armament which gives it the punch of a medium tank, and the Ferret is a scout car of great versatility.
In field artillery the 25-pounder, which has been a wonderful weapon for nearly twenty years, still has some years of efficient service ahead of it. All the same, with the changing conception of war we realise the need for a weapon of greater range and greater versatility. Between the new field gun, which will replace the 25-pounder, and the Corporal, our long-range tactical nuclear guided weapon, there must be other weapons ready to 230 replace the present medium, heavy and super-heavy guns.
For this purpose we are beginning the development of a nuclear guided weapon which will be complementary to Corporal. It will be a highly mobile equipment capable of quick deployment. We are giving further consideration at the same time to the need for additional types of nuclear weapons for the artillery in the field.
Although Anti-Aircraft Command has been disbanded our armies in the field will need anti-aircraft protection. To find the answer to this a limited production order has been placed for a surface-to-air guided weapon known as Thunderbird. This will give the Army its first opportunity to train with a mobile weapon of this type. At the same time, to deal with low-flying aircraft, we are replacing the old Bofors 40 m.m. gun with a new light anti-aircraft gun, the L70. With its improved radar fire control this gun, we believe, will be the foremost weapon of its type in the world.
The whole range of engineering equipment, including bridging, mines, tractors and earth-moving machinery is being modernised.
I can also announce that a new range of wireless sets is being taken over by the Royal Signals and other arms which will give a performance greatly superior to those of the past. These sets will have more range for less weight. They will work well by night— our existing sets, as some hon. Members may remember, do not always do so—and will be more robust and simpler to operate. In addition, a new signal system, known as the radio relay, is now coming into service. This provides a radio telephone link over considerable distances without the need to lay and maintain lines between headquarters.
New weapons and new equipment produce more complex demands for training. It was as long ago as 1950 that the first guided weapon course was started at the Royal Military College of Science. We now have three guided weapons training wings; one at the School of Artillery, another at the School of Anti-Aircraft and a third at the R.E.M.E. Training Centre. We also have staff at the Woomera and the Anglesey ranges and will shortly be participating in the tests 231 at the Hebrides range. A cadre of instructors has been trained on Corporal, both here and in the United States, and there is no shortage of people able to handle the weapon.
The progressive introduction of new equipment will go a long way to compensate for the preponderance of numbers which any likely enemy is bound to have. Another factor which will enable us to reduce the size of the Army will be our plan to increase mobility. The growing ability of air transport to move large quantities of men and material all over the world at very short notice can, if properly used, give us back the traditional basis of British strategy. That is to say, a swift application of small forces at decisive points.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air has told the Committee about his plans to expand Transport Command's force of modern long-range troop-carrying aircraft. Transport Command, together with the resources available from civil air lines which we intend to call upon in an emergency, will provide the airlift which is essential to a military strategic reserve in this country. I do not pretend that air transport has yet reached the stage where it is the complete answer, because in a modern Army we have certain types of heavy equipment which cannot be transported by air.
There are three ways of dealing with this problem. In the first place, every new item of equipment ordered by the Army will be looked at as potential air freight. I place great importance on that. Constant investigations are being made to see how the amount of equipment on which the fighting units reply can be reduced. For example, I am glad to be able to announce that the number of vehicles in the field Army is at present being cut by 20 per cent. Secondly, we already have stocks of heavy equipment overseas which formations from this country can draw upon immediately they arrive there. We may have to revise these holdings. In any case, it will cost much less than having to provide and maintain troops all over the place against the possibility that trouble may arise in one particualr area.
Thirdly, we have retained in service some tank landing ships (LSTs) which were taken out of reserve at the time of 232 the Suez emergency. We can give regular employment to a number of these ships in peace time. They would also be invaluable to us in an emergency both for carrying heavy tanks and other heavy equipment and for landing operations if ports are damaged and resort has to be made to the beaches.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I appreciate the importance of what the right hon. Gentleman is saying about the kind of equipment required in the future to be airborne. Has he made any estimate of the number of transport aircraft which would be required to lift a brigade group?
§ Mr. Hare
Yes, I have, but I do not share the pessimism which is obviously being shown by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that the plans of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for building up Transport Command are inadequate. I am certain that we shall be able to get a very considerable airlift.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Would the right hon. Gentleman answer a specific question? A year ago, we were told in the Estimates debate that there was to be a 24th Independent Brigade to carry out just this function of putting out a brush fire. Would he give the Committee a categorical assurance that the 24th Independent Brigade could be transported with its equipment at present if an emergency arose?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would acquit right hon. and hon. Members of any desire to acquaint the enemy of our plans. Does he not realise, however, that unless we have an estimate, an approximate idea, of the number of aircraft required to lift a brigade, it is impossible for us to discuss this matter in a debate? We are left completely in the dark.
§ Mr. Hare
The answer is that it depends on how long we wish to take to move the brigade, how far the Brigade has to be moved, and how much heavy equipment is taken. I think that that is a very hypothetical question.
233 Apart from the strategic air transport force, the Royal Air Force will build up their force of heavy freighters for employment within a theatre of operations and, in addition, there will be light cargo aircraft for employment in the forward areas.
The Army, as I announced the other day, will have helicopters and light aircraft with an all-up weight of up to 4,000 lbs. for artillery observation and intercommunication duties.
Now I should like to say something about the Reserve Army. This includes the Army Emergency Reserve and the Territorial Army, both of which have recently been reorganised. The more we cut the size of the Regular Army, the more important become both of these forces. The Army Emergency Reserve will continue to provide essential communications and the technical and administrative services required on mobilisation by both the Territorial and the Regular Armies. It consists of specialist units and pools of skilled men who can be called upon at short notice to fill gaps in Regular units. We have relied a great deal in the last few years on National Service men who bring their specialist skills with them into the Army. A shortage of technicians is bound to become one of our major headaches. The situation will be relieved to some extent by an extension of the Army Apprentices Schools, where, I am glad to say, recruiting is good, but we shall still be heavily dependent on the Army Emergency Reserve.
The Territorial Army will again become an all-volunteer force and will have as its primary rôle that for which it was intended when it was founded half a century ago, the defence of the United Kingdom. It will continue to be organised as a fighting military force ready to defend this country. Territorial Army formations will be closely connected with Civil Defence regions so that in the event of nuclear bombardment they will be present as a disciplined force to undertake any military task.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Would my right hon. Friend say whether he is giving full recognition to the fact that there are some counties whose only link with the Army is through their Territorial regiments, whereas some are in the 234 fortunate position of having both a Regular and a Territorial Army link? Would he say that, wherever possible, he will ensure that that link is not entirely broken?
§ Mr. Hare
I will certainly give every consideration to what my hon. and gallant Friend says. It is a point that we should certainly keep high in our minds.
But I do want to stress that the T.A. will remain a strong fighting force. As an ex-Territorial myself, and some other Members of the Committee are in the same position, I do hope that the celebration of the jubilee of its foundation, which will take place next year, will mark an upturn in its fortunes, and that now that it is to be an all-volunteer force its strength will grow up again to what it was in pre-war days.
May I turn to the questions which are uppermost in the minds of most people in the Army today, realising, as they do, the many changes which will flow from the decision to create a balanced all Regular Army by the beginning of 1963? The questions, as I see them, are as follows. First, "What will be the effect on my regiment or corps?"Secondly," Shall I be affected personally? "Thirdly," If my Army career is abruptly terminated, what terms of compensation shall I get? "And, fourthly," If I am forced to retire, how much notice shall I be given? "I cannot yet give a full answer to all these questions, but I should like to take them one by one.
First, "What will be the effect on my regiment or corps?" All arms of the Service are to be substantially reduced. It is also obvious that the new Army cannot contain as large a number of regiments and battalions as we have today, however much we increase the proportion of fighting units to administrative services. This raises grave problems for every regiment and corps in the Army but, because of their traditional organisation the most difficult to solve will be problems affecting the Royal Armoured Corps and the infantry.
The question is: how can we best avoid damaging the regimental traditions which have sustained the British Army in its darkest hours and have brought it back to victory time and time again? There is a school of thought which says that a new age demands completely new 235 garments, and that the robes of regimental tradition should be altogether discarded. They argue that we should create a corps of infantry with numbered regiments of the line.
This may be a logical solution. If we were building from scratch a new Army, like the Germans are at this moment, it might well be the best answer. But the morale of the Army rests on regimental traditions, and I believe that to strike savagely at those would be wrong, and would deal a blow to recruiting prospects from which it would take many years to recover.
The Army Council is now considering all the possible other alternatives, and I hope to make an announcement before the Summer Recess. I shall certainly do so just as soon as I can, but it would be wrong to rush decisions which will vitally affect the future of the Army for many years to come. Meanwhile, I assure hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that we shall endeavour to temper as far as we can the abruptness of any break with the past.
Now I come to the second question, "Shall I be affected personally?" At present, it appears unlikely that it will be possible to work out in detail for every corps and regiment the exact number of officers and N.C.O.s who will be redundant until about the beginning of November, although, again, I am doing all that I can to improve on that date. The reason for this delay follows from what I have said about the future reorganisation. Decisions on that must come first. I can assure the Committee that all of us at the War Dffice fully understand how unsettling this period of waiting is, but it is far preferable to arrange things in an orderly manner than to issue a series of unco-ordinated decisions.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence recently announced that between 5,000 and 7,000 officers in all three Services may have to go prematurely. At this stage, I cannot say more than that the Army's share is likely to be a bit more than half of the estimate given by the Minister. The vast majority of these will be majors and lieutenant-colonels who are, or are just about, past the midway point in their careers. Officers below the rank of major should generally not be affected and, in view of the many 236 unsettling rumours which are flying about, I want to emphasise that I am confident that we shall be able to continue to offer to the officers who remain in the Service, to cadets now at Sandhurst, and to future entrants, the prospect of a good career in the Army.
Part of the reason for the delay which I have just mentioned lies in the fact that much detailed work must be done to ensure that future career prospects are not prejudiced by our new reorganisation.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
When the Minister says that we are able to offer people coming in a good career in the Army, with the assurance that it will last, is not that precisely what was promised these men with whom faith is now being broken?
§ Mr. Hare
I can only say what I genuinely believe, which is that owing to the proper working out of promotion prospects and to the other measures which we have in mind we can offer to these young men coming into the Army an excellent career.
What I have just said about the need for delay applies equally to other ranks, where, I am afraid, a forecast of numbers is even more difficult. It is fairly certain that some warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s will have to go but I am equally certain that there are certainly no surpluses of junior N.C.O.s and private soldiers; we want more of them.
Now I come to the third question, that of compensation, which I shall link with the fourth, "If I am forced to go, how much notice shall I get?" The Minister of Defence has already indicated, in broad terms, the lines on which it is intended to compensate officers and other ranks and he proposes to give further details as soon as possible. The Committee will understand that I cannot anticipate his statement today, but I can repeat that our intention is to make the terms attractive, so that individuals who leave the Army can do so without feeling that they have been unjustly treated. These men, I think we all agree, must be given a fair deal.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say that if a man gets an opportunity to settle down before the terms are announced, he will be entitled to compensation afterwards?
§ Mr. Hare
We have first to make available the terms of compensation. I was about to deal with the question of how these compensation terms were to be operated.
We shall try as far as possible to achieve the reductions on a voluntary basis. We shall invite applications from those who wish to take advantage of the terms of compensation after people have had proper time to consider these terms, and after the decisions about the future of regiments have been announced. But the Committee will realise that if we are to achieve a balanced run-down, it will not be possible to meet individuals' wishes in every case. The Army Council must retain the power to reject applications for these special compensation terms it would be dangerous for too many officers or N.C.O.s from one age group or one regiment, or with one skill, all to leave at the same time, as this would obviously unbalance considerable sections of the Army.
Finally, I hope that I can relieve anxiety to some extent by stating now that it is our intention that all individuals who are required to terminate their Army careers prematurely against their wishes will be told well in advance of the event.
Now let me come to what is probably the most difficult problem of all. The whole of our planning is dependent on our ability to attract the men we want in sufficient numbers and of sufficient quality for this all-Regular volunteer Army. We must succeed, if we are to meet our foreseeable commitments and, at the same time, dispense with National Service. How are we to do it?
To begin with, we have decided to alter the terms of engagement. The normal Army engagement will be for twenty-two years. The soldier will not have, as at present, the option of breaking after three years' service. The minimum Colour service is likely to be for six years, with six on the Reserve.
§ Mr. Hare
And renewable on a three-yearly basis afterwards.
To meet cases where recruiting is extremely difficult, and to cover National Service men who are prepared to do one year's extra service, I propose to allow some men to enlist on the 22-year engagement but to have the option as at 238 present, of breaking at the end of three years with four years' Reserve service, but these will be the exceptions. I do not want to go further into detail, as I hope to bring legislation before Parliament this Session.
Before the hon. Member for Dudley. (Mr. Wigg), who looks very well pleased, exults too much, I would point out that the intention to end National Service has quite a deal to do with this decision. I hope that he will realise that what is right in 1957 was not necessarily right in 1952.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have no intention of exulting. My heart is sad, very sad, because nobody can be certain of what the steps back will be. Once the three-year engagement has done its work the manpower structure of the Army becomes very difficult, and no one knows what will be the outcome. One thing I would ask of the right hon. Gentleman. If I have been right about this, I beg of him to look very carefully at the advantages of the suggestion of a corps of infantry before turning it down.
§ Mr. Hare
I always listen with careful attention to what the hon. Member says, because I know of his vast interest in the affairs of the Army.
The three-year short service man is, in the great majority of cases, a man described sinisterly as a disguised National Service man. If there are no National Service men there is no one left to assume the disguise and there is no point in going on with the three-year engagement further. Nor, in fact, can the reduced Army afford to carry training overheads of the size which short service demands.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
Is the Minister ending the three-year engagement now, or at the end of National Service?
§ Mr. Hare
I hope to bring legislation before Parliament this Session, but I hope to end the engagement this year.
It would be foolish to speak in terms of overconfidence about our ability to recruit the numbers we need. I do not think that any statistics derived from the past prove the matter one way or the other. The social background of the nation has changed so much over the past forty years that figures derived from the 239 years before 1939 are largely meaningless, and since 1945, National Service has really blurred the picture. But I will say this— and I do not care if it is a platitude— that the number of men the Army gets will depend almost entirely on the attractions which it can offer to them and the status which can be accorded to these soldiers of this new Army.
I have already spoken in this Committee about living accommodation, barracks and married quarters. The large reduction in the size of the Army makes the problem more manageable, but more urgent in its nature. We intend to press on with the provision of new barracks and quarters as fast as we can. I am glad to say that I hope to receive in the next few days, possibly this week, the Report of the Committee on Army Works Services, set up by my predecessor under the chairmanship of Lord Weeks. I am deeply grateful to Lord Weeks and his colleagues. They have worked with untiring zeal and urgency and I confidently believe that their recommendations will do much to speed up Army building procedure.
From what I have seen there is still quite a lot that can be done within barracks at a cost small in comparison with its effect on the soldier. I have been looking at units, both in this country and overseas, in recent months and there are some thoughts which have occurred to me. Something must be done to improve the furnishings of our various establishments. I do not believe that it is good enough that, in this day and age, soldiers should be expected to sit for their meals at trestle tables, as they did in Kipling's day. I want to see the last vestiges of hideous chocolate and dark green paint removed from living quarters.
Barracks are the soldier's home, certainly the unmarried soldier's home. I have been very impressed by the pleasing atmosphere created in barracks by the presence of members of the W.V.S. and Church societies. In canteens, libraries and restaurants, wherever one goes, their presence has an excellent effect, and I want to do everything possible to encourage the admirable work which they are doing.
In all these matters, I believe that it is essential that Parliament should 240 approach conditions of service from the standpoint of a good employer. It is inevitable that, in the course of his service, the soldier should, from time to time, have to put up with danger and hardship, discomfort and family separation, things which do not happen in ordinary civilian occupations. There was a time when such benefits as free medical services, long service pensions and free schooling were more readily available in the Army than in civil life. In view of the improvement in the conditions of civil employment in the past twenty years, that is no longer the case.
I have already spoken about accommodation. Apart from that, there is, I believe, the need to provide in stations overseas amenities comparable to those which the soldier can find when he leaves barracks in a small town at home. There are, at present, many places abroad, where, to say the least, the facilities for a young man to occupy his time between his last duty and his first parade next morning are, to describe them mildly, extremely meagre. I am setting up a working party to see what can be done to bring our practice more into line with, for example, what commercial companies do for their staffs in comparable circumstances.
Then there is the question of stability. Everyone knows the difficulties caused by sudden changes and postings of individuals during the post-war years. As we build up to an all-Regular force it will be possible to do much to improve the situation.
Family separations are another problem of the same sort. I am tackling this in various ways; by pressing on with the building of married quarters and by examining the difficulties of married men and of families who are temporarily separated.
Hon. Members will know that we have recently done something substantial about rations, the scale of which was increased on 1st April last, with meat as a big feature. I believe that there is something to be said for the ancient toast of a famous club, "Beef and Liberty". If we expect our forces to preserve our liberty we should feed them well.
Despite intermittent efforts, from time to time there is still too much paper and form-filling in the Army. Soldiers do not join the Army to fill in forms although 241 far too many of them find themselves doing precisely that. We must try to tackle this problem again, and I hope that I shall have the support of hon. Members on both sides in my efforts. It is not an easy problem, since, in the last resort, much of it stems from our traditional system of parliamentary control of finance.
Then there are the matters affecting the soldier and his family at the end of his service. Foremost, is the question of post-service employment. A good deal has been done in this direction already, for both officers and other ranks, but a great deal more still has to be done. Personally, I shall not be satisfied until a young man, after he has been in the Army for six or nine years, finds himself no worse placed in a civilian occupation than his contemporary who has not been in the Army at all. I do not think that we should merely accept that as a counsel of perfection. I do not think that we can honestly say that we owe anything less to the soldier than that.
Finally, I believe that there should be a greater recognition of the status of the volunteer soldier in the modern community. We must get away from the idea that our peace-time Army is merely an expensive encumbrance on the national economy. Our homes, our freedom, our industrial progress, our welfare, all these things depend on the soldier's readiness to come forward. We, each one of us, have a duty, I believe, to see that the community pays recognition and respect to those who dedicate themselves to its service.
The new Army which we look to will be based on the volunteer spirit and, therefore, on the traditions of the Regular Army of the past. Weapons may change, but the spirit and courage of the man behind them is what ultimately counts. I have every confidence that the soldiers of the future will serve their country with the same devotion as those who fought to preserve us in the past.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I congratulate the Secretary of State upon his survey this year. If he will permit me to say so, I congratulate him with very special sincerity, because he had most interesting things to tell us and he told them in a most interesting way. The whole Committee appreciated that. 242 Naturally, with some of the things he said I do not find myself in complete agreement, but with the observation made at the very beginning I very much agree. He suggested that in the Army Estimates this afternoon we pass for a time from what I can only call the terrible melodrama of the hydrogen bomb to a consideration of the more familiar old-fashioned weapons of the Army. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that far from destroys the interest of the discussion.
In many respects, I am much more interested in the relatively old-fashioned, conventional weapons. After all, our interest in nuclear warfare of the hydrogen bomb type is likely to be for the most part what I might call a posthumous interest. I am more interested in precisely what is to be the rôle of our land forces, because they, it seems to me, are the forces most likely to be able to prevent global war from breaking out. What has been called the fire-extinguisher rôle, especially of our land conventional forces, is of the highest interest. Therefore, paradoxically enough, what has almost become a symbol of all our conventional forces, the man with the rifle, is not only as important as ever but is, perhaps, even more important today than hitherto.
Mention of the man with the rifle brings me to my first point of criticism. In the rather glittering catalogue of re-equipment and rearming which the Secretary of State laid before us— all as a prospect of the future, of course— one feature which I found rather disturbing was his reference in the Memorandum to the new F.N. rifle. Once again, all we are told is that production will begin in this country. Six years ago, when we left office, we were being told that it would take two years to tool up production for that rifle, but now, six years later, all we can be told is that it really will begin this year. I hope and trust that it will, because I regard the self-loading rifle as one of the most important pieces of re-equipment for our land forces.
Troop trials have taken place, I know, but they have been carried out with rifles purchased from Belgium. It is not a very encouraging prospect for all the other very important features of re-equipment for our land forces which we are promised that there should be this extremely slow-motion record on the rifle which we have had from year to year to emphasise. 243 However, better late than never. I agree that, for precisely the fire-extinguisher rôle, the self-loading rifle will be something of the greatest importance.
The Secretary of State referred to the other side of the Army's work, the nuclear and tactical nuclear weapons with which the Army is to be equipped. We have, no doubt, got to have them; they have to be there in the background because, if the worst happened and a general war began, the West would, no doubt, attempt to fight that war with tactical nuclear weapons without introducing the ultimate deterrent—it would be too late to call it a deterrent then— of thermo-nuclear weapons and the hydrogen bomb.
I myself have always felt that it was a fairly forlorn hope to imagine that one could limit a war at that point, having reached the point of using tactical nuclear weapons. Once it reached that point, it is almost certain, I have always felt, that the conflict would go the whole way to thermo-nuclear weapons and all that they would mean. I come back, therefore, to the feeling that the really important thing is to have highly efficient, though not necessarily large, fire-extinguisher forces armed with all the very best non-nuclear weapons. It is at that point that an incipient war can very likely be stopped.
As the Secretary of State went on to say, the arming of our conventional land forces is only part of the story. There is also the highly important question of how we are to organise them. I am not going to plunge into the quite hot military controversy about that question— I do not pretend for a moment that I have the technical military knowledge to give a view about it— but I should like to make just two observations from the political angle on the reorganisation of our land forces in general, and, of course, of our divisions in Germany and our contribution to N.A.T.O., in particular.
From what the Secretary of State said today and what the Under-Secretary said the other day— I would say, in passing, how interested we are, and glad too, to see the Under-Secretary in his place on the Front Bench this afternoon— I understand that our present four divisions in Germany are to be reorganised as eight brigade groups, each of these brigade 244 groups, whether armoured or infantry, to consist essentially of four major units. That is what I might call, for short, the provisional War Office view of what ought to be done.
The alternative view is that our four divisions in Germany should be reorganised— everybody agrees that they must be reorganised; that is not in question— much more on similar lines to those of our allies, the French and the Americans, and, as I gather seems probable, the new German forces will be organised.
The essence of that would be that they would be kept still in four divisions, although divisions of a new and much smaller character, but each of them consisting of five major units. Therefore, we would have four divisions of five major units— in the case of armoured divisions, five combat groups and, in the case of infantry divisions, five enlarged infantry battalions, each with supporting armed services, signals and the rest.
I do not pretend to know the balance of advantage in the military argument. Both ways of doing it add up. I gather, to about the same figure of 60,000— 70,000 men in Germany. One notices, at once, however, two political points.
If we do it the way that we are contemplating and the way which has been described to us, in eight brigade groups, we produce armed forces organised in a markedly different way to those of our Allies in N.A.T.O. I agree that they are a little more like them than our present organisation, but, despite what the Secretary of State says, they would be organised, surely, appreciably differently from the new divisional formation now being adopted, I understand, by the French and the Americans and to be adopted by the Germans. The essence of their Scheme is that there are the five major units instead of the four and for that reason, I suppose, the thing is still called a division and not a brigade group.
I should regard it as very unfortunate if our troops were to be organised in so markedly different a way and with so markedly different a structure to our allies in a joint N.A.T.O. force. I do not for one moment say that it is a decisive consideration if all the other considerations were the other way, but it is one which should be taken seriously into account.
245 Secondly— this is, frankly, a psychological point, but it should not be written off on that account— it means that by our present way of doing the job we cannot still claim to keep four divisions in Germany. And as the Government have found in recent weeks, our European allies are extremely divisional-minded. They think in terms of divisions.
Looking at it at first sight, as those of us who have been on the Continent recently have found, the first impression in Continental military circles was that we were to have no divisions at all in Germany. Then, they have looked at the brigade groups proposal and have seen that there will be eight brigade groups, which they add up at once to two and two-thirds divisions. And they feel that this is an enormous reduction in British forces.
Again, I do not say that that is an overwhelming or decisive consideration, but it is an important one, and a quite unnecessary degree of alarm and despondency has been caused amongst our allies and in N.A.T.O. because of the choice of the four-major-unit pattern instead of the five-major-unit pattern. In the case of the four-major-unit pattern, it cannot be called a division, whereas the five major units can he and are called a division and our allies themselves are calling them a division. Therefore, they could not possibly object to our continuing to call them four divisions. It is a purely psychological point, but I put it to the Government as one which is not speculative but which, we have found, has done a good deal of harm in N.A.T.O. circles.
Therefore, unless this is now finally decided— and I understood the Secretary of State and also the Minister of Defence and the Government generally to say that it was not finally decided— it might be worth while to look at it again. These two considerations arc of a good deal of importance. Unless the balance of military advantage can be proved to be overwhelmingly on the side of the brigade group type of reorganisation— if it can, of course, that would overrule everything else— I should have thought that the relative uniformity with our allies and the psychological advantage of still having four divisions in Germany were considerations of a good deal of moment.
246 Those are the considerations which come to my mind on the subject of organisation. It is, however, as the Secretary of State himself made clear, no use having either the right arms or the right forms of organisation, unless we have the men to arm and to organise. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to spend most of my time on this question of manpower, which is obviously the main question before us this afternoon in these Army Estimates.
Are we going to get the men to man the all-Regular professional Army of 160,000 men which the Government have proposcde160,000 male other ranks, as I understand it? That is the target at which we have to aim. The Secretary of State has told us something about his present plans. We start, after all, from the present level of recruiting, which, the right hon. Gentleman has told us in his Memorandum, was 38,500 last year. I agree, of course, that that does not have much meaning for his future plans, because much of that figure comprises three-year men who are not Regulars in this sense.
What we have really to think of, surely, is an all-Regular Army which we maintain by a considerably lower rate of recruiting per year than that. I do not think there is any possibility of getting that rate of genuine Regular recruits per year. Therefore each recruit will have to stay on for a considerably longer time.
§ Mr. John Hare
I did not give a figure of 160,000. We have not actually settled the numbers for the Army. Our conception is, as laid down by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, that of the 370,000 rather more than two-fifths would be the share of the Army.
§ Mr. Strachey
That, of course, was where I got the figure. I am not suggesting that it has been settled to within a thousand by any means.
The Secretary of State will agree, surely, that that size of Army must be fed and maintained, if it is to be fed and maintained by all-voluntary methods, by a much fewer number of recruits than we get today, but each of them staying in the Army for a good deal longer. The right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged that from what he said concerning the three-year service.
247 I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. One can think of an Army of that size being maintained by an inflow of about 20,000 men a year, each of whom serves, on the average, for eight years. That would about do it. Probably some pattern of that sort is the best way and the best expectation of maintaining an Army of that size. That is roughly the old pre-conscription pattern.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that things are very different today, but that is all the evidence we have. If we look at the inter-war years, for example, it was always a pattern in which considerably more recruits than that— more like between 25,000– 30,000 a year— were obtained, the biggest single slice of them on the 7-year engagement, but some for six years and some even for three years. So we got a slightly different pattern of a rather larger number of recruits serving a rather shorter time. It must surely be on some pattern of that sort that the Government can expect to get their men. In that case, they would have a rather larger Army, too. Those pre-war figures gave an Army of something like 200,000. So we would not need as many as that.
Is this an attainable pattern? Is it attainable for us to get an Army of that sort? Is it attainable for the Army, and is the corresponding pattern attainable for the Armed Forces as a whole? We are told that we have to get 375,000 men. I do not know what pattern the Minister of Defence has in mind, but I should say that one ought to aim at something like 35,000 on 10.5, or something like that, average years of service, allowing for the fact that the average in the other Forces, especially the Navy, is a good deal longer.
Those seem to me at first sight to be, in the long run, attainable patterns, though by no means easy to attain. I doubt whether they are fully attainable on the present number of men available, which is about 330,000 men, in what the Continentals call the class or the age group which comes up each year. But that number, fortunately, will rise, and rise substantially, in the 'sixties to 400,000 and in the mid-'sixties to well above that number.
248 We have to write that down by something like 25 per cent., I presume, for medical unfitness, and we thus get a class in the critical years of something like 300,000. That would suggest that we would have to get a little over 10 per cent.— something like 11 per cent. or a little more— of the available men to volunteer for one or other of the Armed Forces. In my opinion, that is still a fairly formidable task. It is not nearly as formidable as the task which the Minister of Labour and National Service suggested that we should have to face if we abolished National Service.
The Committee will remember that last July, when the Government were arguing against the abolition of National Service and we on these benches were pressing it, the Minister of Labour and National Service said that it was quite impossible to do it because we would have to get 20 per cent. of the available men to volunteer. He quite truly said that that was an unattainable percentage. At that time, however, the Government were claiming that we had to have much larger Armed Forces than they now accept. Now it has decided to abolish National Service, the Government seem to be going to the other extreme and to be suggesting that it is quite easy to get the men. I do not think it is easy at all, but I think that with these figures it is an attainable objective, granted that some pretty drastic decisions are taken by way of inducements, about which the Secretary of State began to speak, and that they are taken earlier.
That brings me on to his announcement about the three-year period of Regular engagement and its abolition. I am not one of those like my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) who regarded the three-year engagement as a hideous mistake. I think that as part of the National Service system it was a perfectly understandable thing, and I was never willing to join with my hon. Friend in an all-out attack on the Minister— the previous Secretary of State— for introducing it. It was pretty successful during the period of National Service. Again I also think that the recruit to the Army today, certainly if he makes the Army his life career, should have the right to give notice, as it were, although in the case of the Armed Forces he must give long notice, that he wishes to leave 249 at the end of the next three-year period. I am glad to notice that the Secretary of State will retain that right.
I also agree with him, however, that in an all-volunteer Army it is quite right that the War Office, the Government and the country should say to the men that their initial period of engagement must he substantially longer than three years. Because we invest a lot in the men by way of training and the like, and, therefore, they must sign for a substantially longer period. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has chosen six years, and I dare say that that is the right period to fix. He might have gone even longer, but it might have been a dis-inducement to recruiting, and I can well believe that six years is the right term. The right hon. Gentleman might, of course, have taken the view that it would he better to keep the three-year engagement until the end of National Service, but I think that, on the whole, he is right in abolishing it now. He must expect a sharp drop in apparent Regular recruiting from having clone that, but he will he building up a long-service Force from this year onwards, and I think he is right to do that.
Now, I come to the passages in his speech in which he spoke about the redundancies of officers, senior N.C.O.s and warrant officers. I am bound to say — though I am not blaming him— that I could not help feeling that this was by far the least satisfactory part of his speech. It was a most unfortunate juxtaposition that he had to say that and then immediately go on to say that we are relying for the future entirely on voluntary recruiting and on men making their careers in the Armed Forces. Is there not some way in which we can get over this very grave disincentive which we are creating to men making their careers in the Armed Forces, this disincentive of compulsorily retiring a good many men today? I realise, of course, that one thing which the right hon. Gentleman must not do, and which his colleagues must not do, is to keep these men on in such a way as to block the road to promotion for the younger men. That would be even worse, and of course he must not do that. It would be a disastrous disincentive; but are there no ways round this difficulty?
250 After all, Lord Tedder's speech in another place has been a pretty formidable warning. He may have overstated the case, but it is not a speech to be lightly written off. Cannot various devices— and I can only suggest one or two— be thought of, because I should have thought that the ingenuity of the Departments, if they really got going on this question, might produce something which would go a very long way to preventing men, and certainly all the warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s— a more manageable problem, as I understand it — being compulsorily retired? If it came to the point, is it not worth while establishing special extra posts for these men? There is an enormous amount of work which may or may not be undertaken by the civilian backing of the Army today. There is only too much of this administrative work.
Again, there is the question of the Commonwealth forces. We are often told that it is impossible to raise forces in Africa and the like— and I remember being told it constantly during my period of office— because it was impossible to provide the senior warrant officers and N.C.O.s for them. In the Commonwealth forces themselves, those of Australia, New Zealand. Canada and elsewhere, who raise their own forces, and which have and need well-qualified officers as well as senior warrant officers and N.C.O.s, surely a good many positions can be found for men who wish to go on with their military lives? If that was proved impossible, there is the question of putting them, if necessary as civilians, into the increasing volume of work which we are told is being undertaken on a civilian basis for the Armed Forces.
If that were looked at imaginatively, and if the Treasury could be induced to see that it might be one of the most false economies in the world compulsorily to retire these men, because it would make it far more expensive to get the recruits which are needed, surely this can be arranged, I would have thought, by putting the target as high in the case of N.C.O.s and warrant officers as to say that there should be no compulsory retirement. I should like to say the same thing of officers, but I suppose I shall be told that that is a much bigger and more difficult problem. At any rate, in the former, and if possible in the latter, 251 too, I am very doubtful whether compulsory retirement in this situation will not prove a very false economy, to put it no higher than that. It is bound to prove a great personal tragedy for many men. I would have thought that the Government ought to look at this most seriously again.
The Secretary of State turned next to the question of conditions of service and spoke warmly and very well of the conditions of barracks and the like. I trust that we are to have a vigorous programme— as I am sure we are— in the modernisation of barracks and the rest. The right hon. Gentleman did not specifically mention married quarters, and I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what is the position there? Is it yet satisfactory? I am not making a party point, because if the record is not good it is partly our responsibility, certainly, but I was struck by the two figures given in the R.A.F. Memorandum and in the Army Memorandum. The R.A.F. since the war has built over 16,000 married quarters, and now has 3,000 under construction. The Army, which is much the bigger force, has built only 10,000, and we are not told how many are under construction. I realise that the Army started with a bigger stock, but, even so, is that a satisfactory rate?
Have any of us, during our periods of office, ever really got the house-building machinery of the Army running as well and efficiently as the house-building machine of the Royal Air Force is running, regarding these two Services as housing authorities, which, indeed, they are under the Act? I would have thought that the Army has not yet shown a good enough record. Of course, I may be told that this will largely solve itself by the shrinkage in size. The Secretary of State shakes his head and, I think, is indicating that it would not, and I agree with him, surely largely because of the considerably larger proportion of the smaller Army likely to be posted at home at any given time. Therefore, I would have thought that a redoubled effort in this field was needed.
Now I come to the question of pay, which is a very big question. The Secretary of State did not deal with it today, and I do not know whether it was because he felt, as I know some people say, that pay is satisfactory today. I often 252 hear it said that pay is not everything, and that one ought not to stress it too heavily because men join the Armed Forces for all sorts of other and higher reasons— patriotism, the desire for a military life and the like. It is very true that pay is not everything and that these people do join for all these idealistic reasons, but none of them is a good reason for under-paying the men who do join. It is in fact a very bad reason for doing so, and when we are told that pay is satisfactory, what does it mean?
I would only say that pay is satisfactory— and this is a hard-boiled way of looking at it— when it is attracting the number of men whom we have got to get for the Service. My earlier training and inclination was as an economist, and, in the economists' rather soul-less phrase, they talk about "a supply price." There is no doubt "a supply price"in any given circumstances for the men whom we want to encourage to join the Services, and the pay is not satisfactory if we find by actual experience that we are not paying "the supply price"; that is, the price which gives us the supply of men that we need. Nor do I believe this evidence which is sometimes produced that higher pay would not increase the number of men offering their services.
I do not know if the Secretary of State noticed it, but I was very much impressed by a notice in The Times in the latter part of January last ĩn which were given figures of the number of men applying from this country— from this labour market of which we are speaking here— for admission to the New Zealand Air Force. The New Zealand Air Force was offering a starting rate of pay— comparable with our starting pay in the Services of about £9 or £10 per week, and in the first half of January it is reported that they were getting applications at the rate of 4,000 a month. It shows the remarkable effect of a really high offer of pay, but, of course, the circumstances are very different, and I do not draw any exact analogy.
I think we are wrong, however, in thinking that really adequate pay does not have, other things being equal, a very important influence. All I would say here is that if we are to have an all-volunteer Regular Force, we have just got 253 to pay what turns out to be the necessary rate, and, more than that, we have got to go on paying what turns out to be the necessary rate, and to revise these rates quite frequently, if necessary. It is not by any means impossible or undesirable, in our opinion, that if wage rates in the civilian world go on rising steadily, the pay of the Services must also keep pace with them. This is the market in which the Services must put in their bid and keep their bid competitive, because it is only the market which judges what is competitive and what is not. Therefore, I suggest to the Government as a whole that they should keep this pay question closely under review and see by experience whether they are getting an adequate inflow of recruits.
These are my suggestions on the question of getting the men, but I would not feel confident, and I do not pretend that I would feel absoultely confident, that, with all that, and if all that is done, we shall recruit an Army today of 160,000 men. What are we then to do? I was very interested in the discussion which went on here yesterday on the Navy Estimates, when a number of speakers made the suggestion and pressed it very hard that we should very greatly increase the size of the Corps of Royal Marines. The Naval figures are interesting, and therefore I looked them up. After all, we have been recruiting for the Navy some 110,000 men.
As I understand it from the proportions given by the Minister of Defence, we shall only need sufficient naval recruiting to keep up a Navy of the order of 75,000 men. We know from experience that we can get naval recruits for a Navy of 110,000 men. Why not go on doing that in the form presumably of a corps of Marines, or in any other way, getting substantial Marines forces, or forces to perform the functions of the Marines, something in the nature of a Marine division, whether organised like that or not, to supplement the land forces in a really important way?
Speakers yesterday described eloquently, and with greater knowledge than I have, the particular suitability of the Corps of Royal Marines to form the spearhead of the expeditionary forces, which is obviously one of the functions for which 254 we are maintaining our land forces. I would have thought that something in the nature of really substantial forces— 20,000 or 30,000— in effect a Marine division, air transportable so far as possible, would he appropriate.
I agree that when we talk of our expeditionary forces being air transportable we are a very long way from their being air transportable with all their equipment in one jump. They would have to be sea transportable as well. However, a spearhead can be air transportable. Indeed, there is already a Marine spearhead in the form of the Marine Commandos which is actually airborne. That has great attractions, because it might reduce the Army requirement by a corresponding figure. If we can get the total of men we want in that way, we shall have to be much more flexible in our approach to the matter.
Of course, I can think of all sorts of objections to this suggestion, and no doubt the Departments could think of a thousand objections to it. There is no doubt that it would mix up the Navy and the Army to a considerable extent, but is that altogether an objection? When we all ponder this question of the unification of the three Forces, the more it seems that their complete, final unification is at one and the same time quite indispensible and quite impossible. And when a thing is both indispensible and impossible, ought riot one to approach it by degrees? — in this case by mixing, deliberately perhaps, the Forces in such proposed amalgamation as that of the Fleet Air Arm and Coastal Command, as well as in this suggestion of a Marine division.
No doubt such hybrids would cause headaches to the Departments. The difficulties of administration would be considerable. There are all sorts of objections in the way of private armies, with their career structures and the like. I can see those difficulties, but I feel that they might have to be over-ridden because of the over-riding necessity of getting the men somehow, and of approaching the unification of the Forces.
I stress to the Government that these questions do not brook much delay. The time-table the Government have set is not a rapid one, but even under that timetable there arc only three and a half years until the last call-up. Two years after 255 that, the last National Service man will go out of the Forces, and in 1963 we shall be entirely dependent on voluntary recruiting. So there is no time to waste if it is a solid and definite decision to abolish National Service.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to comment on that question, whether it is a hard and fast decision of the Government to abolish National Service or not. I find myself a little bewildered on this issue. I will read to the Committee three of the rather varied and different statements which have been made on this issue, because it ought to be made clear. The most definite statement was made by the Minister of Defence, and it was made in the most public way conceivable, on the television, when he was interviewed by Mr. Muggeridge recently. Mr. Muggeridge asked this question:And it has been suggested that when you say that National Service is going to end in 1960, that is not an obligation. What would you say about that?The Minister of Defence replied:Not at all. That is quite untrue. It is an absolutely firm decision by the Government. The decision is that National Service will end in 1960. By that I mean that the last call-up will be in 1960 and the last National Service man will leave the Forces in 1962.One would not have thought anything could have been more definite than that statement, but it contrasts oddly with the words of the White Paper, which are:The Government have accordingly decided to plan on the basis that there will be no further call-up under the National Service Acts after the end of 1960.… It must nevertheless be understood that if voluntary recruiting fails to produce the numbers required, the country will have to face the need for some limited form of compulsory service to bridge the gap.Far more indefinite still was the statement of the Prime Minister in the recent Defence debate, when he said:We hope to move to all-Regular forces, which will give us Services of equal, if not greater, fighting strength than those at our command. We hope to make them mobile and streamlined. We hope to civilianise where necessary the tail, while retaining the striking power of the fighting units. All this, if we can achieve it, will be a great relief to our economy and to our national Life in every form."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1957; Vol. 568, c. 2051]Is this more than a conditional suggestion that if things go well we shall abolish 256 National Service? Is it the perfectly clear, forthright, cast-iron statement made over the television by the Minister of Defence? I feel that the country is justified in asking what is the Government's real policy.
Unless the abolition of National Service is made as a hard and fast decision, irrevocable except in the event of the outbreak of war— a new Korea or something of that kind which none of us can foresee— I do not believe the thing will be done. I believe that it is only if the decision is made as hard and fast as the Minister of Defence made it over the television that anything will get done. So the Government, and the Prime Minister himself, really ought to reaffirm that, and to clear up the considerable ambiguity of his own statement in the defence debate.
Frankly, unless that is done we shall not believe that the Government are facing this issue with full seriousness. We shall believe that they are going ahead, of course, on the basis and expectation that they hope National Service will be abolished, but not really with clear-cut plans for doing it; that they are drifting onwards wondering what is to happen, with the country also drifting onwards wondering what is to happen. In that event we shall come more and more to the view that the Government are banking confidently on the fact of their own defeat at the next Election, banking on the expectation that they will not be there to face the issue. That would be a very easy way out of it for them, but I am not really suggesting that this would be a possible policy for any Government. So we want a clear-cut reassertion of the unequivocal statement of the Minister of Defence which has been watered down by the Prime Minister in the House. Above all, more than any statements, we want action which proves to us that the Government are in earnest about getting the men.
I have made five suggestions. One of them has actually been adopted by the Secretary of State, namely, the abolition of the -three-year period, which he has announced. I suggest that there should be a really determined effort to prevent the compulsory termination of the careers of N.C.O.s, warrant officers and officers, that there should be a bigger drive— and we should like to have definite facts and figures at the earliest moment possible 257 on this— on married quarters, barracks, conditions of service; that there shall be a willingness to give whatever rates of pay prove indispensable. Lastly, there should be a serious consideration of something in the nature of a substantial corps of Marines of the type that has been suggested.
When we see the Government moving on these and many other suggestions, with determination to get the men, we shall really believe that the decision to abolish National Service was hard and fast.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I apologise to the Committee for rising rather early in the debate, and I ask for the indulgence which hon. Members so generously give to new and nervous speakers. My trepidation is increased by the knowledge that my distinguished predecessor had already established his reputation and career as a Government Whip at the time when I was a private soldier serving on a Regular engagement of seven years.
Perhaps it is not inappropriate that the Member for Beckenham should say a few words in this debate at a time when the Army is thinking of turning towards rocket warfare. For the people of Beckenham already know much about rocket warfare, and no constituency was harder hit in the days of V.1s and V.2s. Indeed, we still see the scars of those early guided missiles not far from the High Street of Beckenham.
This afternoon I want to talk of a form of warfare rather less remote, for during the past twelve months I have been fortunate enough to see our Army in action in Kenya and at Suez. In many ways it was pleasant to see old friends again, to meet old traditions, to feel the spirit of comradeship and loyalty. In other respects, it was less pleasant. It was less pleasant to meet again old and familiar and unfortunately antiquated equipment.
I have every sympathy with the battalion in Cyprus which, shortly after the Suez operation, decided to invite some of their French comrades to visit them. They wanted to show some new equipment, but they found they had nothing to show their French allies. So they went to some Turkish policemen nearby and borrowed from them four of 258 the new Sterling sub-machine guns, to which my right hon. Friend referred this afternoon. They duly showed them to the French, who were much impressed, because they are excellent weapons. It seems slightly odd that Turkish gendarmes in Cyprus should have these new guns, that the Kenya Police Reserve should have had these new guns for almost three years, whereas our airborne forces in the Suez operation had to rely on out-of-date Sten guns.
I fully sympathise with the problems which face my right hon. Friend when it comes to equipment. On the one hand, there are people like myself, who say that it is deplorable that the Army should have out-of-date weapons and equipment and, on the other hand, there are people like myself who say that it is deplorable that the Secretary of State should have chosen to re-equip an Army at this time, because if he had waited for only a few more months he would have been able to get a much better sort of weapon for the Army.
I find myself using both arguments about wireless sets, because I was much distressed to find in Kenya and at Suez that our wireless sets were only too often out of date, and, indeed, the same wireless sets with which I unsuccessfully wrestled some thirteen or fourteen years ago. I ought to welcome the decision to introduce the new and greatly improved wireless sets to which the Secretary of State referred this afternoon, but I find myself thinking that it might have been better to have waited a few months or years, because in other countries a revolution in signals equipment is taking place and, if not now, they will fairly soon be equipped with transistor sets, which are much lighter and much more compact and would seem to give a much better performance than those which we are now introducing.
It seems a pity to introduce at very great expense equipment which must all too soon be obsolete. When soldiers receive out of date and inefficient equipment, the more knowledgeable officers are all too ready to blame the Ministry of Supply. In many cases that blame is misplaced, but there is some ground for the criticism of the Ministry of Supply about wireless sets because, at the moment, the Ministry is not dealing effectively with that problem.
259 The experts and officials at the Ministry of Supply are giving too much priority to the more remote schemes for electronic development, and the Royal Air Force is all too often scooping the rest of the pool. It may be desirable and pleasant to maintain constant wireless communication with an artificial earth satellite revolving around the world, but that is not much consolation to a company slogging across forest or mountain range and totally unable to maintain contact with its near neighbours. I should like my right hon. Friend to look into the matter of the Ministry of Supply and the development of wireless sets.
I should like him also to consider whether it is not possible to extend the tour of certain officers in the War Office who advise on technical questions on equipment, for it seems that only too often they are posted away as soon as they have mastered their highly complex jobs. Finally, I should like him to tackle with renewed vigour, as I know he is already doing, the problem of surpluses.
The Treasury says quite rightly that the Services cannot have new equipment while they continue to have large stocks of material left over from previous engagements. No sensible man would willingly order large numbers of electric razors while hoping to get rid of 8 million razor blades. However, at the moment that rule may be cutting across operational efficiency.
The Secretary of State referred to the Saladin armoured car. I have reason to believe that this excellent armoured car was almost strangled at birth, if one can strangle at birth an armoured car, because the Treasury said that there were far too many old Daimler scout cars still left from the last war. I should like my right hon. Friend to look most carefully at the matter of surplus stores.
Like many others, I believe that the only danger of nuclear warfare comes from a local war spreading and getting out of control, and I believe that a strong if small British Army is the best deterrent to local war. It would be an international tragedy if our military prowess were to be buried beneath a great mountain of surplus battle dress.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), who has successfully jumped the hurdle of his maiden speech. He has done it in a magnificent manner; but in a manner which one would expect from the son of so distinguished a father. The hon. Member showed a mastery of his subject, and his delivery was such that I am sure the House will be very pleased to hear him on many an occasion. May I most sincerely— not something formal now— congratulate the hon. Member on his speech this afternoon?
I am sure that everyone on this side of the Committee welcomes the reduction in expenditure on armaments. I say "on this side of the Committee" because, after what we heard last night concerning certain Members on that side, I am not sure that it is true about hon. Members opposite. Some of us have been advocating this for the last six years, because we knew that it was impossible for the economy of the country to sustain the expenditure over the last six years.
I particularly welcome the Government's decision to end conscription in three years' time, but I am sorry that they have not ended it immediately. A few months ago we heard the Minister of Labour declare that a large number of those people who are doing National Service training are wasting their time and, as a country, we cannot afford to have anyone wasting his time. I am sorry that the Government did not see their way clear to declaring that conscription, which is so alien to us as British people, should come to an end next year at the latest.
I want to turn to a matter which is exercising considerable concern in my constituency of Merioneth. Perhaps I should preface my remarks by reminding the Committee of the difficult unemployment problem which we have in that part of the country and in the neighbouring counties of Caernarvon and Anglesey. Indeed, North-West Wales has the highest percentage of unemployment today in the whole country. Not only is there no employment to be found there, but there is constant emigration from that part to other parts of the country, and even to outside its borders.
261 For about fifty years the Army has had a camp at Trawsfynydd, and it is now regarded as an integral part of the life of the community. More than sixty people have been employed there. We understand that the camp is to be closed, and we can fully understand the reason. If this reduction in expenditure is to be continued, more and more camps will be closed. I must point out that the closing of this camp gives rise to extreme problems of unemployment. No alternative work is to be found nearby. The majority of the people live in the village of Trawsfynydd, which is adjacent to the camp.
It may well be that if the camp were situated in an industrial area alternative employment could quite easily be found for them. As a matter of fact, during the last defence debate the Minister of Defence said:I myself do not see that there is much fear, with the expanding economy of this country, that people displaced from war production will not find other productive work."— [OFFICTAT REPORT, 16th April, 1957; Vol. 568, c 1775.]I have no quarrel with that observation. It is a fair comment to make, and perfectly true generally speaking, but not true speaking particularly, as I am doing this afternoon. It is not true about Trawsfynydd, and it would not be true of the whole county, and it would not he true of the area of Gwynedd, comprising the three counties which I have named previously. We have been striving to induce industrialists to come to the area and establish new industries.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Am I mistaken in believing that my hon. Friend was one of those people who laid down on a path to stop soldiers coming to Trawsfynydd?
§ Mr. Jones
I am sure that my hon. Friend does not wish to associate me with the acrobatic antics of the Welsh Nationalist Party. Those people were not natives of Trawsfynydd. This afternoon I am speaking on behalf of the people of Trawsfynydd and voicing the fears they expressed to me when I was there only a fortnight ago.
I should like the Minister to give serious consideration to closing the camp. There must be a last camp to be closed. 262 Why not make this one the last? Why not give it that priority in reverse?
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Should not the first ordnance factory to be closed down be one in Birmingham? [An HON. MEMBER: "Or Bermondsey."] Or Bermondsey?
§ Mr. Jones
I am asking the Minister to postpone this until he has done something else about which I asked him a supplementary question the other day. I want him to consult with the President of the Board of Trade to see whether some other industry can be brought to the area of this camp. If that can be done, they can close the camp as soon as they like. They can close every camp in the country— not only in the country but in the world. The sooner camps are closed, the better it will be for our world.
However, I am pressing the Minister to do this. Here we have splendid buildings which can be used for factory purposes. I am sure that between them the two Ministers responsible for the Army should be able to persuade some one to use these buildings and the splendid labour force which also is to be found in Trawsfynydd.
I listened to the Minister declaring in his speech how he thought that he should do justice to the officers of the Army who become redundant, by paying them compensation. I wonder whether the workers who have spent their lives at this camp are not equally justified in expecting compensation. Why not? What is the difference between a man in uniform and a man in civilian clothing who has been serving his country? These men have given the best years of their lives at this camp. I am sure that if the Minister can justify giving handsome compensation to officers who become redundant the same should be applied to the workers who have been doing civilian jobs at the camp.
I hope that the Minister will not say that this is merely a constituency matter. In view of the situation prevailing there I beg the two Ministers to do all in their power to alleviate the position which will 263 arise in this area in the very near future. I understand that some people have already been declared redundant.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I hope that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) will not accuse me of discourtesy if I do not follow him into the Welsh valleys. One day I will come down and see them. He has made his point, and I do not wish to make any comment on it or to try to deal with it.
I should like humbly to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War on his speech on the Army Estimates. As has already been said, it was most interesting and forceful. If he carries out his plans with the force with which he has outlined them today, there is a very good future ahead for our new Army. There is no doubt that this is a stepping stone in the history of the British Army, and the changes will control the pattern of our forces for the next fifty years. I therefore suggest to my right hon. Friend that it is supremely important that the decisions which have been made on organisation and rôle should be put into effect slowly and with every possible consideration As my right hon. Friend said, it is not a matter which should be rushed into lightly.
There are, in my view, two main problems One is the problem of recruiting and the other is that of the organisation for the carrying out of the various rôles of the Army. I will deal first with recruiting. The one thing uppermost in my mind is that in the olden days the Army was a way of life. In some way or other we must bring back that way of life. It has been lost during the days of National Service, when it has been very much a question, for the Regulars, of all work and very little play, largely due to the fact that they have had large numbers of National Service men to train and that as soon as the latter were trained, out they went and new men came in.
It was all very frustrating, and there was little time for people really to enjoy themselves in the Army. That will cure itself as National Service slowly disappears. But there is another problem. Whether we like it or not— and personally I think that from the point of view of the Service it is a bad thing—men in 264 the Service are getting married at a much younger age than they used to do. There was a time when it was a golden rule that one did not get married before the age of 27. That rule is no longer obeyed, and men are now marrying at a much earlier age than they did
This gives rise to a great deal of grousing and discontent, because inevitably men must be moved from one part of the country to another, and the cost of moving, as well as the disturbance involved, tends to make people disgruntled. I believe that the War Office and my right hon. Friend could do a lot to mitigate that. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend realises the number of times that people are moved? Perhaps he could try to limit the moves in a stated period. If people are moved they must be given proper compensatory grants. I am not sure whether I am absolutely right in my facts, but I believe that there was a time when a grant of £100 was given in one year whether one moved four times or only once. That matter should be examined very carefully indeed.
There is another point about married families. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend knows it, but there have been camps set up for married families to go into when the husbands go abroad to areas where the wives and children cannot be taken. There is a camp at Emsworth. I have not seen it, but I have heard the most appalling stories about that camp. One of the most idiotic things done there was to provide central cooking. In other words, these married women have absolutely nothing to do. They have not even got the ordinary chores that keep married women busy and interested through the day. Everything is done for them.
I do not want to criticise in the slightest degree the officer who is running the camp, or his staff. I believe that they are making a very good job of a very bad situation, but there is something that I want to know, although I do not expect an answer today. I should like my right hon. Friend to find out whether it is true that the general officer commanding Eastern Command inspected that camp. If he did inspect the camp, what was his report on it? Did he report adversely, or did he not? If he did report adversely, where did the report get to, and has anybody taken any action whatever on it? 265 I do not believe that the Minister can be rapped over the knuckles for this, but I am certain that somebody ought to be rapped over the knuckles. If the general officer commanding reported adversely on the camp, something should have been done about it. That is only a detail, but it is symptomatic of the position. Married families must be looked after better than they have been hitherto.
Another comment I wish to make is that men join the Army, as the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) rightly said, not only for the pay. I agree with him absolutely that pay must be paramount, but there are other attractions as well. There is the sense of adventure, the sense of excitement. Let us face it. We are all schoolboys and we all love playing Red Indians. If training is enlightened and exciting, and it can be made so, people will join the Army just for that sort of excitement and fun— and it is fun. But if the training is dreary, drab and out of date, and if the men know it to he out of date, they get fed up and use another word which the Army uses but which I will not use, because it would not look well in HANSARD.
There is another feature which I have noticed in relation to the question of training, and this applies particularly to B.A.O.R. B.A.O.R. has the searchlight playing on it all the time. The "bright boys" are all sent to B.A.O.R. That is their chance. They are given a division, a brigade— whatever it may be— for three years. They have three years in which to make their names, and how do they do it? They do it by having interminable exercises which they ask senior officers to watch. It is there, and in other places, that individual training has been reduced to the absolute minimum so that when one watches these big exercises one sees the most appalling mistakes made by the troops on the ground because they have had little or no individual training.
They are taken out, month in month out, on these large exercises in the course of which they sit about for nine-tenths of the time doing absolutely nothing while those on the staff are exercising themselves in trying to prove to senior officers just how good they are. That is something which ought to be stamped on very heavily indeed. No battle can ever be won unless the troops themselves are 266 properly trained individually, and it is the individual training in the Army which is fun. That is what I mean when I talk about imaginative and exciting training— the "Outward Bound" spirit.
When there is nothing else to be done, and there very often is not, it requires only the slightest bit of imagination to invent something which provides good training and which is also fun and exciting, whether it be climbing a mountain, going for a sail in a boat, or putting on some quite unorthodox sort of exercise in which men are sent off for two days on their own to do something here or there without using any public transport. The men enjoy that sort of thing. It is very good for them and it teaches individuality; but, no, we have too many people— and we always have had and I suppose we always shall— who completely lack imagination and who read "Infantry Training" and do nothing else but that.
Then there is the question of bad administration the whole way down the line. There are glaring examples. I know that we cannot always believe what we read in the Press, but I hope that when my right hon. Friend sees these reports in the Press he does not lightly cast them aside but that he makes immediate inquiries. I do not suppose that this was really true, but if it was then somebody ought to have got a "bowler hat," and quickly, without compensation. Is it really true that weekend leave was stopped for one Regular Royal Tank regiment, and that the men were marched to a football ground and forced to watch a football match? I must say that I was not surprised to read that they cheered the opposing side. If that were true— and I am not saying that it was, because I have a very great respect for that regiment, which I know well, and the report may be completely untrue— then somebody slipped and somebody needs a good kick.
Was it really necessary to fly a cook out to Bermuda at a cost of £280, when the company there is about to come home within three weeks? That is the sort of thing that gets into the Press. Circumstances are exaggerated, and that gets the Army a bad name. If it is true, then somebody at the War Office who ordered that posting ought to be posted somewhere else.
267 I am disturbed, and I think that others are too, at the standard of candidate coming forward for selection for commission as Regular officers. The position is very difficult, and I do not propose to suggest remedies, although I should like to do so some time privately to my right hon. Friend. I hope that he will look into the matter and take the trouble to find out from officers in charge of selection boards what type of candidate is coming forward and why it is that the type is not of the very best. I gather that the question of the standard of candidates is becoming fairly serious.
I can understand what my right hon. Friend said about compulsory retirement, particularly as he was really talking about warrant officers and n.c.o.s. There is a great deal in what he said but I would point out that, so far as officers are concerned, I have had continual complaints from the "bright boys" in the Army that they are being held back by the "floating majors", as they call those who are waiting for their terminal grants or pension. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will find plenty of those people to get rid of, and he should give them really good compensation to persuade them to go. It will not be a disincentive. It will be an incentive in that people will realise that promotion will be for those with ability and that they will not be cluttered up with people who have not the necessary ability.
On the question of battledress, am I right in saying that there is a fighting dress— I do not know what to call it if we do not call it battledress— which does not look like any uniform that was ever invented. It is more like a cross between what is worn by a man going salmon fishing and by a shepherd on the hills. It is totally different from anything that one has previously seen in the streets. No doubt it is very good for its purpose, but is there any necessity to continue with the present battledress any longer? Why not get rid of it gradually, if not all at once. For goodness sake, let us have our Regular Army in a decent walking-out dress, so that men will be proud to go out wearing it. Although they may be allowed out in civilian clothes, if men are given a decent walking-out dress they will be prepared to wear it. Why? Because the girls will flock round them like flies 268 round a honey pot. That is one incentive to recruiting.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will try to get an answer to another question. Is there any reason why the bands which own full dress should still be prohibited from wearing it? It is fantastic that they should be. Regiments which own their full dress are, by A.C.I., not allowed to wear it. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look into that matter.
To discuss matters on a larger and broader level, I would say that I wonder whether the combined training between the three Services is on a basis which is broad enough. We have our senior officer school, Joint Services Staff College and all the arrangements necessary on the higher level. I think that the time has come when combined training of all the three Services should take place from the word "go", from the initial stage of the cadet at Sandhurst right up the whole ladder to the top. That is necessary, because, in my view, every operation in the future will be a combined operation. It is no use at the last moment bringing together people who have not been trained together, and who do not understand the ways in which others operate and then expecting them to operate quickly and efficiently.
As to the disbandment of the units which is about to take place, I think that it will be a very sad day when it happens. I am certain that my right hon. Friend and those at the War Office will do everything that they can to ease the blow to those who have to go, and will act fairly, and that there will be no discrimination by those who have had throughout their whole military career a dislike for another arm of the Service.
One of the weak points in the Army, which I love and respect because I have spent most of my life in it, is the jealousy between groups of arms of the Service and regiments. If we get a senior officer of one section of the Service in a senior position in the War Office, his whole attitude tends to be coloured by his previous jealousy, or whatever one likes to call it. One could name a certain adjutant-general whose attitude was very much coloured that way. I hope that there will be none of that spirit shown. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will see to it that there is not, and will stamp on it 269 very heavily if he should find any sign of it.
I hope that he will not run away with the idea that only gunners can fire guided missiles or that only the Royal Engineers can fire them. That is absolute rubbish. I am not saying this in the light of the remarks that I have been making. But the corps of gunners or the corps of Royal Engineers can be reduced without them losing their spirit at all. We could reduce the Royal Artillery to one battery and still the spirit of "Ubique" would be there; we could never kill it. But if we take away only 600 men in a county unit we shall kill the spirit there, a spirit which is absolutely irreplaceable. I hope that that will be taken into account. We shall always be outnumbered in any battle that we fight, and it is that tradition which makes the British soldier, as it always has, fight like five of those of any other nation.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Is not my hon. and gallant Friend rather in favour of the establishment of a corps of infantry?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
That would be one solution. I think that if we number our regiments from 1 to 60 that will take away a little more of the spirit of which I am speaking. There is another argument about that and to some extent I am arguing against myself.
If my right hon. Friend has to do that, why not give them back their own numbers which they had originally before they were named? They will be equally proud of that.
§ Captain F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
Is my hon. and gallant Friend really suggesting that in order to keep alive one particular unit— and no one could be more in sympathy with that than I am— we should give artillery weapons to another unit and run our artillery in two separate organisations, one the Royal Regiment and the other in a series of units?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. If we are to form a guided missiles unit, I do not see why only the gunners should do it. We all know that provided a regiment is a good regiment its rôle can he changed overnight to any that we like to give it, and it will make a good job of that rôle. We could do that just as well with guided 270 weapons as with lances or tanks or whatever arms one cares to mention.
§ Mr. Wigg
Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves that theme about which he has often spoken before, would he be good enough— for he carries great authority with his party— to give serious attention to what happened to the corps of cavalry when the necessity arose for a major reorganisation some twenty years ago? The essential spirit of the cavalry was kept alive and the rights of officers, warrant officers and n.c.o.s were preserved through the formation of a corps of cavalry which preserved the regimental spirit. Before he dismisses this conception, would he give it his most earnest attention?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
That is not strictly accurate. It was the Corps of Hussars, the Corps of Lancers and the Corps of Dragoons. Inter-posting was between those groups. That did not do a lot of harm. They were allowed to retain their own identity. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was suggesting a corps of infantry numbered throughout, and with the whole identity of the units being lost.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Then that is all right. There is quite a strong argument for that.
The Army is to be prepared for three rôles: global war, limited war, and police war. I shall not deal with global war. B.A.O.R. has been training for that ever since the last war. If it does not know how to fight it now, it never will. The reduction to brigade groups is a question that can be argued, as my right hon. Friend said, but cannot he have one term which would mean the same thing for everybody, such as—"battle group"? He can call it something different if he likes.
I realise what he means with regard to the feelings of our allies concerning a brigade group. They think that it is something smaller than a division, whereas it is about the same size. Furthermore, it is exactly what the Russians did about eight years ago. I do not think that they were very wrong in that.
There is the other question of what I call the jeep-borne force, a force that should be capable of being flown out 271 at a moment's notice for police operations such as against the Mau Mau in Kenya or operations in Malaya. I am not happy about that idea. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is happy about it, but if not, I am sure that he is the sort of person to get it put right. Is the brigade in Yorkshire ready to fly tomorrow at nine o'clock? It has been training for a whole year. It may be a question of aircraft. If the aircraft are available, is that brigade ready to fly? Has it practised getting in and out of air transport? Has it all its stores and equipment organised? Is there a process for pressing a button, as in the case of a fire brigade in a fire station, so that all the men can come sliding down a pole into the aeroplanes? If this process has not been organised, it is about time that it was put into operation. That brigade has been training for a whole year.
Did it take part in the Suez operation? Was it flown out at a moment's notice? I do not think that it is right to use soldiers for that sort of operation. The Suez operation was really a police operation. In the first place, we should never have allowed that state to be reached. With proper internal intelligence those developments can be stopped long before they reach boiling point. I was in Kenya in 1946, and at that time every district officer had reported that this Mau Mau rising was coming, but not a single person in Nairobi would believe it. They pooh-poohed the suggestion, and the reports were thrown into the waste-paper basket. That rising could have been prevented long before. It having started, however, dealing with it was still a police action. The soldier in uniform is not suited for that type of warfare.
I suggest that we might use officers who are to become redundant as a part-time trained force for that sort of warfare. They should be given a thumping good pay packet if they are called up. They should be ready to be sent out to undertake this sort of police action. We should not use our Regular troops. They are quite unsuitable, as was seen in Ireland and everywhere else where they have been used for such purposes.
§ Mr. John Hall
Does my hon. and gallant Friend suggest that the troops who go out to do this type of police action 272 do not require much training? Does he suggest that we should call up partly-trained men?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am suggesting that these men, who are now Regulars in the Army and are to be made redundant, would not require much further training in ordinary jungle warfare. They could be taught in two fortnightly camps in a year, and could be kept right up to the mark. It is not right for Regular forces to be used for such work.
My last point refers to the question of the limited war. This is far and away the most difficult problem of all. Our mobile reserve is to be kept in Great Britain, presumably for use in a limited war. I do not understand that. It is no use saying that those people can operate in a limited war without tanks or artillery. Paragraph 57 of the Memorandum on the Estimates says:This reserve is organised for limited or global war … the Central Reserve can be moved to any point of danger where they may be needed by air.What is the answer? We are 3,000 miles from the Middle East. We have no forward bases. It is 3,000 miles from Mombasa to the Middle East, so let us stop talking about Mombasa as a base.
There must be an answer. Are we to place all the necessary tanks, guns and ammunition in a forward area and keep this Reserve together and train it in England with other equipment? Will it fly out and take over the stockpile which we have already sent out, and bring it into action? If so, where will the stockpile be? Who will look after it? Will it be usable when it is wanted at a moment's notice? This is a desperately difficult problem.
I believe that the answer is once again to copy the Americans and have a floating base. I do not believe that in these days bases in other territories are reliable enough to be operative or useful. I am told that the floating base which the Americans have in the Eastern Mediterranean has to be seen to be believed, with its workshops and tank landing craft all on board ship and ready for use. It may be that that is the answer to the problem.
Anyhow, it is not for back benchers to work out these matters in detail. We have only to say that the position is not right at 273 the moment. I beg my right hon. Friend to consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence upon this point and to see that this Reserve of ours— which, as stated, would be capable of flying out at a moment's notice to take part in a limited war— can in fact be used. It just cannot work with our present size of tanks and field guns.
A mobile floating base may be the answer. If it is— and this is a further step towards the integration of all the Services— this force, ready for a limited war, should be trained in England, with all the components required by all three Services— the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the commandos and paratroops. They should be stationed in one area, so that they can get to know each other and train together. Such a force would cause men to flock to it. Once it got the aura of being something special it would get all the recruits it wanted.
That question needs the most earnest thought. I believe that my right hon. Friend has the drive to see that that sort of thing is done. Let him put an end to senior officers at the War Office producing the sort of kerfuffle which they produced in the Suez operation.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has made a most stimulating speech. I want to follow him in respect of one of the topics to which he referred, namely, recruitment, and the problem both of getting into the Army and keeping in the Army the number of men we shall want if the Government's plan, resolve, or hope, to abolish National Service is to be realised. I suppose that of all the questions which the Committee will be discussing today this is the largest single one. If we are now to embark upon policies based upon the assumption that we can get an all-volunteer Army of 160,000 men it is of first-class importance to take every step which will make it likely that that assumption will be fulfilled.
Some time ago, when hon. Members on this side of the House urged the Government to announce a plan for the abolition of National Service advice— which, after the usual time lag, was taken by the Government— we particularly stressed that they must do it as a planned operation, taking, as we thought, perhaps 274 four years— and, as they now suggest, five years. But we stressed that from the moment when we said that National Service would be abolished to the moment when the last National Service man was out of the Army no time should be allowed to run to waste. This time must be used for devising every possible expedient and line of policy which will make it a practicable possibility to obtain 160,000 volunteers for the Army.
It will be a quite different situation from anything that we have ever faced before. Some years before the war, a figure of 150.000 men represented about the usual size for the Regular Army, but we must notice how different the situation will be now. In the first place, we shall be trying to maintain an Army of 160,000 in a time of full employment. There has been a good deal of argument in the House for many years as to the effect of full employment upon voluntary recruiting. For the purposes of the record it might be as well to get the facts clear. If one examines the figures with regard to voluntary recruiting for the Army in the years from the depths of the slump, in 1932, to the outbreak of war in 1939, the first thing to be noticed— and it seems rather surprising— is that as unemployment decreased more and more people went into the Regular Army.
Taking a superficial view, one would assume that there was no correlation between employment and recruitment into the Army, but looking at the figures more closely one finds that the reason why the number of men going into the Army increased in those years was simply that a higher proportion of those offering themselves were accepted. If we examine the really relevant factor, namely, the number of people who came forward and said, "I want to join the Army", we see that that number was larger when unemployment was heavy, and fell off as unemployment decreased. In fact, there was a clear and unmistakable correlation all the time between unemployment and the number of people coming forward to join the Army.
Further, if we examine recruiting by districts we find that the number of people who came forward and were willing to join the Army— I am not talking about the number accepted— was always greater in those districts in which there 275 was heavy unemployment. It is important that we should get this fact straight because it points to the conclusion that when we say that we are to have an Army of 160,000 volunteers in a time of full employment we are setting ourselves a task that we have never set ourselves before.
I might add that we are going to do it in a community in which both working-class and middle-class people have become accustomed not only to a higher standard of living but a higher standard of decency and amenities in their ordinary civilian life. If we hope to get them into the Army we must take account of that fact. We have never before tried to raise an all-Regular Army under those conditions.
Another fact that creates a quite new situation is the fact that when we had an Army of about 150,000 men in the old days the proportion of infantrymen to those in other arms was higher than it is now. It was a less mechanised Army. If we are to have an Army of 160,000 men with the present degree of mechanisation we shall have substantially fewer infantrymen than we have had before in anything approaching the modern history of the Army. That will compel the War Office to consider— as I understand it is seriously considering— the organisation of infantry regiments. It is impossible to do that without disturbing a number of old loyalties, and we must try to strike a balance between the need to keep passionate affections alive, if possible, on the one hand, and the plain necessities of efficiency in a small modern Army with a limited number of infantrymen on the other.
I would say to the Under-Secretary and his right hon. Friend that if they must err at all it would be better for them to err on the side of boldness in the degree of reorganisation that they carry through, rather than for them to carry out some reorganisation, upset a number of people, and then find that they have not done enough and have to do it all again a short time afterwards. The creation of an Army of 160,000 men in modern conditions is something quite new, and it is important to try to get the organisation right from the start, and not be too timid about breaking away from old traditions. That is why I welcome 276 what my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said about the importance of seriously considering his proposal for a corps of infantry.
What are the inducements which will get us 160,000 men in these conditions, which make it a more difficult task than any that we have had before? I do not think that I need say much about pay, partly because I do not believe that at this moment it is a question to which we ought to give particular attention, and partly because the point made by my right hon. Friend in opening the debate, namely, that we have to consider the fact that we are in a competitive market, is such an enormous truism that, if we think seriously about the matter, we are not likely to forget it. I do not propose to say more than that upon the subject of pay. I intend, however, to make certain proposals that will be expensive.
We are all glad about what is stated in the Estimates about living quarters. It was implied by the Secretary of State in his speech that progress has been made, and that the War Office are tackling the obstacles that seem to stand in the way of faster progress.
I turn to the question of the education of the children of ex-Service men. I notice that at the bottom of page 16 of the Memorandum the Secretary of State tells us that he is not satisfied with the arrangements that are made for the education of Service children. This matter will become more important than it has ever been before, in relation particularly to recruiting. As the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing pointed out, young men insist upon marrying before the age of 27 and having families, and upon being concerned about the education of those families. That is an excellent thing. Everybody in the community today is more concerned than they have ever been before about children getting a good education.
While the children are at the age when it is appropriate for them to receive primary education no serious difficulty arises, because the Army is capable, out of its own resources, of seeing that the children get a good primary education. The Army cannot, out of its own resources, provide, wherever the parents may happen to be, the specialised teaching, equipment, books, etc., that are necessary for a good secondary education 277 for the children of Army personnel. Consequently, parents will accept the fact that very often they may be parted from their children during school terms.
Sometimes parents may be able to arrange for children to live with relatives and attend a good secondary day school, but often the only way of getting a good secondary education for the children will be for the children to be sent somehow or other to a secondary boarding school. I would like the Army to be able to say to anyone who enters upon a Regular engagement, "The Army will see to it, when you have children of secondary school age, that they get a good secondary education, if necessary in a boarding school. You will be put to no more expense for this than is any other parent in civilian life." I recognise that that would be the equivalent of a rise in pay. It would cost the nation something, and would be enormously valuable.
I do not believe that the present arrangements are satisfactory; indeed, the Secretary of State says they are not. I am suggesting a way to begin. The Army would say frankly. "This is what we guarantee. If a man comes forward and says, Here are my children who are reaching secondary school age. I cannot see how to make satisfactory arrangements unless they go to boarding school, and I cannot undertake that', the Army— or speaking more accurately the nation— will take over the responsibility of doing so." Do not let us try to pack all the children into the same school so that they meet no children except those of parents who are engaged in the same profession. I never think that that is good for any school. We must fit Army children in with other children.
Another inducement would be the modernisation of Army discipline. As soon as one mentions that, one hears— it would be more likely if the Chamber were rather fuller than it is— cries of enthusiasm in some quarters and cries of horror in others. Let us see whether we can put this problem into its modern setting. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing referred to that ridiculous incident recently when men wore compelled to attend a football match. Those of us who have television saw them all cheering the other side. We were all glad to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman's condemnation of that incident; but 278 we must not pay too much attention to a particular incident.
The officer who does that kind of thing sees himself as a kind of housemaster of a school, dealing firmly but kindly with his boys, in their best interests. Officers in the Army and the nation as a whole must realise that the men we shall want in the Army in future will be shrewd, well-qualified and mature men who have not the least intention of being, or desire to be treated as boys. They have to be treated and regarded as men. No sensible civilian employer would dream of trying to impose conditions such as I have mentioned upon his employees. The Army must be looked at in the same way.
The men have to be able to demonstrate a high standard of competency and to accept the necessary discipline in their work. If they do that, it must be remembered that apart from their personality as soldiers there is another part of their personality; they are human beings. Many of them will be husbands and some of them fathers. They have their private lives and interests, and they like to have them respected, so far as the needs of the Service will permit. This means that the old paternal relationship between officer and men, admirable as it was when our nation was in a certain stage of development, cannot be fitted into the society in which we are living today. The kind of man that we shall need in the Army does not want that kind of relationship.
Respect in the Army has to be won in the future by one thing only, and that is competence at the job in the Army, whatever it is. The day has gone when automatic respect was given to people of a particular social class. Everyone in the Army— officers and men— has to be thought of and to think of himself as being in one profession, with gradations in it according to the degree of competence possessed by the men practising that profession.
A point which I make with rather less assurance, but which ought to be looked at, concerns promotion. Where do we select our officers from? The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing was worried whether enough suitable applicants were coming forward for commissions. I wonder whether we do not try to make the decision whether a man is suitable for a commission too quickly 279 after he is first in the Army. I am sure that we have been doing that with the National Service men. We ought to consider whether there is not a type of man for whom a career, first in the ranks and then, through non-commissioned rank and warrant officer, into commissioned rank, may be the right answer.
Many conflicting views can be held on this subject. We have to ask ourselves what opportunities for advancement we can offer if we wish to have 160,000 volunteers coming forward. Many of them will be skilled, intelligent men who, if they entered a civilian occupation in industry or commerce, could look forward to a steady career of promotion. Some of them at least ought to be able to look forward to something like that in the Army. I know that that means completely revising our ideas on how officers ought to be selected. The ladder which I propose should not necessarily be the only ladder to commissioned rank, but I am led to the opinion that it ought to be one of the important ladders to commissioned rank. It is important for the purpose of getting enough good officers, and as a positive inducement to men to join the Army.
There must be something in the inducements about what is to happen when the Army career is over. I do not know that this consideration weighs very much with a young man who is deciding whether to go into the Army or not, but when he is considering renewing or not renewing he may have reached the stage at which the question "What is to be the position of myself, wife and children when my complete Army service is over?" is important.
I do not see how we can say to a man, "We give you an absolute guarantee that when you leave the Army there shall be employment for you of some kind or other in civilian life for so many years", but we could guarantee— this has been done already— with the help of industry, and certainly of the nationalised industries, that there would always be a certain number of jobs available each year for people coming out of the Regular Army. I think that some of the nationalised industries already have an arrangement of that kind. One might see what further could be done in that direction.
I remember the help that the nationalised industries gave when we were trying 280 to recruit men into the Territorial Army. I remember from my own days at the War Office that the nationalised industries could always be relied upon to show a degree of public spirit. Critics of those industries ought to remember that more frequently than they do.
A man is concerned not only about his job but about his living accommodation. I wish I could think that this problem would disappear. The efforts that have been made to solve the problem for ex-Regular soldiers have not come to anything so far. The attempt to do it through the machinery of local government did not work. The Minister made a series of exhortations to local housing authorities, who went through the motions of putting men on housing lists. They knew perfectly well that putting them on the lists made singularly little difference to whether the men got a home or not. In view of the fact that the numbers coming out of the Army each year in the future are bound to be considerably less, ought not the nation be prepared to say quite definitely, "We guarantee that you will have somewhere to live"?
From what I am saying about education, housing, employment, etc., we might be thought to be in danger of having a rather pampered class of professional soldier. However, for a large part of their lives soldiers are not pampered. They have to live a harsh, rough, disciplined, and often dangerous existence. The nation must realise that if it wants to get rid of National Service it must be prepared to make up the difference in a number of ways.
It is not that men want to drive a particularly Shylockian bargain with the nation, but that, having a certain amount of self-respect, they are concerned about their families. It is often true that a man is reckless where his own safety is concerned, but is most cautious and prudent about seeing that nothing shall happen to his wife and children, particularly if anything should happen to himself. It is not in the least inconsistent that a man should be a hero on the battlefield and yet greatly concerned about what may happen to him in his old age. That is a consideration which we have to bear in mind.
I realise that the Secretary of State cannot be here all the time but I am sorry that he is not here for my next comment. 281 I do not think that there ought to be such a person as a Secretary of State for War. I am not referring to the present holder of the office; I think lie should go on existing. I am referring to the office itself.
I say that for this reason. If we look at the Estimates we see that there are about 375,000 adult males in the Army. At all events, that was the figure for December of last year. In five years' time there will be 375,000 adult males in all the three Services put together. We are coming to a point when there will be no more people in all the three Services put together than there are in the Army now. In my view, one Minister can look after them; and I am sure Lord Tedder was right when he said that if we are to have integration of the Services we had better begin at the top.
We ought now to be planning on the basis of creating one Ministry of Defence, with one Minister, probably of Minister of State rank, immediately under the Minister of Defence, as a deputy, and then three people in charge of the Services, with perhaps an odd one if necessary, of about Under-Secretary of State stature. If we have somebody in charge of an Army of 160,000 people who is dressed up with the great dignity of Secretary of State, a rank held by people as important in the Government as the Foreign Secretary and the Colonial Secretary, and then expect that there will be proper subordination to the Minister of Defence, we shall be disappointed, unless we solve the problem by appointing as Secretary of State for War or Secretary of State for Air or First Lord of the Admiralty people of such mild, amiable dispositions and limited force of character as will ensure that the Minister of Defence will always be able to get his own way. In the long run, and as a permanent arrangement, I do not think that the latter solution would be good for the Services.
It will mean, therefore, that these posts in respect of the Army, Navy and Air Force in future will be young men's posts. They will be occupied by men of such a calibre in the hierarchy of politics and Government that they can if necessary have their heads knocked together by the Minister of Defence and yet can still be men of considerable parts, gifts, 282 and drive, which they can use for the benefit of the Service before, if they are fortunate, they pass to higher spheres of responsibility.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) suggested— and I agree with him— that we ought to begin experiments with various kinds of hybrid forces. He said, truly, that that would create administrative difficulties in the Departments. I think lie would agree that those difficulties might be substantially reduced if we were dealing not with three Departments, with the high traditional standards and traditional jealousies, but with one Department with a resolute Minister at its head.
If we begin to think on these lines we may be able to get a Ministry of Defence containing the Army, Navy and Air Force— we should stop this silly habit of referring to the War Office, as though the Navy and the Air Force were entirely pacific institutions. We are starting a completely new era. An Army of 160,000, in conditions of full employment, wishing to recruit men of high quality, is one symptom of the newness of that situation; and we have to face it with a new organisation and new ideas.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in his desire for the liquidation of Secretaries of State as such. Particularly am I unwilling to do so— and I am relieved to hear that he does not expect me to do so— in the case of the right hon. Gentleman who occupies that position at the moment. I thought the speech which my right hon. Friend delivered this afternoon was one of considerable ability and one which was extremely helpful in drawing attention to the many problems which have to be faced.
The Defence White Paper sets out a comprehensive and comprehensible scheme of defence organisation, and the difficulties seem to me to arise from the fact that of necessity that White Paper has had to be painted as a picture in the widest general lines. For that reason, I think questions of detailed application are of vital importance.
I consider the question of recruiting to be of primary importance, and I was therefore particularly interested to hear 283 the hon. Member for Fulham raise points which perhaps are not often enough considered, points such as the education of children, changed views as to discipline, questions of promotion and jobs and homes which arise at the end of a man's service. I have a few ideas on this matter, and I am satisfied that it is essential that our accommodation problems should be dealt with first and foremost.
In my constituency, we still have the unattractive stabling which used to stable the horses after the Crimean War. These buildings have still not been dealt with. Every year the situation gets worse in the sense that we are putting up a number of excellent, first-class buildings which throw into the most vivid relief the unsatisfactory accommodation which still exists elsewhere. I should like to think that this King Charles' head of mine of the "horse barracks," as we call them in Aldershot, will be one of the primary problems to be dealt with in accommodation for soldiers in that town.
This problem exists in even greater measure in respect to the provision of accommodation for families. In fairness to the Secretary of State, I must point out that he has been to Aldershot, has seen the accommodation, and that there has been a substantial improvement; but the situation is still far from satisfactory What happens very often is that soldiers who are posted from Aldershot to an overseas posting leave their wives in the quarters which they and their wives had shared. The next thing that happens is that the wives are told that they must vacate the premises in order to make room for other soldiers and their wives who have been posted to Aldershot.
That puts the War Office into the equivocal position of having to give the direct decision that the wife of the soldier posted overseas has to give up possession of the War Office accommodation. I can think of few things more calculated to cause annoyance and exasperation to soldiers posted overseas than to know that until they can join them their wives are having to go round hoping to find some relative who will look after them. Therefore, it is easy to see that the provision of accommodation for families is of first-rate importance to recruiting.
Another factor in this connection which I hope will be borne in mind is the value 284 of the local regiment. Many men are prepared to join the Service because they are joining the regiment from the part of the country to which they themselves belong and their friends. They are proud to walk out in the special uniform of that regiment. Incidentally, if it does become necessary for regiments to be disbanded, I hope that special efforts will be made to keep a permanent cadre, as well as such things as the silver plate, drums and the like which are treasured in some place, so that there are at least a few people to represent these regiments when disbanded. What might be described as brigade depots could surely deal with such things for a number of such regiments and would not be very expensive.
Walking-out uniform has a considerable effect on the minds of some potential soldiers. They like to appear in their smart blues, with the attractive coloured caps and so on. When I asked about this in the Army debates a year ago I was assured that it was hoped that within the next twelve or eighteen months all soldiers down to the rank of corporal would be provided with this dress. Whether or not that has happened I do not know, but from the general appearance of men going about the streets of Aldershot it would not appear so.
Pay has already been dealt with. I think that in the short run the probability is that it is not such an urgent matter, but in the long run I agree wih the hon. Member who said that pay must very largely be kept on the basis of supply and demand, but if there is continued inflation—and let us hope that there will not be—the situation will have to be dealt with by pay revisions.
The main thing is prospects, and in that connection I feel the rôle of the non-commissioned officers has been insufficiently appreciated by the "powers that be". It is trite to say that the backbone of any army is the noncommissioned officer, but I am in some doubt whether our attitude to him is the right one. I realise that what I am saying is likely to be controversial, but when looking at these things afresh, I should like consideration to be given to whether the scope for the senior N. C. O. s should not be increased.
As I understand it, the basic unit in the new up-to-date Army is the company, 285 and there is a good deal to be said for the commands of sections or platoons being available to non-commissioned officers—
§ Sir E. Errington
I hope that that is correct, but my information is that they are mostly commanded by junior officers.
What I have very much in mind is that this would need the appointment of fewer junior officers. I believe that, because of the numbers invoked, we are in danger of leading those officers up the garden path. To put it another way, the base of the triangle is very large and tapers very steeply at the top. I feel sure that the best type of officer will have a much fuller prospect of a good career if the general numbers of junior commissioned officers were fewer than at present.
What is now taking place. and has taken place as long as I can remember anything of Army matters, is that there are a series of bulges. Sometimes the bulge is in the numbers of junior officer ranks, where the numbers are disproportionate to the rest, and sometimes the bulge occurs in the numbers of the higher ranks. When that occurs, we get a belief amongst those who are considering the Services as a career that at any time they may find themselves in a middle-rank bulge and so find themselves right out of the Service at a time when their likelihood of making another career is not very good.
One remembers, of course, what happened after the First World War, and one saw what happened when there was a serious excess of officers in the Royal Regiment of Artillery. It would not be unfair to say that there are now so many holding the present rank of major —many of whom have held higher ranks with distinction and have come down to their basic rank—that it is very difficult to see how they can be employed. It has to be remembered that they are men who, for the most part, are between thirty-five and forty-five years of age, who have made the Army their career, who find considerable difficulty in placing themselves elsewhere.
Perhaps I might just turn quite shortly to the immediate problems, as I see them, arising from the contraction of the Services. There is a widespread feeling of 286 uncertainty amongst those concerned. Whether that is justified or not, I believe it to be a fact. It should be recognised and, if possible, at an early date there should be a clear statement as to what is going to be done. My Borough of Aldershot always refers to itself, I think with justice, as the "Home of the British Army." I believe that it will continue to justify that title; but it does not know what rôle it will have to play, and it is most desirable that it should know as soon as possible.
Equally important is the position of the individual. The way in which the White Paper deals with the matter, under the heading, "Switch of Resources", is this:The large reduction in the size of the Forces will inevitably create some surplus of officers and N. C. Os. The proportion will differ for each Service and for the various ranks and branches. Those whose careers have to be prematurely terminated will be given fair compensation and will be helped in every way possible to find suitable employment in civilian life.I believe that those are very proper words, but they ought to be quickly translated into action. The problems arising from the surplus of officers and men are not easy. Even at the present time it is not always easy to find the right kind of job for the ex-officer or ex-soldier. I am connected with a voluntary organisation which seeks to help ex-officers, and I know some of the problems. I hope, therefore, that the Government will deal with this matter as one of grave urgency. Indeed, it is a considerable operation. It is not the sort of thing which any Government can readily take in their stride.
There are certain things which might help. I was interested in what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said about the possibilities of colonial police work by some ex-Service N. C. O. s who cease to be members of the Services. I note with satisfaction that, in paragraph 44 of the White Paper, it is said:Every endeavour will also be made to extend the practice of employing civilians or civilian contractors on tasks where it is not essential for military reasons to employ service personnel.I hate the use of the word "civilianisation", but I believe that that process can help very much. I am not at all satisfied that there also could not be considerable help derived from increasing the 287 amount of work done by retired officers, who do their work, as is well known, very competently and efficiently, being happy to do it because they feel that they are keeping in touch with Army affairs.
The main task will be a formidable one. I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider the appointment of a high-powered committee to deal with the problems arising from the surplus of personnel. It seems to me that the Army, the Ministry of Labour, the trade unions, employers, and voluntary organisations working in this connection could provide membership for a committee which would really get down to fundamentals and deal with the problems and difficulties which will arise and so avoid hardship.
I do not underestimate the task. Its outcome will be of vital importance to the people directly concerned, but I believe also that the Army will be judged, as to whether it is a suitable career for the future or not, by the way in which this problem is dealt with. If we just pay these men off and take little interest in their future, the country will take little interest in the future of the Service. Speed of decision, and the communication of that decision to those who are affected, is the humane and sensible duty of the Government towards those people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in this position.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
Misconceptions and speculations about the rôle of the Army in the nuclear age are, I suppose, tempting subjects for speeches on the Army Estimates, but somebody ought to examine some of the details of the Estimates. We appear to be getting away from the traditional rôle of the debate on the Estimates. Nowadays, we are more concerned with the wide sweep of general policy and the ideas of experts upon matters of large import than with the details of this volume which comes into our hands—belatedly this year, giving us less time than usual to examine it. Although I do not propose to do as we have done in the past and go through it line by line, column by column and paragraph by paragraph, I have in mind one or two 288 "King Charles's heads "which I have from time to time raised on these occasions, and I am still bursting for information concerning them.
Chelsea Hospital, Nell Gwyn's legacy to the discharged soldiers of this country, has always commanded my attention when we have considered the Army Estimates. I have examined the Estimates as they affect Chelsea Hospital on this occasion. I see that pay and other expenses on in-pensioners numberng 420 is up by £810; that is just under £2 per annum each. In the same Estimates, one person, a messing officer, gets an extra £220 per annum, and another person, an assistant secretary, gets £270 extra per annum. I wonder whether Chelsea Hospital is being run for the benefit of the Chelsea Pensioners or for the hangers-on who receive appointments there.
Can the Minister explain why there is nothing in the Estimates for 1956–57 for maintenance of buildings and supply of fuel, light, and furniture, whereas, under the same heading, there is for 1957–58 a sum of £30,075? Did somebody forget to order the coal during the previous year, or something like that? There must be an explanation for it.
I come now to another of my "King Charles's heads," the Victoria Cross. I have never, on previous occasions, had an answer to my question, although I have put it again and again. There is in the Estimates provision for paying an annuity of £10 to the holders of the Victoria Cross. We paid an annuity of £10 in 1856 to the holders of the Victoria Cross. What would that £10 be worth today? From that point of view alone, are the First World War and the Second World War holders of the Victoria Cross being treated as generously as those who won them in the Zulu War and the Boer War? In any case, is it not rather a disgrace to this country that the soldier, sailor or airman who, by his unexampled gallantry and courage, wins the highest possible award in the whole range of awards for gallantry in service which can be bestowed by the Monarch, is given a miserable £10 a year as a gratuity? Will not the War Office look at this matter again?
I do not know whether this applies only to the War Office. As a simple and humble soldier who was never more than 289 a private, I am open to correction, but I believe that the Victoria Cross may be awarded to men of all three Services. While it is competent to raise the question concerning the Army when we are considering, the Army Estimates, perhaps in relation to the Navy and Air Force we might direct the attention of the Minister of Defence, the Minister for co-ordinating the three Services, to the question, so that all the holders of the Victoria Cross, to whichever Service they belong, shall be considered for some better treatment than a miserable annuity of £10 a year.
On Vote 9.P., we see "Other miscellaneous charges," including "Regimental allowances and entertainment expenses." The Explanatory Notes for entertainment expenses refer to band allowance and mess allowance, which is quite understandable, but what are "allowances for jumps"? Is this the high jump? Is it the expenses of courts-martial or something like that? This is one of the items which is included under entertainment. Are assault courses entertainment? I do not know whether the men who go in for the assault courses regard them as entertainment or toughening up. Of course, they may be entertainment for the onlookers, for the officers who are watching the poor lads going through it. Is it not irreverent to include chaplains under the heading of entertainment? Will the Minister look again at paragraph 2 of the Explanatory Notes on page 157?
On Vote 9.K, technical training charges are down by £123,000, or over one-third. Surely, it cannot be right that in this modern age, when we are having to streamline our technical Army, we should be spending one-third less on technical training than we did last year. It may he found that an equivalent addition can be found elsewhere in the Estimates. On the face of it, however, this is one of the apparent discrepancies about which we should have an explanation. If technical training is down by one-third, it certainly should be carefully looked into.
On page 150, it is gratifying to find that welfare expenses have doubled, but I note that these are grants to outside bodies. I should like some information as to whether they are voluntary bodies and what proportion of their income goes in expenses and what extent is devoted to the application of welfare to the Forces.
290 On page 146, in Vote 9.C, I notice that there is greatly increased expenditure on publicity and recruiting. That is all to the good, but I should like to know whether this money is effectively spent. Is the advertising done by outside advertising experts, or do the War Office try to put amateurs on the job and get it botched? if we are spending public money on advertising and recruiting, we ought to have the best experts in the country.
Recruiting is one of the most important jobs. The Government say that they are abolishing compulsory National Service and that to enable them to do so they must get a volunteer Army. To do that, we must have adequate and effective advertising and aids to voluntary recruiting. Therefore, just as we would not employ an amateur to produce our nuclear weapons, we should not employ amateurs to do this very important job.
On Vote 7.C, medical stores show a reduction of £83,000. I do not know whether "No. 9s" are not so much in demand these days as when I was an ordinary private, when the usual reply of the medical officer was "Medicine and duty and the medicine was "No. 9". I do not know whether the demand on the medical stores is less than it used to be. There might be an explanation for this reduction of £83,000. Disinfectants. incidentally, show an increase of £113,000. I do not know whether there is any connection between the two.
There are many other things that one could criticise in detail on the Estimates, but I want to say a word or two on National Service. Paragraphs 47 and 48 of the Defence White Paper leave us in some doubt as to the position. The Government use the expression, "if voluntary recruiting fails…" Then, in paragraph 48, we have a reference tosome limited form of compulsory service ".What is the Government's idea of alimited form of compulsory service "?Have they any real confidence that they will get their 160,000 men for the Army by voluntary recruiting? If they go into the job half-heartedly, they will not get very far. By suggesting that voluntary recruiting will fail, they are, in fact, meeting trouble half-way. The Government say, in effect, that they are so sure that voluntary recruiting will fail that they 291 are already thinking of some form of limited compulsory service to take its place.
Will the Secretary of State say whether the Government really believe that they can get 160,000 recruits by voluntary means at the time they are required? If not, what is this limited form of compulsory military service which is hinted at in the Defence White Paper?
Voluntary recruiting must not be allowed to fail. One of the ways to help voluntary recruiting for the Forces is to give the Army a good Press and publicity. An hon. Member opposite has already referred to the Colonel Blimp who marched the lads down to the football match and told them which side they must cheer. Things like that will not do any good to the Army.
It is no good blaming the Press, because a journalist has to earn his bread and butter, and if a journalist gets a good story he is inclined to make the best of that story, and it will be in the headlines. The Press laps up that kind of thing, and it makes headlines. If the Army do a good job on something the Press says nothing about it. I will grant that; it is perfectly true. If the Army does a good job on welfare, on education or whatever it is, if a unit is happy and there is no trouble in it, because of the personality of the commanding officer and because of the team of officers he has round him, which has made that particular unit a happy family, that story does not appear in the Press, but one little incident like the compulsory parade to the football match hits the headlines.
What are the Press relations of the War Office? Is there a P. R. O. at the War Office? If so, who is he? Is he some retired lieutenant-colonel or brigadier—
§ Mr. Simmons
Maybe he is a general, or even a field marshal, because there are field marshals who are very good on publicity. They are always hitting the headlines. They have only to look down an old cannon and they hit the headlines. To get real publicity, we have to have a trained journalist. Can the Minister tell us whether in the War Office they have not Army "dug-outs" but trained journalists doing the work of the P R. O.?
292 I believe it is of the utmost importance that we should get the Army a good Press and a good name through the Press, which will do as much to encourage recruiting as any other thing.
On the general question of recruiting and manpower problems, which deserve our utmost consideration at this time, we have been discussing this afternoon what are the incentives that are necessary. The question of pay has been raised, and I am inclined to agree with a good many of my colleagues on both sides of the Commitee that, while pay is important, it is not the only thing that matters. I believe that the pay of the soldier should give him an economic standing comparable with that of his fellow human beings outside the Service. That is the important thing.
The present Army is mainly composed, or will be more and more composed in future, of craftsmen, and they must have the rate for the job. As a matter of fact, I would say that they ought to have a little more than the rate for the job because of the special conditions under which they live. In my old days in local government—and that is going back about forty years—we always used to say that local government should pay a little higher than the existing district rate as an example to other employers of labour, and that was a general principle in local government at least thirty years ago. I think the Services ought to set an example, and that those who are in the Services should get a little more than the rate for the job they are doing, both for the maintenance of the good name of the Service and as compensation for the peculiar conditions under which they have to work—conditions of discipline and all the rest.
Next, conditions are important. The question of married men and their families has been raised, and I think that in the new Army which we are now building up, when we are bringing in craftsmen and people who are trained in particular jobs, we are likely to have a lot of married men. I do not know what the conditions of recruitment are to be and whether married men will be welcome. I do not mean married officers, because there always has been provision for married officers. I mean the ordinary rank and file, and I wonder whether these will be welcomed as married men. Then, 293 I think that the Army has to do a great deal in providing for these married men and their families.
One hon. Member opposite, I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), referred to one of these camps where they have a kind of communal kitchen. I have had some experience in local government and in housing, and my wife has been chairman of a housing committee for four years and I have heard her story of it. The worst thing one can do is to put two women in one kitchen because one is bound to get trouble, but if you put half-a-dozen in one kitchen they will play merry what's it. These human considerations are important when dealing with this problem. We are going to cater for married soldiers, whether they be officers or other ranks, and we have to cater for the family aspect of the situation, as well as for the position of the single man.
Another important matter is status. If we are to recruit a modern Army we have to make a man proud to belong to it and not ashamed of it. We must not have an Army made up of people who are too incompetent or too lazy to do a job outside. We have to go out for the best, and if we go out for the best we have to give these men status, which means that there will have to be less bossing about—and I could use other words with which to describe it. There will have to be less of this petty tyranny and petty Hitlerism that we have had in the Army in days gone by. The technician soldier has to be as much an individual in the Army as he would be if he was working in a factory or workshop, and we have to give him that status as a full human being.
Then, I believe it is important that we should make some provision for the man's post-Service career. I know that that is going to be difficult, but if industry could be approached I think we would get cooperation, and I am sure that we shall get co-operation from the trade unions. If the trade unions were sure that a man was paid the rate for the job in the Service, that he had been properly trained for the job and would not be undercutting anybody when he came out, I believe that the trade unions would stand by him in his post-war job. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) referred to the nationalised 294 industries, and I should like to emphasise what he said. Surely, there is a wide field here in which we could find employment for these men after their Service.
I also believe that the housing of these men when they come out of the Service is another important problem. We know that the Minister has approached the Minister of Housing and Local Government and that he has approached the local authorities. We also know that the man who is discharged from the Services today receives, I think I am right in saying, in the case of the majority of our larger local authorites, some priority in consideration for housing. I know that in Birmingham, he receives an extra point for every year of his service, which brings him up on the housing list, but when we have a housing list of 60,000 people and an increase in the number of houses of only a couple of thousand a year, the fact that the man is brought higher up on the housing list does not sound very satisfactory.
If the nation wants to take them out of civilian life and out of their normal surroundings for a period of nine, twelve or twenty-one years, at the end of that period the State itself ought to have an organisation whereby the houses could be built by direct labour through a Government Department in various parts of the country where these men could be housed.
I am sorry that I have taken longer than I intended, but these points are important. The Army Estimates are not the place to make what might be called policy speeches, but we are being asked to vote sums of money, admittedly less than previously, for a new kind of Army, with new weapons. What worries me is whether we are going too far in the direction of nuclear war, leaving ourselves bare of the more conventional methods of defence. From what I can see at the moment we intend to equip our Army with nuclear warheads, and in the event of an attack in the West we would start the war as a nuclear war whatever the other side did. That has been said already only this week by a general in N. A. T. O. I wonder if we would do that. I thought we regarded the use of nuclear weapons as a reprehensible and horrible thing. Therefore, I should have thought that if the other side used conventional weapons 295 we would reply with conventional weapons.
But suppose the other side starts the war with conventional weapons and we have not got the conventional weapons with which to reply, we are either defence-less or we have to be the first in that war to use the weapon that we ourselves describe as the most monstrous and inhuman weapon that can be used in war.
It is a dilemma that ought to be faced, namely, whether we will commit ourselves to being the first, if necessary, to use the nuclear weapon, whatever the potential enemy does, or whether we will have sufficient power by way of conventional defence to fight a conventional war. The one thing we ought to guard against is that the ultimate deterrent becomes the initial weapon in any future war.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
It is always a pleasure to me to follow the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), a man who, as a Minister and on the back benches, has done such a wonderful job for the ex-Service men and for the war disabled. With his usual pertinacity the hon. Gentleman has dug into a lot of matters about which he has asked for an explanation from the Minister, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give him one.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the Victoria Cross and to the Victoria Cross gratuity. It might interest him to know that last year there was a general wish that we should form, in the centenary year, a Victoria Cross Association, of which I was invited to be the first chairman. I have two vice-chairmen, the Right Honourable Milton Gregg, who is the Minister of Labour in the Canadian Government. and the Rev. Harold Woolley, who is known to many of us here.
The holders of the Victoria Cross are a rapidly dying community, as the hon. Gentleman will realise, and since the centenary parade last year eleven of my colleagues have already died. I do not think that any of us would wish that another award of the Victoria Cross should ever be made, because that would envisage some form of war happening, which none of us wants. So we decided a little while ago that the dying community of the Vic- 296 toria Cross should invite, as associate members, the new, live and growing George Cross community to become associate members of our association. They have received our invitation with great enthusiasm, and only this morning I received a letter from the Governor of Malta, who informed me that the people of Malta would be honoured to accept our invitation to become associate members of this association.
We have already had referred to us the matter of the gratuity which the hon. Gentleman mentioned. It is still £10 for other ranks only, as it was in 1856, and it has never been granted to officers. Whether it is considered that this should be increased or not is a matter of opinion. What is more important is that there are a few holders of the Victoria Cross who were in very straitened circumstances, and I am grateful to hon. Members of this House, to whom I have referred their cases, and who have given me a lot of assistance.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the matter of National Service, which has already been raised by one or two other hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have said that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence had not been clear and definite as to whether he really meant that National Service is to come to an end after the five-year period. To my way of thinking, he has made it absolutely clear and definite that this will happen and there is no doubt about it. However, I would ask the Under-Secretary to be definite on this matter of the end of National Service when he replies, since it has been mentioned by several hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the important question of the use of nuclear weapons in another war or for our troops in N. A. T. O., and I will answer that point in the course of my speech.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), made an extremely important point when he said what a good thing it would be if there could be boarding schools for the children of married ranks in the Services. When one thinks of it, that is really the answer to the education problem. The real difficulty is that the married soldier and his wife going abroad have to face the problem of what to do about the education of their children. If their children are sent home to day school, 297 who will look after them? I very much welcome the suggestion of the hon. Member for Fulham about these boarding schools. That is very important, indeed.
He also mentioned the importance of offering a real career in this new Army we are now starting to raise. I go even further than he has done and say that we shall not succeed in raising the number of voluntary Regular recruits which we want in our new Army unless we offer the men entering the Services a real life career. It is not enough simply to say that if they are kicked out of the Army in their thirties or forties the Army will find them some other career. I am sure that the Government have to be responsible for the men of our new Regular Army in exactly the same way as they offer a career to civil servants. Only by offering a career which is worth while in pay, conditions, continuity and security will we get the sort of Army we want.
In an excellent opening speech the Secretary of State referred to the importance of the status of the soldier. That is of supreme importance if we are to get the Army we all want. If we believe that peace and the maintenance of peace is all-important and that the first job of the Services is not to fight a war but to keep that peace. then we must see that in the Armed Forces we have the very pick of our young men to enable us to keep that peace.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) brought up the interesting topic, to which my right hon. Friend referred, of the brigade group and of whether our N. A. T. O. forces should be organised in brigade groups or in some form of division as at present. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West was against the brigade group because he thought that it would make a difference between the organisation of our forces in N. A. T. O. and the forces of our allies. I do not think that is very important. I like the brigade group organisation. I have had a certain amount of experience of it, because before Dunkirk my division trained in brigade groups and fought through the Dunkirk operation in brigade groups and not as a division.
If we are to organise in brigade groups, the brigade group staff is important. One cannot change from division organisation to brigade group organisation and merely 298 shove on to the brigade commander, as was done in my division at Dunkirk, a whole regiment of artillery, tanks and engineers and expect the brigade staff to be able to cope. That is the important thing. We have to make up our minds which type of organisation we want and then stick to it.
In recent years in these debates it has become more and more difficult to separate defence and foreign affairs and to separate defence as a general question from the onsideration of the affairs of the various Services. That is an inescapable problem today, and it will become more so as time goes on. Several speakers have referred to it in the other Service Estimates debates. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made an excellent comment on that point in his speech on the Air Estimates. He said:…there must be a horizontal functional division of the subjects rather than a vertical division as between the Services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1957; Vol. 569, c. 1225.]He is probably quite right, and as war becomes more mechanised and the Services become more integrated—and I am certain that that will be the modern trend, dislike it as we may—it will be more and more difficult to keep our debates on the Service Estimates strictly on the line of one particular Service, because the problems of manpower and all those other problems which we have been considering today equally affect the other Services.
I want for a moment to consider the rôle of the new Army. The rôle of the Army at present and in the future, as envisaged by the Minister of Defence in the White Paper and by the Secretary of State for War, is very much simpler than it was before. Rightly or wrongly, it is based on the nuclear deterrent, and it is because we have accepted the basis of the nuclear deterrent in the shaping of our Forces of the future that the Army is taking the shape which we are now envisaging.
In actual fact the power of the deterrent has been in operation for a number of years. What has deterred the Russians from advancing further westwards has been a combination of the nuclear deterrent and N. A. T. O., but chiefly the nuclear deterrent, because until quite recently N. A. T. O. was very weak indeed and is 299 even now very greatly inferior in manpower and conventional forces to anything which the Russians can put into action against it.
We should consider for a moment—and this answers the point put to me by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill—in what circumstances the deterrent will operate. I suggest that it does not much matter whether N. A. T. O. forces are armed with conventional weapons or with tactical nuclear weapons. I firmly believe that if there is any head-on clash between the nuclear Powers, that is, between Russia on the one hand and Britain and the United States on the other, it is almost certain to result in nuclear war, sooner or later, whether the one side or the other, or both, uses tactical nuclear weapons or not.
I believe that that is a good thing. As one knows from experience, it is possible to drift into a war—we have done that before now. If it is perfectly well understood by both sides that if there is a head-on clash in any part of the world between the nuclear Powers it is almost certain that sooner or later—and I believe that it will be sooner—it will develop into a wholesale nuclear war, then it is unlikely we shall have a global war.
In introducing the Defence White Paper, the Minister of Defence on 16th April said:If…the Russians were to launch a full-scale offensive against Western Europe, it would, I submit, be quite unrealistic to imagine that the issue could be fought out on limited conventional lines and according to rules. In such circumstances, that is, a head-on clash between the great Powers in Europe, between the Communist world and the free world, it is inconceivable that either the Soviet Union or the free world would allow itself to be defeated, with all that that would mean, without throwing everything it had into the battle including nuclear weapons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1957; Vol. 568. c. 1767.]Whether we like it or not, I believe profoundly that that is perfectly true today. If we accept that as a fact, it helps us to understand the rôle—and what should be the organisation for that rôle—of the British Army in a global war.
The second rôle of our Army is defined in the White Paper and in my right hon. Friend's Memorandum. It is to defend British Colonies and protected territories against local attack and to undertake limited operations in overseas emergencies. For that second rôle we need 300 a highly trained, highly mobile Army. It need not be a very big one, but the essential feature is that it must be in instant readiness, able to be moved quickly by air or sea to any particular point.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
In what part of the world does the hon. and gallant Gentleman conceive that such a limited war could break out?
§ Sir J. Smyth
I give Suez as a good example. It has been said of the Nuremburg trials that it is a hanging matter to be on the losing side. I think that is the lesson that most people would take from those trials. On Suez we may disagree, but I believe that our decision to intervene between Israel and Egypt and thereby to stop a war developing throughout the whole of the Middle East was a correct one. The big mistake over Suez was that the forces at our disposal to cope with that situation were so organised that they could not act quickly, and so we had that long delay of six days when there was the bombing of Egyptian aerodromes, and so on. That is an example.
It might be that the Aden Protectorate was attacked or that our interests were threatened in another part of the world. It is difficult to define the circumstances exactly, but it is for this purpose that the central reserve is being created by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.
In an operation of that sort, a limited operation with a limited objective, we must use limited forces. That has been so for many years. An interesting example is that in 1920 we were faced in India with a threat of what turned out to be the biggest frontier campaign we have ever had to deal with, and we really had not the troops available. Therefore, we brought forward a deterrent. It was not a nuclear deterrent. It was the threat of air bombing against the tribes, and it had never before been used in our history. The tribes were not put off by the threat and we used the deterrent, and that was not effective. The result was a long and costly campaign. That was a deterrent of a different nature, and we hope that the nuclear deterrent is a far more effective one which will prevent another global war from starting.
301 I wish to make a few comments about manpower. Several hon. Members have referred to the speech by Lord Tedder in another place and to his criticism of the White Paper which he said had had a shattering effect on the morale of all three Services. He said that the ranks of the Services were one seething mass of rumours. I think that was an exaggeration. What concerns the Services is their own position—whether they are to he declared redundant and retired, or not; but I do not believe that the alterations and the innovations which are being made in the Services have worried the personnel all that much.
We have had other upsets in the past. I can remember what an upset it was when the cavalry had their horses removed. I was in India at the time, and it appeared to them to be a major disaster at the time. I remember one general officer saying to me, very bitterly, that the motto of the cavalry in India was Aut polo aut nihil,which, according to my translation from the Latin, means "Either polo or nothing". I think that that was rather a libel on them, because if a man is going to war on a horse it is extremely good training to play polo. However, the cavalry, having had their horses taken away and replaced by armoured cars, very soon got used to their new rôle—and they still continued to play polo.
§ Sir J. Smyth
if we are really to get the Army and the Services that we want we must offer the men who join the new Services a whole life career which will be really worth while and attractive to the type of men whom we want to recruit.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) that it is difficult to disassociate foreign policy from our consideration of military affairs. Obviously, if Government policy was one of neutrality and pacifism it would not be necessary to have an Army, a Navy or an Air Force; but we know that it is not so based. 'Therefore, in discussing the Estimates we must always keep constantly in mind the policy of the Government.
302 The Committee knows fairly well from statements which have been made that Government policy is one of supporting in Europe the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In that respect, we are not merely discussing our own national Army; we are discussing that Army in association with the allied forces in that organisation. Therefore, I suggest that much of our discussion today has been unrealistic. I think that it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) who stressed the unreality in the make-up of the fighting formations. I think that it was he who said that our forces in Germany are not to be considered as so many divisions but as so many brigade groups.
Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for War, in a previous speech, in answer to some questions of mine, tried to inform us of the constitution of the various elements which make up brigade groups which we must now consider to be the real fighting forces of the British Army. How far have our allies so constituted their forces that they can work in with our brigade groups? We do not know that completely. Of course, we must not argue that point today otherwise we might possibly be ruled out of order. We are discussing the British Army Estimates but nevertheless the thought must be in the minds not only of hon. Members but of generals too: is the whole of this force going to be efficient?
I do not think that at the moment the authorities at S. H. A. P. E. are quite sure ill their minds as to the forces that they have at their disposal and whether they will be able to utilise them. Obviously, if the balloon goes up, we have it on record, from the Commander in Chief and Field Marshal Montgomery and others that the deterrent, in other words the bomb, will be dropped. It is quite probable that that kind of war will not happen.
In relation to the Government's policy of co-operation with their allies, they did for a time diverge from that system by "going it", if not alone, with one other ally, France, in association with Israel. They soon found that it was impossible, first, to mount that operation and, secondly, to follow it right the way through, as ought to have been done once it was started. I have a suspicion that 303 the Under-Secretary of State for War was, if he is not now, of the same opinion.
That operation was a complete failure, not only because of the political implication but because the Army, in co-operation with the Air Force and Navy, could not be thrown in to complete the operation as it should have been done in the face of practically no armed resistance from the Egyptians and in the time that it had at its disposal. Therefore, I say to the Committee that in that illustration I am not exaggerating when I say that our military forces, at any rate so far as the Army is concerned, are not capable today of doing the job which the Secretary of State told us this afternoon they would be able to do.
I think that it is our duty, as the guardians of the national interest, to probe very deeply into these matters. Of course, we are limited. A smoke screen of faked security goes up. We experienced it this afternoon from the Secretary of State for War and we had it from the Secretary of State for Air the other day. They come here and make their large statements, and when an hon. Member gets up and says, "How are you going to do that", immediately up goes the screen and we are told that it is not in the public interest to give the information, or that it would be of great value to our enemies. Our enemies know a great deal of what is happening, and if we know, as the First Lord of Admiralty told another place a few days ago, the approximate number of submarines that Russia has, does not the Committee think that the Russians have a pretty shrewd idea of what we have by way of armed units or formations?
§ Sir J. Smyth
I agree with most of the things which the right hon. Gentleman has said, but would not he agree that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, from his Defence White Paper, has obviously assimilated the lessons of Suez? With the look forward that is portrayed in the White Paper, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has realised the state of affairs and he intends to remedy them with his central reserves and his methods of air transport?
§ Mr. Bellenger
No, Sir, I would not agree. What I think the Minister of Defence has done is to realise that that operation was a failure; in other words, 304 the British military forces are today not capable of carrying out Government policy, and all that the Minister of Defence has done has been to act as the surgeon who diagnoses what he thinks is the disease and then gives to his assistant surgeons—the chiefs of the Service Departments—the order to cut, and leaves them to cut. That is why today we are not able to see the pattern and the shape of our Army.
If hon. Members will look at the preface in the Secretary of State's Memorandum they will find the clue there. The Committee should be given an indication of what our forces will be in the future—because it does not matter what has happened in the past, that is past history and the historians can deal with it. It does not need the Secretary of State to come here and tell us what has happened in the past. At any rate the Government will not tell us what has happened in the immediate past, otherwise they might have a few resignations. This Memorandum deals primarily with the work of the Army during the past year, and goes on blandly to say thatThe Government's defence policy…has far-reaching implications for the Army. These can be dealt with in our forthcoming debates.How can they be dealt with if the Secretary of State is now waiting for private Members of the House to tell him how to build his own Army? Surely that is putting the cart before the horse. Is it not the duty of the Secretary of State to give some indication to the House about how he is proposing to build the Army of the future? He says very little, and I shall proceed for a few moments to investigate what he does say and principally what he does not say.
The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, in his speech—and I am bound to say in his absence, and I hope that it will be passed on to him, that I thought his speech was by far and away the best of the three Service speeches that we have listened to from the Front Bench opposite—at least tried to put some life into a somewhat lifeless subject, because he had not the material with which to build up his speech. The other two Service Ministers simply stuck rigidly to the briefs prepared by their Departments, and consequently the House was left just as wise after their speeches as it was before as to what is really happening in those two Departments.
305 I myself, as hon. Members know, have been at the War Office and I know how Ministers' speeches are made up. In the War Office, before the Secretary of State makes his Estimates speech, the various directorates send in their bits and pieces and, of course, the Secretary of State finds that he has too much material to give the House. Then someone, perhaps the Secretary of State himself, tries to reduce it to a compass which he thinks the House can reasonably be expected to bear with. But it is a mosaic, and if the right hon. Gentleman does his job properly it gives the House some sort of a pattern on which it can at least judge as to the readiness of our forces.
The whole trouble is that not one of the Service Departments can make up a pattern today because the bits and pieces of the mosaic which they have to play with are all so jumbled that they cannot make any picture that we can look at in perspective and say, "That tells us at least something. It is a landscape or else it is a portrait". We do not know what it is at the moment, except that we can be pretty sure that it is something of a still life.
I turn to what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon. When he was talking about re-equipment he gave us a whole catalogue of what I might call the stale stock of the Army. He said that we were going to clear out the shop shelves and do away with the 25-pounder artillery gun, which has been a very good weapon for very many years. He said that we are to re-equip the Army with the F. N. rifle and, in place of the Sten submachine gun, to equip the Army with the Sterling sub-machine gun, which is also an excellent weapon. I have fired it and I can assure those Members of the Committee who have not seen it in operation that it is a first-class weapon for its job.
So first-class is it that at least forty customers from various parts of the world are asking for or have ordered some of these weapons. That is probably why the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), in his excellent maiden speech, referred to the supply to our soldiers of some of these guns by Turkish policemen. It may be good as an anecdote to underline his point of 306 view, but the fact remains that the Sterling gun, which is made in this country, is exported to other countries by permission of Her Majesty's Government, and the reason why the gun is not in full production here is that the Ministry of Supply held up the weapon for at least two years trying to redesign it.
That leads me to the conclusion that the Ministry of Supply and its functions require to be looked into. I remember the debates which took place before the war, when hon. Members opposite who were supporting the Government of those days advocated the setting up of a Ministry of Supply. I am not at all sure that in the question of defence the Ministry of Supply is not something of a fourth wheel. The Navy, at any rate, orders a good deal of its own supplies direct. For clothing, and supplies like that, which are common to the three Services, except as to the colour of the material, the system may be all right, but I am not at all sure that the Army or the Air Force is getting the best possible weapons with the present system of leaving to the Ministry of Supply the designing and supplying of them.
The Committee probably knows that many of the officers in the Ministry are seconded from the War Office. I believe that there is a lot of duplication. It may be that the War Office should allow hon. Members to see something of these modern weapons. In that connection I would draw the attention of the hon. Member and his right hon. Friend to an exercise which many hon. Members attended a few days ago, staged by the Royal Navy. I believe that the exercise was called "Fairlead". That was an operation which had been going on for two weeks, and Members of Parliament, prominent industrialists, and leading men in all walks of life, were invited to it.
In one day we learned a good deal of what is happening in the Navy. I am not a naval man and I can therefore plead ignorance of the Navy's weapons, and the way in which it will fight its wars, but it staged a show—if I may call it such—which impressed all those present. It included all the Commonwealth representatives taking part in the operation, and we were allowed to see models of the actual weapons. We were able to see how a battleship, aircraft 307 carrier—which is today's battleship—or cruiser is pre-wetted in order to minimise the effect of atomic radiation. Many of those things were available for hon. Members and others to see. If the War Office wants the co-operation of hon. Members it must tell us something more about itself. If it has anything to hide—and it undoubtedly has—it must not be surprised if it is criticised, because that is what the House is for. We are all acting in the interests of our country and its safety and security.
In another place the First Lord stated that the Russians had 500 submarines. That poses a problem which not only the Navy must answer but which all hon. Members must try to visualise. When we are discussing the Service Estimates we must see whether the military forces are able to compete with our potential enemies. Can any hon. Member opposite—many of whom have much more recent experience than I of active service with the Army or of the Reserve—tell the Committee that he believes that we have as efficient a fighting force for the job, that we have to do as we had five or six years ago?
During the time that I was at the War Office we were running down the Army—demobilising from a strength of over 3 million down to the Army that we were trying to keep for the future. The Army has never been right, and I believe that the most important reason why it has never been right is that we have had National Service. I know all the arguments about our commitments, but what are these commitments?
When I compare the map which the Secretary of State kindly attached to his Memorandum with the map attached to the Memorandum in 1954, a very startling picture is provided. The 1954 map shows thousands of troops dotted all over the globe. supposed to be doing a job. What is their job now? The Secretary of State's Memorandum mentions the British Army of the Rhine and garrisons in Egypt, Cyprus, Libya, the Arabian peninsula, and so forth. In Cyprus we find that merely to tackle civil disobedience—I agree that it is perhaps on a much more serious scale than ordinary civil disobedience—we have about 18,000 troops, presumably all armed with modern weapons, in order to deal with a job which ought to be a police job.
308 Why is it not a police job? It is because our intelligence has failed us in Cyprus. We cannot send troops into action against guerillas and expect them to force the surrender of those forces in the way that they could force an enemy to surrender in a pitched battle.
A survey of our forces dotted all over the world shows us that in Malaya we have 22 battalions, including United Kingdom, Gurkha and Commonwealth battalions; we do not know how many troops there are in the Hong Kong garrison. The right hon. Gentleman does not tell us, but Hong Kong is chock-a-block with troops. It may be that it is part of the strategic reserve for the Far East. In Malaya we have eight battalions, including United Kingdom and East African forces. I wonder what is the purpose of these armed troops.
If the Under-Secretary will tell us that they form part of our strategic reserve, placed in the most strategic posts. I can understand his policy, but when I am told that they are there merely to subdue Mau Mau or E. O. K. A. I begin to wonder whether the rôle of the Army is so clearly defined as the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said in his speech. I do not believe it. I think that the Army is being misused today.
At some time the Minister and his military advisers at the War Office will have to study how the Army was built up forty years ago. We produced four divisions in 1914 who were splendidly trained and, on the whole for those times, very well equipped. They were able to hold a very strong German Army at bay and to play their part with their French allies. Today, we have not four divisions like that or as well trained as they were to be able to tackle a potential aggressor, although we have very good troops in Germany.
When the right hon. Gentleman gets down to the question of the volunteer Army, I hope that he will train it as a Regular Army and not, as he has been training the Army, as a mixture of Regulars and National Service men. I do not decry National Service men—three or four of my sons have done their Service—or their qualities, but they are not being trained for the purpose which the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to understand. The right hon. Gentleman submits this Memorandum and comes 309 here this afternoon and, in his somewhat disconnected remarks, tells us what is the future of the British Army. Let me take one point, if only to show that my criticism does not consist of wild generalities.
I will take the question of air transport. The whole mobility of the British Army, with the strategic reserve—or central reserve as it is now called—centred in this country, depends upon transport aeroplanes. When I asked the Secretary of State for Air how many aeroplanes he had to lift those troops, he said, "You must not ask questions that would be useful to the enemy." Look at the Secretary of State's Memorandum. I have read page 12. where he deals with the subject of movement. In paragraph 80 he tells us that since the crisis in the Mediterranean trooping to the Far East has been maintained only spasmodically. Yet we may be attacked in the Far East. There may be some aggression in the Far East tomorrow. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say that owing to a somewhat provisional arrangement which the Army has been able to make, 1,100 personnel each way are all who are being sent by air each month for all three Services.
Therefore we have a movement of 12,000 per annum for all three Services, The R. A. F. is a very big user of that transport to the Far East. That is all we can maintain, partly because of the difficulties about landing grounds for aeroplanes from Britain to the Far East and also because we have not the transport aeroplanes. I know that that is not the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War, but what do hon. Gentlemen understand from all this mumbo-jumbo? That is all it is. Why talk about the mobility of our central reserve and all the rest of it if we have not the means of mobility? Everybody knows that if war should come it would be very difficult to get our reserve mobilised and sent out of the country to fight wherever it might have to fight to stop the enemy from getting here.
What has the right hon. Gentleman told us about the rôle of the Territorial Army? He says that it has to be trained as a fighting force, but in the next breath, or a least in the next sentence, he tells us that it may be used for Civil Defence.
310 From the map we see that we have in the United Kingdom a Territorial Army of 10⅔ divisions. I do not know what the size of the division is, but let us take it as being 10,000. I suspect that it is much more than that. That means 100,000 men in the Territorial Army. What for? The right hon. Gentleman says, in his Memorandum, that they are to be trained as a fighting force. What for? To defend this country; but long before they could do so the country would be overwhelmed from the air. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to speak about 28 battalions which are presumably for Civil Defence duties.
I wish the right hon. Gentleman had told us a little more about the rôle of the Reserve Army and the Territorial Army in relation to Civil Defence. I go so far as to suggest that that is one problem that the Army, in conjunction with the Home Office, which is responsible for Civil Defence, has not settled today. It is a long way from settling it. I suspect that the Home Secretary's Department on Civil Defence, which is doing very good work at the staff college and in a small way in local government areas, has no settled plan as to how it is to work in conjunction with the Territorial Army or the reserve force if war should occur.
I will conclude by referring to one or two observations, or insinuations, which the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon. He did not specify who was creating alarm and despondency, and spreading rumours about redundancy and the bowler hats that are going to be distributed in the Army. Let the right hon. Gentleman be under no illusion: the Army knows far better than we do what is coming to it. Let hon. Members take the numbers of officers disclosed in the Estimates and the right hon. Gentleman's own words this afternoon, when he said that of the 5,000 to 7,000 dismissals that were to take place, the Army would have to sustain about half.
What do we find? One in six or seven Army officers will be axed. Who will those officers be? The senior officers in the main, for whom it will be difficult to find jobs in civil life Sometimes, as I listen to the Minister or to hon. Members saying what we will do to reduce the pains of dismissal for these Army officers I fancy they are talking with their tongues in their cheeks. I know how difficult it 311 is for men who are aged 35 or 40, as many of these men are, to go from a life of military training, which I can assure hon. Gentlemen does not fit them for civil training, and try to find a place in industry.
During the debate on the Air Estimates one hon. Member told us that he tried to get a job in civil life for a comparatively young officer, and failed. The director of the organisation—and I presume that the hon. Member had some influence with him—said, "We cannot do it. It would be unfair to those young men whom we have taken into the organisation to train. In addition, it would be very difficult for such an ex-Air Force officer to be integrated into our organisation." I do not think that that industrialist was callous. I believe that he would honestly have tried to take that ex-officer into his organisation if he could have done so. It was a big undertaking, and there must have been plenty of jobs available, but he felt that in the interests of his own shareholders and his own organisation he could not give a job to that ex-officer.
I say to the Secretary of State that he need cast no glances at the Opposition benches when he talks about alarm and despondency. He and his associate, the Minister of Defence, have created all the alarm and despondency for us. I will not say that they were wrong to make these cuts, but I object to the impetuous way in which the new Minister of Defence and, before him, the present Prime Minister, then Minister of Defence, went like a knife through the Department, and said, "Away with this and that." First, it was Anti-Aircraft Command. That should have been done a long time ago. If the Government had phased this dispersal there would have been less hardship on those now being dismissed with a wave of the hand.
Having seen that his forces were unable to run a small operation in the Suez Canal with no opposition whatever from an enemy, the present Minister of Defence said, "Let us cut down these forces." What is the aftermath? What is the result? The result is plain for all those who will study and read between the lines. The result is that if war were to break out tomorrow our military forces, including the Army, would be in a hopeless state of confusion. I say that 312 having spent many years as a Member of the House, I say it as one who has studied military matters, and I say it as one who has had some experience in Ministerial office. I do not say it merely to embark upon partisan criticism of the Government.
I have observed all the Ministers as they presented their Estimates, and I think that they are all disappointed men. They know that in their Departments there has been considerable resistance to many of these cuts. I will not say whether it was right or wrong that there should be resistance, but such has been the case, and it needs strong Ministers, sure in their own minds about what their policy will be, to overcome that resistance. I have not much faith in certain of the Ministers who lead the Service Departments today.
Hon. Members opposite are the people who have always claimed military knowledge; it was to the Conservative Party that we were supposed to look for the defence of this country. How well they did it we know from reading the books of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). They had the tradition, but where are they today? They are in the position of not knowing where their military forces are going. They are not in the position to recruit their military forces, and they never will be until they get the co-operation of the Opposition. I say to the Under-Secertary of State, who has had a good deal of experience, in conjunction with certain hon. Members of the Opposition, in studying military matters, that it would be well worth while for the War Office to take a leaf out of the book of the Admiralty and to give us a chance to help, because many of us want to do so.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
In a debate which, on the whole, has been soporific in its general harmony. the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has struck a much-needed discordant note, the first which has ben struck so far. It is quite likely that I shall add another chord of the same kind to the debate. I found myself agreeing with some things which he said, although obviously he would not expect me to agree with everything he said.
I would make only one other passing reference to his speech, and that is to his 313 remark that it would be a good thing if hon. Members sometimes watched the arms being used and watched the forces in action. That is a very interesting idea, and I can suggest another to him—that we can all learn a great deal by going to see an example of the four Services—four if we include the Civil Service—co-operating in the Joint Services Staff College very near London, at Chesham.
§ Mr. Hall
If the right hon. Member were to go there he would see the way in which the four Services learn to work together as a team. I was alarmed not lone ago when I heard a rumour, which I hope is only a rumour, that the College might be closed or that the amount of money available to it might be reduced. I hope that instead of the amount of money available to it being reduced, more will be made available, because it has done magnificent work.
When I first read the Defence White Paper, and the Army Memorandum which followed, I very nearly dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back, and I imagine that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) may also have done so, as he is not present at the moment, Last year, at about this time or a little earlier, I had the privilege of moving what was, apparently, the last of the line of intervening Amendments. On that particular occasion, by my own Amendment, I called for…drastic and far-reaching changes in the defence structure…and urged…the appointment of a committee to examine the organisation of the Army…"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1956 Vol. 549, c. 1442.]In moving that Amendment, I remember finishing with a suggestion that to meet the kind of war that we were most likely to be called upon to fight, and to relieve our economy of a burden which it obviously could not continue to carry, we should develop a small, highly-trained, efficient and fully-mobile army. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey), who seconded the Amendment, has since soared into the stratosphere of the Foreign Office, and it is quite clear from that high eminence he has been able to exercise some little influence, because the very things which 314 we urged a little more than a year ago are coming to fruition in the Defence White Paper.
§ Mr. Hall
Even the Committee for which we asked at that time has been decided on, though not quite in the form that we had in mind. The Minister of Defence has set up a Committee to consider the closer integration of the Services. But I do not really flatter myself, nor am I sure would by hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East, that the Amendment had anything to do with the present move. I rather think that it is the result of the lessons learned from Suez, which drove home the need completely to re-organise the type of force we now need.
In the new organisation we are aiming at reducing our Forces between now and 1962 to 375,000, of which between about 160,000 and 170,000 will be for the Army. And I am delighted to know that this is without National Service. I have always thought that the introduction of National Service men, though essential at a certain stage of our history, took way from the efficiency of the Army and made it very difficult for it to work on the most efficient basis.
We have had a great deal of discussion about manpower and the possibility of recruitment. I looked up the figures of the Forces before the war, and I find that in 1937 we had total forces of 371.000. A year later we had 402,000. In those two years the Army had a strength of 194,000 and 209,000, respectively.
§ Mr. Hall
I think that the first year of National Service was 1939—or late 1938. But the figures I have quoted are without National Service altogether.
I appreciate that recruitment to the Army in those days was, as the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) pointed out, against a very different background than we have today, when we are considering the problem against the background of full employment. I appreciate, 315 too, that today a higher percentage of technicians and skilled men is required than was necessary in the days before the last war. Nevertheless, I still think that it would be possible, given certain conditions—improvements in conditions, pay and the like—to reach that target figure of between 165,000 and 170,000.
Reference has already been made to pay, and I firmly agree with everything that has been said—that it must be competitive. We know that it is essential to improve living conditions, both in barracks and married quarters. Everybody is fully aware of that need.
I want, however, to follow up the point about education made by the hon. Member for Fulham. The younger officers, especially—and, indeed, the other ranks —are having to consider the future education of their children who are approaching secondary school age. Many of them have, until recently at any rate, been persuaded to leave the Army because they could not see themselves able to give their children the educational opportunity which they felt those children ought to have. When even in this country men are asked to move three or four times in almost as many years, so that they have to take their children away from school after school, it is impossible for those children to study or to concentrate on passing the examinations without which it is impossible for them to move up in the educational system. This must be a cause of anxiety to parents.
I would support the hon. Member for Fulham and hon. Members on both sides in proposing the establishment by the Services of boarding schools, or for the provision by the Services for the children to take places at existing boarding schools. I do not think this idea should be confined to the three Fighting Services. Some time ago, when talking on a similar subject, I suggested that boarding school places should be available for the children of members of the five Services, the three Fighting Services and the Foreign and Colonial Services as well, so that anybody serving overseas who was unable by reason of Government service to stay in one place could ensure his children's education, just in the case of anyone in static employment, and without being in any worse financial position as a result.
316 It is possible that the establishment of a central reserve, which was envisaged in the Memorandum, may make it possible to restore what used to be the normal trooping system, with interchanges between the reserve and the garrisons in different parts of the world. In those circumstances it might be possible—I put it no higher than that—for officers and other ranks so to arrange their affairs as to be stationed in this country when their children go through the most critical period of their education. I do not see that happening quite like that, and I think that the problem can be dealt with only by direct help, either additional financial assistance or the provision of facilities.
Some hon. Members have referred to the question of resettlement, and I would agree that certainly after the first six years or so the question of his future career when he leaves the Army comes to the forefront of the soldier's mind. This is a difficult problem. It is very difficult to persuade industries to guarantee that they will accept a certain percentage of men who have served their time in the Army. The Government do their best, I know, in taking many ex-Service men into Government service and giving them priority treatment when considering them for examination for various Departments of the Civil Service, but that is not enough. I do not know the answer to this problem. I do not know that anybody does, but I think we should applaud the decision of the Minister of Labour and National Service to set up a Departmental Committee to go into the ramifications of this problem. I hope that that investigation will find an answer. That is one of the necessary things to do if we arc to encourage recruitment.
Above all, I think it is right to say, what many of my hon. Friends on this side have stressed, that we must try to restore in the soldier pride in his profession. A man will put up with inadequate pay, will accept conditions of hardship, even separation from his family, if he feels that he belongs to a profession which is outstanding, which is second to none. If he feels that as a soldier he belongs to an Army which for its size is the best in the world; if he feels that as an individual he has been trained to a pitch of physical and mental perfection to carry out his job, that will 317 give him pride which will enable him to overcome the many disadvantages inseparable from military life.
There are many aids one can give to help the establishment of this prestige and pride in the profession. The provision of a good. attractive uniform is, of course. only one.
One problem we have to examine is whether an Army of between 150,000 and 170,000 is large enough to deal with all the commitments which we have and which we may have to face. Although the Army before the war was larger, its commitments then were probably not very different from those it has now. It is true that we did not have troubles in Malaya and Kenya. On the other hand, we had 50.000 British troops in India, which we have not got now. We had a force in Egypt which we have not got now. We did not have a commitment in Germany, it is true, but we had roughly the equivalent in divisions for the establishment of a continental expeditionary force. The commitments were not so very different, although the percentage of fighting men was greater. If we are to spread an Army of 165,000 or thereabouts over our commitments, the Army is going to be stretched, even allowing for the fact that the R. A. F. undertakes a certain amount of those commitments.
As several speakers have stressed, much will depend upon the effective mobility of our central Reserve. On this point several questions come to one's mind. What is to be the size of the central Reserve? Can we regard our forces in Germany as part of that Reserve, or are they still in the category of the untouchables? What part of the Reserve do we think we must have available for immediate movement, and what is the size of that force? Is it to be the new brigade group? Is that to be the force which we are to have available to move rapidly at a moment's notice—5,000 or 6,000 men?
Are we capable—and this question has been asked by several hon. Members—of lifting such a force now, and if not when shall we be capable of doing so? I am told that it would take about twenty Britannias seven days to lift a light brigade to the Far East. I may be wrong, but I am told that if we wanted to lift a heavy brigade capable of undertaking 318 limited operations on arrival and marrying up with the much heavier equipment coming from other established bases it would require thirty Britannias to do the same job.
The hon. Member for Dudley, in the debate on the Air Estimates, pointed out that it would take almost the entire American transport fleet of 806 aircraft to lift what was described as a 5,000-ton division—a light division. To move an 11,000-ton division, which was considered necessary to engage promptly in combat operations in undeveloped areas, would require many more aircraft than that. It seems doubtful to me whether we could lift a light division or even half a light division.
The Committee must have sonic information on this point, for I do not think security is necessarily involved. I am sure that other countries have a fairly good idea of the number of transport planes that we have at our disposal. I should like to know what sized force we are planning to make fully mobile and available for rapid deployment at, say, 48 hours' notice. Have we enough planes to lift that force? If not, are we diverting enough of our resources which we are proposing to spend on the Army to the immediate provision of those transport aircraft?
Another question which has not been asked so far is whether we are proposing to increase the number of airborne troops as opposed to air portable troops. Do we propose to increase the number of paratroops? We have one brigade at the moment, although I doubt if we could deploy a paratroop brigade if we wanted to deploy it as a brigade and not as individual battalions.
We had a discussion on mobilisation following the Suez operation, and it became clear in the debates that followed that the mobilisation procedure was not all it should be. I should like to know whether that has been improved. Will the brigade group, or some other such formation of the central Reserve earmarked for rapid deployment, be capable of movement at very short notice?
That brings me to the question of the reserve Army. I think everybody will agree that that has been the least satisfactory side of the Army organisation. It says a great deal for the spirit of those who are in the Territorial Army that they 319 have remained in it as volunteers, despite the many official N. A. F. U. s from which they have suffered from time to time. In my view it has an essential place, not only in the defence of the country. I am not at all sure—and here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—that it could be mobilised or deployed in this country in the event of a third world war. I think that it has a vital part to play in the operations which we might have to face in reinforcing our forces overseas in what might be a large-scale local war. There is always the possibility that in certain areas there could be an operation which would be large in the sense of the number of troops employed, but which would not call into use the nuclear weapons. I think it ought to be trained to meet that contingency.
I have been one of the few people who regretted the demise of the Home Guard. I do not think that as a military force it would be very effective on the field, but there is one very important task that it could perform. Obviously, it would only operate in a third world war if we were going to be attacked with nuclear weapons. For that kind of warfare it is admirably organised. The only troops that I think we could mobilise and be able to use for the preservation of civil order in this country would be small units mobilised on a local basis. If there were a number of small units all over the country which could be mobilised locally at points only a short distance from their homes, that would give us disciplined bodies of men who could be called upon to perform certain tasks in a war in which this country was involved.
I am very sorry that the Home Guard is to all intents and purposes dead. I am particularly sorry when I look at the Report of the Army League Sub-Committee published in 1955 when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War was acting as secretary to that organisation, because on page 36 of the Report it says:The Army's third task would be the organisation of factory, town and communication defences against deep penetration or airborne raids by the enemy. This would call for a Home Guard. which would be a compulsory service in time of war.I quite agree with my hon. Friend, and I am only sorry that he has not, apparently, been able to make his influence felt in 320 the War Office. I hope that there is still time for the War Office to think again in the matter of the Home Guard.
I return now to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman in connection with our forces in Germany. Those forces are to be reduced by about 13,000 over the next twelve months or so. What exactly is the purpose of our forces in Germany? I have never been altogether clear about this. I understand that the purpose of our forces and of the allied forces in Europe is to compel a potential enemy to concentrate a large body of troops prior to an attack which would provide a target for nuclear weapons and make it quite clear that such an attack was the signal of a third world war.
What size of force is required to make an enemy deploy considerable forces against one? I should have thought one needed ten to fifteen divisions at the most; that a force of that size was large enough to achieve the purpose.
§ Mr. Hall
I suppose that on paper we have a good deal more at the present moment, and that brings me to the point made by the hon. Gentleman. It is a question of nomenclature. We call our formations large brigade groups, but, in fact, they are light divisions if we compare them with the forces employed by our allies. I am wondering whether we could not use our present forces in Germany, admirably situated as they are, for training, and so on, as part of our central Reserve instead of keeping them there untouchable and unusable. I can see no objection to that except a political one. The political objection, of course, arises from the effect on our allies if we take away these forces, as the French did, for use elsewhere. if, however, we call these brigade groups by another name, as far as I can see, we shall have eight divisions employed in Western Europe instead of four, so that we shall have four available for use elsewhere.
§ Mr. Strachey
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that, to do that, we really must have five major units in these brigade groups or divisions; otherwise, nobody will admit that they are divisions?
§ Mr. Hall
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that one would have to 321 develop the brigade group as it now exists, but I think that it could be done and would make available to us some additional troops, which we shall badly need in 1962 when we run our army down to 170,000 men.
Having asked all these questions, the answers to which I do not for a moment suppose I shall get in their entirety tonight, I join with hon. Members on both sides in congratulating my right hon. Friend on his opening speech today and the way in which he presented the Estimates. Also, I congratulate him, and the Minister of Defence, on the very forward step they have taken—in my view, rather overdue—in re-organising our fighting forces on a much more realistic basis. I have made it quite clear in the last two or three years that I have not thought that our forces were organised for the kind of war we may have to fight. Now that we are getting down to a very much more realistic basis, the only thing which worries me is mobility. Without proper mobility, the whole conception of the central reserve, designed to reinforce our overseas garrisons will fail.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
We have had one or two rather long speeches which have shortened the time available, so I hope that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) will forgive me if I do not reply to his speech. I wish to raise three points, the first concerned with a personal case and the other two arising from the Memorandum.
As regards the personal case, I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of State has gone out, because my quarrel is really with him. It is a case about which I wrote to him, and I warned him that I proposed to raise it in the debate today. It concerns a young Service man, a constituent of mine, about whom I wrote to the Minister in an effort to get his release, on two related grounds. His father is a widower, who has no relatives of any kind; he lives alone and is in very bad health. A short time ago he had a serious illness. I obtained a doctor's certificate, which I sent to the Minister. Of course, I wrote to the Secretary of Stale, but for some reason or other the Secretary of State, unlike other Ministers, does not reply to Members of Parliament and I got my reply from the Under-Secretary.
322 The doctor's certificate which I sent to the Secretary of State said that in January of this year this gentleman, the father, had a serious illness and since thenhe has had recurring attacks of bronchitis "—and something else which I cannot read. The certificate goes on:These attacks are likely to continue, and are the legacy from a recent severe attack of broncho-pneumonia Mr. X ' is a widower, who lives at home. In my view, it is essential that his son should be at home with him as soon as possible.The second ground upon which I made my request was this. The father is the sole proprietor of a building business which is wholly engaged in modernising colliery houses in the North of England. The importance of the work was recognised by the chairman of the Coal Board, who himself asked the Secretary of State to release this young man because of the good work which had been done.
§ Mr. John Hare
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman for one moment, I gather that the letter was sent to me when I was in Germany, and therefore the case was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.
§ Mr. Short
Yes, that was the case with the last letter, but this correspondence has been going on for some time, and I originally wrote to the right hon. Gentleman.
The point I am making is that during this man's long illness, his son, by his ability in the trade, had become the lynch-pin of the organisation, and the father was, through him, able to run the business and achieve considerable success, and, in fact, set the pattern for house modernising for the rest of the country. The work which he has been doing has been visited by builders from all over the country.
The request for this young man's release was turned down, so I asked the Minister if he would consider a home posting for him. It seemed to me to be a very modest request in view of all the talk that we have now about a central Reserve being created in this country and in view of all the talk about cutting down reserves overseas. if this man had had a home posting he could have kept an eye on the business and given some comfort to his father, who, as I said, has no relatives and lives alone.
323 I submitted the doctor's certificate, but the home posting was turned down also. So I made inquiries about the postings of other young men who had been in this fellow's training unit. I discovered that some of the men who had asked specifically for overseas postings had been given home postings, whereas this young man, who had very good reasons for a home posting, had been sent to Singapore of all places. I sent to the Minister a week ago particulars of the men who had asked for overseas postings, but I have had no reply of any kind.
Such an unsympathetic, rigid attitude is no use if we are to have a voluntary Army. This is a year when there is talk of an active run-down of the Army. Presumably, some official somewhere in the War Office, some petty bureaucrat, dug his toes in about this case in the early stages and refused to be budged and has used the Under-Secretary to show that he is continuing to exert his power to move men from one Continent to another, just like pawns, irrespective of the circumstances. There is not very much hope of attracting recruits to a voluntary Army if this sort of unsympathetic attitude prevails in the War Office. I should be unworthy of the confidence of my constituents if I did not place on record this protest against the rigid attitude of the Under-Secretary of State for War.
The second point I wish to raise arises on the Memorandum and concerns the future shape of the Army. What the future shape of the Army will be, of course, we cannot say. It appears that there is one certainty, that the next war, if it does come, will be a nuclear war. That certainty is bound in the next few years to make a considerable impact on Army organisation. The one obvious development which was discussed at length by the right hon. Gentleman was that Army groups in future are likely to be a good deal smaller, and he talked about the brigade group.
In this emerging picture—and what will finally emerge nobody can say—I want to put in a plea for the retention in some form of the county regiments. In the voluntary Army which we are to have in a few years' time, recruiting will become a number one priority. I fully realise, as a number of hon. Members on both 324 sides have said, that the new weapons with their mass of electronic equipment will be in themselves a tremendous attraction.
A few days ago I had the privilege, if it is a privilege, of seeing the "Corporal", a great massive new weapon which will require an enormous amount of electronic equipment and a lot of highly-trained men to set it off. I realise that that sort of equipment and weapon will have a great attraction. Nevertheless, I believe that the old county regiment, with its uniforms, its glamour and its traditions, all of which count for a good deal, has been one of the most important factors in recruiting in the past.
I fully realise that a good deal of ingenuity will be needed to adapt a regimental system, which evolved really in medieval times, to the sort of Army that that will emerge in the future, but we would be very foolish indeed if we did not use the tremendous attraction of the old county system in some way.
My third point, which has not been mentioned in this debate but is referred to in the Memorandum, is the question of the Army Cadet Force, which, I believe, will become a good deal more important in the future than it has been in the past.
We are told in the Memorandum that there is a Committee sitting or going to sit under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of State, and that at once arouses my apprehensions. I do not know who is to sit on the committee, but I should like to put forward a plea that it should contain some members who understand young people. With all respect, and I have a great deal of respect for them, I do not think the normal Army officer understands young boys. He certainly understands men, but not young boys. I would suggest that perhaps a i headmaster of a school in which there is a successful cadet corps would be a suit- able person to sit on this committee.
Again, perhaps someone from the Scout movement might be suitable, and I suggest that because the Scout movement has shown much more imagination than any other youth organisation in the appeal which it makes to young people. I hope that this is not going to be a committee of civil servants and generals. I cannot imagine anything more frightful 325 for the future of the Cadet Force than a committee with generals sitting on one side of the table and civil servants on the other, and with the Under-Secretary of State at the head of it. I therefore hope that imagination will be shown in setting up this committee.
Apart from the personnel of the committee, since I was mentioning the county regiments a moment ago, I suggest that there should be much closer links between the Cadet Force and the county regiments. I know that there is a link at present, but it is not nearly strong enough. I cannot imagine anything that would give these young boys greater pride than to feel that they really belonged to one of the old proud county regiments, and I hope that the War Office will not underestimate the pride that there is in our localities in the county regiments. In this debate today, I am very proud to wear the tie of my own regiment.
The third point about the Cadet Force is an appeal that it should have more positive training, less weapon training, and drill, and something far more positive. Here again, I think we can learn a great deal from the Scout movement. For example, training in the basic skill of maintaining oneself out in the wild is a thing that really gets young boys. and in a nuclear war I can imagine nothing more important. What a good thing it would be if the Cadet Force could go in for something like that. It does need, perhaps, something on the lines of the "Outward Bound" school. If the War Office could sot up one or two schools rather like the Aberdovey school or the school in the Lake District to which cadets might go, it would make a tremendous appeal to the cadet movement. That sort of initiative in young people is the very thing we need.
The Cadet Force needs a new and imaginative approach. Hence the importance of the personnel of this committee —and this is of very great relevance to recruiting—because under the voluntary system the Cadet Force would be a tremendously important recruiting branch. Odd though it may seem in this debate on such tremendous issues, I think that the question of the Cadet Force is perhaps going to become fundamental in making the voluntary system work.
It may well be that the way in which we treat the Cadet Force today will deter- 326 mine whether or not we can make the voluntary system work in an age of full employment and a high standard of living. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) pointed out that we have never before had to make the voluntary system work under these two conditions. In view of the contribution that the Cadet Force can make to recruiting when we have got the voluntary system, I hope that the Secretary of State will give a good deal of thought to it and to the composition of this committee.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)
I was delighted to hear what the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) said about the association of the county regiments and the regimental spirit. I absolutely agree with him about that, and it leads me to the first point that I want to make about recruiting for the new and wholly voluntary Army.
As nearly everyone who has spoken in the debate has said, this is the vital point with which we are faced at the present time in considering the future of the Army. Apart from pay, and I agree with what has been said about that, it is clear that a successful recruiting campaign must be based on an understanding of human nature. It is absolutely essential to decide why a boy wants to become a soldier. Personally, I cannot believe that he is attracted by the civilian-in-uniform, home-from-home mentality which has grown up with National Service.
On the other hand, I am sure that such a boy looks for glamour and excitement. The small boy who decides to become a soldier because he is thrilled by the Trooping the Colour ceremony or the changing of the guard does not want, or expect, to wander about in an ill-fitting battledress. He wants a smart uniform and the opportunity to show it off, and to show off the smartness which he has gained through drill and drill movements. I believe that in the new voluntary Army we should give him both, particularly as these lead also to a highly efficient Army. After all, the experience of every single war has proved conclusively that the smartest units are always the best fighting units, and we should he ridiculous if we now departed from that experience.
327 Secondly, I am certain that regimental loyalty and spirit is essential to this recruiting, particularly, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central has said, when these regiments have associations with counties and areas. I hope that in the interests of recruiting, indeed of the Army as a whole, my right hon. Friend will do everything he can to encourage the regimental spirit as much as possible.
Now I want to turn briefly to two other aspects of successful recruiting, good accommodation and good food. Little need be said about the modernisation of barracks, but of course it is essential. I think we were all delighted to hear from my right hon. Friend that it is proceeding as fast as resources allow.
As to food, of course I welcome the recent increase in the ration scales, but I am inclined to think that the cooking is far more important. Too often Army cooking is regarded as a rather bad joke. We all know about the days of the menu which read "jam roll baked" for two days and "baked jam roll" for the other two. Those days have fortunately gone for ever, but there is still far too great a difference between the best-fed and the worst-fed units. I hope that a great deal of attention will be paid to the training of cooks in the Army Catering Corps. because good cooks produce good food, and there is plenty in the rations to enable it to be produced.
Finally, on the subject of recruiting, I wish to refer to the importance of resettling into civilian life those whose Army career is ending. This applies particularly to those officers and warrant officers who are about to become redundant as a result of the policy in the Defence White Paper. I cannot agree with those who suggest that, whether they are needed in the Army or not, they must be retained. That seems to be a policy of total despair. Of course good compensation is essential, but I fancy there is involved something more than that. I believe that the Government must take steps to find those people suitable employment. While I appreciate all the difficulties, I would agree with those who have pressed for some kind of resettlement committee. If it were composed, in part, of industrialists and trade union leaders, that would do a great 328 deal of good, so I hope that something like that will be established.
Now a word about the organisation of the new small and highly mobile force. If the Army is to be reduced in size, then it is all the more essential to concentrate the maximum proportion of the available manpower in fighting formations. If that is to be achieved, then the staffs and the administrative units must be ruthlessly cut down.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will start that operation at the top, in the headquarters staffs at all levels. The advantage of that method is that the reduction of one brigadier at the top produces increased savings, like a snowball, in the lower ranks, whereas the removal of one driver or orderly at the bottom merely causes irritation and leads nowhere. In fact the principle of empire building in staffs, which everyone got to know so well in the war, must now be put into reverse.
Secondly, if the Army is to be highly mobile, then the ever-growing cumbersome organisation behind it will have to be changed. Anyone seeing a division on the move at the end of the war must have been impressed by the enormous number of vehicles trailing behind it like a circus. I am inclined to think that they are still on the establishment today, and I am sure that in a nuclear war, with the need for a highly mobile Army, they must go. I hope that my right hon. Friend will pay great attention to that.
In conclusion, I want to make one general point. While I am sure that the right Army for the future will not be devised by thinking in the past, I am equally certain that it would be disastrous to abandon any of the regimental traditions upon which so much of our Army's success has been based.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Boyd (Bristol, North-West)
I want to follow what has been said by several hon. Members about the importance of getting quality in the recruitment of this new voluntary Army. I do not think that we ought to be especially optimistic about the numbers which will be obtained voluntarily. I think that most of the estimates are overoptimistic and that we shall get smaller numbers. But, of course, modern weapons enable us to provide almost as much fire power as we wish in the hands of as few 329 people as we wish, even fewer than we shall be able to get. So there is no fear of not being able to get enough fire power to wipe out the human race.
However, there will be a need for skill and quality and powers of endurance in any military operations which may occur, and I want to make one or two suggestions about quality. I wonder whether during the last two or three years of the call-up it would not be right for the Army deliberately to accept only those of above average physique and intelligence. That would be a kind of selective service, but not necessarily a very unfair kind, and it would he something which perhaps we could more easily accept now that the whole Committee seems to be committed to moving rapidly towards the final abolition of conscription. That is something which in the space of even a couple of years could do something to raise the status of and public respect for soldiers and the Army in general, and which might, therefore, increase both the numbers and quality of voluntary recruits to the Army in a fairly short space of time, thus facilitating the still earlier final abolition of conscription.
During this short remaining period of conscription, could not the Army recruit, as far as possible, those whose existing skills could be used in the Army, and recruit them for that reason and keep them employed during their couple of years in the Army on work which they would he continuing again in civil life afterwards? Of course, not every job in tile Army has a corresponding civilian job, but there are Army activities in which a corresponding civilian skill has some relevance.
I have a suggestion to make about the filling of vacancies, and this applies in the War Office itself, and perhaps to other establishments. Those beautiful charts of who is on duty to do what and to supervise whom are becoming rapidly out of date, and with the rapid transition of the Army they will become out of date more rapidly than usual.
It has always seemed to me quite wrong that vacancies on an establishment are automatically considered to be something which must be filled, whereas really what should be done is to utilise the personnel available. Some of those available are people with long experience and a 330 good deal of accumulated useful knowledge. Instead of periodically sending away a batch of people, some of whom could have continued to be of great use in the organisation, the way to get a reduction with the greatest efficiency, which is what we are after, is to use the natural wastage.
There is an inevitable natural wastage, and we should simply not fill the vacancies as they occur, but we should allocate the duties as much as possible among those who remain. If it could go out from the Secretary of State for War himself that in the War Office in future only 50 per cent. of the vacancies will be filled, we could in practice get the best of both worlds in that way. We could get the best value out of existing personnel and achieve a gradual reduction in numbers at the same time.
A number of hon. Members have mentioned the morale of an army in this nuclear age. We have come to the stage where war, if it really is total, will wipe out the human race. If there are not enough weapons to do that at the moment, there very soon will be, and it will be within the power of an increasing number of nations to wipe out the human race. Warfare, if it is to continue, will have to be limited, and most hon. Members seem to think that that is impracticable. It may be that in practice there is not much possibility of the human race having a future, because war cannot be prevented and also, once war starts, it cannot be prevented from being total and, therefore, wiping out all life on this planet.
However, we obviously simply cannot accept that. We have to go on trying to find ways of enabling the human race, or part of it, to survive. Therefore, if we have Armed Forces at all, we must think in terms of limited operations of some kind. It has been very rare in the past for a war to come to a negotiated conclusion, but I suppose that we must think of something like an operation stopped half-way, such as that at Suez. if we have to have warfare at all.
If the morale of the Armed Forces is to be secured against intellectual doubts nowadays, it must really include an understanding of the relationship of the Armed Forces to the process of disarmament and of regulating and settling international disputes in other ways. At 331 a time when we are to have some Army officers to spare, those men, with their experience, are exactly what will be needed for the United Nations Disarmament Commission's control and inspection machinery, and it would happen to be very convenient if that machinery could be growing at about the same time as the Army officers are becoming available. In fact, other countries also will probably find it more easy to spare senior and experienced army officers within the next two or three years.
In an Army debate, we tend to assume that disarmament and the prevention of war and so on are more or less impracticable. I am afraid that during a great deal of the discussion one has had the feeling that everybody is accepting that view. In the days when there was always a possibility of carrying on somehow when war did come, if an army was defeated there were still the beaches, the streets and guerilla warfare in reserve, and it was, perhaps, inevitable that realistic statesmen would always accept that war could not be abolished or limited and had to be fought to a conclusion. That did not seriously undermine the morale of an army.
However, in a position where we have to face the fact that, however heroic an army might be, there might be no country left to defend, we have at the same time to make disarmament negotiations a part of defence policy, and the Army officers themselves have to be able to feel that their job is not only to run an efficient Army but that they are also the people who will probably have the job of checking up on the armed forces of the opposing side. They will have to staff and make effective the control and inspection machinery, and their minds should be on that. Their experience will be just as relevant to that as to fighting a limited sort of war that may or may not still be possible.
If we can be sure that that is all included in the Army's task, then it seems to me that the Army will be making its contribution to foreign policy as well as to defence, and it will be possible for a man to go into the Army—the intelligent, even the intellectual type of man to some extent, and the intelligent modern man capable of using modern scientific developments and of using a rapidly changing series of new, modern 332 weapons—able to feel that he is going in with a tremendous job to do, a vocation as important as any other in the country.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Boyd) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his very interesting speech, but there are other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have not contributed to the debate and wish to do so, so I want to keep my remarks as short as possible.
The Government's policy of reducing the size of the Army and of our bases overseas, and abolishing National Service and establishing a strategic reserve here at home, all of which I personally fully agree with, seems to me, as it does to other hon. Members, to depend for its success on two things. One is the mobility of our strategic reserve and the second is our capacity to recruit enough volunteers for the Regular Army to enable us to do without National Service men in the future. I want to say something on those two points.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) raised quite strongly the question of mobility, and I was not particularly surprised, because in the section of my right hon. Friend's Memorandum devoted to movement we were told very little about the ability of Transport Command or any other agency to transport large numbers of troops at any one time.
Some of us thought that it took a very long time to mount the Suez intervention by sea from Malta. It actually took six days, but it seemed to me very much longer at the time. As, in future, a much larger proportion of our Army is to be kept at home in strategic reserve—and I am quite sure that is the correct decision—the quick movement of troops by air to possible trouble spots overseas becomes increasingly important. As we know, forces may have to be moved thousands of miles in a short time, and at short notice. We should like to know how that operation is to be carried out. Presumably there is to be a large expansion of Transport Command. The right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech to the growing ability of Transport Command to discharge this duty.
333 I wonder if we could be given some idea as to the scale of the expansion that is contemplated. if we cannot be told the number of aircraft to be employed, can we be given a rough idea of the number of troops which can be moved at short notice, and also what is the policy? Is there to be a reserve of aircraft suitable for transporting troops but used meanwhile for other tasks which could be called upon as a reserve to supplement the work of Transport Command, which obviously cannot possibly cope with a large expedition at the present time.
I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State say that the heavier equipment would be stored to some extent in appropriate overseas bases and that the men would be flown out to the equipment as the need arose. It would be interesting to know how ninny men are to be conveyed in one airlift. I appreciate that it would take some time to work up to an optimum figure. Perhaps we could be given some rough indication of what might be the position in say two years' time. Could we within two years transport a brigade group? And what would he the position in, say, five years' time?
§ Mr. Fisher
Although I was not present in the House when the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made his speech, I remember reading it and thinking at the time how very sensible it was. It is because he has not had a rerly that I am venturing to press the matter on this occasion. I hope that we can be enlightened a little, if only in a guarded sort of way because I realise that security considerations come into these matters. It would be helpful to hon. Members to have a little more information than they have had so far.
The second problem is one which many hon. Members have covered, namely, the recruitment of Regulars to replace National Service personnel, and the need to improve recruiting to make sure that men who have joined only for three 334 years or, as it will now be, six years, will extend their service when the time comes. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said a good deal about pay—with which, in the long-term, I absolutely agree. It must be competitive. But in the short-term I do not think that it is the major consideration that it was a few years ago. Pay is now reasonably good for the soldier who is making a career in the Army, and has been in for nine years or more It is not unsatisfactory for him, although it is not so attractive for the newly joined private soldier.
Pensions are still not too good. A pension of £1 13s. a week for a private soldier after 22 years' service does not seem to be a very good talking point for recruitment. It is nevertheless fair to say that there must be very few men in the Army who, after 22 years, have not become non-commissioned officers.
Then there are the complaints about the food. There always were and there always will be such complaints. I do not think that it is the quantity which is criticised—although I am pleased that the meat ration has been increased recently. It is usually the quality which is complained about. If better cooking facilities, equipment and accommodation could be fitted up in some of our older barracks we should get better results by way of the food on the soldiers' plates. It may be materialistic, but what appeals to the tummy is very important to the men.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West was concerned about the lack of married quarters. That used to be a major cause of complaint, but many have been built in the last few years and the private accommodation renting scheme is very good and is working very well. I do find that some men think that it is only temporary and may be changed at any moment, and it would be helpful if my hon. Friend could make it quite clear that the scheme will continue until enough permanent married accommodation is available.
So far my right hon. Friend has got off rather lightly on the question of barrack accommodation for the unmarried soldier. I and other hon. Members have raised this matter in many Estimates debates. I remember four years ago describing Wellington Barracks as a whited sepulchre.
335 I believe that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) remembers it too, because he reminded me of it the other day. I called it that then because it was being painted white for the Coronation. As it happens, it is being painted white again today—but only on the outside. Why only on the outside? It would surprise and shock some hon. Members to see the conditions which exist behind its beautiful, glistening, newly painted walls. They are none too good.
I know that modernisation and important building projects are in prospect, and I was very pleased that my right hon. Friend gave us further assurances on that matter today. I believe—because I have a very trusting nature—that the promises made in successive years by successive Secretaries of State will be kept—but they are taking a desperately long time. When they are put in hand I hope that there will be no mistakes. I remember that on one occasion two barracks were being designed at the same time—one for India and one for the United Kingdom. Unfortunately the plans became mixed up in the War Office. The result was that the barracks intended for the tropics was duly built in the United Kingdom while the barracks erected in India was of English design. I do not know whether the barracks in India still exists, but I know that the one in the United Kingdom still does. It is a source of perpetual surprise and discomfort to the soldiers who have to live with those open verandahs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is it?"]
In 1953 my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) admitted that the Army was becoming "a Service of slum dwellers." I use his words. That was said more than four years ago. I know things have not improved since then at some of the older barracks. Many barracks date from the Crimean War and some go back to the Napoleonic Wars. In 1954 my right hon. Friend again admitted "the barrack accommodation in this country is frankly deplorable." That was no exaggeration when it was said, and it is still no exaggeration today.
In a barracks I visited recently, there were six rather old-fashioned washbasins for three barrack rooms, in other words, six basins for about sixty men. The rooms had bad floors and were badly decorated. In some cases they were damp 336 and usually overcrowded. I saw no difference between the barrack rooms now and during the war except that the men used to sleep on straw paliasses while now they sleep on beds. There is nowhere for the men to read, or write or relax except the N. A. A. F. I. There is nothing at all except a small bed and a small locker. These are not conditions which will tempt men to sign on again after enduring them for three years.
I will not elaborate upon the question of dress because the points I would have made have already been made by others who have already spoken. But a bit of glamour always helps recruiting. The Army today is very drab. Battledress is comfortable and convenient in wartime, but it is slovenly and sloppy in time of peace. The chaps like to have a bright uniform for walking out. The blue dress is an improvement on the battledress, but I do not think very much of it. Aesthetically blue and a Sam Browne belt do not go terribly well together. I much prefer the scarlet tunics in which the guardsmen walked out before the war.
A smart walking-out uniform is a social and, I might almost say, a courting asset. The girls like it very much, and anything that gets the girls pleases the men. It will be a help to recruiting to improve on this. If scarlet is considered too expensive, I suggest that at least the blue walking-out dress should be available for the private soldier as well as for the non-commissioned officer.
I know that all these things may seem very small, but it is often the small everyday things that add up in a man's mind when he is considering whether to sign on again. I am sure that, taken together, they would be helpful in the recruiting problem which now faces the British Army.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. George Craddock (Bradford, South)
I found the speech made by the Secretary of State for War a more forthcoming speech than that of last year. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), who offered criticism about personal cases.
I have found difficulties with the Under-Secretary in regard to personal cases, particularly cases of a widow with an only son in the forces. The War Office might be a little more decent in 337 those cases. Subsequent to the case which I submitted to the Under-Secretary recently, and in which he refused to grant a concession, the hon. Gentleman made some discoveries a few days afterwards for himself, and the young man was discharged from the Army.
In these days when we are told that we are damping down the strength of the forces—we are reducing the strength of the Army this year from 373,000 to 335,000—and in view of the general approach. when we have a case of hardship of a very sick widow whose only son is in the forces the War Office ought to be more forthcoming than it has been within my recent experience.
We have had many speeches today in which we have heard from experts in nuclear warfare. I do not know how it has happened, but they have all gazed into the crystal and have come to the Committee with all the answers about how we arc to function in a nuclear war or in a limited war distant from these islands, with our forces spread all round the world. Frankly, nobody knows the answer. In my opinion, a few H-bombs will make all that we have heard today miscalculations which will come home to roost. I think that we have today been listening to a lot of nonsense.
I want to address myself to the important factor in the Army, which seems to me to he the men. They seem to have been forgotten today, and I want to remember them. My hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) and I some time ago went round camps and barracks in this country and Western Germany. What did we find? We found that our men were living under terrible conditions. The Duke of Wellington Regiment's headquarters at Halifax was a beastly place for our men to have to stay in. I complained about all the dark paint, most dull, drab and dreary, which the men had to endure all day long for the whole of their training period, in my opinion quite unnecessarily. Those barracks were built in 1875. I discovered that the Derby Barracks were built in 1887, and the conditions there were nearly the same.
I understood that we are to step up the improvements to accommodation. In his speech last year the Secretary of State said that the Government had allocated £17 million to improving the lot of the men 338 in the forces. We must get on with the job, for men will not volunteer for the forces to live in the conditions which they have to suffer today and to undergo the the present treatment and the many ridiculous orders which they get all day long.
The ridiculous orders and the general treatment of the men is why they are so dissatisfied when they are in the Army. There is too much Army "bull." We discovered, during our visit, that the lids of the tins in which the men kept their boot polishes and brushes had to be polished. In one place they had to make their laces into cartwheels. There should be better occupations than that for men in the forces in this country and in Western Germany.
It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to talk; most of them belong to the officer class. After all, the backbone of the Army will be the non-commissioned officers and those in the ranks. A suggestion which I should like to pass to the Minister is that before a man becomes an officer he should serve for a number of months as a private and for a year or two as a non-commissioned officer. [HON. MEMBERS: "They do."] Not all do. It is surprising how quick people are to intervene when we mention the officer class as having any easement which the ordinary rankers do not have.
If we are to build up forces in line with these new ideas of which we have heard today, I hope that we shall have more space for them. I hope that, while reducing the numbers in the Services, we shall not leave the present old accommodation but will pull down a lot of the buildings. I am sure that my hon. Friend will recall that in Western Germany we found that the German soldiers had been housed by Hitler very much better than we have housed our men in this country. The German barracks were wonderful places, in which the men were accommodated in fours, sixes, eights and dozens. and there were wonderful rooms with cabinets. All these things add up to something when we are expecting people to go into the Army.
Very little has been said about Army pay. In fact, I do not think that the Minister himself really touched on it. cannot see how we can expect to get the men we want in the Army at the rate of 40s. a week. It just will not happen. If, 339 in the modern Army, we are to have the men to do the job that has to be done—and we shall want an increasing number of technicians—we must treat them well, and give them a pay packet equal to that received by people in civil life.
It seems to me that we have so far had the Army on the cheap, notwithstanding that last year the private's pay was brought up to 38s. a week—38s. a week. Well, if that is good pay, I invite all hon. Members to join the ranks at that rate. They certainly would not do it. Therefore, we have to make up our minds that, in order to attract a sufficient number of people into the forces with the necessary scientific and technical "know how," it is necessary to give them proper accommodation, good food and proper pay.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Captain F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
At this time of night, I shall not follow the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock), because I want to confine myself to what I know from personal experience.
None of us relishes the spectacle of units with long historical records being about to disappear. I know that my right hon. Friend will do all in his power to retain, where possible, the identity and territorial associations of regimental units, even if, in some cases, it means a change of rôle and, possibly, closer association with another unit of the same type. But. although I regard tradition, history and territorial association as of immense value in contributing to the morale and fighting efficiency of a military unit, I think—n contrast with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer)—that there is a danger in trying to combine that continuity of names and associations where a change of functions has to be forced upon a unit which itself cuts across those very traditions. We have to use these traditions to help and not to impede the reorganisation of the units for modern conditions.
To achieve this smaller Army with greater fire power involves a bigger proportion of essentially artillery weapons. We shall not achieve anything at all if we try to divide types of essentially artillery weapons between the Royal Regiment of Artillery on the one hand, 340 and converted cavalry and infantry units on the other. I suggest that, with its enormous single list of regimental officers, the Royal Regiment of Artillery has reached standards as high as any in the Army with neither a territorial association nor regimental service confined to a single unit. I suggest that it is quite unrealistic, if these infantry battalions or cavalry regiments are to become essentially artillery units, to treat them differently from the organisation of the Artillery as a whole.
Although we are naturally concerned with the future of units, we must never forget that their future depends primarily on the careers we offer to the men who are going to serve in them. Redundancy there is bound to be under these new proposals. I hope my right hon. Friend —I know he will—will do his utmost to see that those people who are redundant are treated fairly and generously, for to do otherwise would indeed jeopardise the whole system of Regular recruiting. on which the future depends.
I hope he will also bear in mind, when considering suggestions put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing, that perhaps artillery weapons should be given to other units, thereby inflicting a bigger cut than would otherwise fall on the Royal Artillery, that the Royal Artillery has already suffered a very considerable problem of redundancy in recent years as the result of the abolition of A. A. Command.
When all is completed and we have this smaller Army, we shall still be faced with problems in offering a worth-while career, particularly for long service personnel, those who would become senior N. C. O .s and warrant officers on the one hand and commissioned officers on the other. The great difficulty, of course, arises, in the officer ranks at any rate, because the main bottleneck comes at the comparatively early age for the selection of majors and because of the comparatively small number of vacancies in the rank of lieutenant-colonel. It is an age when it is not easy to find comparable employment in civil life, and it is the age when family commitments are probably at their most expensive.
I hope that in considering those problems for the future my right hon. Friend will bear in mind two suggestions. I believe it is very questionable whether 341 we have not gone too far since before the war towards the rapid and more or less automatic promotion of junior officers. Nobody wishes to go back to the days when an officer did fifteen or eighteen years as a subaltern with the consequent and inevitable deadening effect upon efficiency, but in these days when we talk, as we have been talking today, of a relatively small combat group as the fighting unit of the future, and allied with that very close co-operation indeed not only between different arms of the Army but between the three Services themselves, there is an enormous amount to be said for allowing time during the junior officer's period in junior rank for him to serve seconded either to other arms or to the other Services. That would automatically bring him to senior rank at a somewhat higher age. On the other hand, that would have advantage in extending the average length of career, and, above all, it would bring him to that senior rank with very valuable experience indeed.
Alongside that suggestion there is quite definitely room for some measure of accelerated promotion for outstandingly brilliant men, and I hope that my right hon. Friend is considering the introduction and extension of the old system of brevet rank.
Secondly, it is quite clear that Service life, with its liability for constant postings abroad, periods of discomfort, and so on, and a relatively short career except for the outstanding officers and long-service other ranks, is always going to offer difficulties in recruitment in comparison with any form of civil occupation. When we make the comparison, as, I think, we are entitled to do, with the recruitment of civilians within the Service Departments themselves, I do not think it is unreasonable that the Fighting Services, because of those difficulties, should be granted some priority. There are a great many jobs performed by civilians in all the Service Ministries which could very well be done by, and, I think, should be reserved for, officers of middle rank who have no further chance of promotion. Indeed, there are in the Army, or there certainly used to be. a considerable number of jobs which were done by comparatively young and junior officers, which come into the same category and could be equally well done by officers who have reached the rank of 342 major but with no chance of going any further. It must be emphasised that the fact that such an officer, equivalent to the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy, has no chance of promotion by no means necessarily implies any degree of inefficiency. Competition at that level is bound to be very acute and is reflected in the great difference between the numbers of majors and the numbers of lieutenant-colonels. That being so, at any given time the choice between any two people may be so close that promotion amounts to little more than a matter of luck.
I should like to add my voice to those of many Members on both sides of the Committee who have expressed concern about the mobility of our central Reserve, We should be particularly concerned because certainly in the country, and perhaps also in the House, the impression seems to have been given that this is the way to defence in conventional weapons on the cheap. But if this force is really going to be mobile, we have got to have what the Americans call pre-positioning of stores and equipment over a very wide area in a number of places throughout the world. Whatever else may be involved, that will be extremely expensive in the provision and maintenance of stores and equipment.
Perhaps some of these depots or bases can be of a floating nature, such as the American Sixth Fleet. Nevertheless, they will he very costly, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to give an assurance that we shall meet that cost, because unless the central Reserve is truly mobile it is a concept which is not only valueless but which I believe can be highly dangerous as a complete delusion.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I am very grateful for five minutes in which to speak before we hear from the Front Bench.
This is entirely a problem of manpower. Of course, there is a supply price at which we can get the manpower, but the trouble is that that supply price is a marginal price. If we can get 100,000 men at £5 per week, we may be able to get 110,000 men at £6 per week or 120,000 men at £7 a week. But the price which we have got to pay to get a lot of men is the price which is necessary to attract the last man, and that price is going to 343 be frightening. We shall not get the number of volunteers which we require.
Therefore, the problem here is to consider how we can do with less men, and it is on that matter that I want to use the very few minutes at my disposal. Do not let us throw away the volunteers that we have got. There is a supply price for going out of the Army as well or for going in, and I urge the Minister to say that nobody will be prematurely retired compulsorily, but that we shall offer to those whom we cannot employ terms of compensation which will be attractive enough to get adequate volunteers to go out, because if we break our faith with people to whom we have offered a career we shall not get other people to "buy it." That is what it comes to.
To find the most valuable volunteers, the senior N. C. O. s and relatively senior officers, we should go to where we can get volunteer troops, and that is Africa. It is the easiest thing in the world to raise an African division. It would be immensely valuable to Africa. I do not want to expand this—I did not do so on the last occasion when we dealt with the matter—but in Kenya among the military tribes, and certainly in Tanganyika, we can get all the volunteers we want. They love an Army life. It is in their tradition, and it is what they want. It makes them extremely good citizens. In fact, the one reason why the Wakamba did not go over to the Mau Mau was because of the ex-soldiers in the Wakamba Reserve who remained loyal. The hon. Member who made such a good maiden speech knows that very well.
Let us raise an African division. It would be a substitution for the Indian Army. We have been told time and again that it cannot be done because we have no senior N. C. O s. Now we have got the senior N. C. O. s, and the officers. Appoint a young general and say to him, "We are very hard up, but we want an African division. You cannot have any money, but we have these surplus N. C. O. s and officers, and surplus stores. Go through the stores and see what you can use. Go through the officers and N. C. O. s. If you want barracks, you can use your men to build them out of wattles. When you have bricks, you can build them of bricks". One can do that sort of thing in Africa.
344 It would remove from the Army its commitments in Aden, Malaya and the Carribean.
The other thing is with regard to the mobile reserve. We cannot, in fact, provide an expeditionary force without transport. It is quite impossible. The Navy can do that. The Navy has got the ships and is about to scrap them. We can have an expeditionary force, a reserve division, which we can move anywhere by sea transport, and the ships are there. Pass that on to the Navy because the Navy can get the volunteers. I do not know why, but it can. There are the volunteers there. Tell the Navy that the mobile reserve is its job. Tell it that, instead of doing these ridiculous jobs for a broken-back war, such as anti-submarine work which does not exist today, its principal task is to provide that mobile reserve and to be in a position to transport, to land on a hostile shore, to support with aircraft from its carriers and to supply a mobile reserve.
That would take away two major commitments from the Army and would put us in the position, with the volunteers which we shall have, to fulfil, instead of falling down on, our N. A. T. O. commitment, which is having such a horrible effect upon the morale of Europe. I urge the Government to consider these very short points.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
On a point of order. When the Leader of the House, Sir Gordon, announced the days on which the Estimates were to be taken, I, along with a number of my hon. Friends, asked him to see that the Rule was suspended in order that all hon. Members who wished to do so might voice their opinions before the Estimates were actually passed. The Rule has been suspended for only one hour. We have been dealing today with Estimates amounting to roughly £400 million, and some of us have not had an opportunity of taking part in the debate.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)
The imposition of a five-minute 345 time limit on my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has had a very stimulating effect on his normal rate of delivery. In fact, he has said in five minutes as much as it usually takes him twenty minutes to say, so I think we should make it the rule of the House that he should—
§ Mr. Fienburgh
My hon. Friend asks if the time is allocated by me. No, it is not. I was asked if I would rise to speak at ten o'clock, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton asked if he could have five minutes out of the half-hour normally allocated to a winding-up speech. I let him have it. If my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) had asked me for five minutes, no doubt I should have given it to him too. I am sure that he would have spoken as much sense in five minutes as did my hon. and learned Friend, but we cannot now put that to the test.
When I joined the Army, we were presented in the first week with a schedule of drills. One of the drills which intrigued me and which was spatchcocked among rifle drill and tactics was a little drill called domestic economy."For a while, I was a little perturbed about that; I wondered what dome-browed professor was coming down to the Rifle Brigade barracks to lecture 32 of us on economics. But I found cut that domestic economy" meant scrubbing the barrack room and polishing the one lump of coal that we had in the fireplace.
Today, we have reached the domestic economy stage of our series of Army debates. This is the third Army debate that we have had in a very short time. and between these debates we have had a two-day defence debate. Therefore, I do not propose to embark into the stratosphere tonight; I do not intend to discuss thereto-nuclear weapons or the rôle of the Army. All these matters we have tried to discuss in previous debates, and today is the day to consider domestic economy, and I am glad that the debate has, on the whole, taken that course. Here, I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock); we have discussed the problems of the men in the Army and how 346 those problems are to be met. That was the proper thing to do, and I propose to do the same.
Before I deal with the many points which have been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, I must say a word or two about a couple of very distressing inaccuracies in the Memorandum which has been put before us. The first—this is very serious—is to be found in paragraph 69, where hon. Members will see the following allusion to a work of literature:An army is always tempted, like the White Knight in Alice in Wonderland, to equip itself for every conceivable contingency.I am all in favour of the War Office bringing a little literature into its more arid documents, but I must remind all concerned that the White Knight was not in "Alice in Wonderland". The White Knight was in "Alice Through the Looking Glass". What was in "Alice in Wonderland" was the White Rabbit; the white rabbit has got mixed up with the hares which run around at the War Office, with the result that we have this confusion in a very important document.
I hesitate, from the very junior position which I have occupied in the Army and my very temporary position on the Opposition Front Bench. to correct the War Office in military history, but that also is necessary. In paragraph 22 of the Memorandum, reference is made to Glubb Pasha as the founder of the Arab Legion. Glubb Pasha was not the founder of the Arab Legion; he was a very distinguished officer, and he will, I am sure, be the first to admit that Brigadier Peake— Peake Pasha—who is still alive, and, I believe, living in retirement in Roxburghshire, was the founder of the Arab Legion. The least that the Minister can do is to drop a note of apology to Brigadier Peake—
§ Mr. Fienburgh
Yes and to the White Knight, and the holder of Lewis Carroll's copyright today. A document which contains, in two paragraphs, such distressing inaccuracies, one in English literature and the other in military history, really gives us some cause for concern.
The document gives more serious cause for concern by its omissions. Two hon. 347 Members today, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), have mentioned the Suez operation. Why does not the Memorandum give some detail of the Suez operation? Previous Memoranda have discussed the major operations in which the Army has been engaged during the year under review. The Air Force document and the Navy document both discussed the Suez operation to some extent.
We discuss in this document in meticulous detail the problems of the Trucial Oman Levies, the capture of Mau Mau, Cyprus, Jordan—all extremely important matters—but the really important matter in which the Army was concerned this year, a matter which exposed most clearly the deficiencies in the present organisation of the Army, which gave most cause for concern not only in its general strategic and international aspect but also in relation to our interest in the Army, was the Suez operation. It has not been mentioned.
Many points arise from the Suez operation: the incapacity of the War Office to mount a force quickly to carry out an operation with some degree of urgency, the misconceived nature of the operation not from the political but from the military point of view—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Might I offer the explanation that these things were originally in the document but that the hon. Gentleman, the leader of the Suez rebels, crossed them out.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) gets enough quips in during his own speeches, so he has no need to rob me in advance of the quips that I have prepared for my own use. It is most unfair.
There was in the Suez operation a demonstration of the lack of training of some of our paratroops. There was the confusion over the cease-fire. All these things are pertinent. I will use the point which I was going to make. Why has it not been mentioned in the Memorandum? I do not really think that it is the influence of the Under-Secretary of State. In the past, he has been an influential figure in the Conservative Party, 348 but his influence has waned a little during the last few weeks.
At present, I am not sure whether to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the ease with which he has disentangled himself from those whom he so recently led to the barricades or to congratulate him on his decision to stay within the Government and reform it from within. Obviously, some degree of congratulation is warranted to somebody who has performed such a remarkable feat in such a short time.
The second section of the Memorandum deals with organisation. One of its main points is the discussion of the assembly of a central Reserve and the possibility of deploying that central Reserve by air transport to wherever it may be needed. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) and, not today but in the debate on the Air Estimates, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) have both referred to the difficulties in which the Army will find itself when this concentrated central Reserve is asked to deploy itself quickly to some distant theatre of operations.
We really have to be realistic about this. There cannot be, and there will not be in the foreseeable future, any possibility of whole divisions being picked up, flown three thousand miles and deposited within a couple of days in full fighting trim. That just will not happen. We shall never have the transport aircraft capable of fulfilling that rôle.
Indeed, in the event of rush-fire warfare, I am not so sure that we should seek so quickly and with such speed to mount large forces in the area of the rush-fire war. The danger that always exists in military operations when trying to deal with a sudden outbreak of activity is of trying to do it too quickly, of feeding in piecemeal forces which are defeated piecemeal and which are nibbled up in the mincing machine. It is sometimes much wiser to hold off for a while until it is possible to mount, by air and by sea, the forces required to make a really good job of the operation.
I was interested in the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing, who referred to the United States Sixth Fleet. He drew our attention to the fact that this really was a 349 floating army base as well as being a fleet and an air base, and he wondered whether it was not possible for us so to organise our naval forces as to have such a base available to us. In principle, it is a sound idea. It is, however, just as impracticable as the idea that we can transport whole divisions by air in a short period of time. Again, the factor which breaks down the theory is that of cost. For a nation of our size, it would be a prohibitively costly thing to do.
There is, however, a possibility of a solution, and that is why I was so interested during the debates on the Navy to listen to the general theory of building fleets around aircraft carriers. In thermo-nuclear or broken-back warfare, I do not feel that there is likely to be a terrific rôle for the Navy, but in rush-fire warfare, in the deployment of the central reserve, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton has just pointed out, fleets of this nature, with aircraft carriers, can, in a reasonably short time bring the Army to a point of conflict.
Now, I have a word to say about the Territorial Army, which has not really been discussed by any Member on either side of the Committee. Before posing one or two questions to the Government on the future rôle of the Territorial Army, I want to ask what sort of Army camps we are to have this year. We are no longer to have the National Service element present at Army camps this year, so we are left with a force which will go to camp of 11,692 officers and 59,397 other ranks. These are figures which I got from the War Office this afternoon, so I assume that they are correct.
Out of these 59,000-odd other ranks, there are, perhaps, 20,000 non-commissioned officers, so that this is the Territorial Army which deploys itself this summer in the camps of Britain on a military exercise. It is in the proportion of one officer and two n.c.o.s to four soldiers; in other words, three officers of commissioned and non-commissioned rank will be queueing up to give the orders to four soldiers. This is going to be the most massive tactical exercise without troops which has ever been undertaken by the British Army, and I cannot help the feeling that if the object is to run a tactical exercise without 350 troops, it were better done on the sand table in the mess rather than by this expensive operation, with all that it involves.
Why, in view of this and of the new and restricted rôle of the Territorial Army, did we last year begin to build twelve new Territorial Army centres? These are not cheap. Even where I live, at Hemel Hempstead, a new Territorial Army centre has been built. It is practically unused in an area which is desperately in need of schools. That kind of thing does not lead the public to take the Army seriously. It leads to a certain amount of resentment which those of us who have the interests of the Army at heart tend to deplore.
I think that the Government should look again at the rôle of the Territorial Army. It is suggested that the two divisions of the Territorial Army will be used for home defence. In the event of an airborne invasion? Are we anticipating an airborne invasion of these islands, and, if so, would two divisions be able to do anything about it?
The point I wish to make is that the thermo-nuclear deterrent is, in itself, a deterrent against airborne invasion, for this reason. Once an airborne force has landed on these islands and has been deployed throughout the length and breadth of Britain. we should be in a position to use the mobile thermo-nuclear deterrent provided by the Fleet, for example, without the fear of retaliation, because no enemy could then retaliate on these islands for fear of destroying the invading force which it had itself deposited on these islands. I therefore believe that there is no likelihood at all of the type of invasion which is being postulated, and, therefore, I cannot seriously see the need to maintain the Territorial Army on its present basis, with its present size and present scope.
As for the suggestion of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) that we should resuscitate the Home Guard, I think that, if he will forgive me saying so, that is an even more stupid suggestion. We went through all this before when the Home Guard Bill was introduced at the beginning of the lifetime of the previous Government. We opposed it then, and said it was not necessary and that it would not work, and it did not. Let us now thank the Home Guard for 351 the services which it has given and say that it is not necessary to revive it at this stage.
§ Mr. John Hall
The hon. Member has made reference to a point in my speech. What body of disciplined troops does he think will be available in the event of a nuclear attack on these islands, because we would require some disciplined troops to maintain order, if nothing else? Where would they come from?
§ Mr. Fienburgh
I suggest that if a thermo-nuclear attack is to be launched on these islands, we should have our central Reserve here, because, if the beginning of the war were by H-bomb attack on Britain, we should not have had time to deploy our central Reserve anywhere. It would be available in this country to do the very task which the hon. Gentleman has suggested.
The next section of the Memorandum deals with weapons and development, and we had a very interesting maiden speech from the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. 'Goodihart), who raised some pertinent points about the weapons being supplied to the Army. I was interested in the long list of new weapons which the Minister has promised us. Let me list them. A new tank called the Conqueror, a new armoured car called the Saladin, a new scout car called the Ferret, new wireless sets, a new field gun, a new L.70 A. A. gun, a new Bren gun, a new Sten gun, and new heavy machine guns. Have any of these projects been discussed with N. A. T. O. with a view to the standardisation of weapons.
After all, when the proposal about the F. N. rifle was first presented to this House the argument of hon. Gentlement opposite for its use was that we were to have a standardised rifle which would take the same round as the rifle in use by other N. A. T. O. countries. That has not quite worked out as was originally hoped and anticipated, but that is no reason for now embarking on this enormous new family of weapons, from the great uncle field gun right down to the baby Sten gun, without making some attempt at standardising the supply of these weapons with our other N. A. T. O. allies. Does the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing wish to interrupt?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am merely absolutely staggered. Does not the hon. 352 Gentleman realise that the Conqueror tank, and all the other things he has enumerated, have been in service in the B. A. O. R. for nearly three years, with the exception of the very last thing he mentioned? I agree with him about standardisation, but it is a little late in the day to talk about it.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
Then the right hon. Gentleman the Minister is a little late in the day to come to this House and promise these things as new toys. If they have been in service for three years with B.A.O.R.—and that is not really so—then the right hon. Gentleman has been deceiving the House in promising us today these new things as an expression of the determination of the Army to be more efficient in future.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
But not the other new weapons.
I am sure all hon. Members here will agree that the entire range of weapons should be standardised as far as possible. It may be that some talks have taken place with our N. A. T. O. allies. If so, the Minister regrettably failed to mention it, and I would like some reply from the Under-Secretary when he winds up the debate.
The main point of the debate has ranged around the manpower problem of the Army, and we have had two rather distinct viewpoints on how we are to attract the number of volunteers whom we need now that the period of service has been extended as a minimum from three to six years. There have been those hon. Members who have said that we do not have to bother very much about pay, as for example my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher). There are others who have said that pay is extremely important, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing.
I think that both views are right, because we have to realise that this is a double problem. There is first the problem of getting a man to sign on for his initial six years, and at that stage pay matters to him very much indeed. Then 353 there is the continuing problem of persuading him to stay on for another three, or another three or another three after that. At that stage these other considerations begin to come into play, considerations of the quality of barracks, the existence of married quarters, the educational amenities for his children.
Therefore, I say that we cannot solve the problem by concentrating on either the one method of improving amenities or on the other method of improving pay. Both will have to be done, and I was glad to have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South. who usually is a pacifist in these debates. in suggesting that Army pay ought to be increased. I only hope that when the Army Estimates come before the House. perhaps augmented in size because of increased pay. we shall continue to have his support in this matter.
Many other points were raised by various hon. Members about the way to increase the status of the soldier. There was the question of improving his uniform. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) talked about smart sets of blues. That is a contradiction in terms. Blues, as at present available, are not smart, neither officers' blues nor N. C. O. 's blues nor other ranks' blues. The British Army looks like a corps of superannuated postmen when it goes out walking. The Minister has seen the Army at close quarters, but he has not worn blues for a considerable time.
I last wore blues a mere nine months ago, just before I resigned from the Territorial Army, and I did not feel particularly glamourised by the blues as at present available. Although I would not expect to wish to be glamourised at my age, that is a point to be considered in attracting the young men to the Army. The comments of the other ranks in my unit about the blues were that they were a waste of time and that they did not want to put them on when they went out of camp. If we are to use the uniform as a means of attraction, and it is only a minor one, let us have a reasonable uniform for the men.
Then we come to the point of the extension of service beyond the initial six years. It is here that the other factors begin to he important, including the 354 factor of a future career for the soldier who has signed for a further three or further six years. It is important, because on the short engagement of three years a man had not reached the breaking point in his life, as it were. He was still young enough to go out into civilian life and start afresh. If he has signed on for 6, 9 or 12 years, he has got beyond the point at which it is easy for him to take up civilian employment, and therefore it becomes a responsibility on the Service, a responsibility on the trade union movement, on employers, on the Civil Service, and on the nationalised industries, to find and create some opportunities for men who have served a long period with the Armed Forces.
It should be put to them in this way, that the soldier who stays in the Regular Army for. say, nine years has disrupted his own life by nine years, but by so doing he has saved maybe five other men from disrupting their careers by two years' National Service. Therefore, if we wish to get rid of National Service, everybody has a responsibility towards those soldiers who serve for a considerable period of time and who carry the burden of the disruption of a career and thereby remove that burden from the rest of the young men in the community.
I am sorry that I cannot take up all the points which hon. Members have made. The final point on which we had some degree of argument was that of the reorganisation of the infantry regiments. Here we had a terrible argument raging between those who said that not a single infantry regiment must be disbanded, because of the long traditions associated with those regiments, and those who said that we ought to have a corps of infantry —this is the extreme view, but it has been expressed—numbered from about one to sixty, in which there would be cross-posting and a loss of regimental tradition.
Regimental tradition is a very great thing. I was susceptible to it as a cynical young Socialist when I first went into the Army at the age of 19. I was susceptible to it and everybody is susceptible to it. It is right and proper that we should be susceptible to the traditions of the regiments in which we have served. Once broken down, they can never be reestablished. When talking of traditions, I am always reminded of the story of the 355 American university, three years' old, which published a notice in the undergraduates' magazine, saying, "It is a tradition of this university that only senior members of the faculty will enter by the main door. This tradition will start tomorrow morning at nine o'clock."
Traditions have grown over a period, but not all the traditions of our regiments are good traditions. I have always deplored some of the traditions which have given the Brigade of Guards a superior position in the hierarchy of the Army over some of the line regiments and county regiments. I have always deplored the tradition which says that the Commander of the London District must be a Guardsman. I have always deplored the tradition that in any division or brigade in which a Guards battalion is brigaded, the brigade commander must be a Guardsman.
Those are the kind of traditions which in the past have inculcated a rather false snobbery among units of the Army. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing, who served with distinction in a cavalry regiment or in a lancers' regiment, is beating his head in anger at this moment, but it is not political bias from which I am speaking, but experience and knowledge. I was not on the bad side of this. I have no chip on my shoulder. I served in the Rifle Brigade, which I regarded as a crack regiment, as I think most people do, but I know what a lot of us young puppies in the Rifle Brigade thought of the other members of our own O. C. T. U. who went to what we thought to be inferior line regiments.
This is the sort of thing which is bad for the Army, and the hon. Gentleman knows that it exists in the Army. Therefore. what I want established is a corps of infantry in which the regiments continue to have their place, in which they retain their regimental traditions, but in which we do not altogether rule out a fairly considerable degree of cross-posting between one regiment and another. That is the only way in which we can properly and effectively organise the infantry component of an Army as small as the one we are likely to have in the future. By that we should lose neither flexibility nor tradition. I commend that suggestion to the Government.
To conclude, I would say that I have enjoyed this debate particularly because 356 we have got down to the domestic economy of the Army. We have discussed what makes the Army tick and what we hope will make men join it. In the speeches on both sides of the Committee has been an awareness that this is a completely new start for the Army, and out of this approach—the desire to increase the status of the soldier, the desire to create an effective and efficient and smaller Army—out of this common agreement, I think there is a fair chance that there will grow an Army in the future of which both its members, the House of Commons, anti the country, can be proud.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Julian Amery)
When we came to the Committee two months ago and asked for a Vote on Account, my right hon. Friend and I were in the embarrassing position of not being able to say very much. Today my right hon. Friend has been able to give the Committee some idea of the first steps we shall be taking in applying to the Army the new conception of defence outlined in the White Paper.
In most of what I have to say tonight I shall be speaking about the future. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh), however, has raised one or two questions in connection with the Memorandum, as did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), and I will try to deal with those first. I accept the hon. Member's correction about the Arab Legion. He is quite right about that, and I have no doubt that in his correction about the White Knight, he has fortified himself by investigation first.
On the question why we have not said rather more about the Suez operation in the Memorandum, I would say this. We have had a whole day's debate on the subject. It seemed to us that to have a paragraph or two, or even a page, would not really deal adequately with so large an operation, which, after all, concerned other Services besides our own. The hon. Member, no doubt with kindly intent, sought to impale me on the horns of a dilemma. He offered me congratulations of an alternative character, either for disengaging myself from those of my hon. Friends with whom I had worked earlier or to split me from those of my colleagues 357 in the present Administration. I reject the gift he proffers me. We on this side of the Committee, whatever differences may exist from time to time about our methods, are united in mutual respect for one another and in a determination to pursue relentlessly one abiding goal—the greatness and independence of this country.
I suppose that the most far-reaching decision in the White Paper as far as the Army is concerned—and as far as the nation is concerned—is the decision to end National Service, thus changing altogether the composition of the Army and halving its size. We pass, in fact, from the conception of the citizen Army, which has been the central conception of our military thought since 1939, and return to the idea of the all-Regular professional Army.
The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), in a speech which was mainly devoted to urging us to maintain our military installations—a fine, martial speech, if I may say so—also asked us why we had not ended National Service before or why we could not end it next year. I would say right away that, while I am sure it is right to bring National Service to an end in 1960, I do not think it was wrong to keep it until now or to go on keeping an element of it until then.
It was only when the hydrogen bomb became an operational weapon that we were able to contemplate dispensing with the massed forces and the reserve forces which only National Service could give us. It was only as the tactical nuclear weapon came on to the horizon that we were able to contemplate lighter operational units. It was only as air transport began to achieve a longer range that we were able to contemplate backing our influence world wide with a central reserve based on this country instead of with strong garrisons scattered at different points overseas. National Service has been indispensable hitherto and will still be important in the period of transition during which the new weapons and the new aircraft are brought into service.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) asked whether our decision to end National Service was a firm one. Yes, it is. The policy is expressed in the White Paper, and on 358 that policy we stand. Let me also say that, as an earnest of our intention, the Minister of Labour and National Service will, I understand, bring another White Paper before the House within a short time setting out in some detail the classes that will be called up and the classes that will not, and the different categories in each age group and how they will be affected by the ending of National Service.
I think there is general relief in the country at the idea that National Service is to come to an end. It has meant a sacrifice on the part of individuals and families, and a considerable burden on industry. Yet when we are discussing the end of it we ought perhaps to face the fact that it has had many compensating advantages, both national and individual. On the individual side, the medical records alone bear witness to a very considerable improvement in the physique of National Service men, and the promotions to N. C. O. and officer rank are an indication that it has developed powers of leadership in a way which I, for one, doubt whether civil life ever could have equalled.
From the country's point of view, it has been a great mixer socially, bringing people from very different backgrounds to rub shoulders with one another and deepening their understanding, and in 50 per cent. of the cases taking young men overseas, broadening their horizon and giving them some idea of what the world is about.
These things will be missed. They are not a reason for keeping National Service —it was too expensive for that—but I think they should be remembered at this time, and I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will remember them as worth stressing to young men and the families of young men who still have to be called up between now and 1960.
We have had a good deal of discussion on the effect of the rundown of the Army on individuals and regiments. We in the War Office are fully seized of the urgency of announcing our decisions on these matters as to how individuals and regiments will be affected. We realise the need to end the uncertainty. But nothing could be worse in this matter than to take snap decisions. Individuals whose future is concerned have a right to know that the fate of their careers has been 359 decided with the greatest care and on the best possible grounds on which human judgment can be based. It has been said by an eminent retired officer that delay would be a serious blow to morale. I believe a far greater blow to morale would be to reach hurriedly decisions which were afterwards shown to have been taken on faulty grounds.
On the question of the reduction of infantry and cavalry regiments, I am not yet in a position to say whether this will be done by amalgamation or disbandment. We must, of course, take the fullest account of the sentiments of the Army in all this. We shall be guided by two considerations: first of all the need to produce efficient units in which both officers and men can be proud to serve. At the same time we have got to strike a balance and to preserve the regimental spirit. That has been the chief inspiration to recruiting and, indeed, to morale. Yesterday, at Liverpool, I was told a story by a friend. It was in the war. A dying soldier from his regiment said to him, "I very nearly ran away." "Why didn't you?" my friend asked him. He replied, "It was the memory of what we learned in that awful period of regimental history which stopped me doing it." There is something in regimental pride.
We have to strike a balance between two things here. I think we are in agreement with the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart)—though at one point in his speech he seemed to move towards a corps of infantry. He did appreciate the great importance of preserving the regimental spirit.
In the run-down of the Army we shall, of course, be able to get rid of a number of surplus stores. This was a matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) in a maiden speech which the Committee very much enjoyed and which, on the War Office side, we found almost too well informed. Substantial progress has been made over the last year in this matter, and we think we shall continue to make progress at a pretty rapid rate. Already 70,000 tons of Anti-Aircraft Command stores have been disposed of. In Ordnance, 67,000 tons have gone and another 46,000 are to go. Already over 10.000 vehicles have been disposed of and there are 14,000 to go. Of ammunition, 84,000 tons have been disposed of; there are 360 114,000 tons to go. We have made, as hon. Members will see, an estimate of £14 million of receipts from disposals over the next year. Receipts in March were over £1 million, so it looks as if our calculations are right. In addition, some £25 million worth of stores have been used up as maintenance.
I was relieved to find the other day, when asked for some eighteenth century horse furniture on behalf of a sculptor, that we have none left in our depots.
Perhaps the essential question which has been raised in the debate has been how we are to get the Regular recruits we need. I was very glad the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West agreed with us in regarding the 3-year term of engagement as an integral part of National Service and was with us in thinking it was right to dispense with it at this time.
He raised some extremely interesting and important points about the retirement of N. C. O. s and officers. Some retirement, I think, there must be in a reduction of the size we contemplate. I hope there will be close co-operation with industry over the resettlement of those who are retired. I believe myself that they will hold their own in civil life. I have been rather struck, in going round factories in this country and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, at how often retired soldiers are employed by big firms as personnel managers. They do know about man management. Where they are not so qualified is on the technical side. We shall do what we can by War Office resettlement courses to put them on the right road, so to speak, to resettling themselves in civilian life. I hope and believe that industrialists will show imagination in judging applicants for jobs not by their paper qualifications alone but by their potential value after a short period of training.
The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of employing these officers and non-commissioned officers in a strengthening of Commonwealth forces. I will say a word about that in a moment. I am doubtful, however, about what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) suggested that they could be used for internal security duties. The training now is increasingly arduous.
361 I think there is general agreement that the crucial issue in our debate has been: how shall we get the Regular recruits? This will depend upon material and psychological inducements. I think it was Gibbon who wrote the wordsAll must be persuaded where none can be compelled.That is the situation we face in this country. If we go on to an all Regular basis there is all the more need for the War Office to adopt a good-employer policy and keep the Army in step with the progress made in civil life since the War.
The pay code of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) has been a great improvement, but these things do not stand still. I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West expound the Liberal economic doctrine of supply and demand. I agree with him that this is a matter we shall have to watch carefully. We shall have to watch the balance all the time. His point about the New Zealand Army is well worth noting.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing raised a point about disturbance allowance. We will look into what he said, and also into the points about education made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) and the hon. Member for Fulham.
The Secretary of State has rightly stressed the importance of accommodation. In the short time I have been in this job I have seen some of the best and some of the worst. The best is superb. I am thinking of the new two-storey blocks at Caterriek. These have 8-men barrack rooms, a well-furnished reading room, comfortable installation and are well heated and well lit. Some of the worst is very, very bad, and is like the worst parts of our industrial towns. Much has to be done in this sphere, but much has been done already.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West asked specifically about married quarters. About 10,700 new married quarters have been built since the War, out of a requirement of 12,000 to 13,000. A further 425 will be completed within one year provided that the redeployment plan is arranged in time. About 2,300 old-type quarters are to be modernised 362 while 1,400 old-type quarters require replacement. I hope that will give some idea of the kind of work we have been doing. I have a lot of figures here about the construction of barracks but I will not weary the Committee with them at the moment.
Hon. Members rightly put even more weight on the psychological inducements to recruiting. When we have an all-Regular Army we shall not be dealing with a broad cross-section of the country any longer but rather with a special element to whom the profession of arms makes a special appeal. My hon. and gallant Friend stressed the importance of imaginative training. I have not had the opportunity of seeing much training practice, but I was with the 24th Brigade the other day and was very much impressed by the imaginative quality of the training there, particularly on what to do when ambushed and how to ambush the other chap.
§ Mr. Amery
The 24th Brigade is at Barnard Castle. My hon. and gallant Friend questioned whether the training of B. A. O. R. was imaginative. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just returned from a visit to B. A. O. R. and tells me that individual and sub-unit training is in full swing and that any criticism which might have been valid on this score is so no longer. My hon. and gallant Friend made an important point about battle-dress and walking-out dress. He will not expect me to give a reply straightaway on that. It concerns the Treasury, among other Departments, but the point will be fully noted.
Our aim as we move towards a long-term professional Army is no longer to make the Army as much like civilian life as possible but to give it a distinctive appeal. This is why questions like training and dress assume in our view a more important aspect than previously. Under National Service there was, naturally perhaps, a tendency to take the Army for granted. We cannot afford that now. The defence of our rights and interests will depend in future on enough young men coming forward to dedicate their lives to the service of the country in the Army. I think that we are agreed that whether they do so or not will largely depend on the status that the Army enjoys 363 in the eyes of the public. This never has been, and please God never will be, a militarist nation, but if we are to do without National Service, leaders of opinion, in the House and outside, must ensure that Regular soldiers receive the recognition which the country owes to those who defend it.
The ending of National Service will greatly increase the importance of the Territorial Army. The figures which the hon. Member for Islington, North quoted are quite a respectable cadre, but we want to get back to something much more like the Territorial Army as it existed before the war. Incidentally, I understand that the Sherwood Rangers and the Scots Guards together have just had an excellent camp, one of the best, they say, since the war.
The fact that we are not expecting to mobilise reserve divisions and send them abroad in the old way does not mean that there is no rôle for the Territorial Army in the future. This is the answer to the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw. In our view, the primary task of the Territorial Army will be home defence, in global war and in limited war. The rôle in limited war is easy enough to see. It is to enable the Regular Army to be sent almost totally overseas. It is much harder to see exactly what shape a global war will assume, but we cannot exclude the possibility of raids or a landing during or after a period of strategic bombing. I do not think that anyone can forecast with certainty what form future war will take. Almost every prognostication on that score in the past has been wrong, but a disciplined body of armed men is worth its weight in gold in an emergency. That is why we believe that the Territorial Army should continue to train as a fighting force. We think it the best value for money in morale, manpower and training of any reserve army in the world.
The all-Regular Army faces some serious problems in the technical field, The complexity of modern weapons calls for highly skilled men. Under National Service we have been able to command the services of the most intelligent young men in every age-group. We cannot expect that all these will volunteer in the future. Therefore, we must seek some new methods if we are to have all the 364 technicians we need. We are hoping to have a good number from the boys' apprentice schools and thus to train our own technicians. It may be that the W. R. A. C. can help us with this. I should have thought that in many cases, in base areas, civilians can do the work. I am told that in the United States firms provide civilian technicians under contract to the armed forces.
§ Mr. Amery
I do not know whether such a scheme would be appropriate here but we are studying and exploring all these possibilities at present.
One newspaper has chosen to attack the W. R. A. C. We think that the ending of National Service makes it more important than ever that there should be recruitment into the W. R. A. C.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) raised the question of Colonial forces, which I think he also did in the debate on the Vote on Account.
I have always been attracted by the idea of expanding our colonial forces and have advocated it more than once in our debates in previous years. We have, of course, to distinguish between responsibility for internal security in the Colonial Territories themselves and the use of colonial forces for wider duties in substitution for forces provided by the United Kingdom.
On the first head, we are already beginning to reap a benefit because the Colonial Territories, especially in Africa, are one by one assuming full responsibility for maintaining internal security with their own forces. The second head raises more difficult issues. Some of them may, however, not be quite so great as once they were. In the past, one of the troubles was that we were short of officers and N. C. O. s required to form new colonial units. There was also a shortage of equipment. As the Army is reduced, however, we shall have a surplus of officers and N. C. O. s, and of some equipment, and arrangements might be worked out for making both men and equipment available more readily than could be done in the past.
I do not claim that Colonial forces can in all circumstances be regarded as the complete equivalent of British Forces.
365 They would not have the same mobility as the central reserve of British troops in the United Kingdom; and there might be political considerations affecting their employment. I cannot say as yet what conclusion we shall come to when we have weighed up the difficulties against the advantages. But I can tell the Committee that we are looking at this whole question again in the light of our plans for the reorganisation of the Army.
I think it was the right hon. Member for Dundee, West who asked me about the F. N. rifle. Four thousand are being produced in this country this year, and 14,000 are already in service. Thirty-six thousand will be produced next year, and the whole Army will be supplied with them by 1961–62. I think the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw described the weapons which were explained by my right hon. Friend as "stale stock." I should have thought that the Thunderbird was a pretty interesting development.
On the question of the airlift for a brigade, I cannot give the figures as yet of the aircraft that will be needed for that purpose. That is really a matter for the Royal Air Force. I can say, however, that there is no reason for undue pessimism. We could already move a brigade to the Middle East in a very few days by air.
§ Mr. Amery
With equipment not with heavy equipment, but on a jeep basis.
The Committee will forgive me if I do not answer all the other points raised. We are confident that the Army will be capable in the future, on the new basis, of maintaining the strength we have shown hitherto to defend our interests, to meet our responsibilities, and perhaps even of increasing its power.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question,That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again—[Mr. Oakshott]—put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress: to sit again Tomorrow.