§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Sir E. Errington
When we turned from the subject of the Army Estimates to other matters, Sir Charles, I was referring to the position of holders of the Victoria Cross. I am delighted to see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brierley Hill in his place, because he has interested himself in this matter.
The context in which I was raising it was that of various things about which many people feel strongly. In this connection it is thought that the holders of the Victoria Cross have not had the benefit they would appear to have. I was saying that the provision made in connection with them was that the annuity of £10 in any case of need might be increased to £75. When the matter was raised on 14th November by way of Question put by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill to the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend said:I should like to point out that the provision of the old normal annuity of £10 can now be increased to £75."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1957; Vol. 403, c. 1143.]Article 660 which controls this matter is rather different from what most people expect. It says:An officer who has been awarded the Victoria Cross, and is unable, in consequence of age or infirmity occasioned by causes beyond his own control, to earn a livelihood, may at the discretion of Our Army Council, be granted an annuity, provided"—and this is the proviso which makes nonsense of the increase—that the total amount of the annuity thus granted, together with any other pension received from public funds, shall not exceed £75 a year.The situation is that if holders of the Victoria Cross have any other pension of any kind, provided that the total amount exceeds £75, they get only the £10 annuity which has been the annuity for so many years.
One knows of holders of the Victoria Cross who are in great need and who get 1470 no benefit from the increase in the amount of £10 which is all that they are entitled to receive if they have a pension from any other public source of £75.
I raise that issue only to illustrate that there are or seem to be petty meannesses in dealing with the Services. I do not know where or how they happen, but they are a strong disincentive to recruiting. Younger people, when discussing the possibility of the Army providing a satisfactory career are told of these cases which have caused considerable bitterness to the older people who remember the old days and the difficulties that they have had. I hope that a special effort will be made to deal with this type of problem. Before the interval, I referred to the widows of men whose death occurred when they were not on active service and whose case is another example of what I mean.
I press upon my right hon. Friend the necessity of being able to provide, if possible, a full career and by a full career I mean a career which will last for a person's useful life. In these days we have got away from the idea that if a person leaves the Services at forty-three or forty-five he has finished his career. In these days, when we talk about things like civilianisation, it should not be impossible for Service personnel who retire to be placed in civilian life in such a way as to ensure that they continue a useful life after their Service career is ended.
I hope that the arrangements which are made for the special demobilisation of both officers and men—although officers present a greater difficulty—will be continued, and continued so that if, as I believe is very likely, the demobilisation scheme works well, it will go on in order eventually to provide probability if not certainty of employment for those who leave the Service as the years go by.
One thing on which I want to congratulate the Secretary of State is the considerable improvement in accommodation. Both in married quarters and for Army personnel generally, at any rate in my part of the world, there has been a great effort to get this matter under control. I still feel that a good deal could be done in the arrangements for accommodation for personnel leaving the Service. I know what a problem it is when we have what is called an "irregular occupant," and I know how 1471 difficult it is to get that occupant out of accommodation which is badly needed for other purposes.
I am not altogether happy that the local authorities in some parts—I do not by any means necessarily mean those in my own constituency—are doing all they can to help to place people who come out of the Service. I appreciate their difficulties, because they have waiting lists of their own, and these Service people add to those lists. Nevertheless, I am unhappy that sometimes personnel leaving the Services do not get quite the priority to which their service would entitle them.
There is one other matter of importance that I should like to raise, and it is in connection with the recruitment of officers. I am wondering, and I am sure that others are also wondering, whether enough officers of the right standard are becoming available. This, it seems to me, may be a very serious matter, having regard to the future rôle of the Army. If I am right in thinking that there are not enough of the right sort, I am disturbed to see that so many senior N.C.O.'s are going out of the Service. I hope that consideration will be given to the use of N.C.O.'s, particularly in view of what was suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—that in modern war the tendency is to sectionalise more and more the work done by the Army.
The use of N.C.O.'s has another merit in that it lessens the base of the officer pyramid for service in the Army. One of the difficulties now is that officers who go into the Service find that their opportunities for, or expectation of, reaching high rank are small and become smaller towards the top of the pyramid. I think that the increased use of non-commissioned officers would be valuable in trying to deal with the problem of young officer's prospects.
Finally, I hope that, in order to recruit up to the full number required, the standard of entrance for officers will not be lowered. I believe that it is absolutely essential if we are to have, as I believe we can have, a successful Army based on smaller numbers, to have a very high standard of junior officers.
1472 I congratulate not only the Army upon the way in which it has accepted all these difficulties and problems, but Her Majesty's Government for the efforts that they are making to deal with these many difficulties and for dealing with them so successfully in so many cases.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I listened with particular interest to the last few sentences of the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington). He was very concerned about how we were to get the required number of officers for the future. This struck me as remarkable, because in the Estimates which we are discussing tonight we are providing a goodly sum in order to get rid of 14,000 officers. In other words, we are spending money in order to get officers out of the Army. It must sound paradoxical to the average man to hear hon. Members opposite wondering how we shall go about getting officers in the future when, in 1958, we are making provision, to the tune of £50 million over the three Services, to get rid of officers for whom, under present circumstances, we can find no useful employment.
§ Sir E. Errington
The officers who are being disposed of are of medium or senior rank. The officers to whom I was referring are the young men who are coming on.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
But that is not true. Junior officers and N.C.O.s are amongst those who are to receive compensation in respect of the termination of their contracts of service before they would normally have expired. There cannot be any argument about that. I am saying only that to the average man it must sound a little paradoxical that at the same time that we are having to pay men to go out we are having to increase the Estimates for the purpose of getting others to come in.
I wish that we would extend to industry the principle that we apply to the Services. As and when men and women in industry are found to be redundant, and when no useful work can be found for them in the industry to which they have given their lives, it would be a good thing if they received compensation. In the Army we are making provision for those for whom we can no longer provide 1473 useful employment and at the same time we are also having to make provision for obtaining further recruits.
I do not object to that. I believe that those who serve in the forces are entitled to be paid the highest rates that we can afford, because of the inconvenience and risks that they must undertake and the sacrifices that they must inevitably make because of the nature of the profession. For that reason I welcome the increases.
I want to put in a word for the men who are forgotten—the 150,000 to 200,000 National Service men. In 1948, when the present Act became applicable, they were paid 28s. a week. That amount was raised, in 1955, to 31s. 6d. Under the new arrangements National Service men will not get any further increments. In 1948, the National Service man was getting 28s. a week and we all know what 28s. would buy then. Ten years afterwards, with all the increases in prices both under a Labour Administration and under the present Government, the National Service man is getting 31s. 6d. This is slave labour. The National Service man is compelled to do the job at less than the trade union rate. We should not get away with this in any other industry; we should have to pay the rate for the job.
I recognise that, because of the desire to recruit a voluntary Army, there is some necessity for a wage differential. We have arguments about differentials even in industry, but I do not think that anyone who believes in justice and fair play can defend the present differential. At first, the rates for the Regular soldier and the National Service man were identical. Upon entry in 1948, they each reached 28s. The pay for a National Service man today is 31s. 6d. and the new lowest rate of pay for a new entrant into the Regular Army is up to 84s. I believe we ought to do something more for the man who is serving because he is compelled to.
I am not asking the Ministry to say that there will be no differential; but, having regard to what is taking place in other trades, industries and professions throughout the country, and what has taken place regarding increments for the Regular soldier, I say that the National Service man should receive further con- 1474 sideration now that increases are being granted to everyone else.
After the Under-Secretary had failed to give me satisfactory answers to a series of Questions which I asked some time ago, I intimated that I should raise the question of overseas allowances in Germany when we discussed the Army Estimates. Twelve months ago last August, after much pressure which I helped to apply, the War Office recognised the claims of certain sections of men serving in Germany. It was agreed that married personnel serving in Germany were entitled to the local overseas allowances.
These allowances vary from 9s. 3d. for a married man on the top rate to Is. 6d. for a corporal and ranks below that. I cannot understand why the overseas allowance for a man above the rank of corporal, accompanied by his wife, should be larger because he is accompanied by his wife, but that for corporals and lower ranks who have their wives with them the allowance should be the same—an extra Is. 6d. a day. That cannot be justified. The War Office has no right to discriminate to the disadvantage of a corporal and those below that rank.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am trying to follow what the hon. Gentleman is saying, which is that a corporal who is unaccompanied gets 1s. 6d. and the corporal who is accompanied also gets 1s. 6d. Is that right?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Yes. Let me illustrate from the top. A brigadier gets approximately a 50 per cent. increase in the allowance he receives for his overseas tour in Germany if he is accompanied by his wife. That runs down the scale until we get to the corporal and he does not get any more, even though his wife is with him.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
If he is a married man—this is my argument—and is serving in Germany, even though his family is in this country, he still gets the allowance.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer indicated dissent—1475
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I have here the actual letters I have received from the War Office on this subject and it is one of the things that I cannot understand. The Minister of Defence made this statement on 29th January, this year:No, Sir. Local overseas allowance is payable only in places where the cost of living is higher than at home. This is not the case in Christmas Island, where life is simple and inexpensive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January. 1958; Vol. 581, c. 370.]In other words, the overseas allowance is given wherever the cost of living is higher than at home. It must be higher in Germany or the allowance would not have been granted.
The revealing thing—I can understand the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) being perplexed about it—is that only married personnel get it. No single officer or other rank gets the overseas allowance for serving in Germany. How in the name of fortune can the War Office justify this? It acknowledges, by virtue of the fact that the married personnel, even though they have left their families in this country, have been granted over-sea allowance, that the cost of living in Germany is higher than in this country.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
If it is higher for married men it is higher for the single men, if they both go into the same type of shop or theatre, and ride in the same type of tram and have the same kind of entertainment. I should have thought that conditions in Germany were alike for married and single personnel and particularly if the married man's wife and family have been left in this country.
Therefore, I hope that the War Office will look at this claim of the single men serving in Germany. When I raised the matter at Question Time some time ago, the Minister of Defence told me that to give single personel serving in Germany the same allowances as married personnel not accompanied by their wives would cost an additional £2 million a year. Having regard to the number of Service men affected and the number of grievances that arise because of this discrimination, I can think of no better way, if we want to remove a lot of grievances fairly cheaply, of spending that £2 million. Therefore, I hope that further 1476 consideration will be given to that problem.
Another matter I wish to raise was touched upon by the hon. Member for Aldershot. It concerns the provision of housing for those coming out of the forces after they have completed their period of service. A most distressing case was brought to my notice not long ago. A man who had been in the Army for 21 or 22 years came out and was unable to get a house. Eventually he took employment, with which went what I would term a tied cottage. The nature of the work did not suit him. He became worried, anxious and depressed and finally took his own life.
I am sure that that man's chief worry was the fact that he could not get a house. I believe he had an entitlement to a house. I do not believe with the hon. Member for Aldershot that he would have a right of priority for a local authority house. The responsibility for that man's predicament was that of the War Office. The War Office had moved him about so that he never had any deep roots in any locality. The War Office made it impossible in the last five or six years of his life for him to be on a local authority's housing list because no one could be sure how long he would be resident in any particular area.
I see nothing wrong with the idea of the War Office deciding that each year it will build 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000 houses, those houses to be sited evenly over the country and made available solely for the use of Service personnel when they finish their service. Of course that would cost money, but it would be money very well spent. The proceeds of that money would build something which would not be half so likely to be obsolete in six months', twelve months' or two years' time, as some of the things upon which some of this money is now spent.
I hope that the War Office will give serious consideration to this matter. With all the good will in the world it is unreasonable at present for local authorities to accept this responsibility. With a 7 per cent. Bank rate and the other restrictions placed on them by the Government many local authorities find it impossible to build any houses except on the basis of slum clearance subsidies. 1477 If they are to build without Exchequer help Service men cannot pay the economic rent which would be demanded for the houses.
It behoves the War Office to recognise that it cannot push this responsibility on to local authorities. It is a moral obligation on the War Office. These men have given the best years of their lives to the Service. They have been mucked about, shifted about and messed about and have taken it all without much grumbling. When they retire the War Office should not think that it is relieved of responsibility and able to wash its hands of responsibility for these men. The War Office ought to be doing the job, because, as I have indicated, it is too heavy a burden, too big a burden and too impossible a burden to place on local authorities at the present time.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
My hon. Friend keeps on saying that this is too big a burden to place on local authorities, but, really, is it? Could it be done another way? For instance, in an authority like Woolwich where the War Office builds any amount of military accommodation, would not it be possible to give to the Woolwich Borough Council an entitlement of so much money every year for which the Woolwich Borough Council, as a competent housing authority and without cost to the ratepayers, could act as agent for the War Office and build a certain number of houses to accommodate men coming out of the forces? What could be done for Woolwich could be done for other centres of population. I could work out a scheme quite easily for the Under-Secretary of State.
§ The Chairman
I think that the hon. Member is making a rather long intervention in his hon. Friend's speech.
§ Mr. Pannell
If my hon. Friend had objected, I should not have intervened. He was making a somewhat leisurely appraisal of an urgent problem and I was trying to help him.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
If my hon. Friend thinks that I was making a leisurely appraisal of the problem, then he could not have been present during the debates on the Army Estimates during the last three years, because I have said the same 1478 thing in all of them. If what my hon. Friend says does not correspond with what I have been trying to make clear, I shall have to study English a little more, because I thought that what he said merely corroborated what I was saying.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman why his conscience has pricked him during the last two years. I never heard him argue in favour of what he is now saying when his party was in power.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I am not aware that when my party was in power we were graced for many months by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He was not here in 1945–50. If he wants to know what was said in those years he had better look it up. I am certain from the contributions which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has since made to our debates that he did not take a very thoughtful and intelligent interest in what we were doing in those years.
§ Mr. John Barter (Ealing, North)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that my hon. and gallant Friend is acting as his conscience?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
All that I can say to that is "Heaven forbid."
I hope that the War Office will give real consideration to the three points which I have raised. The first is the question of the National Service man's rate of pay at the present time. Having regard to what has been given to everybody else in the Services, I think that the National Service man is entitled to some further improvement in pay. The second point is the question of the overseas allowances and the discrimination against the single man. The third point is the problem of housing.
I know that the hour is late and that there are many hon. Members who wish to speak in the debate. Though there is much more that I should like to have said. I think that in fairness to you, Sir Charles, having called me rather early in the debate, I ought to resume my seat and let others have an opportunity to make their contributions.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hobson (Warwick & Leamington)
I make no apology for detaining the Committee for a few minutes, even at this late hour, on the extremely important subject that we are debating after an interval of about three hours, because, of course, the future of the Army is now under review by the House of Commons and the Army is in a very important stage of transition from the National Service basis to a Regular basis. A complete reorganisation is also envisaged, which will reduce our forces considerably. For those two reasons, at least, I regard the debate as one of considerable importance.
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) was mystified, apparently, by the fact that a certain number of personnel are being compulsorily retired while others are having to be enlisted. I do not know whether he thinks that officers in the Army do not grow old, or whether he would prefer to see the processes that went on after the Napoleonic War perpetuated after this one. We found ourselves entering the Crimean War with many officers who had served at the time of Waterloo.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Having regard to the age at which we usually appoint field marshals, I cannot believe that the men who are being sacked at 45 and 50 are as degenerate as the hon. and learned Member is trying to make out.
§ Mr. Hobson
I am not suggesting that they are degenerate, but they do not all become field marshals and there are limited opportunities of employment for the aged. I would rather see the Army reinvigorated by the enlistment of youth than that old ideas should be perpetuated so that if we entered another war with elderly officers who can do little but think about the previous war and who have never thought about the new one.
I wish to pay tribute to the wonderful spirit in which all ranks in the Army are facing the reorganisation which they are having to undergo. Practically without exception, units that have existed as independent entities with great traditions over the centuries have accepted without a murmur of dissent the harsh decisions which have been made necessary by the present reorganisation.
1480 There is the example of the regiment of the county in which my constituency is situated—the 6th Regiment of Foot, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, with battle honours going back to 1695, to the Battle of Namur. The regiment has recently produced Field Marshal Montgomery. When one realises that for more than 300 years it has stood as an independent unit, proud of its tradition, proud of the service it has given to the country, and that now it has to face amalgamation and, in reality extinction, I consider that the spirit in which that unit, like so many others similarly placed, has accepted the situation is something for which the whole country should be grateful.
It applies not only to the serving officers and men; it applies to the retired officers and other ranks and the local people who have the traditions of their county regiments at heart. It is only the spirit of service which has always actuated the Army which has brought about that very remarkable result. It shows that the British Army still believes that it is intended to serve the State. That is the tradition which it has always maintained since the time of the Restoration in 1660 and the first foundation of the Regular Army.
Before dealing with the main subject that I wish to discuss I should like to raise a minor detail. The question of the provision of officers is a very troublesome one. I ask the Under-Secretary to deal with two matters. First, I want to know whether he is satisfied with the way in which the Regular Commissions Board is working. It always has a very difficult task because its function is to try to select officers who are likely to develop at 40 into commanding officers of units. They are the men upon whom the spirit of the Army depends.
Anyone who has had anything to do with the Army knows that the unit commander is the man who sets the spirit and the tone and determines whether or not his unit is a good one, whether or not his men are happy, whether or not the unit is fit for war and the other purposes for which it exists. Therefore, what the Board must, presumably, have in mind is to ascertain whether it can select for regular commissions officers of that quality.
1481 While I realise that one must try to maintain the standard of those who are being admitted, is the Under-Secretary satisfied that the crystal with which the Board examines applicants is adequate to the task? Many people at 18 do not perhaps show the qualities needed to command a unit at 40 or give promise of the gallantry required on the field of battle. All of us must have known highly irresponsible gentlemen of 18 who have, in the end, served with the greatest possible distinction in war and who, with maturity and growth, have turned into the finest commanding officers we could wish for. Yet one can well imagine that if, at the age of 18, they were brought up before this Board they might have been "spun" for reasons of irresponsibility or otherwise. We are now in a situation in which, according to the Memorandum, there is a shortage of officers. There has also been a shortage of applicants for commissions during 1956 and 1957, yet we know that the Board is "spinning" substantial numbers of young men. One would like to be assured that the authorities are satisfied that the Board is doing this upon a satisfactory basis and with the idea in mind that what has to be ascertained is whether those young men would turn into commanding officers twenty years later.
The next point on the recruiting of officers that I would like to raise is to ask whether the Under-Secretary is satisfied that enough is being done at our public and grammar schools and elsewhere to try to attract the leaders of tomorrow into the Army. I know that some of the other Services take considerable care in their approaches to those schools. Can the Committee be assured that the Army is also telling the young men in the schools that the Army offers a life of service to the State—mainly an open-air life which, perhaps, provides an escape from the money-grubbing life in an industrial community which is not wholly attractive to all members of the community?
The main point that I would like to raise is the question of the central strategic reserve and its relation to airlift. Paragraph 45 of the Memorandum states:The Central Reserve will, in the main, be stationed in the United Kingdom and will be organised on a brigade group basis. In order to increase its mobility and effectiveness, re- 1482 course will be had to stores located at suitable points overseas. In an emergency, units of the Central Reserve could thus be flown to the theatre of operation with little more than their personal equipment.The four points that I would like to raise about that are these. First, any idea that units are to be made more mobile by being flown from the United Kingdom to the various parts of the world in which they are required implies, does it not, that there must be an adequate freight lift to accompany them, apart from any question of merely lifting the personnel side of such units?
Secondly, the exact position of both the passenger and freight lifts is not at all clear, and the extent to which those are to be under the control of the Air Force or are to be obtained from civilian sources is not clear. I hope that it will be the policy of the Army to look to commercial passenger capacity and commercial freight capacity in meeting the requirements for moving the Services round the world.
Thirdly, there must, in any such scheme, be severe limitations on the capacity to move the strategic reserve of this country otherwise than by the traditional method of a sea lift. Any idea that we can move our strategic reserve round the world at will and in force by air is surely completely false and liable to be very misleading.
Lastly, I should like to ask whether the disposition of the strategic reserve is being considered in conjunction with the Commonwealth countries, whether there is a conception of a Commonwealth strategic reserve to meet the strategic needs of the Commonwealth, and whether the disposition of our forces is being linked up with the disposition of the Commonwealth forces.
Let me elaborate those four points shortly. There is at present no freight plane which is available for the lift of stores in support of the Army. Armstrong-Whitworth, an organisation located in my division, is doing its best to develop a freight plane. I should like to ask the Secretary of State to get the Minister of Supply to give priority to the development of a freight plane by an English company because neither the Armed Forces nor the commercial airlines are equipped with any sort of freight plane at all.
1483 Unless this country does equip itself either commercially or militarily with such a freight plane, the idea that we can move our strategic reserve about the world is even more limited than it appears at first sight. It is important for the Government to act and the Government must give this priority. It does not matter whether a freight plane is provided for the use of the Air Force, or whether it is put in general commercial use. It is a strategic necessity in either event.
As to the second point, I hope that the idea that the Army should have a substantial airlift tied up in Transport Command will be frowned upon. After all, in the days of sea movement we always relied on the ordinary commercial merchant navy to move both personnel and stores. While I recognise that Transport Command ought to have a small tactical airlift for both personnel and stores, in time of war we must surely rely, for strategic purposes, upon the pool of lifting capacity which is available in the commercial airlines. We have this for trooping at the moment; the independent companies are carrying it out. But in the lifting of freight there is no pool at the moment. If any such capacity is provided in future I hope that it will be under commercial control and not locked up under military control.
The third point is the extent to which, even assuming that there is sufficient lifting capacity by air, both passenger and freight, available, it can really be used for lifting our strategic reserve around the world. I would support the remarks which were made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) about the limitations which are placed on the use of a strategic reserve when it is simply moved by air. Part of our strategic reserve is to consist of armoured brigades. Presumably it is intended that they should be used. Such an armoured brigade will have at least 150 tanks, an armoured carrier squadron, a medium regiment of the Royal Artillery, detachments of Royal Engineers, and Signals, and, of course, an administrative tail. To move that armoured brigade around the world would be quite impracticable by air, except for the personnel who go with rifles.
1484 It may be useful, as an extension of the Metropolitan Police force idea, to have men moving round the world with rifles to keep order, but our strategic reserve, if it contains armoured brigades, must surely be either located in the places where it is most likely to be useful or its usefulness will be severely limited by the fact that it will have to be moved by sea in the old-fashioned and traditional method. The idea that it can pick up its stores from conveniently placed depots round the world is not really practicable.
First, the unit equipment of every armoured brigade would have to be issued in quadruplicate, so that the equipment would be in this country and there would be, in addition, spares and copies of it elsewhere throughout the world. It would be far too expensive to provide this for armoured brigades. Secondly, the cost of maintaining such spares of unit equipment at four different places throughout the world would be colossal. One would need highly-skilled mechanical and technical staff to deal with the problems of storing heavy equipment of that sort for years and years, while it was both deteriorating and becoming outmoded.
Thirdly, the problems of issuing it to the unit that had just arrived for the first time in a theatre would be very substantial indeed. After all, when we tried to re-equip a division in full fighting trim with no more than a new type of tank, in February, 1945, it took weeks to do it. At that time, Cromwells were sent out for a division withdrawn from the line. It took a full month to carry out that operation, with all the facilities of an Army already established in the field to assist, and with an armoured division that had had experience for about four years of active fighting with tanks.
A unit that was simply being flown from this country for the first time to pick up a quantity of equipment that it had never seen would, I suspect, take a considerable amount of time before it could possibly be battleworthy. It might, indeed, take a longer time than would be taken in having its own equipment sent round the Cape—if that was the necessary sea journey—in order to make it effective.
1485 That brings me to the final point, which is that if we are to have forces that are intended to meet the strategic requirements of this country, limited though they may be, surely they should be disposed round the world on the basis of the strategic requirements of the Commonwealth as a whole; and surely the Commonwealth as a whole must consider the strategic problems that face it. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to assure the Committee that this country has had consultations about the disposition of the available forces within the Commonwealth countries, and that our strategic reserves, with those of the other Commonwealth countries, will be disposed in a manner which will secure for all of us the best basis upon which we can all build to prevent another war ever starting and to deal with it if it does.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
We always seem to get these Army debates mucked up. Last year, the Estimates were not ready, and we had to discuss the subject in the air, as it were. This year the debate was suspended right in the middle, and, from what I can gather, the other opportunities for discussion will amount to about two hours, when the Guillotine falls at 9.30 in the near future.
This is not traditional. By tradition, the Army debates used to be long, lively and, I think, effective. There was plenty of time to air grievances before Supply was granted, and hon. Members looked forward to those debates. There is today a disgraceful attendance for an Army debate. We always used to look forward to a good attendance, with plenty of crossing of swords, and a good time was had by all.
My hon. and gallant Friend opposite—I know it is not traditional to call them friends when they sit opposite, but I am not a traditionalist in that respect—the hon. Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) referred to tradition in his speech. I was very amused by his description of an Army football match because I have been in some of them myself; but he must not run away with the idea that it is only Army teams that adopt those tactics of kicking the ball out, when winning, ten minutes from the end of the game. I 1486 have known first-class teams do that. I have known Barnsley do it. I remember that they met West Bromwich in the semi-final of the Cup and when they were winning they kept the ball out until the game was over.
§ Mr. Simmons
In spite of the alleged progress made in mechanisation, and in spite of other new-fangled ideas, the old foot-slogging soldier has a very important part to play in the future of the Service. Last year when we discussed the Army Estimates we had a Memorandum from the then Secretary of State, who is now rusticating among his pigs and supervising agriculture, and I presume turning swords into ploughshares. The new Secretary of State has deserted the ploughshares and now has to undertake the difficult task of balancing nuclear and conventional weapons. I hope that his brow does not get furrowed in doing it.
We are again considering manpower, which has been one of the central themes of these debates for two or three successive years. Last year views were expressed in the White Paper as to whether we should secure sufficient manpower to carry out the pledge that compulsory military service would be abolished by the end of 1962, and there was the question of the possibility of a continuance of some form of limited compulsory service. I have delved into and waded through the White Paper for this year, and I notice that the Government are very chary about making any reference to the possibility or otherwise of abolishing compulsory military service.
This year the Secretary of State says nothing about it. There is a factual section in the White Paper about manpower, without comment. We may have some comments later in this debate from the Financial Secretary as to whether he feels that the fears expressed in last year's White Paper still persist, in view of the figures published in this year's White Paper. The figures look a little more encouraging, and I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) that if we all put our shoulders to the wheel there is no 1487 reason why we should not get somewhere near the figure we aim at for the time specified.
If the Army was 46,000 short last year, why are we spending £8,900,000 on terminal grants for officers and £4 million on terminal grants for other ranks? Incidentally, why pay only £4 million in respect of other ranks compared with over £8 million for officers? Surely there are more other ranks than officers. Why also do we more than double our expenditure on guns and small arms? The figure has risen from £3,981,000 to £8,876,000, to arm fewer bodies. It does not make sense to me, and I should like to have some explanation of it.
What kind of arms are we getting? I believe that it was the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) who mentioned the Vickers machine gun which was in operation in the 1914–18 war. Apparently we have not made any progress since then. That gun is still in use. There was a great deal of fuss some years ago about automatic rifles, but I understand that the bulk of the forces are still armed with the same old Lee-Enfield bolt rifle which we had in the 1914–18 war. Does this increased expenditure mean that we are getting better and more effective guns and small arms? If so, progress is being made. If not, there is a waste of expenditure.
I was glad to see that expenditure on publicity has risen from £40,000 to £70,000. In the debate on the Estimates last year I had some caustic things to say about the Government's public relations and publicity, and I criticised the Department, and as a result I had a courteous invitation from the head of the Department to look round the Department for myself. I spent a very useful, interesting and instructive time there and had a very good lunch, and from what I saw I believe that they are doing a very good job.
I was greatly impressed with the job they are doing with the small local papers, for I am a strong advocate of small local papers. In these days of the Press barons, Press lords and a mouth organ Press, which all says the same thing in a different way, the small independent paper has a very important rôle to pay. If, in the village, people know 1488 that Tom So-and-So or Bill So-and-So is serving with one of the units of Her Majesty's Forces, has done something extra good and has obtained some publicity, it is very good for the morale of the Army and for recruitment.
I was particularly impressed when I went to the Department to find the wonderful service which it had with the local weekly papers, although I suspect that the big circulation daily papers still get more than their pound of flesh out of the War Office and think, "It is only taxpayers' money and we might as well have it." I hope that the good work of that Department will be continued and improved as a result of this increase in expenditure this year.
There is no doubt that the new pay code will be a great help in attracting the right kind of man to the forces. We want the right kind of man in the forces. In this modern Army we want the craftsman and the man who enters the forces determined to make a career of it, in the hope that while in the forces he will learn and will become proficient and will then be able, when he retires, time expired, to find a comparable and reasonable job outside. It is very important, as the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) said, that these men should be able to go into civilian life trained for a job and able to take their places in civilian life in remunerative jobs which will enable them to maintain the standard of life which they have had as long-serving soldiers in the Army.
But pay alone will not solve the problem. The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood rightly said that there were other things besides pay. There is also the status of the man in the Army. The Regular soldier must be made to feel that he is still a citizen with the rights of a citizen to be able to feed, clothe and shelter his wife and children adequately. He should have the right to express his opinions wherever he likes. If a craftsman, he should be entitled to full trade union rights. Let him be a member of a trade union while he is in the Services. His trade union membership will continue when he goes into civilian life and he will go into civilian life more than ever an equal with his fellow men. Those are important matters which should receive consideration.
1489 In the bad old days, the soldier had to undergo a great number of indignities. I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State say that methods of discipline and so on in the Army were to be reviewed to see if life could be made easier—in the right sense—and more attractive. For one thing, there is the question of dress. That is very important. In my old days, we would not have stood for this old sloppy battle-dress. My old sergeant-major would have "gone off his nut" if we had gone on parade in the way that they go on parade today. We had to have boots and buttons properly polished, with not a button undone. When we walked out in our red jackets and pipe-clayed cuffs there was a pride in the corps to which we belonged and the decent soldier kept up that pride.
We have to do that in the Army today—and not only in the Army, but in the whole of our national life where there is this "don't-care" attitude and this sloppiness. The sooner we get back to a smart turn-out in the Army, the better it will be for the serving men, not only because it will make them good soldiers, but because it will make them good citizens and good men as well.
Bad publicity does the Army a great deal of harm and the treatment of those who have finished their time is one of the things that gives rise to bad publicity. I am very glad that the hon. Member for Aldershot, referred to the holders of the Victoria Cross, a matter which I have raised on several occasions in these debates. I have put down a Motion about this matter and if the hon. Member is so keen about the matter, I hope that he will sign that Motion.
§ [That this House, feeling that the annuity of £10, fixed in 1856 and at present only payable to other ranks holders of the Victoria Cross, inadequately expresses the nation's pride and gratitude to those whose heroism won its award, is of opinion that a substantial increase in the amount is long overdue; is of opinion that the method of special grants in cases of need in this connection is unsatisfactory; urges that the annuity should be paid irrespective of rank or means; and asks the Government to examine the position with a view to implementing the wishes of this House and the nation.]
§ There is a case of an Evesham V.C., Major Richard Willis, who is 81 years of 1490 age and who recently appealed for a loan of £100 and who received more than enough money as a result of that appeal. Among those who sent him money was Noel Coward. He has said that what has been sent will enable him and his wife—she is 77 years of age—to live for another year until their son returns from Southern Rhodesia.
Major Willis was awarded the V.C. at Gallipoli where he was hit twenty-six times during the landing. He has not been prepared to disclose how much money he has received, but he has said that it will not take him and his wife into the luxury standard. He said:
Thanks to the kindness of the good people of Britain, we shall he able to continue an average living standard to which we were accustomed. Of course I should have preferred a job—
I hope that hon. Members will appreciate the spirit of the man, preferring a job at the age of 81—
but I am beginning to resign myself to the fact that people think i am too old to work.
Here is a V.C. of 81, with a wife of 77, who gets £10 a year. That amount used to be paid only to other ranks, but now it is paid to all ranks. If he wants further assistance, if he falls on evil days, he has to go through a humiliating means test.
§ Those whose courage and valour have won them the simplest but highest award in the annals of our Armed Forces deserve a far more generous treatment from what is supposed to be a grateful nation. It is not good enough for the Prime Minister or anybody else to say that if such men fall on evil days they can get as much as £70 a year. What is £70 a year?
§ There should be a substantial payment to the holders of the Victoria Cross, whether or not they are in need, as a token of the gratitude of the nation to the marvellous services that they have rendered to us, and the heroic courage that they must have displayed in order to win that award. I hope that the War Office will take the initiative in this matter. I suppose that it is really a Treasury matter, but surely the War Office has sufficient people of courage to beard the Treasury lions in their den and demand that something should be done for these people.1491
We look at the Estimates for the fourth year in succession with the nuclear weapon and the H-bomb as a background. In 1955 we were told that the use of nuclear weapons was the only means of countering the massive preponderance of Russia in conventional arms and forces—but only in the last resort, because the conscience of civilised nations must naturally recoil from the prospect of using these weapons. In 1956 we were told that Russia must not think that we need crave co-existence, because:
The increased power of the deterrent has made a global war more frightening and less likely.
We would use it only if attacked. The retaliatory power was said to be the vital factor.
§ Last year the defence of bomber bases was stressed. Civil Defence, we were told, would take care of any survivors there might be, but the initial job of the Forces was to protect the bomber bases. This year we go the whole hog; there will be nuclear retaliation straight away. We are told that that is the policy that we must pursue if we are to remain in N.A.T.O.
§ When we are shaping our defence forces we have to bear in mind the possibility of another Hungarian rising or its equivalent in another Iron Curtain country, which could be the signal for the start of an atomic war. There is the prospect of trouble in Berlin. Last time, we had the Berlin airlift, and the Army and the Air Force did a very good job, but if there is another bust-up in Berlin, might not it be the signal for the start of an atomic war, under paragraph 12 of the Defence White Paper? The prospect is frightening, but it does not make war less likely, in my opinion.
§ There is enough material in the documents issued during the last four years—in the Estimates and in regard to defence—to enable one to make the most devastating anti-war speech that has ever been made in the House of Commons or anywhere else. We are told that in the last five years defence has absorbed an average of 10 per cent. of the national product; that 7 per cent. of the working population is either in the Services or 1492 supporting them; that one-eighth of the output of our metal-using industries, upon which our export trade largely depends, is devoted to the needs of defence, and that an undue proportion of qualified scientists and engineers are engaged on military work. Those are some of the facts which we must face when we are considering the manpower and organisation of the Army.
We were told in the 1957 White Paper that:
there is no means of providing adequate protection for the people of this country against the consequences of an attack with nuclear weapons.
If only a dozen got through they could inflict widespread devastation. I am not saying that; the Government are saying it. If we have large concentrations of troops in this country and we have a nuclear attack, what good will those troops be? What hope are we offered by the Government, who have given such a terrifying picture in their Defence and Services documents in the past four years? The Army Estimates are based again on the assumption that nuclear power is our salvation. I drew attention to this tendency during the debate last year. I said:
… 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 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 defenceless 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 be 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1957; Vol. 569, c. 294–5.]
Have we reached that position today? Has what was conceived as the ultimate weapon become the initial weapon in any major war that may break out in the near future?
§ In 1957 the Government were saying, that the possession of nuclear air power is not by itself a complete deterrent. This year they change their tune and say that there is no military reason why a world conflagration should not be prevented for another generation or more through the balancing fears of mutual annihilation. In fact there is no reason why this should not go on indefinitely. What a prospect; all this to go on indefinitely—living on our nerves, facing a blank future indefinitely.
§ That statement was followed by the statement that the overall superiority of the West is likely to increase as a consequence of the advent of medium-range ballistic rockets against which there is at present no answer. Is there an answer? We have not yet got the rockets. I understand that a few are being sent over very shortly and that we are to build bases for them. Have the Russians got the answer? In successive White Papers the Government have made our flesh creep but they give us no real answer to the problems which arise.
§ In 1929, when I took part in my first Army Estimates debates, I was still suffering from a "hang-over" from the First World War. I took the line of total unilateral disarmament. Today I realise that I was wrong. Since then have lived through another war. I do not believe that the answer is arrived at by simple unilateral disarmament. It is not enough even if we get safety. We should surrender something more important than our bodies or lives. We should surrender our minds, intellects and souls to the totalitarians. We dare not do it. The dead would rise up to reproach us and the unborn generations would curse us. We all hate war and have reason to hate with greater intensity the kind of war with which we are now threatened, but almost all of us would feel ashamed and frustrated living under a tyranny imposed by Communism.1494
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Does my hon. Friend seriously believe that the Soviet Union means to come over here and impose Communism? Has he taken leave of his senses? Does he not accept what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), that the Soviet Union no more wants war than we do?
§ Mr. Simmons
I remember Hungary. That is enough. The answer is not in weakening ourselves and waving the white flag, but in being strong enough to lead the world to peace instead of being dragged at anybody's coat-tails.
The only answer to all these Defence White Papers and Estimates is a disarmament agreement, and the only way to that is for someone to give a bold and definite lead. The Government tell us:The Western Nations and the Soviet Union face one another with deep-seated mutual distrust. Each fears that the other has aggressive intentions.Someone has to break the deadlock and we believe it is Britain's rôle. What are the Government doing about it? The Prime Minister tells us that he is desperately anxious that summit talks should succeed, but if he and his Government will not even postpone missile bases while the talks are in progress how can he expect success? The Prime Minister holds out his hand to his Soviet opposite number and says. "Let's link hands and climb to the summit." They reach the summit and his Soviet fellow-traveller says, "Show me the promised land, Mac". And the Prime Minister says," Look at those wonderful rocket sites and at our wonderful nuclearised Army. We can smash your industries to hell, we can immobilise your bases and we can promise you annihilation, unless you accept our idea of peace." The Russian Prime Minister can turn round and retort, "Same to you, chum. Let's go down again."
It is not by threats and fear that we shall get a summit success. That will come only when someone is prepared to 1495 give a little. Was it not Kipling, the poet of British Imperialism, who wrote, prayingFor heathen heart that puts her trustIn reeking tube and iron shard …Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!The bomb, the ultimate deterrent, alone cannot save the world from war. Army expenditure cannot do it. To defence preparations must be added world statesmanship. The impetuous bravery of the fighting men is less important at this time than the courageous leadership of the statesman. Time enough to yell a defiant "No surrender" when the parleys have broken down. The statesman, by displaying leadership, can prevent the parleys breaking down and can win, by reason, a greater victory than either conventional or nuclear weapons could secure.
We must make the summit talks the beginnings of real peace and to do this we must be prepared as a nation to take as many risks for peace as we do for war. Therefore, Parliament, through the Government, must give a lead to the whole world that we are prepared to make concessions for peace, even if concessions such as the suspension of H-bomb tests, the bringing out of the air of the planes carrying the H-bombs and the postponement of the start of the missile bases, would be a danger to us; that is a risk that ought to be taken. It would be a token of good will that would put the Soviet on the defensive and would be a challenge to their sincerity. I am sure that every right-thinking man and woman in these islands hopes that Britain will give that lead for peace. Parliament must demand that leadership before it is too late, and it is much later than most of us think.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Captain F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
I do not wish to keep The House long at this hour of the night, and I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks. I wish to confine my own words to a few comments on the subject of manpower.
Most people, I think, will agree that the advantages of a purely volunteer Army far outweigh one which involves 1496 the element of conscription; but, so far as my position goes, if the men are not forthcoming and we have to rely on conscription, then the disadvantages of this fact must be faced as being far more important than the attractions of merely doing away with National Service.
Last week, in the debate on defence, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said that while troops were coming forward for the fighting arms it was difficult to get men for the support arms; in his own words, for the unromantic but essential jobs of storemen, clerks, lorry drivers, and so on. We have to bear in mind that there is only a limited record, so far, of the recruiting position under the new arrangements on which we can base conclusions, but I suggest that the state of affairs to which I have referred gives some ground for encouragement.
That is not altogether surprising, for I have always taken the view that there is always a more or less fixed number of people who will be attracted by Service life and that, provided conditions are reasonable, such people will join the Services. Increases of pay, and so on, do not make very much difference to the numbers of those of whom I am speaking. Nor, as experience between the two world wars showed us, will employment and unemployment in civilian life make a great deal of difference to the numbers joining the Army. But if we assume that the bulk of these men who will join wish to serve in a genuine fighting unit, then I think that there is probably room for a different type of engagement; that is, a different type of engagement for these auxiliary functions. One of the main reasons why the nation as a whole is not attracted to Service life is the moving about the world which is involved, and the absence of any settled married life. These people are not unpatriotic, and I believe that their service could be used to solve the present problem.
I suggest that, for many of these duties, there could be terms of engagement for men to serve purely in a particular station with, of course, the usual obligations for training, and so on, but without the obligation of posting to other stations in different parts of the world except in times of emergency. If 1497 that was done, it would relieve the pressure on recruiting for that particular type of job, and the same principle could be adopted by which permanent garrisons overseas could make use of the local inhabitants in a similar way.
Of course, a quite different state of affairs applies in the case of forces serving in foreign stations abroad, such as in Germany, where the troops have all to be on the same Regular footing; but if we could make use of people who were not prepared to take on the ordinary terms of engagement, but a limited engagement such as I have suggested, we might make progress with recruiting for the auxiliary duties.
My second consideration is that many of our specialist corps which have grown up to pro vide these particular functions are of recent origin, or having only recently extended their functions to cover duties previously carried out by regimental soldiers. An obvious example is to be found in attaching Royal Army Pay Corps officers to front line units. I have often wondered about the wisdom or necessity of that practice of substituting Pay Corps officers to do the work which the P.R.I. has done in the past.
I have always sympathised very much with the regimental officers who have to do this job, because most of them find it extremely tedious. Nevertheless, in a period when we have relatively short careers in the Army the experience might be of some value, particularly if it is backed by a really comprehensive course which officers could attend. It might be of considerable value to them in civilian life and enable them to occupy executive posts at a fairly early stage.
The next matter with which I want to deal in connection with recruiting is that of the officer structure in the junior grades. It is obvious that in the nature of things we shall always have a considerable number of junior officers and N.C.O.s who have no hope at all of reaching the higher ranks. Uncertainty of promotion beyond the rank of major means, in many cases, that an officer looks forward to reaching the height of his career in the very early 'thirties. That is bound to have a very dampening effect on recruitment, very often among the best type of potential officer. It is fairly obvious that the ambitious type of 1498 officer, faced with the prospect of that happening, might well think that he would be better off doing something else.
I have mentioned this before in the House and I am still quite convinced that there is something in what I propose to say. Certainly, no one would wish to put the clock back to what might be described as the pre-Belisha period when in many regiments officers served anything between twelve and eighteen years before reaching the rank of captain. I have always had very grave doubts, however, as to the wisdom or necessity of fixing the maximum age for command as low as it is today.
We are always being told that the rapid technical progress in the Army makes the strain of modern war too great for older people. From what I have read, from what my father told me and from what hon. Members have told me. I very much doubt whether conditions of active service contemplated today could result in a greater physical strain than those imposed by the appalling conditions of the 1914–18 war. Whatever may be the shortcomings of the officer's promotion rate before 1914, I doubt whether we have ever had in this country, or are ever likely to have, a Regular Army of a higher calibre than that with which we started the so-called Kaiser's war.
I should have thought that there was a considerable case to be made for extending the period of service in the junior ranks, thereby bringing them at a somewhat older age to the higher ranks. The main disadvantage of long periods as a junior officer is the boredom and frustration produced by doing the same job long after an officer knows that he is capable of fulfilling the duties of the rank above, or even those of the rank above that. This can be completely overcome today to the very great advantage not only of the individual concerned, but to the Service as a whole, by a system of secondment between the Services, or between one arm and another within a Service.
I do not for a moment suggest that we should go back to anything like the long periods of the pre-Belisha era. I think that we have gone too far in the other direction. Although I have put forward this suggestion before, although 1499 it has met with all sorts of excuses and although I have not received very much encouragement, I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at the matter again.
The final point with which I wish to deal is that of finding reasonably attractive civilian employment for those who, inevitably, whatever other arrangements we make, will still have to retire at a fairly early age. I have had some correspondence with the Secretary of State mainly on the question of trying to find these officers places in equivalent grades in the Civil Service or other Government employment.
The attitude seems to be that such prospects are very limited, because the civil servant is more skilled than the officer is and it would upset the recruitment and promotion of the Civil Service. I do not accept that. Many Regular officers from all Services transferred to the Civil Service after the last war, and many of them have been exceedingly successful. And I do not think that it need necessarily have any effect on recruitment into the Civil Service.
If it is clearly understood on entry to certain branches that serving officers may enter at a later age, there is nothing unfair to other people who go in knowing full well that that will happen. Moreover, there is a case for some reintroduction of the short service commission to help with the problem. It might well be an additional attraction if, in certain branches of Government employment, a short service commission was almost a prerequisite for that type of employment.
We have been told over and over again by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence and successive Secretaries of State for War that it is the Government's intention to raise the status of the British soldier in society. We must face facts. When one raises someone's status one may well have to lower that of somebody else. We must make it absolutely clear that military service, with its various disadvantages—serving abroad, separation from one's family, and the discipline, which means that behaviour of the Maclean and Burgess type would not be tolerated for five minutes in the Army—deserves a good prospect in civilian life when retirement occurs at an early age.
§ 11.37 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) will not think it discourteous of me if I do not follow his remarks, except to say that I found it difficult to agree with him when he suggested that we should let officers wait rather longer before giving them positions of responsibility in the higher grades. It seems to me that as the Army is facing novel problems it would be as well to pick out young people, who are more able to adapt themselves to new conditions, and give them advancement fairly soon.
I wish to speak on a subject about which I know something. I am not accustomed to speak in these debates, and I participate only because I am deeply interested in the defence of the civilian population. A very real provision is now being made by the Army to assist, and form a link with, services made available for the general population by way of Civil Defence. I refer to the Mobile Defence Corps.
I shall ask the Under-Secretary some pertinent questions and make some suggestions. They will be based upon my own experience in training men and women in Civil Defence. I can boast that I have helped to rescue a number of people under all sorts of conditions, and, best of all, I myself know what it is like to be rescued. In these circumstances, I feel that it is better that I should limit myself to a number of factors associated with the necessary link now being formed between local defence and the Armed Forces.
According to the Memorandum, the Mobile Defence Corps now stands at 33 battalions, and these battalions—consisting, I presume of 600 persons each—are here in the United Kingdom. I understand—I believe this is correct—that there are ultimately to be 48. I cannot see why there should be this limitation. Why should not virtually everybody in the Army have some elementary training so that they can be used to assist the civilian population if we sustain an attack by means of modern weapons from some enemy? The training would not interfere with the normal training of the soldier.
1501 I hope that the Under-Secretary will correct me if I am wrong; I should not like to mislead the Committee, but I understand that the Mobile Defence Corps, besides being trained to be of assistance to the civilian population, linking up with the mobile civilian columns, also have a full and normal training as soldiers.
Nothing would be lost to the skill of the soldier if this other extra experience and skill were added. But a total of 48 battalions would still give us fewer than 30.000 men fully trained for this purpose, and I do not see why we should limit ourselves in this respect. At least one in every two of our 340,000 men and women in the Services should have this elementary training. As to the type of training that they should have, I presume that they would have to know something about first-aid. They would have to know something about the engineering tasks that might confront them when required to rescue people. They would have to have some knowledge of combating fire, but without special fire-fighting appliances.
These battalions would be the most disciplined groups that we should have in the country, and with training they would feel confidence in handling and rescuing wounded people.
§ Mr. Edelman
Would my hon. Friend say from his experience whether there is any known antidote to the effects of radiation burns, and, if so, whether there is any form of training which these mobile columns could receive?
§ Dr. Stross
I shall deal with every one of these points as I proceed.
The men in these units may have certain problems to face. The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said that the best service we can possibly render to our country is to see that war is not allowed to break out at all. That is a sentiment with which we all agree. But whatever problems may possibly have to be faced, it would be a great dis-service if we did not open our eyes and stare these horrors straight in the face and accept them as possibilities. If we do not do that, it is cowardice of a despicable order not to face the problem and fail to take action so that we may know what to do.
1502 Perhaps it needs very great courage to face some of these brutal truths, but we must not speak lightly about spreading gloom and despondency because we recognise and tackle the problem. There are no secrets about these matters. Has not the Home Office most carefully investigated all possibilities? Have not our colleagues and allies in the United States given us ample reports?
I have been greatly helped by being allowed to see in manuscript some of the chapters of a book not yet in print—a comprehensive volume on all these matters written by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker). I think that it will soon be in print. The factual things I shall say will probably be fully documented and exactly true.
It is the intention, I understand, that the Mobile Defence Battalions, after they have finished their active service in the Army, where, of course, they will have other duties to do apart from learning how to handle casualties and how to rescue them, shall be on reserve and do 15 days' a year training while on reserve. Then they will be posted as near to their homes as possible. I leave that matter there.
I hope, however, that the Under-Secretary of State will remember that I cannot see for the life of me why we should limit ourselves to 48 battalions or, as we have at the moment, 33, and why we should not give virtually everyone some elementary training so that no one will be afraid to handle casualties. When people without training meet casualties they are frightened of wounds, frightened of broken bones. Surely it is essential that as many people as possible should know how to give assistance to their neighbours. I emphasise this. Let us have as many as possible of these men, under discipline of a type we may not be able to get from anybody else—these young men, energetic, trained.
In the First World War we did not have any Civil Defence to speak of. There was no need. In the Second World War, everybody knows that it was a very important element in our defence. Now, with the possibility of a surprise attack with nuclear weapons against us, we must give it the very highest priority, for it 1503 becomes not a specialised but a nationwide enterprise to be able to assist one another.
I have mentioned the sort of simple training I think they should have. What sort of equipment are they to get? Obviously, they will have engineers with them. Obviously, they will have a doctor or doctors with them. I ask that they should have a higher degree of medical personnel with them than we get in the average unit. The reasons are obvious. What will they have by way of equipment? Some of it can be quite simple, but it should be plentiful, and I think that it has to be stored where it can be safe. I mean bandages, simple types of splints, metal and wooden. They, too, should be stored. While we are not in danger, while we are at peace—and we all pray we shall ever be at peace—these units can store for themselves, away from major centres of population, I hope, and in real safety, antibiotics, blood and serum. As many as possible of them should know how to give a hypodermic injection for the purpose of sedation in certain types of casualty.
Normally, the purpose of an army is said to be to seek out its opponent, grapple with it and defeat it, but no army can be indifferent to the security of the base on which it operates, and the base is the whole of our country. Therefore, the Army obviously is tremendously interested in civilian defence. We must, as far as lies within our power, by every means within our power, prevent excessive damage from being done to our cities, to our installations, and so on.
In effect, therefore, we will have three echelons of defence of the type I think of, of which the first and second will be civilian, and the third this particular Mobile Defence Corps. If one thinks in terms of total numbers, of everyone involved, including civilians, who will work with those three echelons, we have a figure that looks formidable—threequarters of a million. That would include the Industrial Civil Defence Corps, the Auxiliary Fire Service, the National Hospital Service Reserve and the mobile units that I have been describing.
1504 We must now consider, on their behalf, what special difficulties the members of such a task force must face as compared with the last war. I have noted three things. First, they must face the vastly-increased explosive power of nuclear weapons as compared with chemical weapons. Secondly, they must face the increasing ease of delivery against us—as a possibility—of these nuclear weapons. Thirdly, they have to take note of the effects of a radioactive cloud, and be prepared to do all possible—so far as they can do anything.
In the last war it was thought to be prohibitively expensive if an average of 5 per cent. of attacking aircraft were brought down in each raid. Based on that, we can estimate the sort of problem we must face. I have here an example used by Professor Blackett as an illustration. Assume that we have 400 square miles that it is wished utterly to destroy; how can it be done? The answer is that in the last war it would have taken 10,000 sorties of bombers carrying chemical bombs, each of 10 tons. If atom bombs were being carried, 50 sorties would be enough. But if the H-bomb, say of 10 megatons, were used, one sortie—one aeroplane—would be enough. That gives some conception of how difficult it is to guarantee that we shall not be affected by some of these weapons.
We should assume that some may get through. It has been calculated that 100 bombs of the type dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would do very great damage, and, if they were dropped in the places of greatest human concentration and industry, would probably incapacitate us and make us unable to conduct warfare from these islands as a base. To prevent that happening to us we would have to shoot down 90 out of every 100 bombers, and that is very difficult. Equally, if we are faced with H-bombs, we must, if we are to survive, shoot down an even higher percentage.
The figures that should be considered by all of us have been discussed, of course, here, in the United States and elsewhere. Everyone will remember that the originator of the hydrogen bomb is Dr. Teller, who used to work with Oppenheimer, and assisted him in making the atom bomb. When Oppenheimer could not face the manufacture 1505 of the H-bomb, Teller took over from him and made it. He suggested that certain things should, and must, be done. Amongst them was the suggestion that there should be deep underground shelters for the whole of the civilian population. Next, there must be shelter—real shelter—from radioactive contamination of stores of food.
Dr. Teller thought that in the United States one could store enough food for two years. He also postulated storing trucks and machinery so that if an attack was staged, and the country was paralysed temporarily, use could be made of the trucks and machinery and food and the country could survive.
The cost is staggering. He suggested that it would be 24,000 million dollars. N.A.T.O. official policy has rejected the idea. It has said, "This will not do. It is stupendous. We cannot face it." Instead, N.A.T.O. official policy is that we must combine evacuation with some shelter. Everybody understands that evacuation in a small country is a little more difficult than on a continent. We have to think in terms of the time factor and how much warning we should have. We must not blink at the fact that in Britain it would not be easy to evacuate anybody. Indeed, if we were not careful there would be great numbers of deaths among evacuated people if they were outside in the open air and there was a radioactive cloud following upon a bomb explosion.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he will realise that we cannot discuss general A.R.P. arrangements. We are concerned here only with the Mobile Defence Corps.
§ Dr. Stross
Yes, but I do not see how we can discuss these 30,000 men—and I hope that in time there will be 150,000 of them—unless we discuss the problems which they must face. They must adapt themselves through training. If we were to say that they cannot be trained to help us that would be fantastic. It would mean that we should have to throw up the sponge. As I am now discussing the task which this section of the Army must face, I submit that I am probably in order, but I will do my best to follow your advice, Sir Gordon.
1506 In the United States, Mr. Val Peterson, who is in command of all these protective services, expresses views which year by year have become more and more serious. That is understandable. At first, he thought that one-third of the population of the United States might he affected by a surprise attack, but at the end of last year he said that even if shelter were provided 50 per cent. of the population might be lost in the early days of an attack. We should take these figures and see how they match for us. It is very easy to fall into complete despair, but that is not our temperament and that we must not do.
Atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, or even chemical bombs might be dropped on centres of population. We know that the area of damage of the two-ton blockbuster of the old type was three acres. The area for an atom bomb is 2,000 acres and for a hydrogen bomb it is infinitely greater. It is assumed that an atom bomb of the type which we know as a tactical weapon, similar to the bombs dropped in 1945, would damage about 65,000 British-type houses as compared with the houses of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and that we should have 50,000 fatal casualties. That is assuming that it is dropped on a city with a population density of 45 per acre.
If an atom bomb were used, there would, therefore, be a great deal of work to be done. As far as human flesh will permit, we must go in to assist as soon as possible. On the periphery of the damage there would be immediate skilled work to be done by the engineers, the excavators and those who know a little about first-aid, who could take people away to the nearest area where there was a chance of hospital treatment.
If it were a hydrogen bomb, however, words almost fail us, because we know that wherever it dropped—New York, Moscow, London, Manchester or Birmingham—there would be much more extensive damage. I am advised that there would be total destruction over a diameter of eight miles and moderate-severe damage over 32 miles. This is assuming that it is a large bomb—a 10 megaton bomb.
In London, we have the L.C.C. area and the Metropolitan area. There would be no opportunity of going in to assist 1507 in the L.C.C. area if the bomb fell in the centre, because nothing would be left alive and human helpers could not go in to assist. Outside that area there might be a fire storm 20 miles in depth. Those who are going to help must wait for that to subside. I do not know whether there are any fire-fighting appliances which could tackle such a fire. The Germans found it impossible in Hamburg; they had to wait until the fire storm subsided before they could assist.
That has covered an area with a radius 27 miles from the burst, and outside that area there would be damage and people injured, many of whom could be saved. There would be burns, but not everyone is burned to death; not every-one gets extensive third degree burns or second degree burns. There are burns from which it is possible to survive. It is, therefore, no use our giving up hope and saying that we can do nothing. Equally, it is no use our deceiving ourselves into thinking that these tasks would not be horrible, difficult and perhaps, in some cases, insuperable. In a great city there would be no doctors, for they would be dead, and there would be no nurses, for there would be none left. There would be tasks which could not be handled from inside.
Of course, all our potential enemies understand that what could happen to us could also happen to them. There are people who believe that it is likely that the countries of the world will do this to each other, but I do not agree; I think that it is most unlikely. But all of us in the Committee wonder: do we have to go on like this? In the last third of his speech my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) made an impassioned plea on this issue. My hon. Friend is right. When we see what we may do to each other as human beings in the world, wherever we be, these strange labels which we pin on each other about capitalism and Communism do not seem quite as important, and it encourages one to speak as my hon. Friend did when he said that if there is a risk entailed in making peace let us not show less courage than we have been accustomed to show in war. The prize is glittering and the prize is very great, indeed.
1508 My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), who is not now in his place, asked me about radiation. Of course, it is true that if a bomb were dropped and burst at ground level it would not do as much damage by means of heat and flash and destruction as if it were burst in the air, but the radiation damage would be terribly extensive and we know the type of radioactive cloud—anything up to 200 miles long and up to 40 miles in width—which would flow as the wind would blow it.
In other words, Birmingham, only about 100 miles from London, would be within the 140-mile range where the burst of a 10 megaton hydrogen bomb would give a radioactive cloud measuring 800 roentgens in radioactivity. Anyone exposed to that for 36 hours in the open would die. We have to remember—and this is the point that I made earlier—that evacuation could be difficult and dangerous—
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
On a point of order. Is it relevant, on the Army Estimates, to give a description of the destruction of Birmingham by a bomb which would obviously be dropped only by an air force?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. S. Storey)
I was thinking, when the hon. Member started to deal with evacuation, that he was getting somewhat far from the Army Estimates.
§ Dr. Stross
I apologise if I am getting out of order, but I am discussing the help which the civilian population is to get from the 33 Army battalions specially trained to help in Civil Defence and it is, therefore, completely relevant to discuss the things which those units must face and in which they must help not only themselves, but their fellow countrymen.
It has been gruesome and beastly. I accept all that, and I have not shirked it. I could have spoken at greater length. I know how tough it is to talk about these things. I have not found it easy to describe and I am a medical man with much experience and fairly hardened to these things. I hope that the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) 1509 does not think that I object to his interruption. I hope that I shall never have to speak in this way on this subject again. I must end on a more pleasant note and it is easy to do so.
§ Mr. Mellish
Before my hon. Friend leaves that topic, will he. with his scientific knowledge not agree that unilateral disarmament by Britain would not necessarily keep us free from radioactive damage, because hydrogen bombs dropped in Europe by America and Russia would affect Britain anyway?
§ Dr. Stross
I interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North on that very point. If we contract out and have no weapons and leave N.A.T.O. and become completely neutral, and if war breaks out between the two great nuclear giants and they drop a number of hydrogen bombs on Europe and the wind blows from the east towards us, there is no guarantee that it will not kill 60, 70, 80, or 90 per cent. of our population and virtually destroy us—as neutrals. That must be accepted.
We cannot save ourselves alone, but we can play our part in saving the whole of the world and ourselves with it. That is why I have put these matters before the Committee. They have to be faced. I wish that everybody in the country knew about them, especially the point that I have just discussed with my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). We have to take the lead, and I think that we can do so and bring the world to safety. It is a task so well worth doing.
The other night I was discussing this question with someone who used to sit in this House—Lord Boyd Orr—and he said, "It should not be so difficult to save the world." I said, "Are you sure?" He said, "Yes; I would not bother about specific details at the summit talks; I would simply get agreement to cut world armament costs by 10 per cent. Then I would give half that back to the suffering citizens who are being so grievously taxed. They would enjoy that. The other 5 per cent. I would put into a common pool for the nations to spend together, and offer it to those who need it so badly—the underdeveloped nations of the world."
1510 Lord Boyd Orr added, "That is £2,000 million a year. Just think what would happen if once we did that. Suspicions would tend to disappear; the wheels of industry everywhere would begin to turn, and those whom we were helping would not only bless us; they would remember us for ever as the country who started the cycle of events that destroyed suspicion and brought the world to peace."
§ 12.11 a.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I do not want to enter into any of the general discussions which have ranged so widely. I want to exercise what I understand is my constitutional right to ask for the remedy of grievances before granting Supply.
When one approaches the War Office in connection with small details affecting individuals one finds a singular lack of knowledge on the part of that Department with regard to some of the grievances of those individuals. I have always believed that if we look after individuals and remedy injustices to them we build up a contented and happy community. That applies to the Services as well as to life in general. I have been considerably distressed at the fact that very often the War Office seems to know absolutely nothing about some of the smaller irritations which—as my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) pointed out—seem to us, at any rate, to be disincentives to a happy and successful Army.
I want to discuss four points. First, want to take the case of one of my constituents. He joined the Territorials in 1932, when joining the Territorials was not a very popular thing to do. By 1939 he had become deputy adjutant of the regiment to which he belonged the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, in which regiment he has done all his service. He went right through the war with that régiment and undertook extended war service until 1949. In June of that year he applied for a short-service commission.
By 1957, when the time to bring his service to an end arrived, he having been gazetted in September, 1949—two months after he had applied for his extended war service commission—and 1511 having served the full period, the War Office informed him that he had had a two months' break in his very long service and that his gratuity of £500 would therefore not be available to him.
When I took up the matter with the Under-Secretary he was very co-operative and sympathetic, but pointed out that there had been a break of two months. No one denied that. The point was, who was responsible? I had no knowledge of Army regulations and I wondered whether there was a regulation that when a person applied for a commission so many months had to elapse before he was gazetted. I could find no such regulation.
I therefore informed my hon. Friend that the break was due to the War Office. Here is a man who served continuously from 1932 until 1957, and came out of the Service with the rank of major. Suddenly he is told that there has been a break of two months in his service because the War Office did not gazette him until two months after his application for a commission. That is one of those Treasury inconsistencies and meannesses which makes people like me despair.
I am grateful for the way my hon. Friend has handled this question and I am looking forward to being told that, shortly, the gratuity will be paid. I mention the matter in case there may be other officers who have had a similar experience.
I will not go into the details of the second matter to which I wish to refer because it is complicated, but not long ago the Officers' Pension Society drew my attention to an anomaly regarding the payment of pensions to a small number of widows. Similar pensions had been paid by the Air Force and the Navy, but the Army was lagging behind. I find it extraordinary that in matters of this kind it is not possible to have coordinated action. I understand that Service Departments are sometimes so busy that there is not time to look at small details, but I sometimes wonder why it is not possible to detail someone to see that there is proper co-ordination.
This pension matter applies to a small number of people only, but I think that everyone is entitled to consideration. I 1512 put down a Parliamentary Question asking whether we might expect an amendment to the regulation or whatever was necessary to bring the Army into line with the other Services, and I am glad to say that within a couple of days an undertaking was given that the Order in question would be amended.
I was told that it would be backdated to 1st January, 1958, and so I sent this good news to the society, only to discover that the society had raised this matter as long ago as 1956 and had made three further attempts to obtain the pensions in 1957. Then the society had become annoyed because four months had elapsed without the receipt of an acknowledgment from the War Office. I raised this complaint with the Secretary of State, who wrote to me in a pleasant way and said:My Answer to your Question last Tuesday dealt, I think, with the point at issue, but I should like to say that I did much regret the delay in answering Captain Bullock's letter. He will soon, I hope, have an answer 'in terms of action' to add to the one he has already had from my Department.That was all very nice, and one accepts the apology; but, when the anomaly had been discovered, the additional money which has come to a very small section of widows should have been backdated to the time when the society raised the case. I do not know how long the Navy and the Royal Air Force have been in paying, but when the case has been raised, letters have been received by the society from the War Office saying that the matter was under discussion, and I have had to raise the matter in the House to get justice, the least the War Office should do is to respond.
I am not blaming the War Office but the Treasury. Someone asked me whether the letter I received from the Secretary of State had an "F" on it. If so, that meant, "Dealt with by the finance department under the direction of the Treasury". It is very bad luck that the War Office should always get blamed for ill-treatment when the Treasury is to blame. I hope that my hon. Friend will tell me in due course that the pensions will be backdated.
In answer to my Question, the Secretary of State pointed out that widows need not apply, from which I assumed 1513 that everything would be in order. The next thing that happened supports my view that the War Office does not concern itself with details. Somebody from the War Office rang the society and said that it was of importance, even though the statement had been made in the House, to find out which widows were entitled to this pension; and what did the society think could be done?
I should have thought the War Office had sufficient initiative, if it had made a mistake, to get into touch with the Director of the B.B.C., General Sir Ian Jacob who, as a soldier, would probably be interested in what happened to the widows. An announcement could have been made on the wireless saying that a mistake had been made and that widows who thought they were not covered should apply, and their case would be dealt with.
The third point is that of widows in general. I understand that this matter was raised in detail by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot. I want to reinforce this. It is intolerable that the Service Departments, the War Office in particular, should go on the whole time saying that nothing further has been done for the Service widows. It took a great deal of effort to get the basic pension altered; it had run for 100 years.
I listened to the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) talk about what the civilian people in industrial life would do and what they would or would not stand. I cannot imagine any section of the community who have gone through what the Service widows went through in two world wars, yet we have permitted the pensions of the widows of officers and other ranks to remain unchanged for 100 years. That is a most extraordinary thing. There has been one small alteration, and when any Questions are put in the House about the matter the answer inevitably is that their position was bettered in, I think, 1956, and that since the Royal Warrant gave an increase, the War Office thinks that all that was necessary has been done. I say it has not, and that the War Office is failing in the meanest possible way.
The pension of the widow of a captain is £115 10s. a year and what the Officers' Pension Society is suggesting is an increase to £133 a year. That is only 1514 £17 10s. more. Actually the pension is considerably less than the National Insurance pension which, as we all know, has now gone up to £130 a year. It is below the National Assistance scale. As the Government are always discussing economy and money matters I cannot see why the pension cannot be raised. If people have an income of only £115 a year they can draw National Assistance benefit. Such people may have been unfortunate in life, or unlucky, or have had no opportunity to save, and fallen on evil times; but here we are concerned with widows of members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces.
I do not think that anybody can feel that we are being generous when we are giving the widow of a captain, or a lesser rank, £115 a year by way of pension. I think that it is a scandal. I do not know how any occupants of the Government Front Bench can rest in their beds at night when they realise what is the true position.
The same applies to the widows of what we term "other ranks". We want to see justice done for those who have served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. I hope that, even if we get a negative reply tonight—as we do all the time—the Secretary of State for War when going over the Estimates, and when all the great plans for recruiting have matured and all the decisions which have to be taken have been taken, will find a little time to look at this question. I can say no more than that. I am only too regretful that the Parliamentary system does not allow an hon. Member to register a vote against the handling of this specific problem.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the abatement of the pensions of those people who also receive old age pensions. It is a matter which was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). He made a speech on the subject during, consideration of the Naval Estimates last Tuesday, but what happened? He made his remarks, and when the Civil Lord to the Admiralty replied to the debate, he never referred to the subject at all.
I would say, of course, that this arrangement was brought in when a Socialist Government were in power. 1515 They did so many mean things that I was naturally looking forward to my Government putting the matter right; but sometimes I find that I am bitterly disappointed.
When all these magnificent new arrangements for attracting people into the Army have been put into operation—I notice that we are increasing the amount of money being spent on publicity and all that kind of thing—shall we, at the same time as we point out the improved conditions to which we have given so much publicity, also point out that the retired pay is not what it purports to be because of this abatement?
We are always being told how difficult it is to find ways and means of helping the small fixed-income groups. Everybody says that they ought to be helped and that they wish they could be helped, but when there are ways of helping them the Government run a mile and do nothing about it. That makes me extremely disillusioned and extremely angry.
Why is it not possible to ensure that retired pay is paid in full without this abatement in view of the fact that these people have paid for their stamps under the National Insurance scheme? I hope that when my hon. Friend winds up the debate, in spite of the lateness of the hour and because it is so rarely that we can express these grievances, he will be able to tell us why this extraordinary state of affairs continues to exist. He should remember that the Service Departments, the Prime Minister and the whole of the Government are always making pledges about improving conditions.
At Margate last year the Prime Minister was very conclusive about those living on small fixed incomes. I want a specific explanation why, when we have the opportunity to do something in this direction, we do not take it.
That is all I have to say, except that when all the problems that have to be solved are solved I hope that the Secretary of State for War and the Financial Secretary will look into the case of the small fixed-income groups for whom, I think, the Service Departments have a very great responsibility.
§ 12.34 a.m.
§ Mr. Robert Woof (Blaydon)
The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) expressed her sentiments about Service pensions in very strong language, and the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) expressed similar disgust at the pension awards and at the meagre allowances made to those who have been awarded the Victoria Cross.
We see from Vote 10, page 163 of the Estimates, that field marshals, when unemployed, are to be placed on half pay. Under the new scales they are entitled to draw £14 a day. We now understand that if they become unemployed they draw £7 a day. That is very nice.
We only hope that they do not suffer the callous injustice that many of us did under the means test system. Does a means test apply to them? If it does, I wonder whether they will be subjected to the treatment many of us were years ago, when our dole was stopped because we were said to be not genuinely seeking work when there were about 3½ million unemployed. It seems strange that, with all the adjustments that have been made, there is still one law for the rich and one for the poor.
I shall confine my observations to the disposal of the taxpayers' money, a matter which is always the subject of argument. Like the Estimates of the Ministry of Defence, the Army Estimates apply resources to meet the needs of defence. On 26th February, the Minister of Defence implied that the Government's defence policy should be looked at over a five-year period. I wonder what conditions and political pressures will, through fear or imagined fear, prevail internationally during the next five years. When we give thought to future human existence, there is no doubt that the rapid changes in these very stirring times often leave us wondering what will happen next.
I note with special interest that according to paragraph 14 of the Memorandumit has been decided to separate the Arabian Peninsula from the Middle East Command. An independent integrated command will be established on 1st April, 1958, with headquarters in Aden. It will be responsible direct to London for our commitments in the Arabian Peninsula and in British Somaliland.1517 I think it true to say that of all stations the Aden Protectorate is the one to which the soldier will least want to go. It is noted for its barrenness and extremely hot climate. What length of service has a soldier to do in Aden—twelve months, eighteen months, or two years? Is any extra pay or allowance given? Much the same considerations apply to our forces in Trucial Oman.
As long as the Western industrial economy has to rely so largely on the oil lying beneath the desert sands of the countries around the Persian Gulf, one can appreciate the need for our commitments which figure in the Estimates in respect of the defence and internal security of those areas. In this connection, I should like to refer to what the Minister of Defence said in the defence debate on 26th February:The basic aim of our policy is to play our part with others in preserving peace and freedom throughout the world and in protecting democracy against subversion and aggression … We must demonstrate the value of freedom and try to help the peoples of all countries to attain a decent standard of life … At the same time, it is essential that all the free nations should help to defend one another against the threat of armed aggression and intimidation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c 386.]Every nation in the Western world is seeking an assured supply of oil, and this intensive need has given a new despotic power to rulers, sheikhs and politicians in becoming involved in oil economies. Since, as the Minister said, it is established policy to help to defend one another against aggression, intimidation and subversion, I think it would be useful to know what contribution is made by those countries which depend on oil from either the Arabian Peninsula or the Persian Gulf.
The island of Bahrein is in treaty relationship with Great Britain, and Britain is normally responsible for its foreign policy. On several occasions Great Britain has been called upon to intervene to defeat attempts of various powers to assert dominion over the area. But at the other end, the "lolly" end—the end which matters—we find that the oil concessions in Bahrein are controlled by American interests, the Standard Oil Company of California and the Texas Oil Company.
Recently, the Japanese have entered the Gulf. They have fixed an agreement 1518 with the Saudi Arabian Government for oil concessions along a neutral zone lying between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Then we have the Italian Government-owned oil company, Nazionale Idiocarburi, fixing oil concessions, covering an area of 8,800 square miles, with the Government of Iran.
What is interesting about these Estimates is whether the British taxpayer is to continue to be the moneybox or the mulch cow of certain other countries, companies and interests which are getting the benefit of Britain's endeavouring to protect the stability of the area. I appreciate that the major oil industry has been built up with much thought and much skill. Considering the position of the people of the area, and how primitive their economy was, since industry was non-existent, and how backward they were, I am bound to admit that a lot of credit is due to some of the oil companies for having played a responsible part in providing employment, industrial training, increasing educational facilities, medical and welfare services, and the opening up of roads and communications. They have thus contributed to a healthier settlement for the ordinary worker. With the change, however, those peoples are realising what is to be gained from the benefits of civilisation, and they are not prepared to stand still.
On the other hand, foreign officials regard the keeping down and the keeping out of Communism as the all-important task. From what I have seen of their social and economic conditions I should say that some of them are such that Communism has no need to be imported; it is generated from the misery, despair and deep discontent within the area. At this heightened pitch Middle Eastern peoples are being primed with Soviet propaganda and economic aid, which are having effect upon their Arab friends. We are apt to forget the many grudges which, at the same time, the Arabs have against the Western Powers. While the affairs of the Middle East are steeped in its oil and in its strategic position, the appeal of all those people who are depressed by social orders just cannot be ignored.
So long as we continue to spend money to support regents, in trying to keep 1519 rulers sweet, while they are squandering their oil revenues and depriving the great majority of their people of their legitimate rights, then so long will unrest prevail.
I was very interested to find my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), wrapped up, I suppose, in his medical profession, displaying enthusiastic interest in the effects of radioactivity. At one time or another, there have been many suggestions about Civil Defence and the Government's inactivity in that respect, but I was interested to read in an article in the New York Times of 9th February, 1958, just what the Washington Department of Administration is advising its employees to do after an atom attack. The article is entitled:An Atom Attack Is Matter of Form.The Department advises its employees to go to the nearest post office and get a form—that is, if the post office still exists. The postmaster—if he is still alive—then forwards the form to the office of the Civil Service Commission, which will maintain the registration files for the area—if the Commission and the area still exist. The Commission will then notify, presumably through another department, the officials of emergency location—if they still exist. According to this report, a certain amount of hilarity has been displayed by the more sophisticated circles within the State Department—
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is getting rather wide when he speaks of civil defence in America. I think that it is time he came back to the Estimates.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
On a point of order. Since there is no point in my hon. Friend expecting any answer on the subject of the Army Estimates, as the Government Front Bench is bare, might it not be convenient if a junior Minister concerned with Civil 1520 Defence were sent for to listen to his argument on this subject?
§ Mr. Woof
Some of the things that have been said today made it appear to me that the debate would have been more appropriately called "War and Peace." One was often reminded of the language used by Long John Silver, "They'll be the lucky ones that don't die." The fact is that the armaments race is developing into a situation of urgency and alarm.
Several times we have heard that the Communist régime prophesies that the next conflagration would deal a fatal blow to capitalism. On the other hand, we have heard a lot about capitalism still surviving I would not like to prophesy either way. It is widely held that Russia's challenge to the Western world, with its expanding heavy industry, resting on the possession of a fundamental industrial "know-how," and the race for more deadly weapons, with the terrific burden of budget expenditure, have all created new conditions in the world. These conditions cannot be ignored if we are to see which way world affairs are going.
I share the conviction that much that we are doing represents a complete reversal of the aims for which mankind has been striving for 2,000 years. There cannot be any illusion about the road we face, nor about the vital, burning problem of disarmament which affects every man, woman and child. While reserving a determination not to become the victim of rocket or guided missile psychosis, I submit that every intelligent and open-minded citizen knows perfectly well that the use of all the instruments of death and destruction in guided missiles has produced a profound feeling of apprehension and a deep concern about the threat of a new war and the conclusions to be drawn about the consequences of such a war. A supreme issue is invested in the struggle and in the ardent desire for peace.
If this problem of the arms burden cannot be solved until international agreement is reached, one despairs of understanding how public confidence is 1521 to be bolstered up in the meantime. The people of this land have fought and worked to make the world a better place than they first found it. With indomitable courage, impelled by the common need for safety, they have exposed themselves to danger in facing the mercenary avidity of political despots. They are now faced with the new strategy of terrific and inescapable destruction for the vast, congested towns and cities of these islands. As long as we keep throwing away opportunities to take the initiative, which ought to lead to an effective solution of this great problem, public conscience will stir and express itself more and more loudly until the haunting spectre of this horror is removed.
§ 1.0 a.m.
§ Colonel Richard H. Glyn (Dorset, North)
I am glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Williams, because it may not be inappropriate for a serving Territorial to say a few words on a subject which is not unimportant but which has not yet been discussed fully in the debate—the Reserve Army. Because of the lateness of the hour, I am sure that the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) will forgive me if I do not refer to what he said, because I wish to come directly to this subject.
The Territorial Army has been passing through a very difficult time. May I say at once that I have nothing against those National Service men whose training was completed by the Territorial Army. They were first-class people and first-class assets to us where they were able to join units of the same type as that in which they had done their Regular training, but a great problem arose in the case of the very large number of what were called the rebadged—that is, National Service men who had done their training in one type of unit and who, for geographical reasons, were posted to a Territorial unit of an entirely different nature. That happened on a much wider scale than is sometimes thought and it placed a great strain on the Territorials and the Territorial instructors. This strain has now been lifted and the Territorial Army is making great strides.
I am glad to see that although the active Army is being organised on a 1522 brigade group basis, which I think is right, there is no suggestion as yet that the Territorial Army should be similarly organised. I hope that there will never be such a suggestion. I hope that we may have some assurance on this point, because although the Territorial Army might have to fight on a brigade group basis, and could well do so, in peacetime it should undoubtedly retain a divisional organisation.
There are a number of reasons why this is desirable, one of which will perhaps suffice tonight. It is necessary to have a large whole-time organisation in each divisional area, which is also generally an Army district. There is a very great amount of administration work which must be done by a permanent whole-time organisation, which position the division fills. A brigade organisation has staff officers who include Regulars but many of whom are Territorials, which is as it should be—I am one myself—and we are not so well equipped to deal with these day-to-day matters of administration, not because we cannot do the work but because we are not there all the time.
I particularly noted the remarks of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who gave us exhaustive studies of the effects of nuclear war. A certain amount has been said about the number of troops available for the Mobile Defence Force and what the hon. Member called the third echelon rescue work. I assure him and any other hon. Member who shares his fears that a very large section of the Territorial Army has been trained for this work and has taken part in exercises and practices with the fire brigade, police and all branches of Civil Defence who would be involved. They are in a good position to take on this duty should it become necessary, although we all hope that it will not.
One very important phrase in the hon. Member's speech and one which it is well to remember is that even if a hydrogen bomb were dropped—which heaven forbid—many could be saved. Too many people throughout the country seem to think that that would be the end of the world, but it would not. Many could be saved and it would be the duty of the Civil Defence services and of the Territorial Army units detailed for this service to take part in that rescue work and in everything that we are training to do.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Has the hon. and gallant Member seen the latest figures? When we dropped a bomb in the Pacific we announced to the world that 75,000 square miles of the oceans were unsafe. The Americans have announced that 500,000 square miles are unsafe. If it is unsafe for shipping, what safety would there be for the people of these islands if a bomb were dropped here?
§ Colonel Glyn
The hon. Member is quoting figures, of which he is very fond, about areas which are unsafe. In war, great numbers of areas are unsafe. In some of those unsafe areas people are hurt, but they are still capable of being rescued and, in the circumstances he envisaged, would be rescued by the third echelon rescue work which would be undertaken by the Territorial Army. The point is not whether an area would be safe, but whether there would be survivors and people who would be rescued if there were a third echelon but who might otherwise not be rescued.
The main duty of the Territorial Army—and the Memorandum refers to this—is to fill gaps in the active Army. Perhaps it is not always realised what great differences there are between those two organisations. One of the greatest differences is the continuity of personnel in the Territorial Army. I had the experience of serving for twenty-seven years in the same Territorial unit and when I left there were many men in the unit—The Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry, one of the oldest yeomanry or Territorial units in the land—who had been in the unit for longer than I. The commanding officer who took over from me only a short time ago will have served in the unit for twenty-five or twenty-six years by the time his service is completed.
That is not exceptional in the Territorial Army, although it would be unknown in the Regular Army, where a short tour of duty in each battalion, or even in each regiment, is normal. We work very much as a team and as a family and that is how we achieve a considerable degree of efficiency, in spite of training only at week-ends, and so on.
All that has its effect. It is quite a shock to move a Territorial—whatever his rank—from one unit or formation 1524 into another, where he knows nobody and where everything is strange. He may know his technical work, but it is something in the nature of a shock when he moves.
A very great increase in efficiency could be obtained if it were possible to associate Territorial divisions, which would be used to fill gaps, as the Memorandum says, with the active brigades in which they might be called upon to fill gaps.
If one active brigade were associated with one or more Territorial divisions, and the officers and men from these divisions could visit the brigades and be attached to them for training, and those brigades could provide representatives to attend the Territorial divisional camps, they would get to know each other and that would be a tremendous help and provide invaluable liaison if the worst should happen and we had to go to war.
It was said by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central that the Government must see that war never breaks out. That, of course, is a counsel of perfection. I am sure that every effort will be made by any reasonable Government to see that war never breaks out.
It is true that it takes two to make a quarrel but, as is often pointed out at the Old Bailey, it takes two to make a murder but only one has to have the will. It is possible for a country to undergo the ravages of war without having fought, as was discovered by one or two small and less fortunate countries in Europe in the last war.
§ Colonel Glyn
Denmark is a very good example. Anyone studying the occupation of Denmark by enemy forces will see precisely what I mean. It was one of my less pleasant duties to visit the horror camp at Belsen very shortly after it had been occupied by our forces. In it were several Danes who had survived, but there had been many others who had not. But that is enough about that.
We must realise that the question whether or not this terror comes upon us is not one that any Government can answer completely, but the Government can go a very long way towards making it unlikely by producing a sufficient de- 1525 terrent and by showing that the country is organised in the best possible way, first to deter, and, secondly, to minimise the effect of any such happening.
I want to refer again to the most important phrase—"many could be saved." It is by showing that many could be saved—and in this country many would be saved—that we could make a valuable contribution not only for our morale but in regard to the state of mind of potential aggressors, who would be less inclined to take the chance of attacking us if they knew that to be the case. But this puts a strain on the Territorial Army. We are having to learn two techniques at once—the techniques of rescue and of conventional war.
There is one further point which I think might be of value. Many Territorial units are still below strength, although recruiting is going up, and when they go to camp they will be in difficulties because of their low numbers. At any camp there are many administrative duties to be performed. There are guard duties, fire pickets, and a unit will be called upon to find fatigue parties for N.A.A.F.I., the cookhouse and the barrack rooms. I have known of cases where 25 per cent. of the men in camp had to be employed every day on these unproductive, non-training jobs.
Many of those fatigues could be done by civilians, and a certain number of civilians are allowed to be employed in this way, although the number is limited because of the financial regulations. Only a small sum is allowed. A battalion or field regiment can take on about six or seven civilians. I suggest that this is a case where the Army and the Government can achieve a real saving by permitting more money to be spent upon employing civilians in camp. They could generally be found by the Territorial unit. The Territorial volunteers could then spend their time on training either for conventional war or on third echelon rescue work, instead of doing fatigues.
It has been said that civilians should not be used in Regular units, and that it is necessary that they should have their own cooks. I could not agree more; but in the Territorial Army the average man has all the "know-how" he needs for potato peeling and similar duties; it has been imparted to him, at no 1526 expense to the Government, by the female members of his family. It would, therefore, be perfectly safe to allow Territorials to have more civilians with them in camp, for fatigue purposes. It would be a great asset and would have a great effect in improving the morale of the volunteers—who are probably having their year's holiday in camp and do not want to spend it doing fatigues but in training—and also their efficiency.
Anyone associated with the Territorial Army would wish to congratulate the War Office and the Secretary of State for the very greatly improved recruiting figures, which are most encouraging and of importance to us all.
§ 1.14 a.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. M. Glyn) took up seriously the theme adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), and that he added his professional, up-to-date knowledge to the discussion of this subject, which I hope may be carried a little further by the Under-Secretary later tonight.
I followed with interest the Secretary of State's sketch, towards the end of his speech, of what he considered to be the function of the modern Army. He spent a very little time on the theme of security and limited wars, skipped lightly over the rôle of the Army in global nuclear war, and left out altogether any reference to the point that I want to touch upon later, namely, the rôle of the Army in a nuclear war which might, fortunately, have been brought fairly rapidly to a close after a partial disaster.
I noted with no pleasure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) filled in some of the gaps in the speech of the Secretary of State and talked about the addition of further equipment to the Army. I understood him to be advocating a further supply of nuclear weapons to the troops stationed in Germany. My right hon. Friend showed by his attitude that he was addressing his remarks as much to hon. Members behind him as to hon. Members on the benches opposite and I think he is aware that he does not carry all his hon. Friends with him.
Even in that argument my right hon. Friend fell into the same trap as the 1527 hon. and gallant Member for Dorset, North and other hon. Members who are always dreaming away about the reorganisation of the Army. Some talk from recent experience and some from past experience. The hon. and gallant Member wants civilians to peel his potatoes, and someone else wants to increase the ratio of civilians to uniformed personnel, and so on.
Who is to start to calculate how much these additional requirements for equipment and extra civilian assistance will cost the remainder of the population? Are not we getting to the stage when we are bankrupting ourselves by asking for more support for the Army? Are not we doing what hon. and gallant Members like the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) plead that we should not do—leading the Army "up the garden" by promising what it will not get? If we promise the Army these things, surely in times of crisis it will be impossible to sustain them. We are asking for a scale of technical equipment which I believe to be beyond the resources of this country in time of peace let alone during the dislocation of war.
§ Mr. Strachey
My hon. Friend is mistaken about my position. There is no question of advocating the provision of nuclear weapons to the British Army in Europe. That was decided long ago and it is being done. The issue is whether we are unilaterally to scrap them. There is no question of advocating their provision by me or anyone else. That is a fait accompli.
§ Mr. Parkin
But what is not settled is the political control over them—by which member of N.A.T.O. The military leaders seem insatiable. General Norstad is requiring that all the members of N.A.T.O. shall have nuclear weapons, and soon we shall want to know who is to control them. I am sure my right hon. Friend accepts the danger of a conflict in Europe, which may be started by the Russians, in which we let off a Corporal as the only reply that we can make, and then a global nuclear war begins.
It has never yet turned out that appalling weapons destroyed humanity, as we have been told so many times they would. The H-bomb is a weapon that is merely bigger, and I would be prepared to argue 1528 that it is not more likely to cause the extinction of the human race than any of the other bombs. We have to prepare to deal with the later stages. Military men have always said that, whatever is dropped from the sky or shot from the sea, the final stage must be carried by infantry, and by ordinary people meeting other ordinary people in a country and bringing the matter to a conclusion; and that means to a political conclusion. I would therefore ask the Minister to tell us something about the political objectives of the Army as well as about its political control.
Suppose the central government had been dislocated by the disaster of a premature, uncontrolled release of atomic weapons. We must cease to assume that they would come only from Russian territory; from what we now read, they could come from anywhere. We have been reading that vessels could arrive at these shores by way of the sea bed, and could fire shells so wide of any target that whole areas would be dislocated. What should we do then?
I once heard a sarcastic remark to the effect that someone could always be found in the War Office to say that the answer to the atomic bomb was the horse. That was intended to be funny, but I am wondering whether it is true, and whether the Army should not depend much less upon expensive and complicated equipment which has to be put all over the world in prepared dumps, and which can be paralysed, as the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing said, by the absence of a little spring which can be bought at any cycle shop. We should be thinking in terms of units which can be self-supporting and which can survive on their own. Therefore, most of the means of communication would be much more simple than the more refined and more expensive versions.
The almost self-contained unit which will have a pre-accepted political directive will know that it has to go into devastated territory and not only bring medical comforts and the elements of civilisation back again—water supplies, and so on—but also have a sympathetic understanding of what it is that the people want. It was said earlier that the victors will be those who can save the survivors. I think that the old conception of the infantry in the Army, 1529 although they do not now go in for long marches on their feet, is one which should not be forgotten. We should bear it in mind because it compels us to remember that, after the bombing and the shelling, there will be a need to remember what the war was all about and what must be done about things as they will be.
§ 1.30 a.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
Before I tackle the Estimates I should like to say a word or two about the point of view which I wish to express. Let me say now that I am not a pacifist, but neither am I a lunatic; as I see it, the whole of this arms race is based on assumptions so unrealistic as to amount to a kind of insanity.
I do not believe that anybody wants war. The arms race is kept going by fear. We cannot fight with nuclear weapons, anyway; we cannot prevent war by piling up nuclear bombs, but only by making peace. If the war once starts we shall all be dead very quickly. As a sort of psychological compensation for the stubborn reluctance to make peace we ignore the painful fact that our preparations for war are utterly unreal and land us in impossibilities and absurdities. I shall try to tackle the Estimates from that point of view.
The Estimates talk of our forces being prepared for cold war, limited wars, and global war. We are to use our forces, so far as I can make out, in cold wars for waging ideological warfare. I do not think that we can wage limited wars without engaging in global war—especially if we use atomic weapons; and once we have a global war, we are dead. The 1958 White Paper states that, in addition to N.A.T.O. we have more than 100,000 men in the Armed Forces in the Middle East and the Far East, most of whom, I suppose, are in the Army. Last year's Defence White Paper stated that the retention of such forces abroad gave rise to heavy charges placing a severe strain on the balance of payments position. The Minister of Defence made that point a few days ago.
We are told that the cost of our troops in Germany is £125 million, and that we pay £56 million—£47 million for the actual expenditure on the forces, and £9 million for what the forces spend on 1530 what they need—in Deutschmarks. The Estimates then make the following point:The independent experts appointed by N.A.T.O. to examine the position confirm that expenditure of this order in Deutschmarks would place a heavy additional burden on Britain's balance of payments.I do not believe that with anything like this defence burden it will be possible to cope with the problem of inflation. I do not think that we can end inflation as long as our economy is burdened with this tremendous defence expenditure. I believe that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), was quite right when he said in his resignation speech that our troubles were due, basically, to the fact that we were trying to be a first-class military Power and to be a Welfare State at the same time. We could not possibly do both.
I must say, therefore, that I was rather surprised when my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) took the Government to task for treating N.A.T.O. in a cavalier fashion, as he said, because we had cut our expenditure and reduced our troops. My right hon. Friend seemed to think that this was a terrible thing to do and got very close to arguing that we should spend more money on this kind of thing.
After all, the Labour Party has a very ambitious social programme for when we come into power—a Welfare State programme. I believe that we can carry it out, but only if we slash defence expenditure.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. W. R. Williams)
I think that the hon. Member ought to come nearer to what we are discussing tonight—the Estimates for the Army.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I was taking the case of our expenditure on N.A.T.O. and saying that if we are to spend on that scale we cannot, at the same time, maintain the Welfare State. It will suffer death by a thousand cuts.
Not only do the preparations such as those in the Estimates and on the scale outlined, for the tasks proposed, in order to fight the cold war, limited wars, and global war, make it impossible to stop inflation and condemn the Welfare State 1531 to waste away, but they make it doubtful whether we can end conscription. I will not elaborate on that, because it has been discussed by various people.
It is very doubtful indeed whether our troops can be raised voluntarily to the numbers required for the purposes set forth in the Estimates. Nor do I think that we can cure the situation by providing the forces with tactical atomic weapons. I recognise the dilemma. The alternative is a massive conscript Army which, as somebody said, would be ruinous. On the other hand, I think that forces equipped with tactical atomic weapons would be suicidal. And having a bit of both, as we are doing, is both ruinous and suicidal.
The Government, of course, are very evasive about just what these tactical atomic weapons are. I tried in vain to get some information at Question Time. The Minister of Defence took refuge in security considerations. All I asked was what was the definition, in terms of firepower, of a tactical atomic weapon as distinguished from a strategic nuclear weapon. I could not get an answer. The Americans, however, have been much franker than our own people on this. According to American sources, a tactical atomic weapon is a nuclear weapon up to 2½ times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. These weapons are to be put at the disposal of commanders in the field, to be used by them at their discretion in the same way as conventional arms to repel what they regard as a major attack, without the necessity of referring to their Governments before using them.
That, of course, wipes out the distinction between limited war and total war at one fell stroke. Because if anyone starts loosing off weapons 2½ times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, or even of the same power as that bomb, that will not be treated as a limited war. It will start a world war. In fact the whole idea that we can fight a war with so-called graded deterrents without starting an all-in nuclear war is, I believe, military moonshine, because any Government which goes as far as that will go all the way rather than lose after going to that length.
Most military people are, I think, agreed upon that. The idea of graded 1532 nuclear deterrents is rather like a scheme for introducing thermostats to control the temperature in Hell. It is a completely lunatic notion. It is one of the many lunatic notions with which the whole attempt to make sense of fighting a war with weapons which would destroy all living things is studded.
I rather share the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) about the way my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West was pressing the Government to be more lavish in the use of tactical atomic weapons. He was pushing that point very hard. Frankly, I do not think that he carries even the Parliamentary Labour Party with him, and I am certain that a Labour Party conference would repudiate the idea if it were put to it.
§ Mr. Strachey
The allegation which my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) is making has no relation of any sort to my views.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I have heard the debate, and I heard my right hon. Friend pressing the Government strongly on the point of the tactical atomic weapons. He did not seem to be satisfied with what they were doing in the matter. He seemed to want them to do still more. I think that the whole idea is wrong.
§ Mr. Strachey
What I said was that for my part I thought our forces could not be deprived unilaterally of some nuclear capacity. That was the actual phrase that I used, and that I stand by. It is a travesty, a very malicious travesty, of my views to say that that is pressing the Government to increase its dependence on tactical nuclear weapons. My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that that is a travesty of my attitude.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I did not know it, but I am glad to hear it.
Let us look at the official reasons why, according to the Estimates, all these men are wanted in the Army, for what purpose they are required. Civil Defence has already been mentioned, and I will not go into that any further except to say that I do not believe that Civil Defence has any more reality than any other part of all these things. It is not a matter of how many people can 1533 survive one hydrogen bomb. I am told that the American stocks are about 34,000 hydrogen bombs; if there is a war it certainly is a matter of counting in hundreds rather than ones or twos, and by that time we shall be thoroughly extinct.
I wish that simple point could be got over—that either a war does not start or, if it does start, there is no point in talking about it as though it were just another war that we can fight, survive and come through with more or less casualties. This time man's destructive power really has outrun his capacity to survive. That is the one elemental fact from which people are receding rather than admitting.
In July, 1955, at the Summit Conference, the then Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, admitted that the result of a war with nuclear weapons would be annihilation of the human race—as he put it, neutrals as well as belligerents. But the more we pile up the weapons the more we talk as though they are just something that we can use and still live to tell the tale.
§ Dr. Stross
I think that the nearest one can get to the facts is the estimate that between six and 10 large hydrogen bombs, those of the 10 megaton type, might destroy most of the life in our island, and it is estimated that in the United States 250 such bombs would probably kill about 100 million citizens.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I thank my hon. Friend for putting the facts in cold and sober terms.
There is also the matter of the use of our Armed Forces for fighting colonial wars. Cyprus is mentioned, in particular, in the Estimates, and we have the memory of Kenya and Malaya. I have previously said, and I repeat it, that it is wrong in principle to use conscripts to fight colonial wars. It is an abuse of the power of the State over the individual. It is a fact that in the old colonial countries like Holland, Belgium and France, legislation exempts conscripts from serving in colonial wars unless they volunteer. It is true that Holland, in the case of the Indonesian war, in which she regarded almost her very existence as being at stake, suspended this law. It is true that France regards Algeria as part 1534 of metropolitan France, and not as a colony, and has sent most of her army there. The war may, indeed, become a civil war in France. Technically, I suppose, as Algeria counts as part of France, it is already a civil war.
Nevertheless, that principle is enshrined in the legislation of those countries, that because colonial wars cannot be regarded as self-defence—the defence of one's own country—but are politically controversial operations, one does not conscript men and force them to kill and be killed for these purposes. We do, and I think it is wrong. The answer which is given is, "If we do not use National Service men for these purposes, we shall not have enough troops to do the necessary colonial fighting." I say that we should change our colonial policy so that we need to use less coercion and less force. We should cut our colonial political coat according to our military and economic cloth. We should have a more enlightened colonial policy.
The use of the Army in the Middle East and the Far East is said to be in fulfilment of our commitments in support of the Bagdad Pact and of S.E.A.T.O. On various occasions I have asked Questions in the House of the Minister of Defence and the Foreign Secretary, with particular reference to the November, 1955, communiqué of the Bagdad Pact Council which committed us to using British forces to help defend the territories of Bagdad Pact countries against Communist subversion.
Finally, on 27th February last year, with the help of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who asked a very useful supplementary question, I got the Minister of Defence to say that this meant that the rulers of those countries could declare as Communist subversion any popular rising in their territory, and we were then bound to intervene at their request to put down those popular risings.
Again, I consider that is an utterly illegitimate use of British forces. That is fighting an ideological war. That is, in fact, a policy of intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, which I regard as not compatible with the Charter of the United Nations. Certainly, it is not a policy for which the lives 1535 of British soldiers should be sacrificed or on which British money should be spent on maintaining forces.
Troops are maintained in N.A.T.O. for the purpose of supporting a policy of intransigeance, of insistence on the inclusion of a united Germany in N.A.T.O. I asked a Question on 4th December last year of the Foreign Secretary, and he confirmed that the Government stood by the declaration of his predecessor, the present Prime Minister, on 12th December, 1955, that N.A.T.O. forces were to be used to exert steady pressure upon the Soviets to force them to give ground in Eastern Germany. That is a policy that cannot possibly lead to peace and may easily lead to the opposite.
To do our Government justice, I do not believe that their hearts are in that policy. I believe that if they had a free hand, they would be ready to try a little more energetically, or a little less lackadaisically than they seem to be trying, to find some terms of accommodation with the Soviet Union that would enable us to cut these swingeing expenditures and bring most of our forces home.
The real reason why they turn down all the constructive proposals of the Opposition for winding up this desperate arms race, for lightening the terrible defence burden and cutting our forces, is that they are under the domination of Mr. Dulles. He acts as a sort of inverted Micawber, waiting for something from Moscow to turn down.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Member has gone very wide of the subject of the debate. I should be glad if he would come nearer to the Estimates.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I am on my last sentence, Mr. Williams. I am winding up my speech. I was about to say that the trouble is that our Prime Minister is a "Yes" man to the "Abominable No-man" in Washington.
§ 1.45 a.m.
§ Commander C. E. M. Donaldson (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I had not expected to take part in the debate at this late hour, but I rose because I dis- 1536 agree with so much of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) has said. I think I can claim to call in aid, peculiarly enough, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), who has repudiated some of the allegations made by the hon. Gentleman.
It will be within the memory of a great many Members on this side of the Committee, indeed, of the Committee as a whole, that this is not the first occasion on which the hon. Member for Gorton has put forward the theories which he has advanced tonight. At the very close of his speech he made reference to a gentleman of another nation. It did not come within the compass of the debate, and a great many of the things he said before that may not have come within the compass of the debate, and certainly were not in keeping with the thinking of the people of this country.
When we consider the expending of the money we have to expend to sustain the forces of Britain, whether the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, the people of the country expect us to give diligent thought to that expenditure and, as representatives of the people, to keep in mind the right of the people of all parties in this country to defend their country from the things we think are evil, false, denigratory of and inimical to the democracy which we are elected to represent.
As it is late, I do not wish to detain the Committee by taking in detail the arguments adduced by the hon. Gentleman. I would simply tell him that the people of the country will, when the time comes, judge the right and wrong of the things he has adduced and the views he has expressed, and which he was entitled to express as an elected Member of the House of Commons. They have heard on previous occasions the views he has uttered tonight. It would be difficult, within the rules of order, to pursue now things which he has said, and which I should like to pursue upon some other occasion. All I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that I disagree entirely with almost all he has said, and that hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of people, not only in Britain but in the rest of the Commonwealth, equally disagree with him. The time will come when—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. and gallant Member is falling into the same error as the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus). I should like him to confine himself to the Estimates, if he would.
§ Commander Donaldson
Far be from me to fall into the same error as the hon. Gentleman opposite. All I say is that I disagree with what he said. I am entitled to say that and follow his speech that far. I am quite prepared to seek another occasion on which to disagree with him in more detail, with more point and with more vigour than the rules of order now allow.
§ 1.50 a.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
Disagreement is no sin, and I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Commander Donaldson), or I would be out of order. I wish to turn to the Army Estimates and to deal with their reality in relation to the Far East.
For years some of us have spoken of the idiocy of our defence policy in South-East Asia. I voted against the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation, and if the opportunity arises again I shall vote against it again. The South-East Asia Treaty Organisation is neither a treaty nor an organisation, and I certainly do not believe that it represents the defence of the free world.
I am tired of all these euphemisms about the free world and the defence of Christianity. As someone who, not too long ago, came back from South-East Asia—after visiting Hong Kong, Singapore, Indo-China and other parts of the Far East where that Treaty operates—I say that the talk of it defending Christianity is sheer idiocy. It displays either ignorance or a complete misunderstanding of South-East Asia.
In page 6 of the Memorandum, we are told, first, that in Korea—The Commonwealth contingent has been withdrawn. A Commonwealth Liaison Mission, however, remains in Korea under the command of a Brigadier.My first question is: how much is that costing the British taxpayer, and will the Under-Secretary tell us the worth of the expenditure on British troops stationed there? I am talking here of British 1538 troops, for which he is responsible—not Australian or New Zealand troops. What is it costing us to keep those men in Korea, where Syngman Rhee recognises neither democracy nor any of the freedoms for which the last war was fought to preserve?
He recognises neither trade unionism nor a free vote nor a parliamentary system. Let no hon. Gentleman opposite argue about that—it is an uncontradicted fact. It is no good the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) smiling about it. Why do we keep troops there to defend freedom when no right of free speech exists? What does it cost the taxpayer? Why do we keep those troops there?
A few months ago I spent three or four hours with Chou En-lai in Peking, in Kowloon, and in Shanghai discussing the Hong Kong problem. The Governor of Hong Kong first promised Chou En-lai that the road for trade with China would be opened. It has not been opened, nothing has moved, and unemployment grows there. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong—he has the figures—but I believe that there are some 11,000 troops in Hong Kong. What can they defend? Nothing.
Will the Minister tell the British public if the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation would come into action, and, if so, why? Chou En-lai told me that he had shown his friendship for the British public and the British nation by taking no action over Hong Kong, yet we have some 11,000 troops there. Will the Minister tell the British public what that costs the nation?
Many of those gallant young boys may differ from me in many ways, but they all worship their country. I am not being facetious on this subject. They are ready to offer their lives for what they think is the right, and all of us will always defend our country—let that be understood. If I thought that any country had acted as an aggressor against Britain I would, according to my limited ability, seek to do what I could to defend this country of ours. It might be that it would not be such a great contribution as that of military men who have already sacrificed or offered all they had to defend it. But to keep 11.000 troops in Hong Kong is not a contribution to peace in the Far East. Chou 1539 En-lai has no intention of attacking Hong Kong. This is a place where we could save money and it would be a demonstration to the world of our intention to secure an understanding in the Far East.
It is some time since I was in Indonesia, and whether I shall visit that part of the world this year depends on whether or not there is a General Election this year—which would be my wish. The Memorandum relating to the Army Estimates states:In November-December, 1957, a force of two British infantry companies carried out three weeks' training in conjunction with the local police at Sandakan, North Borneo.Incidentally, as a leading article in the Army Quarterly says, it is time that we were given a definition of what is meant nowadays by companies, brigades and battalions. It is never made clear in the House of Commons what these terms now mean.
The Memorandum adds:The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force co-operated to move the force.I do not know whether the Minister has authority to reply, but I should like to know whether this was an exercise under S.E.A.T.O. A few weeks before I was last in Saigon, seven or eight months ago, a S.E.A.T.O. exercise had taken place. British planes and forces were there, in spite of agreement to the contrary at the Geneva Conference of 1954. The results of the Geneva Conference were a tribute to Sir Anthony Eden. Whatever the world now thinks, Sir Anthony Eden sacrificed his health in the service of this country, and the Geneva Conference was a great success.
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. and gallant Member does not know what Sir Anthony Eden did at the Geneva Conference, in bringing about at a most difficult period a discussion on that vital area of the world, the Far East, I cannot inform him in this debate without being out of order.
As a result of that conference, there should have been no troops, either British or American, in South Vietnam. The 1540 House of Commons has no information about our obligations under S.E.A.T.O., and I have spent a great deal of time speaking about this Far Eastern problem both inside and outside this Chamber.
On Singapore, the Memorandum on the Army Estimates says:With British help the 1st Battalion the Singapore Regiment has been raised to 50 per cent, of its intended strength. The 1st Singapore Regiment, Royal Artillery, is no longer required and will be disbanded on 1st November, 1958.I want to know what is to happen to the troops in Singapore. I was in Singapore not long after the debacle of the Second World War when the guns had been found to point the wrong way and there had been complete collapse. The British public, to their amazement, found that the Malayan did not love the British flag. I will not go into the political details, but there is to be a general election in Singapore in 1958 and I want to know what guarantee the British taxpayer has that if he spends millions of pounds on keeping troops there, those poor boys will have security and, if a conflagration breaks out in the Far East, they will be rescued. According to the Minister of Defence, our bases are in Singapore and Aden for the defence of the Arabian Peninsula and South-East Asia.
I have no illusions about the bomb which can create a temperature equal to that of the centre of the sun. Many years ago I spoke about that to the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when he was Prime Minister, and the House laughed when I asked about radioactivity, because hon. Members did not know about it. They know now. How can troops be moved through radioactive seas? It is ridiculous, fantastic and a waste of the taxpayers' money.
In Singapore thirty-eight agitators were arrested in August and five members, recently elected by free vote by the public in Singapore to the Central Excutive Committee, were also arrested. We are putting troops into this area. Have we not learned through history? Have not Kenya, Cyprus and the Far East taught us that we can no longer impose on the coloured man that kind of organisation if it is against his will? Are the Army and War Office taking into account the general election which will be held in 1541 Singapore in 1958 and have they informed Mr. Dulles, this flying bedstead of the Pacific Ocean, who is one of the most ill-informed men on the reality of Pacific politics and Asian politics—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
Order. I am afraid that the hon. Member is straying far from the subject of the debate.
§ Mr. Davies
I apologise, Sir Gordon, and I accept your Ruling. May I put it another way? Are we telling the American Government that we can no longer be certain that the British Raj is certain to be able to hold areas of security in Singapore? May I ask an up-to-date question on a matter which is not dealt with in the Memorandum and should be dealt with? If the Minister has not the information perhaps he can obtain it. Being a courteous and gallant Gentleman, perhaps he will obtain it, not at this late hour but some time in the coming week. Do the events which are taking place in Indonesia imply that our forces in Singapore or Kenya are standing by? There are obligations under the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation.
Statements have been made in America on this subject. Before they made these tentative statements about the possibilities of the revolutionary situation in Indonesia, did the United States consult the Prime Minister or was Britain forced once again merely to follow on? What obligations under the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation does the Army have towards Indonesia? I know that ships of the K.P.M. company are being held in Singapore Naval Base, but that is a matter with which I cannot deal now, although I will raise it when we deal with the Navy Estimates next week.
Malaya links with Thailand. Some of us have been in Thailand. If ever there was a country which is not free, it is Thailand. To pretend that Thailand is part of the free world and that the British Army has to protect it and the British taxpayer spend money on—
§ Mr. Davies
The Memorandum says, in page 6:The Army's participation in nuclear weapon trials on Christmas Island and at 1542 Maralinga has continued on an increasing scale.We have obligations under A.N.Z.U.S. and under S.E.A.T.O. in this area and one of our bases is Thailand. I will not develop that too far. You need have no fear, Sir Gordon, that I will contest your Ruling, but the Committee should be clear about why we are spending our money, and we are spending money in Malaya and on the borders of Thailand.
We are no longer responsible for the government of Malaya. I have no illusions about the "freedom" of Malaya. That resulted from a military treaty and it is freedom at a price. There are Commonwealth troops in Malaya. Are the Government prepared to withdraw troops from Malaya and allow the Government of Malaya, now a member of the United Nations, to appeal to the United Nations, if necessary, rather than continue to permit the British taxpayer to bear the burden of keeping forces in Malaya?
In page 6, the Memorandum says:The Government of the Federation of Malaya has now assumed responsibility for the external defence …To that should be added the words "and internal defence against the Communists inside Malaya, without the British taxpayer having to bear the burden." There are New Zealand and Australian troops in Malaya, despite its independence. What is the cost to the British taxpayer? Were we requested by the Malayan Government to keep our troops there, and if we were requested, were we requested because we asked them to request us?
One of the most vital matters in the world today is that of defence in an atomic age and yet the Gracious Speech of 5th November, 1957, had not one word to say on the subject. We were told in the recent defence debate that Aden and Kenya would be responsible to London. An element of the strategic reserve is to be stationed in Kenya and we are told by an imaginative Government—and my party will not be so imaginative when we get to power, as we shall—that those troops will be available for reinforcing Singapore and the Far East. If ever there was a daydream; if ever there was an issue far from reality, this is it.
1543 I have been in the China Seas in a typhoon, and although I have never been there when a hydrogen bomb has exploded I know that it would create many more problems than the typhoon. I know that these troops could not be moved from Kenya to Singapore. Yet the Army Estimates take into account the cost of building—we were told that it would not be a base—heaven knows what it really will be, in Kenya, to defend Singapore. Is this supposed to be Conservative thinking? Is this practical defence in the twentieth century? Not a soldier or a ship could move.
We are then told that the troops will be controlled from London. Will that be true if we have evacuated 12 million people, and if all telephonic and radio communication is destroyed? Will we still control them from London? It is sheer humbug to say that we will.
Where are we going, with this insane policy?
§ Mr. Davies
It is not a rhetorical question for mankind, for the British taxpayer or for the unborn children. I would advise the hon. Member to read the Lancet of a few weeks ago, when a doctor and a radiologist contributed the following little rhyme:The nuclear boffins, God bless them all,Have calculated the fall-out to a decimal.But my nephew and nieceHave five legs apieceAnd their intelligence"—like that of the hon. Member—Is infinitesimal.I now turn to the question of the Army and its numbers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) has made out a logical case for a conventional Army. He asked about its internal strength. Fortunately, the common people often have more sense 1544 than Members of Parliament, but it takes them a long time to get their opinion expressed on the Floor of the House of Commons. Even if recruits were paid £20 or £30 a week there would not be a chance of getting a voluntary Army in this insane world, with this kind of policy. In the last analysis, therefore, we are forced to admit a paradox. We have reached the pons asinorum of strategy. There is no longer either a Conservative or Socialist defence policy. That may sound paradoxical, but it is true. The truth is that mankind must get together or it will be finished.
I turn next to Korea. Will the Under-Secretary please give me the figures—not necessarily tonight, at this late hour—showing how much it is costing to defend the dictator in South Korea? Will he explain why the British taxpayer should spend one penny of his money to maintain troops in South Korea, when his insurance and unemployment contributions are going up?
What is the truth about the relationship of the Army and civil defence? My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) raised this question. If the Minister asks where there is a place for the Army, there can be a little hope. There is only one place for it in a modern world and that is in connection with civil defence. While we are foolish enough to fly hydrogen bombs about we should do better to train our forces in the arts of civil defence.
The nature of war is altering and therefore the nature of society is altering. Mankind is confronting something he has never met before. At one time wars were tolerated because they meant full employment. There were uniforms, boots and belts to be provided for 5 million or 10 million men. Now a Royal Ordnance factory is as out of date as an Elizabethan castle. A ship at sea, a battalion or a brigade of men—all these are as out of date as a medieval castle.
Feudalism collapsed because of gunpowder. Capitalism was able to escape because war gave full employment. In an acquisitive society war cannot give full employment. Five thousand scientists and 100,000 technical troops could provide more power than 10 million men under arms. That is the sort of thing we may have to face, and it may bring the 1545 idea of an acquisitive State and the ideology of Socialism nearer together in the next ten or twenty years. Therefore, I consider that these Estimates are unreal in the mid-twentieth century.
§ 2.18 a.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The Committee will agree that to make a speech from this Dispatch Box at any time is an ordeal. I have had to wait a long time to make this one.
§ Mr. Mellish
Every hon. Member has the right to make his speech in his own way, and in his own time.
May I start by doing something which may be unusual—by apologising to the staff of the House for keeping them up so late? It is not, however, a question of filibustering; the Army Estimates are important and they must be adequately debated. In some respects it is unfortunate that I have to reply to this debate, because I am doing so in place of the late Wilfred Fienburgh, who was a great friend of mine. I miss him a great deal and I am fully aware that whatever speech I make could never be as good as he would have made. I do not possess his fluency and I have to use notes, which he never did. My task, on behalf of my party, is to express our views on the Army Estimates. I start off with two small points, not very important. I want to give praise on both of them and to ask questions on one of them. Before I do so, may I say that the Under-Secretary of State for War has heard every speech tonight. I know that he has taken down an enormous number of questions. If he is able to answer them all he will do very well, but we shall be here well into the dawn if he tries to answer every one.
In the Memorandum, the Minister refers once again to Army education, which does not get any publicity in the House although excellent work is done by the Army education authorities. In last year's Memorandum the Secretary of State spoke of secondary education, said how unsatisfactory it was, and added that he would study how the situation could be improved. What has been the result of the study and what is being done to overcome the difficulties of giving 1546 secondary education to the children of the Regular soldier?
My other point refers to the voluntary organisations. I would associate my party with the excellent work done by people like S.S.A.F.A., which does a magnificent job in helping the soldier in time of trouble. During the war it helped me, on one occasion. This is a very good way of paying it back for what it has done. Although it is included in the last paragraph of the Memorandum, we want it to know that it is not forgotten by people generally or by hon. Members of this House.
A number of questions have been asked of the Under-Secretary and I hope that he will deal with the most important of them tonight. One was asked by the hon. Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer)—I am glad to see him in his place—and the other by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing asked why it had taken two years to get two companies airborne and to organise the Army in such a way. My hon. and learned Friend asked whether we could say that there are two brigade groups that were uncommitted and available today, bearing in mind that in the last few years under successive Governments, there had been an expenditure of £10,000 million. The question is relevant when we are asked to consider how the very large sum of money is being spent, and I hope that we shall have an answer from the Under-Secretary.
The third question, of great importance, was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and I shall deal with it later. My first criticism is that there is no mention in the Estimates of any real cooperation with N.A.T.O. There are just a number of brief references. I would ask the Under-Secretary whether, quite apart from his reply I shall get something in writing from the Secretary of State.
What has been done by Her Majesty's Army about the N.A.T.O. Alliance, for instance, about the standardisation of armaments, the production of armaments, and the assessment of military needs? I want to put on record for my party the fact that N.A.T.O. is as important to us 1547 as it is to Government supporters. We believe that the alliance is essential and that it must be an alliance that is worth while. It should have some general purposes. Has it achieved something apart from learning just how to discuss problems? I mentioned in the defence debate last week what it had really achieved politically and some of the difficulties and problems that had arisen because of the fact that there had not been the close liaison with N.A.T.O. that there ought to have been on military matters.
The second part of the Estimates to which I want to refer is that concerned with pay. The pay of the Regular soldier has recently been increased and, on behalf of my party, I welcome the great improvement that has been made. Here I should like to pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), for it is quite fair to say that when he talked, years ago, of the £10 a week soldier he was laughed at. The Observer went out of its way to print some very caustic remarks about him for suggesting that the time would come when the soldier would be paid £10 a week. Now we are doing that.
But why, when the Government do something so imaginative and so intelligent do they want to spoil it? The anomalies which have arisen are ludicrous. For example, why did the Government try to level out the soldier's pay as between the men living in and those living out by putting up rents? Such is the result that the married Regular living in will hardly get any increase at all. It is an extraordinary position. Of course, it can be claimed that this man has the privilege of living in married quarters; although it could not always be described as a "privilege" in some of the quarters that I have come across.
I am quite prepared to admit that the Government are trying desperately hard to remedy the problem of the worn-out barracks, but one of the complaints in the Army comes from those who have to move from very good quarters to accommodation which is bad. The rents have been increased and, personally, I do not think that this was a sensible thing to do.
1548 If one breaks down the pay increases for, say, the four star private, the amount is about £3 a week. That is if he is a six-year man, but included in this is what the Army terms the "not in quarters" rate. The man on the nine-year engagement has about the same amount in increase and I mention these figures because, when talking of Regular Army recruitment for today and tomorrow, they back up my argument.
What happens is that the four star private on a six-year engagement receives £9 16s. a week, while the nine-year man has £11 4s.—assuming, in both cases, that they are married. The difference is £1 8s. a week, and I argue that, so far as the difference is concerned, it is not enough. I believe that the nine-year man should have had by far the greater proportion of any amount which was available. He is the man of the Army of today and tomorrow whom we really want and more encouragement should have been given to him.
The increase is generous in global figures but, once again the Government, in the distribution of it, have not done what they could have done with the extra pay. I shall come back to this point, but I turn now to the problem of Regular Army recruitment.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Would my hon. Friend care to express an opinion about the Government having completely disregarded the legitimate claims of those still compelled to do National Service?
§ Mr. Mellish
I do not want to quarrel with my hon. Friend, but I understand that the Government have given this overall global sum to the Regular soldier because they are thinking in terms not merely of the Army of today, but of the Army of tomorrow. The Government are committed to the abolition of conscription, as is the Labour Party. That being so, the amount of money available should go to the Regular soldier to encourage further recruitment. I do not deny the claim of the National Service man, but we must be a bit logical about it. I do not know how much it would cost to increase the National Service man's rate to anything like that of the Regular soldier, but I think that my hon. Friend would find that it would be fabulous, 1549 and would frighten all of us. It is important that I should put that on record.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
All I was trying to say was that during the last ten years there has been a substantial decrease in the value of money. In 1948, the National Service man got 28s. and today he gets 31s. 6d. I do not think that that enables him to keep pace with the 1948 figure.
§ Mr. Mellish
I understand my hon. Friend's point, and it is typical of him that he should be worried about the young National Service man. I am not denying the justice of his argument; I am only putting to him the cold economics of the matter. If the Government had increased the pay of the National Service man to the rate my hon. Friend is justifying on a trade union argument the figure would have been fantastically high. In any case, as there was only this sum of money available for the increase of pay, I think that it was wiser to concentrate on the Regular soldier.
On the question of manpower, I want to deal with the civilians. About 13,000 civilians became redundant in 1957 and over 10,000 more, we are told, will become redundant in 1958–59. One year's notice of the closure of depots will be given where possible. I am a bit unhappy that this is all the reference made to civilians. We owe them a great debt, but we take them for granted.
I should have thought that there would have been some form of compensation of the kind often applied by any good employer, that for X years of service the man should receive so many weeks' pay at the end of his employment. I think that the Government owe these people something. It is a bit ironic when we also talk about the possibility of using more civilians in other jobs, which probably means their further recruitment. It is no encouragement to civilians to become employees of the Government when they are treated in this way.
We should have been more generous in the way we treated these people, particularly the unestablished men, for whom no provision at all is made. Many 1550 of the men who have been declared redundant, as I know only too well, are of an age when they will find it increasingly difficult to get other employment. I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us what the Army has tried to do for these men besides giving them the one year's notice of closure.
The Government are committed to the abolition of National Service by 1960, which means that by the end of 1962 we shall have only Regular forces and that, by the beginning of 1963, the last National Service man will have gone. We are told that the target is 165,000 Regular soldiers. This number will be required to maintain an efficient fighting force. Figures have been bandied about in the Committee. Perhaps one of the greatest authorities on this matter is my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
I noticed that in a debate in another place earlier this year figures were quoted by Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough. The noble Lord got them via my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. Between them they suggested that we should be very fortunate, on the basis of existing recruiting figures, to get 105,000 men by early in 1963. It may well be that they will be right. I do not know; I am not getting involved in crystal-gazing. The Government must have some good ideas on this. If my hon. Friend is proved to be right, those in charge of the Army in 1963 will be in an awful position. Therefore, we must talk on the basis of how we can best improve recruitment now.
I hope that I may make a useful contribution to the debate by stating how I think we can improve the recruitment of Regular soldiers. When talking about pay I said that the real emphasis ought to have been placed on the nine-year men and the men serving longer than that, because they are the men we want. How do we attract them? As I said, pay is only one aspect of the problem.
I would do something far more dramatic. I believe that the finest recruiting sergeant is the Regular man himself, and that to make him the best recruiting sergeant of all we must give him security that he has never previously had in the Army. What I have to suggest touches the point raised by 1551 my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough).
What happens? The young man joins the Army as a Regular. He marries, and children begin to come along. That is when the young man's troubles in the Army start, about married quarters, and so on. I would advocate encouraging young Regular soldiers to buy their own homes. They should be given 100 per cent. mortgages at absolutely the lowest possible fixed interest charges to buy their own homes. There is no reason why we should not do it; building societies do it, and the Army should be big enough to do it. The payments could be deducted from the soldier's pay. We should think in terms of his having his own home in the place of his choice, not where the Army wants it.
This would give the young soldier some feeling of stability. Indeed, I can imagine no greater encouragement to young men to become interested in joining the Army than saying that we encourage house ownership. I have previously said that I am a believer in a property-owning democracy. I am all for people owning their own homes, and I want to associate my party with that. The Labour Party is often regarded as being interested only in council tenants. There never was such rubbish. Hon. Friends of mine who adopt that attitude are doing the Labour Party a great disservice. We want house ownership for the Regular soldier.
§ Mr. Fernyhough rose—
§ Mr. Mellish
My hon. Friend must wait a moment. I am having enough trouble making this speech without being interrupted.
I believe that house ownership is as essential to the Regular soldier as it is to the civilian. The scheme that I advocate would give the Regular an advantage over the civilian, who may find when he goes to a building society that he cannot get the kind of loan he wants.
We have heard something today about uniforms. I speak purely for myself here. It does not impress me much; I do not think it is very important whether the British soldier looks as smart as the American or not. My approach is entirely different. I believe that once the soldier is outside the gates of the 1552 barracks he is off duty and ought to be wearing civilian clothes. He has then finished his day's work, and he should be encouraged to wear civilian clothes. He does not want to walk around in uniform and be stopped by military police and asked what he is doing and where he is going. When he has finished his day's work, or when he is going on his weekend leave, he should be encouraged to wear civilian clothes.
I speak as one who was in the Army for six years and I know something about the military police and all that goes with them. I always regarded them as absolute pests, though they never did any harm to me. Of course, they were only doing the job that they were directed to do. But I would end discipline at the barrack gates and I would allow the men to wear their civilian clothes if they wanted to do so.
Another suggestion that I would make, with a view to attracting men into the Army, is that when a soldier is due for home leave from an overseas tour of duty, he should be flown home by air. I know that we try to do that as much as possible, but that practice ought to be extended. A man proceeding on home leave ought to be treated as a V.I.P.—indeed, he is an important person. He ought to be sent back to his wife and family as quickly as possible, instead of as happened so often in the Army—and I myself was an officer, so that I can speak without any prejudice. Often the officer was flown home, and not the man. There is no justification for that treatment. The average officer does not like it anyway, and would prefer his men to get home as quickly as possible. Those small things count.
On the subject of pay and recruiting, there should be an increase in the pay given to a man on retirement. His pension should be increased. I would make a party political point here. I do not expect the Under-Secretary to agree with it. One of the things which the Labour Party will do when it gets back into power will be to introduce its national superannuation proposals, by which the soldiers will be covered. When they leave the Army they will be in a pension scheme, and they will go into civilian life carrying their pension with them. We shall do that when the opportunity occurs.
1553 An important consideration in the future of the Regular soldier is that when he gets towards the end of his period of service he is entitled to some form of security. I would arrange a much better link with the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation. The unions and the employers owe something to the soldier who is due to leave the Army after having given nine or twelve years' service to his country. There should be a genuine effort on the part of a committee which interviews a man leaving the Army to find a job for the man and to ensure that there is no restrictive practice which prevents him from becoming enrolled as a member of a union and going straight into civilian life. We do not want merely a quantity of Regular soldiers. We want volunteers of the right calibre, and we should give these men the highest possible incentives.
Another aspect of Army life on which I would concentrate is promotion to commissioned rank. I believe that this promotion should come almost entirely from the ranks themselves. I speak as one who spent six years in Her Majesty's Army and I can claim to have gone through the ranks, up to the rank of C.S.M. and then to commissioned rank. It is essential to have some knowledge of what the men think, say and do, and of how they live. The idea that one can get a three weeks' course at Sandhurst on man management is ludicrous. One does not learn man management in a few weeks. One can only learn it by living it. I am not denying that many officers who have gone through Sandhurst are first-class types. I would not denigrate them. But we should encourage the young soldier to become commissioned. There may be a case for giving a commission direct to a university graduate with a special degree, but, otherwise, I would make everybody to be commissioned go through the ranks before being commissioned, so that all officers would have genuine knowledge of how to handle men and genuine knowledge of what their problems are.
I would end this part of my speech with a comment which has already been made by somebody else. We have reached the extraordinary position now in which we are paying £13 million this year on increased pay in the Army—and 1554 that could have been arranged in a different way—and, at the same time, are paying £11 million on getting people out of the Army. That is the sort of situation which is inevitable, I suppose, seeing that we are abolishing conscription in the very near future.
So much for that aspect of the Memorandum and the Estimates. I turn now to the question of operations. What sort of Army is to be available to the next Labour Government? As one of my hon. Friends has rightly pointed out, probably in a year's time the Labour Party will be elected to power and we shall have the job of running Her Majesty's Army, Navy and Air Force. We know the problem of numbers is a doubtful one, but I think that the problem of commitments is even worse.
I take up what my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West said about Germany. I do not think that we are honest about the way we have reduced our garrison in Germany, our commitment in Germany. As I understand the argument for our sending troops into Germany it was not based on consideration of what we should get from the German Government. That was not the argument. We went in as part of the force defending that part of Europe. Now we are linked with N.A.T.O. Our forces in Germany are part of our contribution to N.A.T.O. They were not sent there on the basis of how much money we got from the German Government. It seems to me to be an absolute farce now to say they are there purely on a cash basis, and that on that basis we shall allow only x number of men there. Either it is right for us to have troops in Germany or it is not right to have them there. It is not a question of money. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the question of the reduction of our forces in Germany requires a lot more answering than that which the Estimates or the Memorandum provide.
A word on Cyprus. I can only pray that by the time the Labour Party is back in power the Cyprus problem will have been—at any rate, partially—solved. There is an enormous number of men locked in Cyprus in a dispute which gets worse and worse. I shall not offend your very good chairmanship, Sir Gordon, by discussing the Cyprus question in detail, but we ought to get out as quickly as we 1555 possibly can. If a Labour Government were returned in the immediate future we should not solve the Cyprus problem overnight. Let nobody think we could. The recent Turkish Cypriots' demonstrations, and so on, show that this is now a very difficult problem indeed to solve. I am not a great military strategist, but I understand that Cyprus as a base is absolutely futile. Suez proved that. I hope and pray that we shall get out as soon as possible.
Over to Malaya and Hong Kong, both of which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). He has been there recently. He has been around and seen a lot of things. I was there during the war. I had four years in that part of the world. One thing that bothers me about our commitment there at the moment is this. I am terrified at the idea that we have there what, if I may use the term, is merely a trip force. If we have to have a garrison there, let it be a worthwhile one, or let us not have anybody there at all. It is almost pitiful to have men there merely as a token force. I should like to hear more about both garrisons, particularly that in Hong Kong.
Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I think that Korea is a good example of a minimum force, of a mission as an indication of a number of Governments' intentions. After all, we should need a vast number of troops in Hong Kong if China were to move against us there. It seems to me we should have a nominal force, a mission, there, which would show, were any operations contemplated against us, that there would be trouble from the forces of the number of countries involved. That would be better than our present policy.
I should like to back one comment made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) and by one of my hon. Friends, by asking: have we done anything further about enlistment of troops from overseas, particularly from the West Indies? I should have thought there was there a big field for enlistment if we went in for it in a realistic way. I am sure that many of those men would be glad to join the modem British Army.
I want to say just a little on the very controversial subject of the nuclear 1556 weapons that are to be used by Her Majesty's Army. Some time ago, after giving a lecture, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein answered questions, and this is what he is reported to have said—and there is no reason to doubt it. He said:We at S.H.A.P.E., at Supreme Headquarters in Europe, with the full political agreement of the N.A.T.O. Council, are basing all our plans on the fact that if we are attacked we use nuclear weapons in our defence.He went on to say:The only proviso is that the politicians have to be asked first. That might be a bit awkward, of course, and, personally, I would use the nuclear weapons first and ask afterwards. I believe that a firm statement on those lines by the West would stop any aggression.Field Marshal Montgomery continued:As regards the difference between the tactical and the atomic weapon, we do not distinguish them; we use a nuclear weapon if we are attacked. Now, it is a nice point which you might take me up on as to whether it is considered likely that in the limited war such as, for instance, of the size of Korea, if it occurred again, nuclear weapons would be used.He added:I would not call Korea a small war. It was quite a party, and it is my view that if a war of the size of Korea occurred again nuclear weapons would be used. I do not say our political masters would agree, but you asked me what I thought.That was the very frank opinion of a very frank field marshal. We learn that our Army in the field is to be provided with nuclear weapons, and I want to know who gives the order for them to be used. Is it the commander in the field, or is it Whitehall—the politician? On this side, we believe that the politician must certainly be involved in this matter and must be asked.
I sincerely believe that if nuclear weapons of this character were used in a war of limited size, it would not, it could not, be long before the main deterrent was used. We keep talking about trying to avoid a third world war, but if the nuclear tactical weapons are to be used in a war like that their use must be under the authority and control of those in political power. I should like the Under-Secretary to be good enough to deal with that.
What I have to say will not suit some of my hon. Friends. There are always arguments about these subjects in a party like ours. We have quarrelled about 1557 defence and the approach to defence ever since we have been a party. That is understandable. A party that was completely united about the H-bomb, for instance, and all these other terrible weapons would, in a way, be a rather strange party. On such an issue it would be rather peculiar if it were united.
I hope that the Under-Secretary will not chide us for our so-called disunity on defence, because not long ago he was a "Suez rebel." It is also the fact that there are on the other side of the Committee, numbers of hon. Members who quite fairly and properly disagree with their party on defence, tactics, and so on, but they, unlike my hon. Friends, are without their party Whip. However, there are certain aspects on defence about which parties inside parties would disagree. I know that some of my hon. Friends will not accept my views, but they know that I will not accept theirs, either.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I do not want my hon. Friend to assume that there is all this division. He will find from the statement issued by the T.U.C. and the Labour Party only today that there is greater unity now in the party than there has ever been on the real, human, agonising problem of the relationship of the H-bomb to society, and this is giving a lead to the world.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am obliged to my hon. Friend, and I am delighted to hear him say that. Coming from him, it gives me great satisfaction. But if he had been here all day, and had listened to all the arguments on these Estimates, he would not have thought that there was that unity on this side. I merely put that on record. It is already in HANSARD. I quite agree that party policy, and not merely what the T.U.C. has said today but what has existed for many months now, has been one that has carried us all together. However, there is disagreement on certain aspects.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) is not in the Chamber. He made a speech which conformed to the usual pattern of his speeches on the Army Estimates and the Estimates of other Departments. He denigrated the defence of the country, he said how futile it was, and he debunked the whole approach of some of us to 1558 defence. I have a copy of Soviet News, published by the Press department of the Soviet Embassy in London on Monday, 24th February. It contains the order of the day of the Minister of Defence, Marshal Malinovsky. I would not dare to read it all, but this is what, in part, it says:The indestructible might of the Soviet army and navy lies in the wise leadership of the Communist Party which, all along, has displayed untiring concern for the development and strengthening of the armed forces.In the course of a speech reported in the same issue of Soviet News, Marshal Malinovsky said:We are fully aware that our armed forces must be strong and up-to-date, that they must be equipped with the latest weapons so as to serve the interests of our Soviet state, which upholds peace among the nations of the world.That is fair enough. He is the Minister of Defence of Russia. He believes that his armed forces should have the best possible weapons, be properly equipped and strong enough to fight anyone.
If we say that on either side of this Committee are we wrong? Are we wrong if we say that we want our armed forces to be equipped properly and to be the best possible trained forces that we can have? Are we wrong if we say it, but without the vehemence of that speech and of that order of the day? I sincerely believe that the problem we face in defence is due not to this Government's or the previous Labour Government's policy, in the sense that earlier policy was wrong, but that the problem has been created by people outside this country who have made it necessary for us to have the armed forces which we possess.
The Labour Party was committed to conscription and the spending of millions of pounds which it did not want to spend on defence. We all came out of the Army hoping and praying for peace, and I have said many times that I believe that Ernest Bevin died in trying to secure peace for the world. I do not believe that there is safety in unilateral disarmament. I wish I did. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central confirmed that there is not. He showed quite clearly, with his scientific knowledge, that if there was an H-bomb war between America and Russia and we were completely neutral we should be so badly affected that the vast majority of 1559 the people of these islands would lose their lives.
Now that we have the main deterrent, and the problem of how and when to use nuclear weapons, we have reached the end of a long road. If we go much further it may well be that none of us will turn back. That is why we in my party believe that it is necessary to get talks started. We all want peace, and we hope that the Government will make every endeavour to achieve it.
I said earlier that the happy, contended Regular soldier is the best recruiting sergeant we can have, and if we adopt some of the measures which I have suggested it might help to obtain such men for us. We have to recognise that such a man is a citizen to whom we all owe a great debt. We have to give him security, we want to give him a home and, above all, a future. I end on this note: the country is entitled to be proud of our Service men. All I hope is that they, in turn, will be proud of us.
§ 3.1 a.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Julian Amery)
I hope the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) will permit me to congratulate him on his speech. In my view, it was worthy of his predecessor.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) said earlier that she did not understand how Ministers in the War Office could sleep in their beds at night. We are not being given much chance. I will do my best to answer some of the questions which have been raised tonight, and, if I do not answer all, I hope the Committee will accept that any omission is due to sense of respect for the Committee collectively and a desire not to detain hon. Members too long.
It may be convenient if I group my replies under certain heads, and since we are discussing an Estimate I shall begin with finance. The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) asked how it came about that Vote 7 had a very much larger figure this year than last year. The main reason is the increase in expenditure on new equipment, in particular the Thunderbird, the FN rifle and the L.2 sub-machine gun. He also asked me why in the redundancy pay- 1560 ments the Vote for officers was more than twice as much as that for other ranks although the numbers of officers and senior n.c.o.'s. and warrant officers retiring were not very different. The reason is that redundancy payments to some extent reflect the wage structure of the Army, and that is naturally higher in the higher echelons than in the lower.
May I turn for a moment to deployment. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) seemed a little uncertain of the wisdom of our separation of the old G.H.Q. Middle East into two parts. I was not sure whether he fully understood what we had done. He will remember that under the old system the G.H.Q., originally in the Suez Canal zone and subsequently in Cyprus, controlled the whole of the Middle Eastern theatre, including the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.
As a result of the uncertainty of free passage through the Suez Canal and of over-flying rights over Syria, it became apparent that it was not possible for the headquarters in Cyprus to control the forces east of what has come to be known as the Air-Sea Barrier. The decision was taken to divide the old G.H.Q. into two, with one smaller headquarters in Cyprus responsible for the Cyprus and Libya garrisons, and another headquarters at Aden responsible for Aden and the Persian Gulf.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the strategic reserve which would be stationed in Kenya and carped a little at the fact that in the Memorandum it is mentioned as an element of the United Kingdom strategic reserve.
§ Mr. Amery
The idea is simply that, in view of the uncertainties of over-flying rights in certain cases, we think there is an advantage in having an element of the reserve south of the Air-Sea Barrier. This is not a battalion which will be used for garrison purposes in Kenya. It will be there as a strategic reserve.
The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) spoke of the somewhat harsh conditions in the Aden Protectorate and of the great heat of the Persian Gulf, and he asked what were the terms of service 1561 there. Two years is the ordinary tour of duty in the Aden Protectorate and eighteen months in the Persian Gulf. The heat in that part of the world can be excessive. But recently, in both the winter and the summer, I visited garrisons in the Gulf and in the Aden Protectorate and found the troops in extremely good heart.
§ Mr. Amery
Yes, in some cases, and in others we are providing it as fast as we can.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey asked about co-operation among the countries in N.A.T.O. We are fully represented at the S.H.A.P.E. headquarters, with the Deputy Supreme Commander at the top of our representation, and the British Army of the Rhine is fully integrated into the forces under N.A.T.O. command. In addition, of course, we are represented on the Military Standing Group in Washington. So there is practical day-to-day integration of the British element with the forces of the countries in N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Mellish
Has any progress been made with standardisation of armament? I understand that six kinds of jeep are used by the N.A.T.O. forces and that not one part is interchangeable.
§ Mr. Amery
Standardisation is increasing all the time, although it is by no means complete as yet.
The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) asked why we maintained a British military mission in Korea. He will remember the origin of the story of how British forces went to Korea as a result of a decision of the United Nations. The mission is a gesture of our solidarity with the decision taken then and of the fact that the United Nations succeeded in checking aggression there. We do not wish to go back on that. The exercise in Borneo was a purely British exercise. The hon. Member asked what was the status of the British forces remaining in Malaya. They are there at the request of the Malayan Government.
The hon. Member also took us to task for stating in the Memorandum that the headquarters at Aden and the battalion in Kenya would he under the control of London. He said that in a nuclear war 1562 that would not make sense. In a nuclear war a great many things would not make sense. We are talking about peace-time administration of these forces and about administration in minor operations.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey asked whether the garrisons in the Far East were strong enough. The answer to that is "Yes, they are".
I come now to the reorganisation which has taken place in the last year. Critics of our system have inveighed against the difficulties of getting things done in Whitehall, and the War Office has been a fairly frequent butt, both inside and outside the House, for charges of hesitation and delay. Looking back over the last twelve months, I have been deeply impressed by the number of problems which we have solved, the number of difficulties which we have tackled and the number of questions which we have been able to answer. The official machine has worked with a smoothness which, frankly, I did not expect to find before I went into it.
Having worked under his leadership for a year, I want to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. John Hare), who is now Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Army and the country owe a great deal to the imagination, sympathy and humanity with which he tackled an extremely difficult problem.
We were dealing here with one of the proudest and most sensitive elements in our national life. All the passions and sentiments that are bound up with regimental honour and tradition were involved. The loyalty and good temper with which the Army accepted all these changes should not blind us to the fact that things might very easily have gone the other way. The one exceptional instance where things did not go smoothly might easily have been the general pattern. As it was, the cooperation we received was magnificent, and it continues to be magnificent in every case.
I want to give one or two details to the Committee. Fifteen brigade depots have to be established under the reorganisation. The sites of ten of them have already been chosen. Details will be given in a Written Answer to a Parliamentary Question later today. We hope to make an announcement about 1563 the other five shortly. All but two brigades have agreed on a proposed design for a cap badge, after consultations with the Inspector of Regimental Colours. These designs still await the agreement of the Army Council and the approval of Her Majesty the Queen.
The amalgamations begin seriously this year. Ten infantry and eight Royal Armoured Corps regiments will be amalgamated, and the Royal Artillery will be reduced by nine regiments. It is a complicated business, because it is not possible to amalgamate merely on paper. The two units have to be moved together physically, and sometimes it is necessary to wait until a regiment that has gone out on overseas duty has completed its tour.
Since the publication last year of the White Paper on The Future Organisation of the Army we have found it possible, without adding to the strain on manpower, to retain a band for every regiment of the line and each battalion of the Parachute Regiment. This will now be done instead of forming brigade staff bands, as was originally proposed. The change will be widely welcomed, and I am glad that it has been possible to make it.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey talked about the importance of close cooperation with the trade unions for the re-settlement—
§ Mr. Amery
Yes, and the employers—for the resettlement of officers and soldiers when they leave the Army. The redundancy which has been forced upon us by the reorganisation has led to the setting up of what I think will prove to be an extremely effective resettlement organisation under a board known as the Regular Forces Resettlement Service. This will link Service Departments, the Ministry of Labour and certain voluntary organisations, and it is establishing very close relations with the Trades Union Congress and employers organisations.
I will not weary the Committee with details of the resettlement procedures, except to say that we have seen to it that advisory panels consisting of a senior officer and an official of the Ministry of Labour have been sent round the overseas stations, to make sure that officers and senior N.C.O.s serving in them are not at 1564 a disadvantage from the point of view of getting jobs if they are retired as compared with their colleagues at home. We cannot judge what the practical results of the resettlement scheme will be until nearer the end of the year. The outflow so far has been limited to 208 officers and 190 warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s. But all those have found jobs.
The hon. Member also referred to the position of our civilian employees. We are under an obligation to offer alternative employment to established employees, and we have tried to find suitable alternative employment. In many cases, especially that of the R.A.S.C. fleet, we have done so with a measure of success. The offer of alternative employment can sometimes have a disrupting effect when it means, for example, giving up a house or being separated from children. As Chairman of the War Department Industrial Council, I should like to pay a tribute to the magnificent co-operation we have received from established employees and the trades unions representing them.
The main contribution we have been able to make in the case of unestablished employees has been to provide facilities on our premises, for some months in advance of the premises being closed down, for Ministry of Labour and National Service representatives and private employers to interview potential staff.
I should like to say a word about the Women's Royal Army Corps, whose strength we hope to raise to 6,500 and ultimately to 8,000. We need more officers. We believe the Corps offers a good life with facilities for travel and, judging from the experience of the W.R.N.S. about which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty spoke to the Committee the other day, other opportunities as well. The pay of the W.R.A.C. has been raised from 75 per cent. to 85 per cent. of the male rates of pay. This means that on joining a junior private gets £3 10s. cash and a warrant officer class 1 £12. A new Service dress is being designed for the W.R.A.C. which should undergo troop trials during the year.
There is a broad measure of agreement between the two sides of the Committee on the question of pay, though I 1565 have noted the points made by the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Bermondsey about increasing the differential between the 9-year and the 6-year man. We are all agreed that pay is not everything. But I would say also that if man cannot live by bread alone, he cannot even exist for long without it.
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) urged an increase in pay for National Service men. It would be difficult to justify that under present circumstances. We should remember too that we have treated National Service men more generously, I think, than any other country.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey spoke of the loss incurred by soldiers living in quarters by reason of the rise in rents. It is in line with what is happening in civilian life as a result of the Rent Act. Whether we agree or disagree with what has been done in the Rent Act, there would be no case for differentiating in favour of the soldier.
§ Mr. Mellish
That is an honest answer, but the hon. Gentleman will not expect me to accept it. We regard the Rent Act as obnoxious for civilians without applying to the soldier as well.
§ Mr. Amery
I conceded the point. I said that whether we agree or disagree with what has been done, there would be no case for discriminating in this matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) spoke about the gratuity for holders of the V.C. This is a matter which concerns the three Services and has been the subject of a Parliamentary Question to the Prime Minister. I cannot add tonight to the answer of my right hon. Friend, but I have noted the point which was made. My hon. Friend also spoke about the disturbance allowance. We have already made a substantial improvement in this and, while subsequently there may be a case for raising it still further, it would be a little premature to start on that just now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot and my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth referred to certain categories of widows. I have not the information to reply to their questions now, but I will communicate with them in due course.
1566 On the subject of accommodation, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) mentioned a headquarters building in Southern Command being given priority over other types. Let me assure him that that is not the result of any settled policy. There are other parts of the country, in Northern Command for instance, where very much the opposite situation exists.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to the work of the Army education authorities. The Army Education Advisory Board has been fortunate in getting as its Chairman Sir Ifor Evans in succession to Mr. J. C. Masterman, who did very good work for several years. I have not the answer about secondary education to hand, so I will write to the hon. Member.
The rundown of the Army has had certain difficult consequences for N.A.A.F.I., as it has cut its turnover fairly sharply. We are taking steps to improve and modernise N.A.A.F.I. in certain directions. In particular we are proposing to hand over to it the catering arrangements of a unit at Donnington, on an experimental basis. One result of the rundown will be that N.A.A.F.I. will no longer be able to give the same rebates and discount as hitherto. These will be reduced to 1½ per cent. and 2½ per cent., respectively. This is a much better course than to raise N.A.A.F.I. prices.
The hon. Members for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) and Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) discussed problems which were more directly the concern of the Home Office than of the War Office. The War Office, of course, through the M.D.C. and certain aspects of Territorial Army training, has a responsibility in this matter, but the main initiative rests with the Home Department. Let me assure the hon. Members that their points have been noted. I was particularly struck by the declaration of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central that we could not save ourselves alone.
I come to the question of recruiting. Until our debate today it has been a main issue. It is now very much less controversial. There are two questions here. First, are we getting enough volunteers? The answer is that for the moment no one can say for certain. We believe we are, but it is to some extent 1567 a guess. We have given the Committee a good deal of information about the matter, but it will be several months before we can judge how the thing is going.
The second question is whether we shall get the right kind of volunteers. Despite the heavy reorganisation of the infantry and the cavalry, the prospects for the teeth arms remain favourable. But the shortfall is likely to come in other parts of the Army, particularly among specialists, such as electronic technicians in the Signals, and in certain sections of the R.A.M.C. Perhaps the most serious shortfall of all is the shortage of candidates coming forward for commissions.
There is no easy solution to this problem. We are naturally trying to stimulate recruitment through the public schools and the grammar schools, and are also doing all we can to advance recruitment of officers through the ranks, but I doubt whether, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield) suggests, it would be any solution to the problem if officers spent longer in the junior ranks. But the War Office is studying the matter, and, of course, the Grigg Committee will turn its attention to it.
The dimensions of the recruiting problem are now becoming clearer. In 1956 the party opposite announced that it had decided that there should be a 4-year plan to abolish National Service and provide an all-Regular Army of 200,000 men. That was, as I think we can now agree, over-simplifying the issue. So, I think, is the opposite view that we have no chance at all of getting the recruits we need. The trend is not yet clear, but there are grounds for confidence and there is broad agreement on both sides of the Committee as to how we should set about the task. There have been various ideas canvassed. The suggestion of the hon. Member for Bermondsey of house ownership is interesting, but I cannot say offhand if it would be considered practical.
I come now to the main issue—the character and the equipment of the Army. There has been one thesis put forward in printed articles and in the defence debate speech by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) 1568 and the hon. Members for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall), and, so far as I can understand it, the Liberal Party Amendment. I am not quite clear about that. This thesis—
§ Mr. Mellish
Could I remind the Committee that the Liberal Party has not been represented here and has taken no part in our discussion on these Estimates?
§ Mr. Amery
This thesis is that we should have only conventional forces. That at least is what the hon. Member for Coventry, East says, I am not certain about the Liberal Amendment. We are asked to resist a "conventional" Russian attack by conventional forces alone. In 1956, the hon. Member for Coventry, East embraced the H-bomb to get rid of National Service. He has now embraced National Service in order to get rid of the H-bomb. We reject his thesis altogether. We think it would be wholly wrong to equip our forces with weapons inferior to those of other countries. Britain cannot accept the rôle of providing cannon fodder for other countries in the Western Alliance. We must face the fact that if we did what the hon. Gentleman advocates we should have to have more than a million men in our ground forces and to spend something like £1,000 million more a year. I do not think this is at all practicable.
Disarmament must be the aim of us all. But it must be in conventional weapons and nuclear weapons together. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West and his right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), in the defence debate last week, seemed to have a difference of emphasis and of degree rather than of principle with the Government's position. As I saw it, without calling for stronger forces in Europe, they were anxious about whether our forces were strong enough. I was under the impression that they wanted to increase the insurance premium, if I may put it that way, between any minor act of aggression and the use of the deterrent. As I understand the position, it would already need a very major operation on the part of the Soviet Union to break through the existing N.A.T.O. forces in Europe. I think it can be said that they constitute an adequate cushion of time.
1569 The right hon. Gentleman asked about support costs. I am afraid that I am not in a position to go beyond what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said on the subject the other day. The matter is under discussion in N.A.T.O., and, although a charge on Army Votes, it raises issues of defence and foreign policy which are rather outside my competence.
As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, both in his speech today and in the defence debate, he felt that in order to strengthen our position in Europe we should have put more emphasis on tactical nuclear weapons. I do not think, in fact, that there is any great difference between us here.
§ Mr. Strachey
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. No, I suggested putting the emphasis rather on conventional forces so that at the first stage, at any rate, we should have a higher premium against using any nuclear weapons. I think that was my main emphasis.
§ Mr. Amery
I understood the right hon. Gentleman, particularly in that very graphic description which he gave of a possible conflict in Berlin, to have two stages in his mind and to be a little uncertain whether we had put sufficient emphasis on the tactical nuclear weapon. We have always taken the view that our forces should be equipped with tactical nuclear weapons, and we have also taken the view that there might be a position short of global war in which such weapons could be used.
As the Committee knows, the Corporal is now being introduced into the Army.
§ Mr. Amery
If the hon. Gentleman will wait he will have an answer in a moment.
The Corporal is being introduced into the Army. As my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State said last year, we are also working on the development of a British nuclear guided weapon. This will be complementary to the Corporal and designed to replace the heavier calibres of artillery. It has reached the point where we can suggest it should become standard equipment for N.A.T.O. forces. We are also considering new 1570 types of nuclear weapons for artillery in the field. I hope this makes it clear that we are not being negligent on the question of tactical nuclear weapons. I trust, therefore, that there is not so much difference between us on this issue as I felt in the defence debate that there might be.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) asked about the Soviet tactical nuclear capacity. We have, of course, information about that, but it would be of help only to the Soviet countries if we were to make any disclosures.
I come now to the hon. Gentleman's question of who controls the trigger. He must appreciate that though we are training on the Corporal there are as yet no tactical nuclear weapons in the British Army in Germany. Therefore, the problem has not arisen in a practical form. This is one of the questions which has to be studied and considered extremely carefully.
§ Mr. Mellish
Yes, but also, of course, if we are talking in terms of our armed forces being part of N.A.T.O., we want to know where the overall responsibility lies. We ought to have a straight answer on who fires the gun—who gives permission.
§ Mr. Amery
I think where the hon. Gentleman is referring to weapons under the control of allied forces it might be wiser to put the question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence or to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, because they know what the position is and I may not express it in quite the right way.
On conventional weapons, I want to emphasise that we are attaching increasing importance to the armoured car, particularly in the internal security rôle. This is not as a replacement for the tank, but as a cheaper, more efficient method 1571 of conducting internal security operations than any that has yet been found. We have one air portable squadron of armoured cars.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing took us to task about armoured personnel carriers. He asked whether there were any—indeed, he affirmed that there was none—in the British Army of the Rhine. I am glad to say that he is misinformed. There are Saracens in B.A.O.R. The Saracen is already the standard armoured personnel carrier in service, and it is issued at present to armoured car regiments for carrying the dismounted element of the support troops and to armoured personnel carrier squadrons in brigade groups for carrying infantry. A few Saracens are also equipped for the command vehicle rôle. It is our intention to provide armoured personnel carriers to carry infantry in the infantry brigade groups. Trials are in progress to evaluate precisely the kind of armoured personnel carrier most useful for this purpose.
Just as important from the point of view of the strength of the Army as its numbers and equipment is its mobility. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing asked why it had taken us two years to get two companies by air to the Middle East. The hon. Member for Bermondsey re-echoed the question. The answer is that that is not the case. In the Suez emergency an element of 24 Brigade was flown out to Aden and the Persian Gulf extremely quickly. So this has been done, after all, for some time. This is by no means the first time that it has happened. What is important is that we should have many exercises like Operation Quickstep in future.
Our air transport capacity is still limited, but the picture is not as dark as some of our critics represent. I cannot give exact timetables, but our ability to move a brigade in a very few days to the Middle East, and presently to the Far East, is, I think, rather better than most of our critics believe.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing asked about pre-stocking equipment and whether we were doing it. "Touch, and you shall believe." I have seen two or three of our stockpiles in recent tours. They are there, and they look to me very efficiently organised.
1572 I cannot accept my hon. and gallant Friend's idea that our bases throughout the world are all wasting assets and that we ought to have forces permanently at sea.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) asked about the strategic reserve. Those elements which would be used lightly equipped could, of course, be airborne. The heavier elements would in present circumstances have to be seaborne, as he indicated. I thought his point about the use of aircraft carriers an interesting one, though, of course, the Committee would not expect me to say anything definite on that.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
That was exactly my point. My hon. Friend says he does not agree with it, and then in the next breath he says he will not be expected to say anything about it.
§ Mr. Amery
I understood the points were quite different. I understood that my hon. and gallant Friend wanted a permanent element at sea. I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to advocate the use of aircraft carriers as rather swifter troop carriers to go from point A to point B. He mentioned a speed of 34 knots—I do not know whether he was correctly informed—instead of the 8 knot convoy to which he also referred.
I should like to say a word on the importance that the Army attaches to the use of light aircraft in a tactical rôle. The helicopter in Cyprus has proved a most useful instrument in counter-guerilla operations, both for the purpose of observation and for carrying small raiding parties into inaccessible country. One of the internal security brigades has also carried out useful co-operation with Prestwick Pioneers operated by the Royal Air Force.
Any assessment of our strength must take account of colonial and auxiliary forces, not just the active United Kingdom Army. We have the Gurkhas, the Kings African Rifles in East Africa, and the Somaliland Scouts, whom I had the privilege of visiting not long ago and whom I found one of the smartest concerns I have seen for a long time. Hargeisa is one of the few stations in the world where the N.C.O.s regularly play polo.
1573 We have undertaken a considerable expansion of forces in the Arabian Peninsula. The Trucial Oman Scouts have been doubled in number and reorganised. The Arabian Protectorate Levies have also been reorganised, and are making a considerable contribution to the defence of the Protectorate against incursions from the Yemen. These forces make a greater contribution to our security than is sometimes realised, and they provide wonderful opportunities for young officers and N.C.O.s.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood asked if we could make greater use of Gurkhas, and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton advocated a larger African army. I once helped to write a pamphlet on the subject strongly in favour of the expansion of colonial and auxiliary forces. But there are two problems here. There are political limitations on the use of these forces, and there is the ever-present ceiling of finance. In the present financial climate we are going to be fairly hard put to it to make sure that even the small active army that we have is equipped as we would wish it to be.
I was asked about Commonwealth cooperation from the Army point of view. Nearly all the Chiefs of Staff of the Commonwealth countries were present at the C.I.G.S. annual conference at Camberley this year. We have close cooperation with the Canadians in N.A.T.O., with the Australians and New Zealanders in A.N.Z.A.M., with Pakistan in the Bagdad Pact. We have had defence talks with the South African Government recently, and there has been co-operation on many military topics with India and Ceylon. There is active defence co-operation with Malaya. There is also a Commonwealth element at the the Imperial Defence College and the Staff College. That shows that we are not too backward on that point.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) raised a number of points in connection with the Territorial Army. Let me reassure him that there is no intention to reorganise the Territorial Army into brigade groups. We think that, from the point of view of home defence, the divisional organisation remains the best. The Territorial Army will continue to be trained in a fighting rôle with 1574 home defence in all its aspects as its main aim.
When I spoke in the Army Estimates debate last year, I gave the House some advance information on the organisation of the brigade group. The right hon. Member for Belper doubted whether this information was altogether legitimate, and I am sure he will share my satisfaction at the fact that my right hon. Friend has made what one might call an "honest woman" of me. My purpose then was to give enough information to the Committee to enable military opinion outside the War Office to be able to contribute to the debate which was then in progress on this very important matter. We have since then had detailed discussions both inside the War Office and outside, and our decision has been very carefully matured. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West thought that the change of name—the departure from the divisional nomenclature—was important. I cannot help thinking myself that the fairly limited circles concerned with the organisation of military formations are well enough informed not to be influenced by a name and I think it would have been wrong merely on this psychological consideration to have varied our decision.
The real issue was the difference between the brigade group and the light division. Both concepts stemmed from a reaction against the heavy division, led in the main by Captain Liddell Hart. I have learned a great deal, more than I can well say, from Captain Liddell Hart, and though I believe he disagrees with the final conclusion we have reached, I also believe the brigade group is the fruit in many respects of ideas which animated him as they have animated a number of other military thinkers.
We had to have a basic fighting formation as small as possible yet capable also of fighting independently. I do not think there is very much in the difference between the light division and the brigade group. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explained in his opening speech this afternoon, whereas the light division is capable of being broken up into what are virtually two brigade groups, our plan is to have one, two, three or even four brigade groups which can, if necessary, be concentrated under one divisional 1575 headquarters. We believe our plan has the advantage of greater flexibility, in that the number of brigade groups which can be grouped under one headquarters is variable. We think this formation, chosen on its merits against the background of the European scene, has the added advantage of being better suited to the needs of our forces overseas, since it can be tailor made to suit varying circumstances.
The question has been asked, "Are we all out of step in this matter except Johnny?" I think it would be a mistake to say that all countries must have the same type of fighting organisation. These must take account of the National characteristics and way of fighting of the different countries. I would certainly say nothing derogatory about what other countries have decided should be their pattern. On the other hand, the Committee will remember that Wellington's adoption of the linear tactical formation led to the final defeat of the Napoleonic column. We have led the way in military organisation before, and it may be we shall do so again.
1576 I am afraid that I have kept the Committee a long time, though I see from previous Estimates debates that I have not been as long as some of my predecessors, who kept the Committee for as long as an hour and forty minutes. I apologise if I have not answered all the points made. I have done my best to do so. If there are others, I will try to answer them by letter in due course.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 386,000, all ranks, be maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possessions of Her Majesty's Crown, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1959.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received this day: Committee to sit again this day.