§ 3.55 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)
I beg to move,That the Draft Army Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 28th October, be approved.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
On a point of order. A year ago, when we first debated this Order, Mr. Speaker, you were kind enough to give a Ruling in which you said that matters which normally fell within the purview of the Adjutant-General or Quartermaster-General could properly be raised in debate.
When one reads the Report of that debate in HANSARD after the lapse of a year one becomes conscious of the fact 1120 that your Ruling took on a slight variation in the course of the debate, and it is not unfair to say that before the debate finished we had at least three interpretations of what you had said.
Would it not be convenient to the House, so that we can discuss this matter in an orderly way, for you to be good enough to clarify the Ruling that you gave on that occasion? I respectfully submit that it should take this form: that all matters which normally fall within the purview of the Adjutant-General are in order, and only some of the matters falling within the purview of the Quartermaster-General are in order.
I again respectfully submit that what we are here discussing is the continuation of the Army Act and, broadly speaking, the only matters that we can raise are those covered by the Army Act, which would confine us very closely to matters falling under the charge of the Quartermaster-General—perhaps only to the extent of billeting charges. I should be glad to have your Ruling on this matter, Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Speaker
My main Ruling last year was to the effect that only matters contained in the Act which it is proposed to continue can be discussed in this Motion for its continuance for another year. I suggested then to hon. Members—and I adhere to that suggestion today—that if they treated the Army Act, 1955, as if it were a Bill, and made a speech appropriate to the debate on the Third Reading of the Bill, namely, a speech confined to what is in the Act and nothing else, they would be in order.
The later Ruling to which the hon. Member referred was designed to make it clear that the Army Act, then and now, makes no provision for those activities of the Army Council which are the responsibility of the General Staff; that is to say, there is nothing in the Act which would authorise any debate or discussion upon operations or strategy, or the wider aspects of defence. That is not in the Act that we are asked to continue, and a discussion of it would be out of order.
In view of something that fell from the Prime Minister earlier this afternoon, I would also say that I have been in great trouble about the Grigg Report. 1121 It is no doubt in hon. Members' minds to a very great extent, but after having looked at the Act again I am sure that it would really be out of order to discuss it today. I am, therefore, glad that the Government have agreed to give a day—on a date which can be arranged between both sides so that it is mutually agreeable—for a discussion of the Report. It may not be possible to keep out incidental references to the Report, but I hope that hon. Members will keep in order by not discussing it, or the Government's reactions to it.
I hope that that is now clear. If hon. Members act on the assumption that they are dealing with the Third Reading of the Army Act, and that that is what is before us, they will remain in order.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
The Army Act provides for the provision of certain forces. That is quite clear. When the matter comes up for debate, if we discuss it from the standpoint of a Third Reading debate, and everything which is not contained in the Act is excluded, surely it is permissible to discuss what the forces are doing. The numbers are embodied in the Army Act, and it must be permissible to discuss their activities. So far as those activities impinge upon the recent inquiry conducted by Sir James Grigg, which is now before the House—it has been issued as a Command Paper—it is surely legitimate to consider various aspects of that Report, otherwise there seems no purpose in the debate. What are we to discuss if we do not discuss that?
§ Mr. Speaker
It would not be in order to discuss what the troops are doing. The Bill makes provision for their discipline and administration and, in relation to the Quartermaster-General's Department, to the limited extent of requisitioning vehicles and billeting. I think that that is all that is concerned in the Act. It says nothing about what the troops are to do, except to obey orders—and the various rules of the Army.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If, as you say, Mr. Speaker—and I naturally accept what you say—we are entitled to discuss the administration of the forces, it gives us considerable scope. We should be permitted to discuss the administration of the forces in Cyprus, Malaya, Aden and Western Germany. If we are permitted 1122 to discuss administration we can go to a very great length.
§ Mr. Speaker
I used the word "administration" in the Army sense. In so far as any matter that is raised by hon. Members is in the Act it will be in order. I am not going to make any Ruling in advance, but I should feel obliged to stop any hon. Member who went into a discussion of operational matters.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I think that we are clear now upon your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I take it that we can read it with the Ruling that you gave last year, when you said:In so far as the Act makes provision for recruitment and for the terms of engagement of the Regular Army, and in so far as it can be shown that these conditions militate against recruiting or harm recruiting or are successful in attracting recruits, I think that would be in order."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December. 1957; Vol. 579, c. 230.]I have no doubt that nothing you have said today contradicts the Ruling that you gave last year.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Act itself, he will see a paragraph headed, "Terms of Engagement." The word "terms" is used in the technical sense of the length of time in which they may engage themselves. It is rather like a lawyer's use of "term of a lease"; it does not include all the conditions. In so far as an hon. Member can show that the time, length of engagement a man must serve, and so on, militate against recruiting or have the reverse effect, I think that he would probably be in order.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the right hon. Gentleman is careful to use the words "terms and conditions" in the sense in which they are used in the Act, he will be in order.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Soames
This is the second time on which the procedure laid down in the new Army Act has come into force, and it is the second time on which there has been a debate on the Continuation Order in this House. Last year, Mr. Speaker, you gave a Ruling which, as I see it, is continued in force by what you have said today, namely, that, broadly speaking, 1123 what would be in order to discuss would be matters affecting the Adjutant-General's and the Quartermaster-General's Departments, in so far as they flow directly from the Army Act.
With that in mind, and hoping that I shall manage to keep within the rules of order as you have laid them down, I intend to devote my speech primarily to three aspects of Army administration, namely, discipline, the administration of justice, which, of course, is fundamental to the whole existence of the Army Act, and recruiting, which can certainly be fairly attached to a debate on the Act in so far as it is affected by the regulations which can be made by the Army Council, as laid down in Section 22 of the Act. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary who will be speaking at the end of the debate, will endeavour to cover other points of Army administration which hon. Members raise, and which you, Mr. Speaker, rule to be in order.
First, as to recruiting, in so far as it is affected by the regulations of Section 22, there is a satisfactory tale to tell. I should like to give a few figures to describe the position. Since the last complete month for which I have the complete figures is September it would be most convenient if I were to compare the recruiting figures for the first nine months of 1957 with the first nine months of 1958.
Between January and September of 1957, the Army obtained 21,108 recruits. The comparable figure for 1958 is 21,867. There is nothing extraordinary about that, except, perhaps, for a similarity of the figures. But what is remarkable—and this is the figure of importance—is a comparison of the total number of man-years to which recruits committed themselves on joining. There the comparable figures are for the first nine months of 1957, 73,864, and for the same period of 1958, 126,224, which is an increase of no less than 70 per cent.
Where apprentices and junior leaders are concerned, in the first nine months of 1957, 2,546 boys entered compared with 3,714 this year, an increase of 46 per cent. The number of boys who are now coming forward has so exceeded the most optimistic forecasts that next spring we are to open an extra junior leaders unit, and in the autumn we are planning 1124 to have an additional apprentices school. The individual qualities of the boys who are joining the Army in this way are excellent, and there is no doubt that the great majority of them will reach warrant officer or senior non-commissioned rank, and for any of them who are up to officer standard, the door is wide open.
The Army recruiting picture as a whole is very bright, but the numbers and the quality of boys coming forward is a most encouraging feature of it. It is round the trained soldiers and soldier technicians, who these boys will become, that the frame work of the future Army will be built up. It is good to know that the efforts that have been made in the past to improve the standards of our boys' units have won the confidence of parents and schoolmasters to this extent. We have given these units priority for staff and equipment. From the point of view of the Army as a whole, I do not think that there is any better use to which it could be put.
In reporting to the House on how recruits are coming in under the regulations of this Act, I would say this. The question repeatedly asked since the 1957 White Paper was published, and which both my predecessor and I have so far refused to answer categorically until sufficient time had gone by for a definite trend to manifest itself, can now be answered.
If present trends continue, we shall reach our target of a 165,000 all-Regular Army by the beginning of 1963 with something to spare. That is the answer to the question as it has been put time and again in the last two years. I hope that it will give general pleasure, not least to those who were freely forecasting this time last year that we had not a hope of reaching our target.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
If the target is exceeded, does the right hon. Gentleman propose to keep on the extra number and not stick at the original figures?
§ Mr. Soames
That certainly would not flow from the Army Act. I am being very careful to keep within it.
But there is a more searching question which has to be answered. Will these men who are coming forward under these regulations of the Act be the right quality of men, and will there be the 1125 right numbers in all the categories which a modern Army requires, or will we be overfull in some arms and seriously short in others?
As things are going at present, this question, too, can have a fairly confident answer. Certainly, in the fighting arms and in some of the services we shall have both the numbers and, what is more, the improving quality that we need. But 1963 could find us short in one or two of the administrative corps, in particular Ordnance and the Medical Corps. We are seeing what special steps can be taken to obtain recruits, particularly for these corps which perform such essential functions.
It may well be, that as the Army fills up and it becomes harder for recruits to join regiments or corps of their choice, they will more readily join those corps which are short of numbers. We shall see. I am confident that in one way or another the gap will be bridged.
§ Mr. Soames
Yes, they are. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman.
Apart from this, the only other rank shortage which concerns us at present is that of the highest grade of technician, who can handle the very complicated radar and electronic devices which will be coming into the Service in increasing numbers.
This is really a reflection of a national problem, which affects not only the Services, but also, of course, civilian firms. Our total requirement for these men in these very highly skilled categories is not more than 5,000. By means of the additional apprentices school and the increasing quality of apprentice recruits, we shall be able to make up the deficiencies in the long run, but for some years there will be a shortage, and this is the problem, and a serious one, which faces us at present.
One other difficulty is that there are not enough women joining the W.R.A.C. and the Q.A.R.A.N.C., the Nursing 1126 Corps, as we should like. Here again, there has been a big improvement this year, but we need more yet. The need for nurses is obvious, but the great importance of the W.R.A.C. to the Army is not always fully appreciated. There is a most important job here for girls, offering good conditions and prospects, and I hope that a growing number will come forward. We shall do all that we can to maintain and increase the recruiting figures.
This, then, is the broad picture of other rank recruiting. On a straight projection of the figures over the last nine months, there will be certain shortages in the all-Regular Army which we will have in some way or other to overcome, and we will do so. Taking the Army as a whole, however, we will be able more than to reach our target by January, 1963. I agree that we are relying on recruiting figures for only nine months and that 1963 is four years away, but so far, I think, the House will agree that this progress report is satisfactory.
When considering whether the regulations made under Section 22 of the Act are likely to result in a sufficiently high level of recruitment being maintained in the future, one has to consider the factors which are likely to influence young men during the next few years. We have now had the pay increases of last spring, which, again, put the Army in a competitive position with civilian employers, and we have the assurance, which has been accepted by the Government, that a biennial pay review will ensure that Service pay does not lag behind. We have had increases in allowances, which especially help the married man.
The new barrack building programme is now well enough advanced to give evidence that the Army will in future be better housed and there are also new uniforms going out for troop trials. At the same time, there is the knowledge that more equipment will be coming in. I appreciate, however, that these factors do not flow from the Army Act and that it would not be in order for me to discuss them at length.
§ Mr. Soames
I look forward, however, to being able to give the House a detailed report upon them at some future date.
1127 I wish I had as satisfactory a tale to tell about officer recruitment. Here again, however, I am in some difficulty, as I cannot see how one can reasonably discuss officer recruitment in this debate, since the terms under which officers are recruited are governed by the Prerogative and have nothing to do with the Act. All I would say is that this is a serious problem. It is one which has been exercising the minds of the Army Council for a long time and I look forward to being able to tell the House on a future occasion about our thoughts on this matter and on what we are basing our hopes of an improvement in the rate of officer recruitment.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Since the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the matter, would there be any objection to right hon. and hon. Members making positive suggestions as to how he might overcome this difficulty in officer recruitment?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is rather a matter for me to answer. All that the Secretary of State for War has said is that the conditions and recruitment of officers are governed by the Prerogative. They are not in the Act and, therefore, he cannot go into them in detail. That was proper for the right hon. Gentleman to say as an explanation of why he is omitting this important branch of recruiting. We must, I think, rely upon a future occasion for a discussion of the problem. I ask the House to remember that there will be a debate in Supply on this matter, when all these issues can be gone into.
§ Mr. Soames
I have a sneaking feeling that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) knew what your answer would be, Mr. Speaker.
I turn now to the administration of justice, a subject which is clearly in order and on which I feel on safer ground. I do not want to bore the House with too many figures, but there are some statistics which, I think, will interest hon. Members. In the twelve months ended 30th June this year, there were 4,600 courts-martial. In just over 5 per cent. of the cases, there were acquittals. A further 1½ per cent. of the verdicts were altered on legal Mounds in consequence of the Judge Advocate General's review of those courts-martial which resulted in convictions. In 1128 those twelve months, 11 applications for leave to appeal went to the Courts-Martial Appeal Court and in no case did the court allow the appeal. In the six years during which the Appeal Court has existed, 177 applications arising from Army cases have been lodged with it. In only three cases have appeals been allowed. I hope that the House will feel that these figures show that justice is being well administered within the Army.
§ Mr. Wigg
These are valuable and important statistics, but so that the House shall be aware of the true position we need not only the figures for the last twelve months, but at least the comparable figure for the previous twelve months and to have it related to the strength of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman has given a figure of 4,600 courts-martial. If the Army were of a size of 100,000 it would make nonsense. During the previous twelve months, the Army might have been several times bigger. If the figure is not on hand, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will publish it in the OFFICIAL REPORT, or by some other means give us the number of courts-martial, say, per 1,000 soldiers, so that we can get the true index.
§ Mr. Soames
I do not have the figures with me. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who will wind up the debate, will procure them. In quoting the figure of 4,600 courts-martial, I was not on the same point as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has raised. I was not saying that the number of courts-martial shows what discipline is like. I was trying to point out that in the 4,600 cases of courts-martial, there was a large percentage of convictions, which shows that courts-martial are not brought about unnecessarily. Secondly, of those who were convicted, only a small number appealed to the court. The fact that none of the appeals to the court was upheld shows that the legal aspect is being well looked after.
There is, however, one aspect of the administration of justice which has recently come to my notice and which gives less ground for satisfaction. In a few cases, although in relation to the total number they form a very small proportion indeed, there has been too much delay in bringing soldiers to trial. In the nature of things, the incidence of 1129 Army service brings its own difficulties in the administration of justice which do not confront the civil courts.
For example, individuals are moved from one country to another fairly frequently. An offence may come to light at a time when the documents, witnesses and the person charged are all in different parts of the world. Nevertheless, the principle of the liberty of the subject is beyond price and must be safeguarded whatever the difficulties. It is our duty to ensure that the citizen enjoys the privileges which stem from it just as freely in the Army as he does outside.
Delay in bringing soldiers to trial must not be caused by administrative failure. To make all the preliminary preparations for a court-martial and to bring all the people concerned and the documentary evidence together at one time and place can be a complex project, involving a good many people, such as movements authorities, who are not directly concerned with the machinery of military law.
Hitherto, if a man went absent while on leave in this country from a foreign station, he was sent back for trial in the country in which he was stationed. This can lead to delay in bringing a man to trial. I have now laid it down that provided only written evidence is required from his parent station, the man should be tried in this country if, by so doing, the trial can be brought about more quickly.
Having said that, I must emphasise that the vast majority of cases are brought to trial with creditable speed, the average time taken to assemble a court-martial in this country, in cases where a soldier is in close arrest, being 24 days, which, I am told, although direct comparisons are difficult, compares favourably with what happens in civilian life.
I now come to the question of discipline and I would talk about it with particular reference to Section 63 of the Army Act, which refers to offences committed against the personal property of a civil population.
During the past three years the Army has been almost continuously engaged in one part of the world or another on internal security duties, which bring their own particular disciplinary difficulties. Cyprus, of course, is in all our 1130 minds at the present time. Internal security is the most thankless task which can be placed on the shoulders of officers and men. In normal peacetime a soldier, like any other citizen, knows where he stands with regard to the law. In wartime, he is guided by military discipline and by the rules of war. Internal security duties come somewhere in between these two situations, in that a soldier who has to run some of the risks of war and at times to take warlike measures to keep the peace, is answerable for all his actions to the civil as well as to the military power.
If troops have to be called in to break up trouble, and are too soft in their handling of the trouble makers, those in command of them will fail to prevent the trouble spreading and will be guilty of dereliction of duty. If, on the other hand, any soldier is proved to have used more force than what is acceptable in law as "minimum force", he and those in command of him are liable to trouble. I would give an example.
In Cyprus earlier this year an officer was court-martialled on a charge of manslaughter when, as a result of his orders, the car in which he was driving through a crowd which had recently been rioting knocked down and killed a civilian. Hon. Members will no doubt remember the case. It was shown to the satisfaction of the court that the consequences to the occupants of the car of not driving through the crowd would have been most serious and the officer was honourably acquitted. I mention that as a typical example of the sort of situation, with many variants, in which an officer or man employed on internal security is liable to find himself.
This year has been particularly difficult, for there was a period when, apart from terrorist activities, the troops also had to deal with an outbreak of communal strife which led to the very brink of civil war. I visited Cyprus at the time, and the tenseness in the island had to be felt to be believed. It is known throughout the world how jealous the Army, this House, and the people are of the discipline and behaviour of our troops. It is quite clear that the E.O.K.A. organisation sets out, as a definite act of policy, to play upon the peculiar difficulties which face security forces in this respect when acting in aid of the civil 1131 power. It deliberately distorts and exaggerates for propaganda purposes the effect of action taken by the security forces in keeping the peace. We have seen it so often.
Every soldier in Cyprus knows that whatever action he is called upon to take in aid of the civil power has to be done with the minimum of force, but we must never forget that the rôle of the security forces in Cyprus is to conquer terrorism, and that there are and will be many instances when the minimum of force necessary is quite a lot of force.
The difficulties which face the troops in internal security operations under Section 63 of the Army Act arise not only from the advantages which the active terrorist enjoys of being able to mingle with the population both before and after he has committed his crime, but from the grip that the terrorist has over the civil population. While the emergency has been on, the terrorists have killed more than 200 of their brother Greek-Cypriots. Why? Because they realise that their terrorist organisation can survive only if they intimidate their own people sufficiently to force them to show at least passive assistance. In fact, the terrorist organisation consists of only a tiny fraction of the Greek-Cypriot population.
We cannot compromise with this terrorism. The security forces must use whatever force is necessary to break the organisation which is responsible for it. Faced, as the troops have been for three years, with the extreme provocation of terrorist acts, they have shown a degree of patience, discipline and restraint which is quite remarkable and which I doubt could have been equalled by any other Army in the world. They have every reason to be proud of it.
Finally, I would say a word about our experience with the new Army Act as a whole. We are debating today whether that Act should be continued in force for a further year. There is no doubt that a second year's experience, as we have now had, of the working of the new Army Act confirms that it has set up a code of military law which is more readily understandable than the old one, which is easy to administer and which is fair to all who are subject to it. There is no doubt that the Select Committee under the chairmanship of my right hon. 1132 and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), and with which the name of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is honourably associated, did a first-class job. It was a considerable task and the Army is in their debt for having fulfilled it so successfully.
I have no hesitation in recommending to the House that we should agree to the continuance of the Army Act for the year 1959.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee. West)
As we now have the assurance that we shall have a full debate at no very distant time on the interesting Report which is now before the House, I do not think that it will be necessary for the Opposition to detain the House very long this afternoon. There are, however, things which flow very directly from the new Army Act, and which are of great interest, and I should like to make some comments on them.
I am very glad that the Secretary of State has said both that the new Army Act, as it still is, is working well, and that it is an improvement on the old Army Act. I do not think that any of us has much doubt about that. On the strictly legal side, the right hon. Gentleman gave us interesting figures. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I could not appreciate what the courts-martial figures meant in the absence of relevant comparisons. The figures of appeal are interesting. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman does not take the view that because none of the appeals was allowed that shows that the setting up of the Appeals Tribunal was not a good thing. After all, over the longer period three appeals were allowed, so the mere existence of the Appeals Court has been extremely valuable.
§ Mr. Soames
No, I do not mean that at all, and I am sorry if my remarks have given rise to misunderstanding. I must have phrased them badly. I am delighted that the Appeals Court should be there. I was trying to show that the fact that it did not have to reverse the decisions taken by courts-martial was itself a good thing.
§ Mr. Strachey
I thought that the remarks might have been taken the other way. I am glad to elicit from the Secretary of State what he has just said.
1133 I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to deal with that perennial problem of "the law's delay." It is not easy. I recollect it from my period of office. There may be legal difficulties in the course he has taken to try men in this country. I should have thought that promptness is of such importance that it is an experiment well worth trying.
I turn to the subject to which the hon. Gentleman devoted a great deal of attention, that of the effect on recruiting of the regulations issued under Section 22 of the Act. He spoke confidently on this subject and of the probability that the target that the Government had set themselves will be reached. In an official statement the Government have put it very strongly indeed. It says that if anything like the present rate of recruitment is maintained, these targets will easily be reached and, if required, exceeded.
As the Secretary of State knows, I have never been among those who regarded the achievement of these targets as impossible or out of the question. I think that nine months is a fairly short experience on which to base complete confidence and that we still ought to be cautious, but it is true that the level of Army recruiting especially has been most encouraging during the first nine months of this year. It has culminated in the really remarkable figure of 3,930 last September. I shall say something in a moment as to whether that sort of level is likely to be maintained, because I do not think that it is.
Nevertheless, the figures have gone—not steadily, but with variations—up from something much lower, a mere 1,300 in December, 1957, to that figure, which is extremely encouraging. Under the Act we are entitled to ask what has done it? The hon. Gentleman canvassed that to some extent and mentioned the questions of better pay, better conditions, better allowances and the like. The proper thing to say is that pay has little or nothing to do with it.
That view has been reinforced in the Report which we are to discuss on a future occasion. There we are told that pay is not the major issue. As the House knows, I have always been something of a heretic in this matter. In this Report we are told that there has beena spectacular improvement in Army recruiting figures which started late last year.1134 I was interested in that phrase:which started late last year.Of course, if that were the case it would tend to indicate that pay was not one of the main factors because late last year there had been no announcement, even no rumours of an increase in pay, but the curious thing is that if we look at the figures for late last year we find they are far from showing a spectacular increase. The actual figures late last year were: October. 2,100; November, 1,600: December, 1,300.
§ Mr. Strachey
No, this is from the Grigg Report. It is a very odd thing to call that steady decrease in the last three months of the year, from 2,100 to 1,300, a sharp increase. I think that that ought to be put right. Incidentally, those figures, showing a sharp decline in the three last months of last year, ought to warn us that there is likely to be a sharp decline in the three last months of this year also because, for some reason I do not pretend to understand, the three last months of the year are very much less favourable by tradition for recruiting.
They also show that the real spectacular increase in Army recruiting came, not as stated in the Grigg Report, in the last months of 1957, but in the first nine months of this year. I am bound to say that that reinforces my view, which is an unorthodox and unpopular one—which is considered a rather low view—that the very substantial increases in pay, which were contemporaneous with that increase, did have something to do with it. It may be mere coincidence. It may be argued that the effect of the increase which was rumoured at the beginning of the year, which was introduced in the spring and came into effect in April and was contemporaneous with a startling increase, was a mere coincidence, but I find that very difficult to believe.
I have never thought that pay was an all-important factor, but I have thought that to bring the remuneration of the Army—as the Secretary of State said today—into line with civilian remuneration, was an absolute prerequisite for getting the men. I still take that view. That is why I laboured at this point so hard and suggested orders of pay of such magnitude that they were thought very 1135 eccentric, but which, in a quite different form—I acknowledge that most fully, a totally different form—have now been closely approached by the Government. Therefore, I cannot concur in the views on this matter set out in this very interesting Report which we are to discuss later.
I am puzzled by another thing. We have often had from my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) disquisitions proving to us that it was absolutely impossible for the Government, under this or any other Bill, to obtain the men they needed for the Army. These alleged proofs have been impressive because he has shown the very limited number of men whom, it was calculated, were available for the Army. His argument appears to be borne out in the Appendix to the Grigg Report, which gives the very remarkable figure of only 126,000 men available for recruitment each year.
Such large deductions are made on medical grounds, grounds of apprenticeship and the rest—it is all set out in the Appendix—that, finally, we get the figure of only 126,000 men reaching the age of 18 who are available as the pool from which recruits for all three Services can come. If those calculations are correct, it would seem an almost impossible task because, as it is pointed out, it would be necessary to recruit one in three of those available in those figures.
§ Mr. Wigg
This is a point of controversy. We have now established that in actual fact my figures were right and that to get a voluntary Army we have to recruit, long-term, one in four. We have now established clearly, and it always was so, that one in four are going to join the Army but on very long-term engagement. Once we had established the facts we could clearly leave the other question which was one of opinion.
§ Mr. Strachey
I was going to say I do not believe we have got the facts. I do not think the facts are credible as they are set out here. Take the figure for this September. The Government tell us that they recruited no fewer than 7,700 men to the Armed Forces this September. No doubt that was a completely exceptional month, but that would give a rate of 92,000 men a year if that were given every year.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is so, but the bulk of those must come from external sources. It is shown that the Government's need is for 42,000 men. That is the one-in-three figure for the moment, or the one-in-four figure later on. But see what the September figure would mean if the calculations of my hon. Friend and of the Report are correct. It would mean that during this September the Government had actually recruited not one in three, but two out of three, of the available men. This, as Euclid would say, is absurd. Nobody can believe that that is so, so I suggest that both the Government and my hon. Friend should look again at this form of calculation, and see whether there is not something wrong with it—
§ Mr. Strachey
Perhaps my hon. Friend will let me finish, and I will then very gladly give way.
First, as he says, there is internal recruiting. That is important, but it is a minor factor. Probably more important would be to find out what the Government think of this exclusion in Appendix "A" of very large categories of the population. It shows 25 per cent. for apprentices and articled pupils 14 per cent. for advanced education, and 15 per cent. for those deemed to beunfit by service standards on grounds other than medicalas if all these were reserved categories. On anything like the rate of recruitment that we have been getting, not only during September—which is the extreme figure —but during the nine months, I cannot help but think that that can hardly be the case.
Again, it is not only a question of the 18-year-olds. There is a pool—and this may be a once-for-all bonus—of what might be called the older young man—those over 18 years of age—who are not, as it were, the annual crop, but who are being drawn on today. I think that this is an important factor, but I would point out to my hon. Friend that this is a very convenient pool for the Government. It gives them the bonus exactly where they want it at present, and it 1137 is not by any means a reason for supposing that they will not be able to reach their target.
I pose these questions, and they are questions, because, on the face of it, the Government's now very strongly expressed confidence that they will reach their target, the rate of recruiting that they have actually reached in recent months, and the Appendix—with which, I take it, the Committee was supplied from official sources—are incompatible with each other, and it is well worth while that we should be enlightened on these matters. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley would like to intervene now.
§ Mr. Strachey
It does help the Government very much to reach their target in time. Whether it means that, once reached, that target will be more difficult to maintain, is another matter. That is a long-term consideration that should be looked at.
I should like now to turn to discipline and training, which are very directly concerned in this matter. The views that have recently been expressed, officially and unofficially, on the subject of discipline have been eminently sane. It is quite right to say that strict discipline is a positive factor in recruitment, in the maintenance of the man in the Army, and in his re-engagement when he has been recruited. I have not the slightest doubt about that.
On the other hand, officially, unofficially and semi-officially, we have serious criticisms not of the discipline, but of the way in which the Army applies the disciplinary rules and regulations contained in this Act. Either today or on a later occasion, I should like to hear the Government's views, because I do not 1138 think that they deal with the subject at all adequately in the White Paper. They deal with many things very well indeed, if I may say so, and give forthright and positive answers, but on this critical point of discipline, of the life of the soldier when off duty—on which strong recommendations have been made—they seem, so far, to have given us no answer at all.
They give no real answer to the question whether there is not what might be called an unnecessary ceremonial side of Army life—about which I have never expressed strong views, because I have never served in the Army. It is difficult to know, but we have strong evidence that serious and careful investigators have come to the view that there is something wrong about pay parades, kit inspections and the like. So far, the Government have not indicated their opinion.
As the Secretary of State said, we certainly cannot today discuss the equipment of the Army, but there is just one point that is thoroughly germane to the Act, and to its possible continuation. The Act is intimately concerned with the requisitioning of vehicles. We have been told that so bad is the position in this respect that the Army has at present either to requisition or borrow vehicles from allied forces. That is something to which the Government must, at a very early date, address their minds, because, if equipment has become as bad as that, it must be affecting the Army—
§ Mr. Soames
I intervene only to say that I should very much like to answer the right hon. Gentleman's questions if I thought that I would be in order in doing so.
§ Mr. Strachey
I realise that none of us can say very much more than that. The Secretary of State mentioned it in about the same space of time as I have—about a minute in each case—and perhaps the Under-Secretary will have his minute on the subject later. I am bound to say, however, that when we reflect on the expenditure in that direction it is remarkable that the subject should have to be raised at all.
I turn next to accommodation. Who can doubt that accommodation bears very closely indeed on the discipline and morale of The Army? Again, the word "scandalous" is used about much of the present accommodation for the Army, 1139 and that charge, surely, is something that the Government must meet, and meet at a very early date.
§ Mr. Strachey
It is used in the Grigg Report. We were told that slight references to the Grigg Report were in order. Mr. Speaker allowed that. That was his phrase. But I am quite sure that we should not be in order in discussing it.
I am very glad that the Secretary of State mentioned the subject of Cyprus and discipline there. It was courageous for him to do so, and I am very glad that he did. I am sure that I can speak for every right hon. and hon. Member on this side of the House when I say that we agree with him wholeheartedly that the sort of police action, in aid of the civil power, in which the troops have been engaged year after year in Cyprus is by far the most trying situation for the discipline and morale of an Army that it can possibly have. It is neither peace nor war. It is the most unpleasant circumstance in which troops can find themselves—indeed, the word "unpleasant" is a grave understatement.
The consequences, and they are terrible consequences, which inevitably flow from keeping men in this situation year after year are never the fault of the troops concerned. In our opinion, they are always the responsibility, and, in the circumstances of Cyprus, we think, the fault, of the Government who order the troops into that situation and maintain them there.
I do not pretend to know, and I do not think that anyone fully knows, what happened, for instance, at Famagusta very recently. There is no doubt that horrible things happened. The original murder of the wife of a Service man was something indescribably horrible. I have no doubt that the death of the two Cypriots who, in the words of the Colonial Secretary, died trying to escape or resist arrest, and who may or may not have had anything to do with the murder in question, was a horrible event, too.
I put it simply to the Secretary of State. No one is blaming the troops in Cyprus or at Famagusta for these events, but we blame the Government who create the 1140 situation and maintain it by their policy. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, on the basis of present policy, more and more of these horrible events in Cyprus will take place? One of them, apparently, has taken place this very day.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is colonial and foreign policy in order for discussion under the terms of the Army Act?
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
While Mr. Speaker was in the Chair the Secretary of State for War was good enough to deal with the question of discipline in Cyprus and the problems involved. Mr. Speaker allowed that, and no one questioned it, not even the Clerk at the Table, who is there is advise him.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that we ought not to deal with foreign or colonial policy in this matter.
§ Mr. Strachey
I certainly would not dream of doing so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am dealing very strictly with the discipline of the Armed Forces. I am following the Secretary of State very closely in that matter and, if I may say so with great respect, I think that the right hon. Gentleman was fully in order and very right to bring in this by far the severest test to which the discipline of the Army is being put today. As he commented quite freely on this matter, I feel that we on this side must make our comments on it, but at no greater length than he did, though at no lesser length.
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the strain on the Army—I will go further—the inevitable damage to the Army, which the perpetuation of this situation in Cyprus from year to year, which he himself described very well as the most difficult one in which an Army can find itself, must create? Does he appreciate the repercussions which the imposition of repugnant and hateful tasks on the Army must have in the end?
Earlier this week, the Colonial Secretary took it upon himself to issue a statement about the conduct of the Army in Cyprus. I should have thought that that was more the province of the Secretary of State for War. In any case, I should 1141 have thought that the Colonial Secretary would have been better employed seeking that political settlement which only the most blind can now deny is the only way of relieving the Army from the repugnant tasks which it faces in Cyprus.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I am sorry to say that this is the first time I have had to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and I have not been able to say that I agree with most of what he has said and congratulate him, in a humble way, on his speech, but I think that he ended on a sordid note which spoilt all the rest of his speech. What the right hon. Gentleman was doing, in fact, was endeavouring to turn the views of the troops in Cyprus against the Government.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Anyone knows perfectly well that that is what he was about.
After what the right hon. Gentleman said, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think that I should be perfectly in order in starting a debate on the policy of this Government in Cyprus. He repeatedly used such terms in his speech, criticising the policy of the Government in Cyprus. We have had several colonial policy debates on these matters, and they have been fully thrashed out in the House. I should very much like to be able to ask the right hon. Gentleman what his solution is today and what his position is. However, that would be out of order, and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has cheated is no reason for anyone else to cheat.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War mentioned one matter in his speech on which I congratulate him and the Army, if I may. I refer to cadet training, which is really magnificent. Anyone who has been to a cadet school realises that the regiments are now sending not, as sometimes they used to do, their worst N.C.O.s to extra-regimental employment; they are sending their very best N.C.O.s and their finest young officers. To see the spirit of leadership and the amusing relationship there is between N.C.O.s and men, creating this quite obvious pool of future regimental sergeant majors and warrant officers, is a delight. The more of it we can have the 1142 better it will be for the British Army of the future.
I happen to be one of those who helped to compile this Act. I am delighted to hear, not only from the Secretary of State for War but also from many of my friends in the Army, that it is operating extremely will. They like it. It is much clearer, more concise and more readily understandable than the old Act. I am interested to know, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell us, whether, since the introduction of the Act—taking the period of a year or whatever is most convenient—courts-martial have been on the increase, on the decrease, or have remained much the same. I should be very interested also to know about appeals. The number of appeals, I think, is very significant, as also is the fact that no appeal has been upheld.
We have heard a great deal about discipline, and this is a subject which is quite clearly in order. In this country, there has always been, unfortunately, a misconception about what Army discipline really is. This has arisen, to a great extent from the exceptions, the minor number of bad or inferior regiments which do exist in the Army. There is an old Army saying that there is no such thing as a bad regiment; there are only bad officers and bad N.C.O.s. This is really the root and basis of it.
When there are bad officers and N.C.O.s there is bad discipline. The Act is applied in the wrong way. This does not mean that the discipline ought to be less strict. That, again, is a completely wrong conception. Recruiting figures confirm this. If one takes the Parachute boys, the Marine Commandos or the Brigade of Guards, anywhere where the discipline is more strict than in other units, there one finds the recruitment; it is the whole feeling of a unit being right on its toes, smart, well-disciplined and happy. No undisciplined unit can possibly be happy.
There is one other aspect of the matter which is very often misunderstood. It is the idea that discipline is imposed just for fun, to fill in the time, or perhaps to satisfy the bullying instincts of commanding officers and N.C.O.s and so on. I have studied this matter very carefully, and the point is that discipline is in fact a form of yoga. It is the way in which 1143 we train a man so that his mind can control his body in extremely difficult circumstances. There is no parallel at all that I know of in civilian life. There was a time when people used to talk about railway discipline and how well the railways were run and that there was no discipline there, but there is no real parallel in civilian life.
We take a man out of a regimental rest area and put him in the front line, where he may be for three or four weeks, drenched to the skin, up to the waist in water, short of rations, very tired and short of sleep. We then ask him to be subjected to the severest test to which any human frame can be subjected—to walk forward under shell-fire and to face machine guns. I have seen in bad discipline units men who have wished to go forward, whose whole instinct was to go on, but whose minds were incapable of controlling their legs and bodies and make them do what they really wished to do. It is simply a form of yoga in order to teach the men to have control of their bodies so that they can react in the ways in which they themselves wish to react in very difficult circumstances.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am interested in what the hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying and respect it, but I think we ought not to ignore the fact that the average British soldier is not a coward. That is rather important, for, if he is a coward, no discipline in the world will make him any different.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I have never seen a real coward. I have met some moral cowards, but not physical ones. What I was trying to say was this. With the very best will in the world and the desire to go forward, mental control of the body will be lacking unless it has practice and is taught assiduously. The wrong sort of discipline, to which I want to refer by mentioning one particular instance, is that of the commanding officer having Saturday morning parades in order to prevent men from going away for weekend leave on Friday night. I think that is wrong, that it is giving the Army a bad name and is also bad for recruiting.
As regards the ugly word "bull," which I dislike intensely, since we all know what it means, I hope we all realise that there has been an over-emphasis on 1144 this, very often in bad regiments, to cover up their defects. I only hope that my right hon. Friend and others will see to it that the pendulum does not swing too far the other way, because this is really purely a question of self-respect. It is just like people holystoning their front steps or polishing the brass knobs on their doors, and it comes to the same thing. We cannot go to any mining village without finding these doorsteps holystoned and the brass knobs highly polished. It is all part of that self-respect and keeping up appearances.
I wish to appeal to my right hon. Friend over one matter which was referred to yesterday in the Evening Standard. Whether the facts reported there are correct or not I do not know, but they were quoted there. Here is a case of a man—a corporal or a sergeant—accused of distributing anti-E.O.K.A. leaflets in a fit of desperation. He was court-martialled and given a sentence of nine months' detention—a long whack of detention; an incredible sentence—and also reduced to the ranks. This happened on the day when a sergeant was murdered. The sentence on E.O.K.A. men for very similar offences of distributing leaflets was, in the case of two of them, a fine of £5, and in another a fine of £2. This man had seen many instances of E.O.K.A. terrorism, and six cases occurred in the village in which he lived. His own wife, who was going to have a baby, was threatened with having her house burned down. I ask my right hon. Friend, speaking for the sake of this poor unfortunate woman and her husband, and also for the sake of the morale of the troops in Cyprus, to see that that sentence should be reviewed and very drastically reduced.
In regard to recruiting, we cannot, unfortunately, discuss today the recruiting of officers, which is really more difficult and, I think, a more serious problem at the moment than the recruiting of men. We have all heard the facts and figures which have been bandied backwards and forwards, but recruiting is affected by so many things—pay, accommodation, children's education, bad stations, housing and so on. I want to say two things, because this is also very much a question of recruiting and discipline. The first is in regard to the housing programme of £90 million. I think there is 1145 a little bit of complacency about it. Over and over again, we hear that this money has been under-spent, and this really is nonsense. I hope my right hon. Friend will issue the strongest possible directive that this must not go on. Surely, housing does have its effect on discipline.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
It was mentioned by both right hon. Gentlemen.
The next point is the question of troops in outlying stations, their accommodation, service conditions, discipline and welfare. We know quite well that in stations like Germany and even Cyprus, where there are good bathing facilities, things are all right, but if men are stuck out in the middle of acres of yellow sand, miles from anywhere, that is quite different. I am referring to North Africa, where regiments are sent for a three-year period before being brought home, and I am not referring to other stations like, for instance, Jordan, where men were flown in and out again after a short time. In these permanent stations, where men may be sent for three solid years, a great deal more could be done to make the lives of these men a little more interesting.
I cannot see any earthly reason why, in special outlying stations like these, extra money should not be provided for amenities and entertainments for them. No doubt the officers can find their own entertainment, for they like shooting, fishing and so on, which the men do not get and do not like. I have instances of this, and if my right hon. Friend would like me to tell him about them later, I would be glad to do so, but I hope that he will look into the matter as soon as possible, because it is very important from the point of view of recruiting.
Another important matter concerning recruiting is that of the two-way traffic between schools and units—units going to the schools to show themselves and boys from the schools all over the country being invited to spend a weekend, or more or less, with the unit in its training, with tanks and so on. We did that in the Royal Tank Regiment and the Royal Armoured Corps during the war with immensely good results. It fires the imagination of the boys, and is a most excellent thing for recruiting.
1146 Finally, I wish to refer to a matter which has already been mentioned—internal security in Cyprus. I hope that my right hon. Friend realises that to keep a battalion on internal security and police duties for too long is bad and is capable of ruining a good battalion. If they operate with shield and pick helve for too long and then suddenly have to face a real crisis, and these men have to operate and act as soldiers, the officers and N.C.O.s find that it is a very difficult task to get the men to switch over quickly from the one to the other. It is a very serious matter for any good regiment. We all know—and I am very glad to see it—that more police were provided in Cyprus the other day. The job out there is a police job much more than it is a soldier's job. In Palestine, when I was doing a similar sort of thing, we had policemen out there who could go into the villages with their pockets bulging with money and obtain the names of the men they wanted. That is the right way. To ask soldiers to perform that task is entirely wrong.
One last word. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would look into—I do not know whether it is true or not—what has happened since Sir Hugh Foot went out there as opposed to what was done when Field Marshal Harding was there. One of the basic principles of internal security is to have units in the middle of the town—
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
At any rate, I have said it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If the units are not in the middle of the town it necessitates three times the number of troops being used.
Finally, I would like to add my very cordial tribute to those who have done this job so long and so well and to congratulate the new C.I.G.S. and to wish him luck.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I wanted to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) on the question of discipline in the Army. I found myself in very considerable agreement with what he had to say in the earlier part of his speech as to discipline in the Army. It is not an 1147 indefinable thing. It is something that creates a physical and spiritual response which can override the normal conduct of the person.
Where troops are well disciplined and well led, even those who are not normally very highly endowed with the dona di corragio, one finds, none the less, that they perform most gallantly in battle. We have found that very often with troops which have been trained by British officers from not very warlike races. The curious thing about this is the tremendous difficulty of ever laying down any rule about it at all. What is effective discipline from one commander is an outrage from another. It is desperately difficult to fit it into rules.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to "bull". "Bull" can be a very important element in discipline or it can be a mere irritation. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman very rightly said, it depends whether it comes from self-respect and a desire to have a smarter unit or whether it is imposed as an annoyance.
I know that when I had a landing craft flotilla we used to move from ship to ship where we had our mess deck. We used to take tremendous pride in our mess deck, and I am sure that was welcomed by the chaps. On one occasion the commander of a ship ordered all his ship's company to see our mess deck. That gave us a tremendous uplift.
It depends tremendously on the quality of the leadership whether there is enjoyment and competition in it or something of annoyance. I feel that this is an element which ought to be emphasised more. If I were to be asked for the opposite to discipline I would say it was nagging. Where there is the sort of N.C.O. or officer who is always chasing round to find someone to tell him not to do something one gets an irritation and an opposition to the common will of the unit instead of creating that common will which is discipline.
I feel that in training more emphasis should be placed upon the fact that the better the discipline the fewer orders that are necessary. Being fewer orders, those orders are recognised as necessary and call for co-operation instead of creating irritation which is the opposite.
Having made these rather general points which arise out of what the hon. 1148 and gallant Gentleman said, I now want to turn to the question of discipline in Cyprus, and discipline in the particular circumstances of Cyprus. I will not concern myself in any way with whether or not we ought to be in military occupation of Cyprus. That does not concern the Army. The Army is there on military occasion, and it is the discipline of that military occupation with which we are concerned.
In this type of military occupation, which is neither war nor peace, the most important single factor of discipline is confidence in the High Command. If that confidence is there we get restraint. If that confidence is not there, then troops under pressure will take the law into their own hands.
I personally believe that Field Marshal Harding did a great job. One of the really important things he did was to provide that confidence in the command. I believe that when he was there—there were some pretty sharp court-martial sentences when people went too far, although, on the whole, in very trying circumstances—thediscipline and restraint were all to his credit. I do not think that the same standards have been maintained since his departure very much for the reason that there is not the same confidence in the command.
It is quite fatuous for us to close our eyes to the fact that at Famagusta there was a grave breakdown of discipline. One does not create discipline simply by closing one's eyes and pretending that nothing has happened. Nor does one recreate discipline by sentencing a corporal to nine months for handing out a leaflet which did not even refer to the Army and then proceed to impose a perfectly ludicrous sentence on the next person. That is not the way to give the Army confidence in its command.
What I am now going to say may cause a good deal of controversy, particularly on this side of the House. There are units in Cyprus—I think I am right and the Under-Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong—who have been there under canvas for nearly two years. That is wrong. The Greeks have houses. They have created the necessity for this military occupation, and they ought to learn to bear its burden. The houses should be requisitioned for our 1149 troops. It is the Greeks who, if necessary, ought to be under canvas. If we do not do that, our troops will not believe that we are on their side and we shall not get the discipline.
I am not saying whether or not it is right to have a military occupation, but if we are in military occupation we must have the self-confidence to believe that it is right. If we believe that it is right then we must follow the logical conclusion of so believing and believe that our troops are right to be there and that the Greeks are wrong to make their presence necessary. It is for the Greeks to carry the burden of living under canvas if they have made it necessary for their houses to be needed by our troops. That is particularly the case in areas where it is difficult to control certain villages. It might be easier to control them if the troops moved in and the inhabitants were moved out. It is the behaviour of the villagers which has made that necessary. If that sort of thing is done, we shall get the confidence of our troops, although I do not say whether it is right or wrong to have a military occupation.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not say whether it is right or wrong, either. It is very interesting, but is it in the Army Act?
§ Mr. Paget
I am dealing directly with the discipline of the troops in Cyprus and I am saying that we do not get discipline unless we convince the troops that our Higher Command is on their side. If we have more consideration for the enemy than we have for our own men; if our own men get nine months and the enemy are fined £5 for passing round pamphlets—in the latter case a pamphlet asking the local population to murder our troops—and if our troops are two years under canvas while the people who are causing the trouble are left undisturbed in their houses and no requisitioning takes place; if the strategically important centres of the towns are left in the hands of the local property owners and the job of controlling the towns is made more difficult or impossible by putting the troops outside the towns, we shall not have discipline in our Army.
That is the sole point I make. I do not say whether it is right or wrong to have 1150 military occupation; it may be quite wrong to have it. But if we have it, for heavens sake have the courage to take the consequences of what we have done.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I am glad that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) persuaded you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker to allow him to complete his remarks about Cyprus because, without any collusion, I was about to say exactly the same thing; and to reinforce that point, although I cannot do it nearly as eloquently as he does, I will, with your permission, say exactly the same as he did. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tedious repetition."] It may be tedious, but it is not repetition by me.
I believe that the discipline of our troops in Cyprus has been worse than it should have been for some time and I believe that this is so for exactly the same reason as that given by the. hon and learned Member: very soon after Harding left the island, the troops did not feel that they were being given the necessary backing for their operations. They felt that the Higher Command had lost confidence in them, and they therefore lost confidence in the Higher Command.
I read in a paper the other day an article by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). He had visited a detention centre in Cyprus which was being looked after by British troops. In the detention centre he found conditions exactly as they would be in any reasonably good barracks in this country, with all the usual kit which people have, but he found the troops living in tents outside. He found the detention centre in a state of near-mutiny, because of the "hardships" they were undergoing, and the troops outside living in tents.
In this article the hon. Member stated that the British Government paid the people in the detention camps as much as two-thirds of their salary while they were in detention. In those circumstances it is not surprising that our troops do not think they are having the necessary backing to carry out the difficult and arduous job they have.
I wish to refer to a case mentioned twice already this afternoon, that of Corporal Ford, who distributed a leaflet denouncing the murders by E.O.K.A.
§ Mr. Wigg
On a point of order. Is it in order for any hon. Member to mention this case, which is still sub judice? The trial has taken place, but the sentence has not been confirmed. It must have been embarrassing for the Secretary of State to hear references to this case, which has yet to come before him in his judicial capacity.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not realise that it was sub judice. Under the circumstances, we must not discuss it.
§ Mr. Kershaw
On a point of order. While the sentence has not been confirmed, the case is not sub judice in the sense that no decision has been reached; a decision has been reached. I do not expect the Minister to be able to say anything about the case, whether he approves or disapproves, or whether he will confirm the sentence, but I submit that it is in order to comment upon the case, although the Minister, in replying on the subject, will say only that he has not had time to consider it. Furthermore, the case has already been referred to twice this afternoon, and I do not see why it should now be out of order to refer to it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I was at fault in allowing reference to it. I did not realise that it was sub judice.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am told that it is. If it is sub judice, no reference must be made to it. Perhaps the Minister could guide us on this.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Julian Amery)
Perhaps I can help the House. I have been advised that the G.O.C. has confirmed the conviction, but has reduced the sentence to 56 days.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I am obliged to my hon. Friend.
I think that a sentence of 56 days is absolutely scandalous. I do not know what the Army Command thinks it is doing. Why should this man be subjected to 56 days' detention for having distributed a leaflet which—few particulars have been given—presumably was not a very serious leaflet and was certainly nothing like as serious as the leaflets distributed by E.O.K.A.?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that the hon. Member was making the point that discipline was too harsh, which would perhaps be in order.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The point whether discipline is too harsh or too lenient is in order. Hon. Members may discuss that, but perhaps they had better keep clear of individual cases.
§ Mr. Kershaw
If you please, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
I did not say anything about the G.O.C. I think that the sentence is absolutely scandalous and ought not to have been imposed. I say that advisedly, and I am surprised at the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) defending that sort of thing. I thought that he had the well-being of the troops at heart.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was trying to keep the debate in order, and I am thankful for his assistance. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) must not say that about him.
§ Mr. Kershaw
It must be very gratifying for the hon. Member to be so commanded on a point of order. It does not always happen.
I will turn to a slightly less controversial matter. I want to ask a question briefly on the amalgamation of Army regiments. We know that some amalgamations have yet to take place; there have been announcements that they will take place.
§ Mr. Kershaw
Many things which are not directly mentioned in the Act have been discussed. Army recruiting is, I understand, a subject which is in order in the debate.
§ Mr. Mellish
On a point of order. May I point out that, as reported in c. 230 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 3rd December last year, when this matter was discussed, Mr. Speaker ruled,In so far as the Act makes provision for recruitment, and for the terms of engagement of the Regular Army, and in so far as it can be shown that these conditions militate against recruiting or harm recruiting or are successful in attracting recruits, I think that would be in order."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1957; Vol. 579, c. 230.]If the hon. Member is trying to show that these amalgamations militate against recruiting, surely he has every right to express that view.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I am obliged to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) for saying that. As my right hon. Friend knows, there is a large measure of hereditary and of tradition in recruiting to some of the regiments of the British Army, and those are the regiments which are threatened with these amalgamations. The longer the decision is postponed, the more reluctant officers and men will be to join the regiments in which their fathers and grandfathers served, and to that extent they will be lost to the Army. A man who first joins one regiment because of family traditions is not necessarily prepared later to join another, and while he does not know whether that regiment, which is his traditional regiment, will continue to exist, he will hesitate before making up his mind to be a Regular soldier.
I very much hope, therefore, that a decision will shortly be announced as to what these amalgamations will be. I hope that the only reason why my right hon. Friend has not announced so far what they will be is because he hopes that with progress in recruiting the amalgamaitions will not become necessary. If that is so, a large number of people who are anxious to join those regiments, and who are anxious to see the numbers of the Army kept up, will be very relieved.
1154 This is an important point and I hope that in due course my right hon. Friend will be able to give the House some information about it.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
If I may help the hon. Member, if he goes to the Vote Office and asks for the White Paper entitled, "Future Organisation of the Army" he will be able to get a list of the amalgamations which are in progress. I should like to remind him that this White Paper was published just over a year ago. I am sorry that we got on to the question of a young corporal under sentence, but I was trying to help. If the sentence had not been confirmed and if we wanted to help this young man, then we should have kept our mouths shut.
§ Mr. Kershaw
The hon. Member says that if we want to help this man we should keep our mouths shut. I hope he is not implying that merely because we wish to mention this grievance then either the G.O.C. or the War Office will, out of resentment, impose a heavier sentence or let the sentence stand.
§ Mr. Wigg
I shall have to spell it out with baby bricks. There are a number of factors which may become known to the G.O.C. and the Secretary of State. After all, the man has the legal right to go to the Court of Appeal. Before raising the matter, we should give him and his advisers the chance to explore every avenue open to him. That is why I raised the matter, not because of lack of sympathy with him but because I want to help.
I thought that we ought to remind ourselves why the House of Commons has been jealous of its control of the Armed Forces and why it reductantly gave up the right to pass an annual Army Act for a procedure which has been abandoned in favour of the procedure which we are carrying out today. For centuries the political system in this country has demanded that the civilian influence should 1155 be supreme. Government by major generals has never been accepted in Britain, and we shall be very unwise if we do not remember and insist as the years go by that civilian authority in our affairs must continue to be paramount. It would be fatal to the political health of the country if the opinions of soldiers, sailors or airmen however distinguished they are, overshadow the influence of freely elected Parliament.
Therefore, we need to remind ourselves, and the Secretary of State for War constantly needs to remind himself, that he is the link between the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament, and its control of the Armed Forces. One or two things have happened recently which lead us to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten that.
For example, a statement was made on 4th November by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He was asked a Question about the forces and their behaviour in Cyprus, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies came to the House of Commons and commented on the discipline of the Army. This is utterly and completely wrong, and it is an insidious doctrine that, when a Parliamentary Question is put down by an hon. Member from either side of the House, it should be passed over to the Colonial Office or accepted by the Colonial Office. The person who is responsible for the acts of the Army and the acts of individuals in the Army, for their training, discipline and equipment, is the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War and nobody else.
If any hon. Member feels the need to commend or condemn the Army, then his compliments or criticisms should be directed not to an individual soldier or regiment, but to the Secretary of State for War. He should be jealous of this right, even in relation to the Minister of Defence. For administrative reasons, the Prime Minister has chosen to relate the three Service Departments and the Ministry of Defence, but he has not altered the Royal Warrant under which the right hon. Gentleman acts. The relevant words, in effect, say that he is responsible to Her Majesty and to Parliament, and the right hon. Gentleman will do the Army a great service if he is quick to resent any replies by the Secretary of State for the Colonies 1156 or the Minister of Defence which detract from that right.
I want to keep in order and I certainly do not propose to discuss fully the Grigg Report. It is a first-class report written by a great civil servant to whom this country owes a very great deal, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to try to make amends for the incredible meanness which caused Sir James Grigg to be deprived of his pension when he became the political head of the War Office. I should like to pay my tribute to him. I accept the Report and think that it will do a great service for the Army.
However, year after year the Labour Party has pressed the Government for an inquiry along these lines. I have always held and supported that view because it seems to me that in dealing with the Armed Forces, in whatever sphere, whether it be recruitment, equipment, training, or the subjects which have been mentioned this afternoon, the object should be to take them out of politics. We are a non-military-minded nation. In peacetime we do not care two-pence about the Army. We know from Rudyard Kipling what happens to the soldier in peacetime and what happens when the guns begin to fire. Every penny is begrudged.
A very distinguished lady once said, in a very penetrating judgment on conditions in the Women's Services, that virtue has no publicity value. When a corporal makes a mistake it appears that all the good things the Army has done are forgotten. Those of us who have this problem at heart, who realise its importance, who realise our weakened position in the world, and who realise the necessity of having to make do on very limited means, try to establish the facts in the first instance. We may have our fun and games, but we should always strive to obtain the figures and establish the facts.
Being interested in recruiting, although lacking the resources of Government Departments, I have from time to time made my own recruiting calculations and I congratulate myself on the fact that Sir James Grigg and his Committee arrived at the same answer as myself. He made it one in four and I made it one in four. Having once established the facts, it then becomes a question of opinion based on interpretation of those facts. Everybody 1157 in the House can hold his own view whether one in four of the men eligible will join the Armed Forces on a long-term engagement. But I have never thought that that is so and I do not think so now.
The right hon. Gentleman gave a sidelong glance at me when he mentioned the recruiting figures. I assure him that I am not running away from them. The interesting thing about the September figures is this. Every year the highest recruiting figure is in the month of September. September is the best recruiting month. We can be certain, therefore, that October, November and December this year will not be as good as September. I go further and say that I do not believe that the recruiting figures next year will equal the figures of this September.
In their enthusiasm for the new figures, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do not learn from the facts of past experience. I remember only too well, in much the same atmosphere of self-congratulation which covers both Front Benches—the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) will remember—that on 29th January, 1953, there was a contest between him and my right hon. Friend as to who was responsible and who should have the credit for introducing the new three-year engagement. Just previously, The Times had said that 1952 had given us the best recruiting figures of the century and both right hon. Gentlemen wanted the credit for that.
I do not raise that matter now for controversial reasons. I merely want to repeat what I said on that occasion. We had, in the previous twelve months, done two things. We had altered the terms of engagement and we had increased the rates of pay. We had not increased the number of people available for enlistment. All through 1952 there was a rise in recruitment. In January, 1953, the Government asked for a Supplementary Estimate in order to get more money to meet the cost of the increased pay through the rise in recruiting.
This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman pointed to the great increase in the first nine months of this year against the figures for the equivalent nine months of last year. There has not been a great increase in the number of recruits, but, as he rightly said, a remarkable increase in the number of man-years. That is a subject on which I have tried to educate 1158 the House of Commons. I presented that policy to the Labour Party, but it rejected it. The size of the Army will primarily depend on the number of years for which men will enlist.
The Government have taken my advice and profited from it. They are in sight of getting rid of National Service, but only in sight of that objective. One penetrating statement from Sir James Grigg—
§ Mr. Soames
When saying that the Government have taken his advice the hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that what happened was that the engagement was altered at the time when it was decided to go over to all-Regular Forces.
§ Mr. Wigg
I agree. I always said that we could never get rid of National Service until we got rid of the three-year engagement and that is exactly what has happened. We are now getting back to the long-service engagement. The hon. Gentleman should learn that the difference between a National Service Army and a volunteer Army is that a volunteer Army, must, by definition, be a long-service Army—but I do not wish to be diverted from the main theme of my argument.
I want to quote from paragraph 4 of Sir James Grigg's Report:It is not, of course, for us to say whether the figure of 375,000 is the right one.A figure of 375,000 for all the forces means a figure, so we are told, of 165,000 for the Army. I will not embarrass the Minister by asking whether he thinks that figure is high enough for the Army. I know that it is not. The Minister of Defence, when he made a speech at the Royal Tournament, offered 10 to 1 that he would be able to get rid of National Service and reach his target. I could not get to the Post Office fast enough to take advantage of his 10 to 1 offer.
I am sure, as I was at the beginning of the year when I spoke during an Adjournment debate, that the recruiting figures announced by the right hon. Gentleman are not good enough to enable him to achieve his target. Both Sir James Grigg and he have put in this qualification— "if the present recruiting figures are maintained." I do not think that they will be Sir James Grigg and the Government advisers who helped him 1159 have done the basic sum which appears in Appendix "A" and although my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) does not agree I certainly do. It seems to me certain that there will be a manpower gap when National Service ends. There will not be a gap in the "teeth arms," because the Government, in the White Paper to which I referred the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) a short while ago, are cutting down the number of infantry battalions to 49. No one in his senses thought that there would be a gap in the "teeth arms", but there will be gaps in the Services. But there is another question—are there enough "teeth arms"? Have we enough infantry battalions to maintain 55,000 troops in Germany and, as at present, 16 major units in Cyprus?
We have heard a lot about the question of discipline in Cyprus and I wish to say a word about it and to deal with the facts as I see them. The interesting thing about the Cyprus situation—
§ Mr. Mellish
Before my hon. Friend goes on to deal with Cyprus, may I ask him something about the question of the Army in 1962 as he envisages it, including the demands from Cyprus and Germany and all the rest of it? Surely, the crux of the matter is whether the figure which the Government have stated as being required in 1962 is related to whether or not we shall be committed to such commitments at that time which will result in a need for such a figure.
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not agree with that. There are two considerations. The first is whether 375,000 is sufficient. There is a second question, whether we are getting a balanced force of 375,000. It is no use having cooks when we want men in machine gun squads. This is a highly complex matter. I do not wish to deprive myself of the opportunity of speaking about the Grigg Report, but there is a fundamental weakness in that Report inasmuch as it does not deal with the question of balanced forces. Today, the Army does not consist merely of so many men and so many cooks. Unless we have the right mixture the question of an overall number is not of paramount importance.
I wish to return to the question of discipline in Cyprus and relate it to the 1160 wider question of discipline as a whole. I agree with much of what the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said. There is no more difficult job for soldiers than that of providing internal security. Those of us who have been "on the receiving end" know what it means.
Hon. Members who visit Cyprus at any time of the year will find the island a most agreeable place. The sun will be shining and in the moonlight the Aegean Sea looks wonderful. But if you have had a "basinful" of this for any length of time, it ceases to be quite so attractive. The place is hot and humid and, as was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), a number of our troops have been living under canvas. Many of them never get two consecutive nights in bed. They are almost perpetually confined to barracks. The beer is expensive and hot. They are being shot at and they do not like it.
It requires troops of the highest quality not to break down under this strain, and the fact that the majority of our troops have not done so is a credit to them. I agree that our troops have behaved as perhaps no other troops in the world would have behaved under similar circumstances, and it is right and proper that the House of Commons should pay tribute to them.
It is also right and proper that we should expect from all the forces a standard of discipline which is as near exemplary as human ingenuity can make it. There is no point in blinking our eyes at the fact that there have been breakdowns in discipline and that they have not been confined to Cyprus. On 30th April I questioned the Minister about a happening in Germany when the King's Regiment, the Gloucester Regiment, became involved in a fracas in which a British soldier was killed and five others were injured. That sort of thing is happening and it ought not to happen. These breakdowns in discipline occur because the officers and N.C.O.s have not effective control. It would not happen in the crack units—it does not happen in the Guards battalions.
One must remember that these things have happened and there are reasons for them. The constant postings, and so on—all have had their effect. When we 1161 consider Cyprus, we must remember the conditions in which the troops live. But there is also another factor, the presence of married families in Cyprus. We can draw a comparison between what happened in Cyprus and what happened in Palestine. I am indebted to Field Marshal Montgomery, for in his memoirs it is stated that on 20th January, 1947, he, as C.I.G.S.—not a Minister, but the Field Marshal himself—gave an order that no more families were to go to Palestine.
To use his own words, Field Marshal Montgomery said, on page 470 of his book:As I did not know where the Government policy might lead us, I ordered that no more Army families were to be allowed to go to Palestine. A day later the High Commissioner adopted an even more drastic policy, ordering that all British women and children…were to be evacuated…At that time there were in Palestine 90,000 British troops, and the number of families was 172. Field Marshal Montgomery tells us later in his memoirs that, after all, things had not really got had at that stage. He defines what he regards as bad as two people being killed a day. There were 172 British families, wives and children, in a station in which there were 90,000 British troops.
How many Service wives and children are in Cyprus at present? I put down a Question which was for Written Answer yesterday. There are 13,000 Service women and children in Cyprus at present. There are only 16 major units, about 26,000 men, possibly a few more. There are two soldiers to every woman or child. What must that mean in terms of guarding them? What is the effect of this anxiety on morale?
Of course, articles have appeared in the Press. In the Daily Mirror, I remember, there was a statement demanding that women and children should be brought back. It may be that there are many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in all parts at the House who think that families should be withdrawn. But it is not as simple as that. Those hon. Gentlemen who have agreed with the Government's man-power policy have also to face up to this. This is one of the consequences of their actions, because if they withdraw the families in Cyprus then they have got to turn it from a three-year station into a one-year. They cannot separate young 1162 men from their families for periods of much more than a year, except in exceptional circumstances, and the Cyprus troubles may go on for many years.
Of course, it is quite impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to face up to that. Indeed, the Daily Telegraph, which is an extremely well-informed paper, tells us of the recent withdrawals of the Guards Brigade and the 19th Brigade from Cyprus. At the very moment when things are getting very much worse we are withdrawing troops from Cyprus, and that is because of the reorganisation taking place and the running down of the Army. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I am relying—perhaps I ought not to rely—upon the authority of a Government journal, which is generally well informed on this subject. It is clear that two brigades have been withdrawn at this stage. We are left with the problem of 13,000 women and children in Cyprus, and if my explanation is not the right one, when the hon. Gentleman replies to the debate perhaps he will tell us.
This, I suggest, is tied up acutely with the problem of morale in Cyprus. Of course the troops resent attacks upon their families. How many hon. Gentlemen in this House would not resent such attacks upon their families? The troops are concerned and worried about it. Perhaps the military action the situation may require is hamstrung by this very considerable number of women and children there.
This is not all of the story. I go back to the point I made earlier, about the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War for the internal administration of the Army.
The Minister of Defence came back on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference and was interviewed at London Airport. For greater accuracy, I have a copy of what he said. He was asked whether the families were to be withdrawn. "Oh, no," he said," not at present at any rate, though we shall, naturally, go on watching the situation very closely."
It would be wrong of me, and I should be out of order, to doubt the veracity of the right hon. Gentleman, or to suggest here that he was in any way being disingenuous, but he did not tell the country all the truth. He did not say what, in fact, is the truth, that a standstill order 1163 was issued on 15th July. If hon. Gentlemen would care to look at the Written Answer I got they will see that since last July only four members of families have gone to Cyprus. Quite likely the Minister of Defence did not know what was happening. If he did not know what was happening he should not answer for the Army At any rate, when the Minister of Defence said that there was no question of our withdrawing families from Cyprus there was already a standstill order which had been issued and which, as I understand, is to he reviewed in the middle of this month.
It is a difficult situation. There is no easy way out, but we have to recognise that in a situation like that in Cyprus we have to be careful about making the most fatal mistake of all, and that is, the House of Commons adopting policies, and leaving the troops to carry the candle, because the Government have not the guts to face up to the situation thereby created.
I make this protest now, not for the first time. I have said it over and over again. I know the problem through my own very humble Army service in between the wars. I met this problem. I was at the receiving end of this kind of situation. The troops were sent to Constantinople at the time of the Kemalist troubles, and they went to Iraq at the time of the Arab revolt, and then to Palestine, and into Egypt, and down to the Sudan, and then to China. These various troubles came out of the headlines and the House of Commons went on with its business, but the poor troops had to pay the price.
Once again our troops are paying the price, this time in Cyprus. I protest against this. I protest against the actions of the Government and I protest against a situation which is being allowed to drift. I protest for rather different reasons from those of hon. Gentlemen who are concerned with the problem in Cyprus for political reasons. I am looking at this, as I have to do in these debates, from a strictly military point of view. We are faced with a political situation and we lack the military means to carry it through, and the result is that the price has to be paid by the troops and their families.
I want to go a little further into the situation in which our troops find themselves in Cyprus. It seems to me quite 1164 clear that the Secretary of State for War and his advisers have not used the powers which exist under the Army Act and which they should use. I have said already, and I repeat, that as far as I am concerned he takes the brickbats and he takes the bouquets, for he is the person responsible. What he ought to do is to inform himself of the facts. He has no right whatever, nor has the Minister of Defence, nor has any hon. Gentleman on the back benches, because it is politically convenient, to go to the Tory Party Conference and use the troops as an excuse to get a tremendous ovation. That is not good enough.
The right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of Defence, when they went to BlacKpool, knew what had happened on 3rd October. It was his duty, if not that of the commander on the spot, to have ordered a court of inquiry. To order a court of inquiry in the Army is not a fishing operation. It is not to discover unpleasant facts with which to beat political opponents. It is machinery through which the facts are established. Under Section 135 there is power to order a court of inquiry composed of officers subject to military law, and under which directions can be given that the court should not express an opinion, its job being to ascertain the facts.
But the right hon. Gentleman never did that. The Minister of Defence is his political boss. Did the Minister of Defence suggest it? Anyhow, it was not done.
§ Mr. Soames
The hon. Gentleman says I did not inform myself. It is my duty to ascertain the facts. I did so. It is not. as he says, necessary to go through a court of inquiry. It is not so. It is the duty of the Secretary of State for War to ascertain the facts of the case and act upon them as he thinks right. It does not mean that one has to set up a court of inquiry any time the hon. Gentleman asks for it.
§ Mr. Wigg
The right hon. Gentleman is being cheap. I have not pressed him on the point. It is true that I wrote a letter to the Daily Mirror, using restraint in asking whether a court of inquiry had been held. I have not badgered the right hon. Gentleman on the point. Of course he is acquainted with the facts. He doubtless sent a signal to Cyprus and asked for 1165 a report on what had happened, but that is not the same thing as holding a court of inquiry, because the right hon. Gentleman is not only responsible to the Tory Party Conference. He is responsible to the House of Commons and to public opinion.
I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have seen that he would strengthen his hand enormously it he said, "On so-and-so, such-and-such a thing happened. I have ordered a court of inquiry and when I receive its report I will make a further statement." The case in Germany on 30th April and the happenings in Cyprus on 3rd October were cases for an objective and searching examination to discover whether they were large or small incidents and so that the right hon. Gentleman could tell the House what had happened.
I want to refer to what happened with the Royal Ulster Rifles on 3rd October. The matter should not be allowed to pass without comment. There is no doubt that on that day there was looting. Articles were stolen from a shop, not of any great value. There was looting involving a sum of £100. A corporal, we are told, is dealt with severely for distributing leaflets. Was anybody brought into account for the articles looted that day? Was anybody deal with summarily, and, if so, why was he not tried by court-martial? Financial recompense was made to the owner of the shop. Was that paid from public funds or by the C.O. or from regimental funds?
When these things happen they do not besmirch the honour of the British Army. unless they are hidden away and hushed up. The British Army is composed of good and bad, much more good than bad. But bad things sometimes happen. The Army gets besmirched only if these things have to be dragged into the light of day. If they are not dealt with authoritatively and responsibly in our national newspapers we can be quite sure that they will appear in the Greek newspapers and in countries not friendly to us.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, after all, we have gone through similar phases in the past. If the troops on the spot know that they have the full and sympathetic backing not only of the Secretary of State and his party but of the House of Commons as a whole, but 1166 that any case of wrongdoing will not be hidden but will be brought into the open and the facts examined with due allowance made for the difficult circumstances in which they are working, we shall have a much healthier atmosphere than we have had in the past
The situation in Cyprus may last a long time and there may be other incidents. What I am trying to do, therefore, without going into the politics of the situation, is to find a basis of sympathy and understanding between the Greek community and the Army. If the Greek community know that here in the House of Commons, while understanding all the difficulties, we shall not cover up any wrongdoing, that seems to me to be a step in the right direction. If we can secure that feeling, rather than the feeling of intense fanatical hatred between our forces and the Greeks, we might be in sight of the happy state when they start playing football again, because the tradition of British troops in occupied territories, carrying out internal security, is that the guards play cricket or football with the prisoners.
That is what we are after if we can obtain it, because that is the tradition behind the kind of discipline and behind the Army Act which we are discussing today. As I have said on previous occasions, the Act is not primarily a code of discipline but a way of living, based on respect and honour and duty. If, in the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves, we apply these principles, not only internally, but externally, we shall be serving the interests of the British Army and of all the things for which it stands.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Emanuel Shinwell (Easington)
I do not care very much for the present Government. Indeed, I should be delighted if, after the next Election, they completely disappeared. Nevertheless, I am ready to concede to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War the benefit of the doubt in his assumption that the Government will reach their manpower target by 1963. I go further and, in spite of all that is said to the contrary, I hope that the Government meet with success.
I shall tell the House why. It is because, in company with many others on both sides of the House, I want to 1167 get rid of National Service. For a long time now, in company with my hon. Friends, I have pleaded for the abolition of National Service, first of all in principle and, more particularly, because I regard it as an obstacle to the recruitment of a satisfactory and adequate voluntary Army.
I believe that that view is generally accepted, but there is this qualification which I wish to make. My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), in an interjection, pinpointed what many others, with myself, regard as fundamental in relation to this issue. It is whether by 1963, and indeed preceeding 1963 because we cannot afford to wait until that year, we have succeeded in reducing our overseas commitments. It appears to me that in view of the rumours that are current about the intention of the Minister of Defence to retain about 55,000 men in the West under the control of S.H.A.P.E., and having regard to the possibility of our requirements in Cyprus for some years to come, with Hong Kong and other theatres in the Far East, with Aden, the Middle East and all the rest, it is extremely doubtful whether the target which the Government have set themselves in relation to Army requirements will be satisfactory.
I am one of those who believe that it is far better to deploy conventional forces than to put all our eggs in the nuclear basket. That has been said by several others in the course of our debates. Their view, and mine, has been reinforced by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery in the speech which he made recently to the Royal United Service Institute. He has departed somewhat from the views he expressed a few years ago about concentrating our attention on the so-called deterrent. He now calls for the use of conventional forces on the assumption, which I think well-founded, that we may be faced with a continuation of the cold war for many years to come while at the same time we need not concern ourselves unduly and desperately about the possibility of a major war in which nuclear weapons are likely to be used.
The Government must pay attention to the criticism directed against them in relation to these possibilities. So, whilst we wish the Government well because we agree about the need for the abolition 1168 of National Service at the earliest possible moment, at the same time they must use every possible endeavour to step up recruitment, particularly as regards the recruitment of men in the three Services who are ready to serve the longer engagement.
We cannot debate the Grigg Report today, but perhaps I can say that I welcome it. I think it is an excellent Report, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) rightly said. We shall debate it one of these days and we shall be asking the Government whether they are going to implement every one of the recommendations, particularly adequate equipment for the members of the forces. After all, it is no use having the forces if they are not supplied with the right equipment, and I have grave doubts whether at present adequate equipment is available. That, however, is a matter we can discuss at a later stage.
This evening I want to direct attention to a matter which I ventured to raise last Thursday in the course of the debate on foreign affairs. It has been referred to by several of my hon. Friends in the course of this debate, namely, the need for evacuating the wives and children from Cyprus. What I said last Thursday has been reinforced by the arguments adduced this afternoon and it bears on the subject of discipline. Let us make no mistake about that. If we want a high measure of discipline in Cyprus let us remove as early as we can the anxieties of our troops in that island.
I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) who said that it was a police operation in Cyprus. Well, it is a remarkable police operation, having regard to the number of casualties, the dangers that beset the men, the ambushes, the shootings, and the rest of it. To me it is much more than a police operation; it is more in the nature of warfare. I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War—perhaps he will reply at once—whether these men are regarded as being on active service? If they are on active service the wives and children ought not to be associated with them in this operation. On the other hand, if they are not so regarded, we ought to be assured to that effect and we ought to consider what that actually means.
1169 It seems to me that the evacuation of women End children from Cyprus has a bearing on discipline. It is also an action that ought to be undertaken by the Government at the earliest possible moment. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley was right in his reservation because he pointed out that if the wives and children are evacuated from Cyprus obviously we cannot ask the men to accept a three-year tour of duty. The men must be brought home to this country from time to time and that will entail considerable transport arrangements. All this has to be considered by the Government.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer. I seldom disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, but I could not follow him in what he said about any intervention in this House by hon. Members about the decision taken by the G.O.C. and the Secretary of State for War in connection with the detention sentence imposed on one of our soldiers who distributed some anti-E.O.K.A. leaflets. After all, we are entitled to discuss this matter outside this House. I am certain that if I went to my constituency in the course of the next few days and wanted to discuss the matter, nobody would stop me, not even my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not want to stop my right hon. Friend, but I should hate to see him in Brixton for contempt of court. If the sentence has been confirmed and the lad's legal advisers have lodged an appeal, perhaps my right hon. Friend will be told whether he is likely to be charged with contempt or not. The main reason why he should not discuss the sentence is that he may be prejudicing the young man's chances if he goes to appeal.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I doubt it. I have myself been Secretary of State for War and have had to deal with cases not altogether unlike this one and to decide whether or not to confirm sentence, and it never occurred to me that anybody was likely to be brought up for contempt of court because he ventured to express an opinion about an action taken by the Secretary of State for War. In any event, if I am arraigned for contempt of court and I find myself in Brixton, it would not be the first time that I have been a guest of one of Her Majesty's institutions. My 1170 hon. Friend need not worry about that; it would merely mean a temporary absence from this assembly, and, so far as I can gather, my absence would be accepted with the customary fortitude of hon. Members. I am satisfied that we are entitled as hon. Members to comment, not necessarily adversely but objectively, on a decision taken either by the G.O.C. or by the Secretary of State for War, but I am more concerned about the merits of this matter than I am about the legal and technical aspects of it.
It occurred to me when I read about this incident, and the sentence of detention imposed on this soldier, that perhaps too little consideration was accorded to the emotional disturbance emerging from the conditions prevailing in Cyprus. I am not so satisfied myself that in those circumstances I would not have undertaken even more desperate expedients. To put it mildly, even the most normal person is bound to be upset when our lads are being shot in the back. When soldiers of Her Majesty's Armed Forces are called upon to undertake an unpalatable and distasteful duty, they are bound to be disturbed when they see their comrades ambushed and the victims of explosions, and when they meet dangers almost every hour and minute of the day. One can accept dangers, and soldiers are expected to meet them, but to have their children affected in this ghastly and dastardly fashion is bound to upset even the most normal person.
I read the other day, after the speech I ventured to make last Thursday, something which pinpointed the arguments I adduced for the evacuation of wives and children from Cyprus. It was to the effect that a boy of 17 years, who might have been one of our own boys, was shot in the back going to work. He was an innocent, unsuspecting lad and was there not because he wished to be there—probably he would have preferred to be at home—but because he quite fortuitously found himself in Cyprus. Never mind about who is responsible, never mind about Government policy; we are not debating it at this stage. To be shot down on the threshold of a career is a terrible thing. I am bound to say that in those circumstances, however balanced I regard myself mentally, I might easily be disturbed and responsible not only for the 1171 issue of an anti-E.O.K.A. leaflet but I might be guilty of something even worse. So the idea of passing a sentence of detention on this man, who, I understand from reading the newspapers—
§ Mr. Speaker
I regret very much to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like to be assured that the sentence is not subject to review, because if it is the matter is still sub judice and we should not pursue it in the House.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I understand that we had information this afternoon that the conviction had been confirmed but the sentence reduced. However, under the court-martial appeal provision which I introduced in the House some years ago file man has a right of appeal. The man may not avail himself of that right, but may accept the reduced sentence of fifty-six days' detention. That is why I think we are entitled to raise the subject.
However, Mr. Speaker, I am coming to my conclusion. I was about to say that I read in the newspapers that the man came out of the court ashen-faced, grey, miserable, reduced to the ranks and to suffer a period of detention. I am bound to say that I had a great deal of sympathy with him, rather less sympathy with the G.O.C. and even less sympathy with the Secretary of State far War. I think that in the circumstances, while exacting the highest possible discipline from our forces and not expecting them to retaliate, we might have been a little lenient and understood how the man's mind had been affected by the conditions in which he found himself. That is why I feel that the sooner we get the women and children out the better it will be. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who I know is just as sympathetic about these matters as my hon. Friends and I are, will address his mind to the matter and bring some pressure to bear on the Minister of Defence, because this affects not only the Army but the two other Services as well.
Finally, I wish to say how pleased I am to hear about the recruiting figures. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has been very industrious in his study of the problem. I believe that is generally admitted. It is very fine to have someone who will delve into the details of these intricate and complicated subjects. That is satisfactory to indolent 1172 people like some of us are who rely on industrious people in order to make their speeches.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I never reject my hon. Friend's facts, though I often reject his opinions, which is a different matter. He has done a great deal of work which hon. Members in all parts of the House recognise as being very valuable, but it may be that he is a little pessimistic about the future. I say "it may be"; I would not put it higher or even lower than that. I am an optimist about getting rid of National Service and an optimist about building up an adequate voluntary force which can be a credit to our country.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The whole House will agree with the view just expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). There cannot be one of us who wants to see the retention of National Service. We all want a first-class volunteer Army.
It may be put on record that, irrespective of whether we agree or disagree with him, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has rendered a service in the past, and is rendering a service now, by reason of some of the facts upon which he has argued his case against the Government.
The problem is that we are dealing with figures all the time and there is very much doubt whether even the recent figures make my right hon. Friend right or make others right. I shall try to show what the answer is. The Government hope, properly, to have 147,000 men in the Regular Army by 1963, and in the light of their recruiting figures at the moment, based particularly on man-years, I do not think there is any denying that it looks as though they will just about achieve that and no more.
What has so often been argued in this House, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, is that one of the problems is that there are so few men on whom the Government can call. I am not one of those who believe that it is necessarily one in three or one in four; the real background to the problem is that we have an unpredictable source 1173 of recruitment. The soldier himself is the finest advertisement for the Army, and if Army service and conditions are of such a character that he can become a recruiting sergeant I do not think any of us can assess what the future has in store for us in respect of the volunteer Army.
We have been told by means of graphs and figures that one in four is the most that we can hope for from the number available. Even only one in four is a possibility for the Army. What it adds up to is that the other part of the community is otherwise engaged. I cannot necessarily accept those figures as being absolutely sacred; unlike my hon. Friend, I find them very dubious indeed. I am very dubious about the proportion of 15 per cent. who are unsuitable for the Army. How is that percentage broken down?
Mr. Speaker has ruled that we can discuss recruitment on the Army Act, and I ask the Minister whether we can be given figures showing the actual ages of those who joined the Army as Regulars last year. It is always assumed that everyone joins the Army at 18. For the sake of the argument which has been adduced here again and again, and by means of graphs and figures, we have been shown that 18 is the age upon which so much has been based. It would be a useful statistic for many of us if we could be told how many men over the age of 18 volunteered as Regulars during the last year.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington mentioned another very important matter, discipline, and the subject was also dealt with effectively earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). I agree with those who say that discipline is different in every command and that what is good discipline in one command is not necessarily good in another. I will give a personal experience of how discipline can be ruined. During the war I was in charge of a section of men, and I worked them on the principle of "job and finish". This meant that they frequently finished at 2.30 or 3.0 p.m., so they were able to leave much earlier than certain regulations allowed.
Discipline then entered into it, because we had a commanding officer who thought that this method was an absolutely retrograde step, and he insisted that the men 1174 should stay at work until 5.0 p.m. It did not take us long to find out that the amount of work done in a day lasting until 5.0 p.m. was less than that done in a day lasting until about 3.0 p.m. The discipline in that camp might, on paper, have been good, but the output at the end of the day was deplorable. The sort of discipline that I am thinking about means a great deal; there is an adverse discipline which can affect recruitment.
There is a case which I should like to mention. I do not think I shall be questioned for doing so because the sentence has already been confirmed and the matter is not sub judice. It is a case nearer home, and most of the newspapers of the country have given enormous prominence to it. How it ever came to pass I do not know. It is the story of the young soldier, Corporal Munday, a wretched character, whose original crime was that he was absent without leave for 12 days. The reason for his absence was that his mother was seriously ill.
§ Mr. Mellish
I hope that in this case the hon. Gentleman and his Department will bear in mind that it is impossible for the average Englishman to understand why such harsh treatment should be meted out in what appears to be, on the surface, a straight-forward, honest case, and particularly why there should he injustices and heavy sentences out of proportion to what would apparently be meted out in civilian life.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) referred to the discipline of our troops in Cyprus. He said that he was anxious to get peace in Cyprus, yet he wanted to kick the Greeks out of their houses, putting our troops in the houses and making the Greeks live under canvas. To get peace in Cyprus it would be much more logical to leave the Greeks in their houses and to have the Army show more imagination. Our troops have been in Cyprus long enough to have decent conditions by now.
It is unforgivable that our troops should have been in Cyprus for so long and yet not have adequate accommodation. The Cyprus story is very sad and desperate. 1175 and if troops are still in tents the Army should be thoroughly ashamed of itself. Men who have served in Cyprus in such conditions return home and what they say to their friends is propaganda against the Army. We will not get increased recruitment against that sort of background.
Our troops have just returned from Jordan. Was any effort made to see that they got good conditions while they were in Jordan? Questions were asked about this, but we did not get satisfactory answers. When our men were serving in the heat of the desert, what arrangements were made to get them decent living conditions? In this atomic age, was imagination used in an effort to provide the men with air conditioning? I will bet that all that happened was that the men were issued with canvas tents and told, "Stay there until King Hussein says you can go home." I am not now dealing with the political arguments in these cases. I am saying that men who serve in bad conditions do not become good advocates for recruitment and I ask the Secretary of State to bear that in mind.
We have been somewhat confined today by having to keep our debate within the strictures which you laid down, Mr. Speaker. We will have to consider this matter of being confined to a mere skirmish around the subjects of recruitment and discipline. We will have to see whether we cannot have a debate which is more than a preliminary to the Army Estimates. It is a pity that we have not been able to deal in detail with the Grigg Report, which would have been very relevant and useful to this debate. I hope that the answers we get from the Government will show that their recruitment figures are to be justified by their actions so that we will get a worth-while Regular Army.
§ 6.33 p.m
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
We have heard a great deal about discipline in the Army. The purpose of the Bill is to put into operation certain rules and regulations which will secure discipline so that ordinary soldiers obey superior officers. I have not been able fully to understand when discipline begins. I presume that some military authorities would be able to explain to me that if two private soldiers met in the 1176 canteen and organised a petition to the commanding officer to remove the sergeant major, that would be an offence against discipline. Equally, I believe that if two lieutenants or two majors came to the conclusion that their commanding officer was inefficient and incompetent, they would not be able to go to the general and ask for his removal.
However, at what point does that process end? I have taken a great deal of interest in the recent memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery and in what he says about how discipline works in the higher ranks. It is quite wrong for ordinary soldiers to conspire to remove superior officers, but it appears to be in accordance with Army discipline for a field marshal to try to organise a conspiracy to unseat a Minister of Defence. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who knows something about this matter, is absent, because I should like to have had his expert advice about the point at which the disciplinary regulations of the Army come into operation. Apparently, they operate to prevent insubordination among the lower ranks, but break down when a high-ranking officer seeks to use his influence against a Cabinet Minister.
I am very pleased to know that there is a prospect that National Service will end in 1963. We are told that recruiting figures give us reason to believe that that will be so. As an opponent of conscription, I am very glad to know that there is some prospect of National Service ending, and I believe that that feeling will be shared by the great majority of people, especially young people, who look forward with dread to the prospect of being called up to do service which many of them now believe to be unnecessary.
The Secretary of State stopped at the most interesting point. He was confident that recruits would join the Army at such a rate that the target of 165,000 would be reached. He went on to say that sufficient officers were not coming forward. As an amateur strategist, I am puzzled to know what is to become of the Army if there are 165,000 men and not enough officers to run the Army.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that it would be out of order for him to deal with officers under 1177 the Bill, because the Bill does not refer to them. Officers are governed by the Prerogative. The hon. Member is equally out of order in pursuing the subject now.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am sorry to have strayed beyond the bounds of order, but I cannot understand how the Regular Army is likely to be efficient if it is not able o act as an Army is supposed to act.
I agreed with a great deal of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton said. Discipline in Cyprus would be considerably improved if the women and children were brought home. I carry that further and say that Army discipline would be greatly improved if the men were brought home, too. We have frequently been told that the Socialists are out to destroy family life, but I can see nothing more likely to destroy family life than sending the women and children away and leaving the men there.
I remember that when Cyprus first came under consideration, the previous Minister of Defence answered one of my questions about the discipline of a Scottish regiment. I asked why a certain Scottish regiment was being sent to Cyprus. That was over three years ago, and the reply I got was that it was only a temporary emergency. What sort of effect will it have on the discipline of the Army when soldiers realise that the people who send them to different places in the world have completely miscalculated events? There would he a great feeling of relief at home if not only the women and children but also the men were to be brought home from Cyprus.
I also agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton that much will depend upon the way in which we reduce our overseas commitments. Surely those commitments are considerable, and need to be cut. If Field Marshal Montgomery is right we are now spending an enormous amount of money in maintaining the Army in Germany—
§ Mr. Speaker
There is nothing about that matter in the Army Act. This is a Motion to continue the Army Act for another year, and I have ruled that the discussion must be on matters which are in that Act. The Act contains nothing about Field Marshal Montgomery, or about foreign commitments.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not understand this discipline business. I bow to your Ruling, 1178 Mr. Speaker, but I do not see how an ex-Minister of Defence, who has been in the upper hierarchy of government, can make an observation on military affairs and remain in order while a poor private like myself cannot do so.
§ Mr. Speaker
I can deal only with my own Rulings and what I hear myself. I did not have the pleasure of hearing the greater part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I heard only his concluding remarks, about which I had occasion to ask whether the court-martial that he was inquiring about had been confirmed. He said that it had been. I now have the pleasure of listening to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I am dealing only with his speech at the moment. I hope that hon. Members will try to keep their remarks relevant to the Act, and endeavour to show why or why not it should be continued. That is the subject before the House.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am sorry that you did not have the pleasure of listening to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton, Mr. Speaker. I understand that if you had heard him he would have been disciplined at an early stage, and in that case I would not have been led astray.
Discipline in the Army must surely be affected by the opinion which soldiers hold of their officers. Discipline must suffer if the lower ranks have not sufficient confidence in the judgment of their superior officers. Field Marshal Montgomery's observations on the Army include the statement that officers are so overworked that they have no time to think. How can there be reasonable discipline in the Army when the lower orders read an observation by a high authority that the officers in charge of the whole organisation have no time to think?
I agree with Field Marshal Montgomery. Obviously, the officers do not have time to think. It is because I do not think that a large section of our youth should be under the control of officers who have no time to think, or of a Government or Ministers who have no time to think—and show no sign of learning how to think—that I look upon all these preparations with considerable misgivings.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has been referring to Field Marshal Montgomery and his observation that officers have no time to think. In that case, how does he expect field marshals to have time to keep their diaries, and so write their books?
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Julian Amery)
Our debate has centred upon two main issues—the first being recruiting and the second discipline, with particular reference to Cyprus. A third question of whether officers have time to think has now been raised. I will not, however, dwell upon the last of these three subjects, because I am not clear to what provision of the Army Act I would hitch it.
In our debate last year, the party opposite and a certain number of my hon. Friends approached the prospect of recruiting with some pessimism. It was widely thought—certainly by the Front Bench spokesmen of the party opposite—that we had not moved fast enough in providing those inducements which would provide the requisite number of recruits. Winding up the debate from the Front Bench opposite, the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said:On most of the major issues that have to be settled if recruiting is to be stimulated, we are no further forward than we were when the Government issued the Defence White Paper last April…'When are the Government going to start?'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1957; Vol. 579, c. 289]The truth is that we had made rather more headway than has been generally realised, in the House of Commons or in the country, in putting conditions of pay in the Services upon a sounder basis. The compensation terms for those who became redundant showed the spirit in which the Government were approaching the problem. The pay increases had been foreshadowed, and certain anomalies, particularly in the field of allowances, had already been corrected.
This first recruiting campaign has, in itself, given us the results which we now see. I do not quarrel with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) in the emphasis he has put upon pay, for it is a very important aspect of the matter. 1180 We have, in our own way, come fairly close to his idea of the £10-a-week private, and, with the biennial review which we have undertaken in response to the recommendations of the Grigg Committee, I think we can feel confident that that aspect of conditions in the Army will remain upon a sound and healthy foundation.
The right hon. Gentleman said that nine months is a short time by which to judge, and he thinks that the present level will not be maintained. We are in no sense unduly complacent on this matter, but I do not take the pessimistic view of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) who says, quite firmly, that we shall never again have as good a month as last September.
§ Mr. Amery
Be that as it may, the hon. Member was certainly not a very good prophet when he said that:the conclusion to be drawn from the recruiting figures points only in one direction. Unless the country is prepared to accept an Army of less than 100,000 men, some form of National Service must continue."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1957; Vol. 579, c. 253.]I cannot help getting the impression that he is doubling his stakes on a losing game.
§ Mr. Wigg
All that one can do is to make a projection on the basis of the recruiting figures as they are. The hon. Member is quite entitled to make a projection on the present figures, and if he is absolutely confident that those figures will be maintained the result is inevitable. I just do not share that view.
§ Mr. Amery
I am not criticising the hon. Member for having taken that view last year, but I am criticising him for sticking to it this year.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) asked about the ages of Regular recruits. In the short time available I have not been able to get very recent figures, but those for 1955 show that the biggest age group is between 18 and 19. That accounts for 49 per cent. The second biggest group, which accounts for 27 per cent., is of the ages from 17½ to 18. Those over 21 form about 8 per cent.
I would also say this about the figures of one out of four or one out of three in Appendix A of the Grigg Committee's Report, about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. When we have made allowance for the element in the community which is unlikely, for one reason or another, to produce potential recruits, we must attract one out of fifteen of the total number coming up into the requisite age group.
The question whether or not we shall maintain the recruiting figures depends on two factors. One of them is not in our control—the bulge in the birth rate will, in the next three years, be coming into the recruiting age groups. The other depends on the results of applying the recommendations of the Grigg Committee, on which. I think, the House is agreed that the Government have acted with commendable promptitude.
In the debate last year, very grave doubts were thrown on the utility of having a Committee at all. The hon. Member for Dudley was very sceptical of the value of the Committee and so was the hon. Member for Fulham in his speech. He said that he doubted very much whether arguments of that kind would ever be resolved by the report of a committee, however eminent. I think that we can take a rather more sanguine view.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The hon. Gentleman quoted a phrase in which he said that I used an argument of that kind. What was the particular question or argument to which I was referring?
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Gentleman had taken the view that we knew already all the factors influencing recruiting and that a committee would not get any further 1182 in fixing the priorities than the House had already done. I would maintain that the Grigg Committee in its Report has given us a very clear lead, one on which the Government have acted and, I think, which the House as a whole has accepted.
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope that hon. Members will not go too far into the Grigg Committee's Report. I said at the opening of this debate that another day had been set apart for that, and we should wait in patience until that day comes round. Really it is not in the Army Act.
§ Mr. Amery
I was going to say that I feared that if I went any further on this I should be trespassing on the debate which we shall be holding at a future date. For the same reason, I must not say too much on the subject of accommodation, although that has been touched on by hon. Members.
In answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) on the need for making the accommodation attractive in outlying parts, I can say that I was very impressed in my recent tour of South-East Asia by the progress made. This was particularly so in Malacca, where the buildings will be, I think, of an extremely attractive character.
There has been a certain amount of discussion on the problems of discipline. On the subject of "bull", which is related to that of discipline, the Grigg Committee gave us a pretty clean bill. We were able in the Army Estimates debate earlier this year to indicate some of the reforms which we were introducing. I think that the pressure which has been exerted from both sides of the House against "bull" over the last few years has had very full effect, and I should like to endorse what my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of the debate, that we must be careful not to fall into the other error of getting too lax in our standards. Discipline is, of course, simply the rules of order of the Army. We have had quite a good exercise in the debate this afternoon on keeping within points of Parliamentary order.
On the subject of courts-martial, about which I was asked for some figures, I would say that there is no very clear trend up or down over the last three years. The percentage of courts-martial 1183 to the strength of the Army has been something under 2 per cent.—1.2, 1.28, 1.19 per cent. over the last three years.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
When I was in the Army I had the unfortunate experience of coming before a court-martial. Courts-martial then had to consist of officers. How are we to have courts-martial if we have not sufficient officers?
§ Mr. Amery
I would be trespassing on the rules of order if I were to discuss how we are to supply enough officers, but I am satisfied, as is my right hon. Friend, that we shall overcome the problem.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing, speaking of discipline, pointed out that there is a very strong tendency for those units and corps which have the strictest discipline to get more recruits. This is a fact with which all those who have studied military problems will be familiar. I was struck when in the South-East Asia theatre recently to find that a unit of S.A.S., which could only be joined by volunteers, had the boast that there were more sergeants outside the sergeants' mess, who had come down in rank to join the S.A.S., than there were sergeants in the sergeants' mess. I think that it is common experience that morale is always higher on active service where conditions of discipline are inevitably more stringent. There has been discussion on discipline, particularly in relation to Cyprus.
§ Mr. Amery
Because they would hardly be in order.
I should like on the question of discipline in Cyprus to say how very struck I was, and how glad I think we all are, that this delicate and, in many ways, controversial matter was discussed with a very wide measure of agreement on both sides of the House. There was only one political issue raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West, with which I must disagree. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of events which he referred to as being the responsibility and fault of the Government. I must make it quite clear that there have been no serious breaches of discipline, and I am bound to say to the right hon. Gentleman that, if there were to be at any time in the future, it 1184 would be quite wrong to lay the responsibility and fault entirely at the Government's door. The Opposition have to bear their share of responsibility for having given encouragement, no doubt unwittingly, to those forces in Cyprus which are responsible for the emergency. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Surely that is enough about Cyprus. I do not see anything about it in the Act which we propose continuing.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understood that the hon. Member was answering something that was said in the course of the debate. I allowed that to be said because it is very hard to stop an answer being given. If it was not said, of course I am wrong, but I understood from him that something of that sort was said. I do not think that it should go further.
§ Mr. Strachey
The hon. Gentleman seems to think that I was saying that Government policy had resulted in breaches of discipline in Cyprus and he denied that there had been such breaches. I said most carefully that I did not know. I have not the evidence on Famagusta. I am saying, and surely the hon. Gentleman cannot deny this, that it is Government policy which is responsible for the fact that there are nearly 30,000 troops in Cyprus in this situation and that has inevitably serious consequences upon the discipline of the Army. That is all I say as to the Government's responsibility and that, I should have thought, was not in dispute.
§ Mr. Amery
I was merely observing that the policy of the Opposition was to some extent responsible for our keeping 30,000 troops in Cyprus.
To turn from this more controversial issue to the serious internal security problem confronting the Army, I think that, on the whole, there will be no disagreement that the standards of discipline 1185 maintained in Cyprus have been extremely high. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said that discipline depended upon confidence in the Higher Command. I think that the high standard of discipline of our soldiers in Cyprus is attributable to confidence in the higher command. I hope that the House will remember the words used by the hon. and learned Member when he said that if we have more consideration for the enemy than for our own men we shall not get discipline in the Army.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am trying to recollect the words used by the Under-Secretary. As I recollect it, he said that we have 30,000 British troops in Cyprus today because of the policy of the Opposition. That is an absolutely scandalous and outrageous thing to say. All the time we have been arguing against our men being kept in Cyprus—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The question of Cyprus and Government and Opposition policy in Cyprus ought not to have been raised by hon. Members in this debate.
§ Mr. Amery
I was answering a comment made by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West.
I do not think I should add anything further regarding the court-martial case over the distribution of anti-E.O.K.A. leaflets to which several hon. Members have referred, beyond saying that any observations they have made will be looked at carefully.
The question of the presence of families in Cyprus is a difficult one and two issues are involved. Having the families there presents certain problems for the security forces in protecting them. On the other hand, if they are not present, morale may suffer and, at any rate, the advantages and pleasures of family union are lost. It is, therefore, necessary to balance the factors carefully. Is it better for the Army as a whole that the troops should have their wives and children with them in spite of the risks? After all, they are not very great risks. 1186 Or is it better that the families should not be there? On balance, we take the view—I think that on reflection hon. Members would agree—that it would be wrong to withdraw, by compulsory Governmental decision, those families which are at present in Cyprus, and that it is better for morale that they should remain there.
§ Mr. Amery
I am coming to that.
We have made it possible for all those who are anxious about their families, to repatriate them to England at public expense without prejudice to their being able to return should the character of the emergency change or if it should end completely. They can return to Cyprus at public expense provided that the officer or other rank concerned still has the statutory period of six months to serve in Cyprus.
It is true that in July we decided not to allow any more families to go to, Cyprus so as not to add to the burden on the security forces. I see no inconsistency between the decision arrived at in July and the decision to allow families already in Cyprus to remain there. We hope that conditions may soon be such as to allow families to go to Cyprus again and think it would be a great mistake to withdraw by Government decision the large numbers at present in Cyprus, when there is a reasonable hope—
§ Mr. Mellish
Surely there must be great aggravation among troops whose families are not allowed to go to Cyprus when they see the families of other men already there? It is wrong to say that there is, nothing illogical about that decision. It is ridiculous.
§ Mr. Amery
I see no inconsistency in it. If the situation improves, we shall review the decision and it may well be that we shall again be able to allow families to go to Cyprus in the future.
The hon. Member for Dudley referred to a case of looting in Famagusta the other day. There is a court-martial pending, and therefore the case is sub judice and the hon. Member will understand if I do not comment on it. I can tell him, however, that the money concerned was from regimental and not from public funds.
1187 The hon. Member also referred to the need to build up sympathy between the troops and the Greek community in Cyprus. Where the British Army is concerned that is a natural thing. The other day there was a rather serious fire in Nicosia. The Army turned out, and not only did the troops do their normal duty in helping the civil power to put out the fire but there were many instances of the soldiers doing a great deal to help individual Greek families to save property and even lives.
I think we are agreed that the general standard of British Army discipline remains high. I think, also, that we are agreed that the prospects for recruiting are good, though there may be a difference among us about how good they are. The reforms recommended by the Grigg Committee and those undertaken before that, in the period since the White Paper was published in 1957, may be said to constitute a charter for the Regular soldier. We consider that the recommendations of the Grigg Committee not yet accepted are a signpost to the main problems remaining to be reviewed.
In view of what has been happening in other parts of the world, I think it important that our debate today has confirmed our traditional belief, and the efficacy of that belief, in Parliamentary control over the Armed Forces.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Draft Army Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 28th October, be approved.