§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget
Before the Adjournment intervened. I was discussing the question of an African Army, because I believe that this provides probably the best hope that remains of getting a multiracial society. Drill is something which the Africans greatly enjoy, and they become intensely loyal to their regiments and to those who lead them. When they return to civilian life they establish themselves as the best of citizens. Indeed, the old soldier from the King's African Rifles is the main reason why Mau Mau did not spread to other tribes.
An African army can do something else. It can create a bond of confidence and affection between the Africans and the European officers and N.C.O.s who serve in that force. One of the things which greatly impressed me when I was in Kenya was that young Kenyans born and bred in Kenya and who had taken part in the activities occasioned by the Mau Mau rising did some dreadful things and showed an attitude, which I also met in Rhodesia, which amounted to a total lack of understanding of the Africans whom they have not really met although they had lived in their country.
Some very savage things were done, but in the process of the rising those young men served with Africans. Their lives depended on the loyalty of the men with whom they served. An affection between them grew up, and the staff of the 346 rehabilitation centres was largely composed of young Kenyans who had discovered the Africans through their service and who had gained a genuine love for them and a devotion to their service. That was exceedingly impressive.
For many countries the process of nationhood has been through an army. The first function of a society, the way it comes together, is defence. It is a mutual reliance in service which builds up the bonds which make a society. In Africa that is a function which has yet to be performed. Thus, not merely from the point of view of the Army, but also from the point of view of Africa, it is tremendously important that we relieve the Army—this expensively equipped firepower force which we have created—of its African commitments. The organisation of the modern army is unsuitable to that sort of commitment which requires men but not fire-power.
We want to relieve the Army from being misemployed in that sort of service and to create a force in Africa far cheaper but bringing imense benefits to Africa and capable of relieving the Army of the African commitment, the Aden commitment and, to a great measure, the Gulf commitment. We require troops organised for relatively primitive war when plenty of men are needed. I urge the Government at this time when, with the cuts in the forces, there are plenty of officers who have had to break their careers and with whom the Government have broken faith, and when there are plenty of N.C.O.s, to take this step now, for never again shall we have this opportunity.
§ Mr. Soames
I am genuinely seeking information. Before the debate was interrupted, the hon. and learned Member was speaking about a police force which he 347 wanted to see in being to take over some of the Army's internal security tasks. I did not catch whether he said that that force should be 45,000, or 4,000 to 5,000.
§ Mr. Paget
I said about 4,000 to 5,000 as being the sort of size which I visualised. Of that force, half would be regularly stationed here undergoing intensive police training, while half would be on attachment in the various Colonies, so that whenever reinforcements were required they would join people of their own organisation who would have the internal experience and know the job. I believe that a force of that size would relieve the Army of a commitment which in such conditions as Cyprus has run to 30,000. I think that a trained police reserve of 4,000 or 5,000 would have been more valuable than all those troops in Cyprus.
We now have a tremendous opportunity with the African Army, but I am frightened that this opportunity will be lost largely because of the overlapping Ministerial responsibility. The Colonial Office will want the Army to pay for it and the Army will want the Colonial Office to pay for it. Because neither will feel that it is entirely its show, this opportunity will be lost and we shall, at much greater expense to ourselves, maintain a European brigade in Kenya. That will weaken our capacity to strengthen our N.A.T.O. commitment, which must be strengthened as the nuclear stalemate sets in.
Another place in which I feel that the Army is being misused is Hong Kong. It is perfectly plain that in military terms Hong Kong is wholly indefensible. That is not the whole answer. The existence of a force capable of creating a resistance may act as a deterrent, even though that resistance cannot be successful; but I believe that that applies only if the resistance can be in any way prolonged to provide an opportunity for negotiations, or if it is sufficient to force the enemy to make a considerable build-up. If these conditions applied in Hong Kong, I could see a reason for a military force there, but they do not.
Geographically, the Hong Kong positions are utterly and completely indefensible. Even if the Chinese used only almost similar numerical forces they could overrun them. The defence of Hong Kong, as I think will be agreed can only 348 be a matter of 24 hours. In those circumstances, I see no object at all in committing military forces to an untenable position in which they cannot provide the resistance which would allow a situation to develop and maybe provide room for negotiation. What we need in Hong Kong is a considerable force able to guarantee internal order. One thing which we must not allow to develop in Hong Kong is an internal situation which invites Chinese intervention. That is the most we can do by force.
The retention of Hong Kong depends ultimately on the fact that our presence there is very useful to China. We must be able to maintain internal order, but I would say that internal order is not the job of the Army. It is a job which it is very ill-fitted and fantastically extravagant to perform. Of course, we cannot do what I suggest tomorrow. Until we have something else we have to maintain troops there.
I would say that the other task which we should set out to do is to build up a Hong Kong internal security force which is permanently there. The tremendous expense of maintaining a military situation at that distance is caused by the fact that as many troops are in the pipeline, going on leave and coming back from leave, as are being employed. An internal Hong Kong force, which could be partly but not necessarily all European, should be built up there to relieve the Army of that responsibility. That would save a brigade.
Another and smaller responsibility of the Army is the West Indies. Again, we could have a West Indian Regiment, which would be exceedingly good for the West Indians. It would help to solve their unemployment problem. Finally, many jobs in the Army are not fighting jobs. They could be performed by West Indians and Maltese. In the Navy the stewards and cooks are often Maltese—and they are far better than the English. I understand that it is precisely in the cooks branch that difficulty has been experienced, and we have heard complaints today about batmen. We ought to be able to get as many Maltese as we want for these jobs, and they would be thankful to provide the service, which they can perform admirably.
I now turn to the rôle of the Navy. It seems impossible to imagine a general 349 submarine war with Russia other than an atomic war. We can imagine the Russians seizing Berlin or Denmark, or doing something in respect of which they can present us with a fait accompli and challenge us to do something about it when they have atomic parity. What I cannot imagine them doing is taking an action which depends upon attrition, and which involves the stakes necessarily going up. While we have the atomic capacity, do they imagine that we shall submit to starvation without using that capacity? What sort of people do they think we are? Equally, do we imagine that they will accept defeat upon that scale when it is within their capacity to achieve their object by atomising our ports?
The Temporary Chairman
I hardly think that submarines come under this Vote. I hope that the hon. and learned Member will return to the Army.
§ Mr. Paget
I shall get to the point in a moment, Mr. Williams. At present, the Navy is being given 88,000 men. A good deal more than half of them will be occupied in this anti-submarine activity, apart from the anti-submarine escort of the Fleet, which seems to be a post mortem activity, and something which could become operative only after atomic destruction. If we cut that out it would be quite easy to raise about 20,000 marine and naval troops, trained for land operations, with light equipment. It is within the capacity of the ships that we have already got in commission and reserve to move that force in two lifts.
Is not that an infinitely more valuable contribution, both to the needs of this country in the non-atomic war and to the general security of the West? A force which could perform an operation like Suez, although I hope not in the circumstances of Suez, would be more valuable than making preparations which would be utterly inadequate for the Soviet submarine. If we provided 20,000 men, a couple of small naval marine divisions, we—
The Temporary Chairman
I am sorry to stop the hon. and learned Gentleman again and ask him to confine his argument to the Estimates before the Com- 350 mittee. I think that he is getting away from them.
§ Mr. Paget
I do not think you were here, Mr. Williams, at the beginning of my speech, when I explained that the whole speech is directed to the fact that we have to increase on N.A.T.O. commitments. I seek to demonstrate that that could be done without conscription, and at present I am showing how the commitments now carried by the Army could be dispersed elsewhere.
I have demonstrated that they can be dispersed by creating a very much smaller force, a colonial police reserve, and an African division, and by creating also two mobile marine naval divisions. The main commitments of the Army outside N.A.T.O. would then be gone. Even if it were necessary to step up our N.A.T.O. commitments from 55,000 to 100,000, and if in the future the atomic stalemate developed—we may be faced with that sort of necessity—what we produce would be capped several times over by our Allies, if we gave the lead and showed that sort of confidence.
Out of 180,000 men about 100,000 ought to be available. If neither side dared to use the strategic deterrent—and that is where we are getting to—it is very possible that we should have to use conventional weapons. We hear about 200 Russian divisions. They keep that very great number of divisions to a very large extent by economy in the equipment. The Russian army tends far more than ours to be a railway-bound army; not the one in Germany, the armies further back. Those in Russia are rail-bound.
I reckon that on the German front they could not deploy more than fifty divisions, certainly under the threat of atomic attack on their concentrations, with perhaps another 30 to 50 divisions in close reserve. If there were a mobile defence of highly qualified and trained troops, attack would require a superiority of three to one and probably more often a superiority of five to one. If we could bring into being—and it must be a British lead that did this—a N.A.T.O. force of more than thirty divisions, it should be capable not merely of containing but, in a defensive battle, of defeating anything that the Russians could throw against it.
351 I believe that that is an objective which it is worth while seeking to achieve, but we can only achieve it if we determined that this Army, which we are arming and equipping with fire power in this sort of modern war—which is immensely expen- 352 sive—and trained for dispersion, is kept for the job for which it is created and not misused in running after brigands in Cyprus or similar areas, which is not its job and which is a fantastically expensive method of seeking to achieve it.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Colonel Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has made a provocative and original speech, full of new thinking about problems which, I think the Committee will agree, should exercise all our minds. Particularly has he made some interesting remarks about the extent to which police raised in the Colonies might be able to take over the rôle which, in the past, traditionally has been performed by the British Army.
I was glad my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War interrupted the hon. and learned Member to ask whether he thought 45,000 colonial police should take over the rôle performed by the British Army for its policing duties, or whether it was 4,000 to 5,000. I thought that the hon. and learned Member said 45,000, but I was glad to find that it was 4,000 to 5,000, otherwise I should not have thought he was suggesting anything which would result in economy.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) made a very pleasant and quite constructive speech, during the course of which he lapsed occasionally into a degree of propaganda, for which we are quite ready to forgive him, but there was one thing he said on which I should like to comment. I do not suppose that anyone else is likely to comment on it, because it was slightly wide of the debate, although, coming from him, it was, of course, perfectly in order. He said that if all this country wanted from Cyprus was the establishment of military bases we could have had that long ago.
§ Mr. Strachey indicated assent.
§ Colonel Beamish
The right hon. Member confirms that that is what he said. I cannot resist asking why, if it was really so easy to make an agreement and all we wanted was to leave the Turks and the Greeks to settle their own problems and simply to remain with British enclaves well protected, that was not done when the right hon. Gentleman's party was in power? If that was possible then, I cannot see why it was not done then. It really ought to be obvious to us all, party politics apart, that the reason we have until recently 354 found it impossible to make a settlement in Cyprus was that there was no basis of agreement between the Turks and the Greeks. It is very easy to say that we could have come to a settlement with the greatest of ease, but I do not think that that was so. I am sorry the right hon. Member should have spoiled an otherwise pleasant speech by saying that.
§ Colonel Beamish
I should not like to answer that question for a few months, but I think that the prospects are excellent at the moment and I am delighted with the progress being made. I hope that the hon. Member is as well.
§ Colonel Beamish
I have reservations at the moment.
I wish to speak about the planned size of the Army, pay and conditions, with emphasis on the shortage of officers, I want to say something about mobility, particularly air mobility, and to make one or two rather random remarks about weapons and equipment.
Everyone who has spoken today has welcomed the fact that it will not be long before we have an all-volunteer, professional Army. Having been a Regular soldier myself, I have always felt, during the time that we have had National Service in peacetime, that it was wasteful, that its disadvantages easily outweighed its advantages.
For example, I believe it to be more or less true, though a slight over-simplification, that for every National Service man who is capable of doing his job as a soldier two men have to be employed—something like that. That is quite clearly a major disadvantage. Therefore, I greatly welcome the fact that the policy of the Government has led us to a position where we can look forward to having an all-professional volunteer Army.
Credit should be given where it is due, to the Government of my party for the way in which they have added to the teeth of the Army and cut down its tail. I have not got the figures in mind at the moment, but I know that, when one looks 355 at them, they are very impressive. When something like this is done, which we welcome, it is always worth while asking whether we have gone as far as we possibly can. Several hon. Members asked whether it is possible to cut down the tail still further and give the Army even more powerful teeth.
Have we cut down far enough on headquarters staffs? I remember that when I was in Singapore, a couple of years ago—things may well have changed since—I could not help noticing the number of senior officers I found there. They were all doing good jobs, but I asked myself whether there were too many of them and whether their staffs were somewhat inflated, because almost the first person I met in Singapore was Professor Parkinson, who happens to be a professor of history in Singapore. I believe that there have been quite substantial changes in Singapore during the last year or two.
t may well be, now that we are coming on to the basis of an all-Regular Army, that we have yet another opportunity to look again at the question of inflated staffs. It may be that further cuts can be made in ancillary services, also. Perhaps the size of the Pioneer Corps, for instance, is greater than is necessary with an all-volunteer professional Army. As one hon. Member opposite suggested, it may be that more civilian labour might be employed in training schools and staff colleges. I think that the coming end of National Service gives my right hon. Friend and his colleagues a golden opportunity for combing the tail even more.
I welcome very much the fact that, because recruiting has gone so well, in view of the inducements which have been given, we can look forward now to a professional Army of 180,000 instead of 165,000, but I cannot help, even now, asking myself whether this will be sufficient in terms of infantry. In 1936, when I left Sandhurst, there were, I think, 138 infantry battalions of the line. That included, I think, 10 Guards battalions. At the same time, there were 90 Indian battalions, of which 29 were Gurkha battalions.
In spite of the fact that, in those days, we had up to 50 British infantry battalions in India, it remains true that 88 British infantry battalions were available for service elsewhere. The fact also remains 356 that, in those pre-war days, we were quite often stretched to considerable distances, and it was a common complaint of commanders in different theatres that they wanted more infantry. We now have, I think I am right in saying, 61 battalions, of which three are parachute battalions. I am not counting the Gurkhas in this, although there are eight Gurkha battalions as well.
I wonder, although I cannot be sure about this, whether we can be perfectly certain, bearing in mind the difficulties which we have encountered since 1945—difficulties in Malaya, Kenya, Palestine, Korea, Egypt and Cyprus—that we are absolutely safe with the target figure which we are now setting ourselves. I should like to think that my right hon. Friend has not completely closed his mind, if recruiting goes even better than at present, to the possibility that we might aim at an Army of 200,000. I merely throw out that idea, because it is common ground between both sides of the Committee that we must make quite sure that we can carry out our commitments and that, if possible, we should like to do everything we can to avoid any kind of selective National Service.
I turn now to the question of pay and conditions of service. I do not wish to say a great deal, but I should like to begin by saying that in my opinion, as a Member of the House who, before he was elected to Parliament, served for some ten years or so as a Regular soldier, it is true to say that the Army's pay and conditions of service have never been better. That is a very sizeable feather in the cap of the Government and reflects great credit on them. It ought to be, and I am sure it is, common ground on both sides of the Committee that good pay and conditions are the only possible basis for a really satisfactory volunteer Army.
In the White Paper, Cmnd. 675, of February, 1959, the Government announced yet another step in their acceptance of the recommendations of the Grigg Committee. Both the main decisions announced in the White Paper are extremely valuable in helping to ensure that we get the volunteer Army that we want. The decision that in future pensions will normally vary with the rank held at the time of discharge and the total length of service is an excellent one.
357 The decision about the lump sum terminal grants, which will be three times the annual pension instead of being calculated on a different formula, is another very big step forward which I know will be widely welcomed in the Service.
Having said that, I should like to make a brief comment—I do not think that it will be a particularly constructive one, although I wish it could be—on my right hon. Friend's remarks about the shortage of officers. This is something which should cause this Committee grave concern. I do not know the exact figures, but I think I am right in saying that, broadly speaking, we are getting at Sandhurst only about half the officer-cadets that we need. If that is so—I believe it to be so—it is a very serious situation.
It is clear from what the Secretary of State for War said that he regards this as a major problem that has got to be faced. Certain steps have already been taken, such as the scholarship scheme, to attract more suitable young men to Sandhurst to become officers, but the Grigg Committee stated, in paragraph 262:The biggest single impediment to the recruitment of officers is the length of career now offered.It went on to refer to the career-structure.
This is an exceedingly difficult problem. It seems, prima facie, that what we want to do is to make it possible for officers to leave the Army either younger or older. That appears to be a very simple solution, but as soon as we accept that solution we begin to get a gap between the officers who stay on and the young battalion commanders there might be in these circumstances, if we made promotion faster, at 35 instead of about 42 or 43 as now. This career structure is not an easy question to decide, but I was very glad indeed to hear from my right hon. Friend that it is so exercising his mind that a new committee has been set up to consider it. I hope that it will not be long before it reports because, this is extremely important, as my right hon. Friend said. T have no doubt that the matter to which the committee will give most attention is this question of "career structure", as the Grigg Committee called it.
Two other recommendations the Grigg Committee made on this subject are on 358 page 52, Recommendations (xi) and (xii). One was about the granting of facilitiesto enable officers to gain professional qualifications or experience of industry while still serving.I am not sure whether that recommendation has been accepted or not, or to what degree it has been accepted, but it would certainly help to provide a man about 40 to 45, which is the typical retiring age, with an opportunity of finding a useful niche in industry. I hope that that will be considered by the new committee as well.
The other recommendation, Recommendation (xii) was thatan ex-regular taking up an established job in Government employment should have the option (on repayment of any non-effective benefits earned by service in the Forces) of counting that service as if it were established service for the purposes of Civil Service superannuation.If there has been an announcement about this I have not seen it, although I keep abreast of these things as carefully as I can. I thought that a very valuable recommendation which would go a long way towards persuading a young man who wished to join the Army, and go to Sandhurst at the age of 18, that he would have a reasonable prospect of gainful employment after leaving the Army.
I said earlier that I felt that the way in which the Government have accepted so many of the recommendations in the Grigg Committee's Report really is most praiseworthy. For example, they have accepted the recommendation about disturbance allowance, which has been a pinprick for officers for many years—this constant business of being uprooted from, say, West Africa, sent home to the Staff College, finishing the course, and being rushed off to Malaya. The recommendation of the Grigg Committee has been accepted and that is very much welcomed.
Another important recommendation which has been accepted is the proposal about education allowances which, again, I think, will make a substantial difference once its implications are fully understood. So I repeat that I really sincerely feel that the generous way in which the Government have dealt with most of the Grigg Committee's recommendations is something which has been widely welcomed throughout the Service and something which is bound to have its effect 359 upon the recruiting of officers, although at the moment, unhappily, things are not going nearly so well as we should like to see them going.
Next, I would say something about mobility with special reference to air mobility. Over the past few years I have asked a series of Questions about the number of helicopters available for use by the Army. I cannot help feeling that to some extent the Army has been too shut-minded about the importance of vertical-lift aircraft. I am using the term in its broadest possible sense to include helicopters and all the developments which exclude the necessity for the rotor going round above.
In speaking in these terms I am thinking of much bigger helicopters and the enormous advantages which they can provide in terms of mobility for the Army's normal peace-time law and order role. I am told that the French Army has been using 400 helicopters in Algeria, which is the main reason why they have been so highly successful in a difficult terrain against a strong and well-organised enemy. At Suez—if I may mention the word—I believe that we used about 25 to 30 helicopters with an average man-lift of five men with their light equipment.
There are helicopters beyond the prototype stage, the Westland Wessex, for example, which can lift 14 men for 80 miles, or nine men for 200 miles. I am told that it is likely to be in production by 1960 or 1961, and it could play an important role in the Army. I believe that in the next few years a good many of the road vehicles will be replaced by air vehicles, if I may put it in those simple terms.
Another medium heavy lift helicopter is the Bristol 192B. I believe that it is in the prototype stage. It would be helpful if my right hon. Friend could confirm that during the course of the debate and if, at a later stage, the Committee could be given more information about other vertical-lift aircraft in which the Army is interested. I am not only thinking of helicopters. There is the Fairey Rotodyne and even more advanced forms of aircraft which might well result in the lifting of 100 men for 100 miles, to use round figures, within quite a short time. Within 360 five or six years that might well revolutionise the mobility of the Army.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is air-minded where the mobility of the Army is concerned. There may well be a number of technical points to consider in connection with helicopters and it would be useful if we could be told more about the results which were achieved following the setting up of the Joint Experimental Helicopter Unit which was formed on 1st April, 1955, with a view to examining these problems.
Something said earlier by one of my hon. Friends may be significant, that all the aircraft in which the Army has an interest have a low priority in the eyes of the Royal Air Force. The R.A.F. has no special interest in helicopters, although it is bound to have an interest in vertical-lift aircraft of a more advanced type. I wonder whether it is advantageous to the Army—if it be the case—that the R.A.F. should have such a big say about which helicopters are available for Army use. The position may have changed since, but in reply to a Question in 1956 I was told that orders for helicopters are placed at the request of the Secretary of State for Air, who takes into account the requirements of the Army. That may cover a number of sins. I hope that my right hon. Friend is studying this matter to ensure that if helicopters have a low priority in the eyes of the R.A.F., they have a very high priority in his eyes.
I conclude with a few brief and random views about weapons and equipment. A good deal has been said about them already. I do not share the Opposition's view that things are really very gloomy in this respect. It would have been true twelve months ago, but since then astonishing progress has been made. My right hon. Friend gave figures, for example, showing the progress made in equipping the British contribution to N.A.T.O. with modern vehicles. I think he said that a year or two ago only 20 per cent. of the vehicles in the British Army in Western Germany were modern. Now, about 84 per cent. are modern. That is terrific progress in a very short lime. The vehicles and weapons appear to be coming through the pipeline at increasing speed.
These things are apt to happen. One is always posed the problem, with modern 361 weapons, of when to go into production. I have a clear recollection of the sort of mistake that can be made, though I am not entirely sure of the reasons for it. The first weapon on which I was trained when I joined my regiment in 1937 was the two-pounder anti-tank gun. We thought it a wonderful thing, and extremely accurate. I remember impressing several military attachés with a prize exhibition of smashing holes in a moving target 500 yards distant, but I have an even greater recollection of how those shots bounced off German tanks a couple of years later.
Although it was considered a most efficient weapon at the time we had gone into production with a rotten weapon which was out of date when it was produced. I do not know why that happened, but I use it as an illustration of the fact that it is a difficult matter of balance to decide when a weapon has been perfected and when to go into production. An enormous gain might be made by taking a calculated risk and saying that we will go on with an ordinary rifle or an old Vickers gun which has been in production for thirty years and is more or less the same as a weapon that has existed for sixty years. Considerable advantage might be gained by taking a calculated risk resulting in the production of the right weapon in the right quantity at the right time.
My view is that a calculated risk has been taken. I was not greatly impressed by the reasons, given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, as to why we had not felt it possible to go into production a little earlier with some of these modern weapons, but one can sum these things up by saying that a calculated risk has been taken and major economies made by reason of the fact that we are now in the middle of re-equipping the British Army with the most modern and efficient weapons which science can devise. I believe that to be true.
I mentioned the medium machine-gun because I know quite a lot about it. Since the 1914–18 war and even since the beginning of the century it has been more or less the same weapon, only that previously to the Great War it went round the other way inside. It is very heavy, accurate and efficient, but it should have been replaced a long time ago. I have 362 a clear recollection of going on a course at Netheravon in 1937 and being shown an air-cooled weapon, capable of firing on a fixed line, which was to replace the Vickers machine-gun. We are now again told that something of that kind may be coming along soon. I certainly hope so, because lugging round a Vickers gun is hard work. It is time that it was replaced.
There is only one other thing that I would like to ask about weapons, as all the other points that I should have liked to mention have already been raised by other hon. Members. Is there not more than a possibility that there may be an important rôle for a light tank for the Army in preserving law and order and policing, which we have obviously got to be willing to carry out for a number of years? There probably is, and I am thinking in terms of an air-transportable light tank. I believe that the Minister of Defence said something about this question in the Defence debate last week, but it would be of interest to the Committee to know a little more about the thinking of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War on the question of a really light tank which is air-transportable.
§ Mr. Mellish
The Secretary of State for War has already said that he is committed, as far as the Army is concerned, to the Centurion and that the Army is not to be concerned with a light tank.
§ Colonel Beamish
I did not understand my right hon. Friend to go as far as that. I understood him to say that it was his opinion, which I know to be shared by many foreign countries and by our N.A.T.O. Allies, that the Centurion is the finest medium tank of its kind in the world. I believe that view to be widely shared, but I did not understand my right hon. Friend to say that because that is a good medium tank, and because it is getting a better gun, he has closed his mind to the opportunity of getting a light tank.
I must apologise for having spoken for so long and if I have rambled from one point to another. I was trying to pick up some of the points which have been mentioned in the debate by other hon. Members, and make some comments and ask questions on them. I trust that my right hon. Friend will think that my remarks, though sometimes critical, have been, on the whole, constructive.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
I am grateful for having caught your eye, Mr. Arbuthnot. It is late, but nevertheless it is early in the debate. I hope I shall be brief in my remarks, and earn the gratitude of my hon. Friends. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Colonel Beamish) has made four specific points. I hope he will excuse me if I do not follow him on them, because I want to make three specific points of my own.
I notice that in the Defence White Paper and in the Memorandum to the Army Estimates in paragraph 10, the Minister has informed us that this month a British guided weapon regiment is to go into Europe, and that this is to be our first. I am considerably perturbed about this. I am in favour of a tactical nuclear weapon. If we have to have a modern Army and streamline the forces, we have to have up-to-date, effective and efficient fire power and keep abreast with trends, and the tactical nuclear weapon is absolutely essential.
What worries me is the extent to which we now have the absolute political right to control the use of this weapon. The Americans are already in Europe with their atomic artillery, and this is our first unit. Strangely enough, the Minister, in opening the debate, made no reference at all to our nuclear unit. I should have thought that this would be a landmark in the debate. The Minister of Defence skipped around that subject in the defence debate. We are to establish a landmark in military history by putting into the field for the first time a nuclear regiment, and the Secretary of State for War makes no reference to it at all. That amazes me. It also gives rise to suspicion.
§ Mr. Soames
I assure the hon. Member that there need be no suspicion in his mind. The modern trend in defence and Estimates debates is that weapons are talked about so many years ahead, before they come into service, that when a unit is equipped with them it has ceased to be news.
§ Mr. Mason
That could have been true about tanks and machine guns, for example, but it is not true about nuclear weapons. In last year's Army Estimates debate the Secretary of State for War, and in the Defence debate last year the 364 Minister of Defence, did not deal with this matter in any way which would lead us to believe that they were happy about this unit. The defence debate was overshadowed by the discussion of the use of the strategic weapon, the H-bomb. In the debate on the Army Estimates the Secretary of State for War did not deal with the nuclear unit at all.
§ Mr. Mason
The right hon. Gentleman went through the Memorandum almost word by word in his speech but, strangely enough, he did not deal with this unit. It gives rise to some suspicion. Now that we have the nuclear unit and now that the Americans have such units, if we have decided the shades of grey between a massive onslaught by the Russians on the West and the various small types of attack which might take place, to what extent have we delegated responsibility to the commander in the field? In the event of a certain type of military operation, has he the right to use the tactical nuclear weapons?
In introducing the Estimates the right hon. Gentleman ought at least to have mentioned this unit and to have told us whether it will be used at the express wish of the commander in the field, recognising a situation at the time, with no waiting for a political decision. Have we in the House or the Government of the day the right to veto any decision of the supreme commander in the field to us, these tactical nuclear weapons? I should be obliged if the Under-Secretary of State for War, in concluding the debate, would tell us precisely what rôle the unit is to play.
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes referred to air transport. Will the Minister tell us whether we have sufficient air transport available to move this unit quickly to other theatres of conflict—the Middle East, for instance, or any other theatre where this equipment might be urgently needed? The unit concerned will have the experience of manning the equipment, although not of using it in anger. Can we move it speedily from one theatre to another?
The right hon. Gentleman has some reason to be pleased with the figures which he gave us for the Territorial Army. We now have more than 100,000 members of the Territorial Army. That 365 was pleasant to learn, and the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to a measure of praise for it, but he should have told us precisely what rôle the Territorial Army is to play. It is a growing force. The right hon. Gentleman's measures have been successful and he has obtained increased recruiting. Now he should tell us what is the future rôle of the Territorial Army. Paragraph 59 of the Memorandum states:The Territorial Army has now taken over those responsibilities for civil defence which were previously entrusted to the Mobile Defence Corps.I have a little bee in my bonnet about the Territorial Army and the Civil Defence Corps. First, I recognise the need for Civil Defence. Secondly, I appreciate all that local authorities have done to maintain it in being and at its present standard. I am pleased that the Territorial Army is now taking over this rôle of mobile defence. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that Civil Defence is now a military operation, and that if one thermonuclear explosion took place in this country, particularly over a built-up area, the havoc, the thousands of people killed, maimed, fleeing from the scene panic stricken, the fires caused, would he such as to constitute a military operation?
Town clerks in their cubby holes in town halls cannot possibly command this type of operation. This is something for the Territorial Army. Having started this trend, will the right hon. Gentleman now give more consideration to it and speedily enlarge the rôle of the Territorial Army in this part of defence?
Thirdly, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has paid any attention to the recent Agreement between ourselves and America on the exchange of atomic energy information for mutual defence purposes—I refer to Cmnd. 537. The British Army can gain a great deal of experience from the operation of this Agreement. What training with the Americans has there been on the use of tactical nuclear weapons? Do we envisage any of our forces going to America for training there, or Americans coming here and having joint exercises with our troops? I understand that in Germany we are having great difficulty with this type of manoeuvre and that it will possibly be more difficult still because of the 366 amount of ground and space which is required for a nuclear tactical field operation.
We must remember that the Americans have a tremendous amount of experience with this matter, far more than we have, because they have been able to station their troops on the perimeter of atomic test areas and thus give them test experience. As far as I know, our troops have not had that experience. If tests are to be resumed, or, within the pending agreement among the atomic Powers, kept to a certain level below a given kiloton size, it would be a great advantage if troops could be "blooded" to atomic tests, particularly as the Americans have already had that experience in the Nevada Desert. We can benefit a great deal from that type of exchange.
I ask the hon. Gentleman to deal with these points when he winds up the debate: first, the decision, either by the Government or by the supreme commander in the field, on the use of nuclear tactical weapons in Europe; secondly, the future rôle of the Territorial Army; thirdly, how the Army can benefit from the operation of the Agreement which I have mentioned. I look forward to hearing something about those three things.
§ 11.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
While agreeing with the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) that the Civil Defence aspect must enter into the rôle of the Territorial Army, I hope that my my right hon. Friend will not make the Territorial Army concentrate completely on that rôle. I do not think that the hon. Member suggested that, but that is a dull rôle for the Territorial Army and I do not think that volunteers would he so readily forthcoming to take part in week-end manoeuvres if it were only for a Civil Defence rôle. I hope that my right hon. Friend intends to reserve a purely military rôle for the Territorial Army, because I am sure that that will have the effect of attracting far more volunteers than would be the case with a Civil Defence rôle.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on increasing the numbers of volunteers for the Territorial Army, which is very important for the future. If National Service had continued for two or three years it would have been the ruin of the 367 Territorial Army as we know it. It would have ground to a halt and I am certain that it would have been very difficult to revive the volunteer spirit. The change back to a volunteer Territorial Army came just in time to save it from collapse. So it is perhaps also important that the Territorial Army should have further units.
Some who join the Territorials are not particular what type of unit they join, but the majority pick and choose according to their particular interest. One sort of interest which should appeal to the young people of today is the sort of S.A.S. rôle, which has a glamour to which they would take very easily. It also has some advantage in that it is not an expensive rôle in which to train troops, so long as one does not take them abroad or teach them the parachute part. I should have thought a small unit of the S.A.S. type in each county area might help to get more recruits for the Territorial Army. Light infantry of that type might be useful in the Territorials and lead to recruits for the Regular Army as well.
If I concentrate on some points which are not so satisfactory, I hope that it will not be thought that I do not think the present Memorandum and Estimates are by far the most satisfactory that we have seen for a number of years. On the shortage of young officers, I believe that what the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said about military families is right, and I would urge my right hon. Friend to bear in mind the question of pensions. I have so often heard fathers discouraging their sons because of their own unhappy experiences regarding their pensions.
I was sorry to hear, in answer to a Question that I put recently, that the projected increase in the number of troops which the Regular recruiting has allowed my right hon. Friend to make has not led to any reduction in the proposed amalgamation of regiments. This is a source of great disappointment to men whose fathers and grandfathers have served in regiments, and who, because they cannot serve in those regiments, are a loss to the Army. If we could avoid those amalgamations it would lead to a larger number of men being available to join as Regular officers.
368 It has also been said that the Army pay is more satisfactory today than ever before, and I heartily agree with that. Young men do not normally join the Army for the immediate prospects of pay, but it remains true that if one were to single out any rank that is not overpaid now it is the subaltern. I believe a subaltern of six years' service can, under certain circumstances, be paid less than a corporal in the same unit. It might be worth my right hon. Friend looking at that point.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the accommodation progress he is making, and on the agreeable innovation of having photographs in the middle of the Memorandum. But I think that was a little selective with the photographs of barracks, in having the back of some old stables in Windsor and the front of some new barracks by contrast.
§ Mr. Kershaw
So the stables have gone, and the horses, too. I should also like to know where the troops returning from Cyprus are to go, and whether the plans in the Memorandum take into account the return of those 15,000 to 20,000 men.
The Minister of Supply said in the defence debate last week that a 45-ton tank was being developed. I am sure that so large an expense would not be undertaken without careful consideration, but it seems that such a large and expensive vehicle, suitable only for one theatre of war—and an atomic war—must be a doubtful proposition. With modern atomic and even conventional artillery and anti-tank guns, I should have thought that such a tank would be far more vulnerable than ever before, and that it would be necessary to armour it so heavily as to make it quite impossible for it to move across country with the necessary mobility. If it is possible for the Committee to be told, I should like to hear why so large a tank was developed.
I would also query the wireless equipment. It is well known that the provision of wireless equipment has been held back until the proper set was available, but it is very surprising to see that the amount of money concerned is very much less than it was last year. I would ask my hon. Friend whether he is satisfied that the range of this wireless set will be sufficient to enable it to take care of 369 the distances necessary to be covered following upon the dispersion caused by the threat of atomic warfare.
Lastly, I want to refer to a subject which is not often mentioned, and which, at first sight, I thought might be out of order, until I saw from one of the Votes that it was not. I refer to the Army Benevolent Fund. Not long ago I wrote to the Under-Secretary of State for War about this fund, and I understand from him that it was anticipated that the maximum need of the recipients of the Fund would be reached ten years after the war. I cannot think who could possibly have advised my hon. Friend that that would be so. Every charity, Service or otherwise, could have told him that it would not be so. The further we get from the end of the war the greater will become the need of those people who receive pensions consequent upon their injuries, illnesses or misfortunes. Nobody would agree that this need would die down ten years after the end of the war.
I should like to know what case experience the fund has; whether it deals with individual cases or only contributes to other charities, like the War Office itself. I should also like to know whether the very distinguished serving and permanent officers who serve on the fund administer it in detail or just hand out bulk sums to the selected charities mentioned in the Army Estimates. It appears that this fund is being run down, and that contributions to the various other Army and Service charities are being cut back, by about 25 per cent., just when they are most required. This is an astonishing way to administer this fund. I should also like to know whether this Fund has ever asked the public for money, as the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund has. It has apparently collected money during the war from P.R.I.s, but it would seem that it has never asked the public to contribute. I want to know why that is so, and whether it will in the future.
If it is decided to continue to run this fund exactly as in the past its contributions to other funds will be cut by between a quarter and one-third, and will finally disappear altogether. What is being done with the money at the moment? Is it being invested? If so, in what? If it is not, or is invested unsatisfactorily, or only in Government 370 stocks in various sorts, would it not be more satisfactory to distribute the whole fund among the various people who are in the habit of receiving money from it? They could invest the money in equities and avoid the diminution of their resources which is about to take place.
The way in which this fund is being administered, and its contributions cut down at a time when it is most important that they should not be, is a matter which should be considered. I am certain that those hon. Members who have experience of the matter will agree that the funds established as a consequence of the First World War are still being very heavily called upon; indeed, those established after the South African War are called upon to the same extent as always because, as they get older, more people come forward wishing to take advantage of them. I hope my right hon Friend will be able to look at this matter. I do not expect to have an answer to these rather special questions about charities at this time of night, but I hope that something will be done about them.
§ 11.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield Park)
I hope that the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) will pursue his inquiries about the Army Benevolent Fund, because he made a prima facie case for more information to be given. I was, however, a little shocked to find after eight years of Conservative Government he should be advocating that money should not be put into Government stock, but transferred to equities. That seemed a rather dismal view to take of the economy—a view I endorse, but which was a refreshing one to come from the other side of the Committee.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I did not want to raise any party controversy. I very nearly said "Daltons", but I thought that I had better swallow my words.
§ Mr. Mulley
It is rather surprising, since the hon. Member said that he knew nothing about the investment of this Fund, he should now categorically say that it is invested in a particular gilt-edged stock.
To turn to a point on which there is no controversy, we on this side of the Committee all welcome the increased pay 371 and better conditions that the Army enjoys today. We also share the concern that even better conditions should be provided, particularly along the lines, about which the Secretary of State spoke, of careers after the end of Army service. While I am sure that it was not the intention of the hon. Member for Stroud and the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Col. Beamish), when they spoke of this problem, they referred only to officers. It is equally important that proper careers and future prospects should be made available for other ranks. I hope that the Under-Secretary, in his reply, will say that any plans the Government have for officers in this respect will apply to other ranks as well.
I wish to say something about equipment, because I was staggered by a recent intervention of the Secretary of State, who said we talk so much in advance in the Army Estimates debates about weapons which do not exist that when some actually get down to the units that is no longer news. I submit that when these weapons get to a unit it is news, because that is something which is almost unique. This year the Government are making a virtue out of past negligence. It is true that in the past year 80 per cent. of the vehicles in B.A.O.R. have been replaced. It is true that this year we hope we shall see half the Army equipped with the F.N. rifle, but these advances in equipment only underline the negligence of the years before. Surely no one would have been bold enough to say that there was no occasion to believe that B.A.O.R. or the British Army would be called upon to defend this country or the N.A.T.O. Alliance over the last seven or eight years?
While the Government may take some praise of doing something about it now, it points to great negligence in the past. I realise that there is a time lag between proving a prototype and getting it to the men in the field, and even longer before the men have actually learned how to use it, but that makes it even more urgent to get into actual service as soon as possible the weapons which are approved.
I hope that B.A.O.R. will be given absolute priority in the supply of the F.N. rifle. While the Secretary of State was a little more encouraging today than the Minister of Defence was recently about 372 European interdependence and the desire for standardisation, they know perfectly well that the British troops in Cyprus have the F.N. rifle with standard 300 ammunition, whereas British troops in Germany are the only troops now in the Alliance with a different weapon and different ammunition from others in N.A.T.O. While, on the one hand, people have been trying to plan an interdependent organisation for supplies, the fact that the basic round is different for one country from what it is for others has been the cause of a very great deal of adverse criticism in Europe during the past year or two.
I agree with the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and other hon. Members during the defence debate, that it was very surprising that the Minister of supply sought to explain the delay in the re-equipment of the Army by the need to get rid of National Service before any decent equipment could be brought in. I have the quotation here if there is any dispute about it. It is very necessary that the Under-Secretary should deny that there was any deliberate intention on the part of the Government to let the National Service boys use up the old weapons without regard to the fact that they were placed in combat zones and theatres of war ill-equipped to do the job they were sent out to do. It seemed to be a shocking revelation, and I hope that the Government will make a clear statement about that tonight.
Another matter which is of very great importance to our troops in Germany is the availability of training areas. I was in Germany last autumn and I had the opportunity of talking about this matter with both British and German military and civil authorities. There is no doubt that there is a traditional hostility in peacetime between any civilian and any soldier on the question of training areas, compensation for damage, and the like. But, of course, it is particularly a problem when two nationalities are involved, and I feel that a great deal of harm has been done to Anglo-German relations by squabbles and difficulties in this respect.
There seems to be a widespread view that foreign troops do not mind how much damage is done because they do not have to pay. That, of course, is 373 wrong, although it has not been pointed out clearly enough. I understand that the support costs are reduced by the amount which has to be paid out in compensation. Germany is a densely populated country. The amount of available and suitable land for Army manoeuvres on a large scale is very limited, and I hope that the Government will support other Governments in trying to find alternative areas in some of the other N.A.T.O. countries which could be used as well.
A great deal needs to be done to improve public relations so that the soldier, for his part, understands the civilian's point of view, and, equally, so that the German civilians appreciate that there is not much point in having soldiers—whether they be their own or of the other N.A.T.O. countries—in Germany to defend Germany if they are denied the very necessary opportunities for training and using their equipment. The Assembly of Western European Union passed a resolution on this subject and sent it to the Council of Ministers. I hope that our Ministers there will endeavour to find a solution to what seems to be an extremely difficult problem. I understand that the restrictions are often so severe that mechanised units have the chance to drive their tanks around only perhaps once or twice a fortnight, which has a frustrating effect on the interest of all ranks in acquiring a mastery of their weapons.
I wonder whether the Under-Secretary can say something about the organisation of the Army, particularly in Germany, in the matter of the new formations. We all know that in the new conditions of a possible nuclear war it was desirable that some reorganisation should take place. The traditional division was clearly not the best structure for the nuclear war Army. Wider dispersal was needed, and controlled mobility. I think that the objective was to find the smallest effective self-contained unit. The United States went in for the pentomic division, which has been broadly followed by Belgium, France and the Netherlands. We developed the brigade group structure. More recently, the Germans have developed a rather similar brigade group structure. I understand that the whole question is being studied by General Valluy, for S.H.A.P.E., and I 374 hope that we may learn some of the conclusions which have come from the study.
While it is obvious that we cannot expect every nation to have its army organised in exactly the same formations, if we are to serve as Allies under one command there must be sufficient compatibility between the various units for one to know that a Belgian division, a British division, or a series of brigade groups will represent roughly the equivalent fire-power and that if need be there could in emergency be interchangeability of command. I hope that we may have the Government's views about this and the future of the brigade group formation.
I wish to take up the question of the tactical use of nuclear weapons. I should make it clear that I welcome the sending of the Corporal regiment to Germany. The view I have always taken of this is that if we are to have defence it has to be efficient and effective. I was a member of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force of 1939–40, and I would never wish anyone else to go against an enemy vastly superior in every category of weapon and equipment. If the enemy has these weapons, I believe that we must have them.
At the same time, this raises the very important question of the decision and the authority for the use of such weapons. As I understand the position, the authority in N.A.T.O. is vested in SACEUR personally and that no subordinate commander could authorise the use of the tactical nuclear weapon. I shall be glad to have this confirmed. I should also like to have the Government's views on what seems to me to be a very important distinction between the initial use of such weapons, the very first Corporal to be fired, and the subsequent channel of command if the worst happened and we found ourselves engaged in a nuclear war.
As I said in the defence debate, I believe that it is impossible to compare these tactical nuclear weapons with any kind of conventional artillery. I understand that the smallest of the nuclear warheads is half the size of the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima. Many warheads are two or three times that size. I do not think anyone can suggest that the decision to make the first use of such weapons is one which should be left to 375 a military commander in the field, and I ask, therefore, whether the Government have taken any steps to get some political directive or political channel of authority so that the first use of the nuclear weapons, not only of the British Corporal or the American Corporal, but of any other tactical nuclear weapon which may find itself in Germany in the next year or two, should be the result of a political decision or within a framework of a political directive, and not left possibly to a military commander who may decide on the use of such weapons on the basis of inaccurate information.
Obviously, from the purely tactical point of view the best target for a nuclear strike is the concentration of the enemy when he is massing troops prior to an attack. The possibility of a nuclear war starting from an error of judgment seems to me sufficient to warrant the taking of every possible safeguard to avoid it. I take the view that once a tactical nuclear weapon is discharged it would be extremely difficult, considering the size and nature of the weapon, to prevent that from spreading to a complete nuclear conflagration.
In Germany, I was very much concerned by the attitude which I found there to this question of a limited war. The current military theor—no doubt it is current, too, in the War Office—is, or was a few months ago, that the only kind of war to be foreseen is a nuclear war. I was told that the British troops there could hold up an attack of two or three divisions for probably two or three days without resort to nuclear weapons. The whole of the thinking seemed to me to be along the lines of the use of tactical nuclear weapons. That seemed to me to be extremely distressing. The Germans, on the other hand, seemed very aware of the possibility of limited war. In the present conditions of Central and Eastern Europe it seems to me that the possibilities of, at any rate, a local incident or something of that sort creating a limited attack are sufficient not to be ruled out. The Germans were much more realistic about this than our own military commanders.
I know that the objection will be taken, "It is very expensive and we cannot hope to arm our people for two kinds of war." But that is not necessary. If one examines 376 in detail the armament of the German brigade group and our own one sees that while they are training and prepared for both conventional and nuclear war and we are training, as far as I can see, wholly for nuclear war, the conventional artillery is, in proportion, the same in each. There is no need, if we face the possibility of limited war, to change the armament of the brigade group. All we need to do is to put in the training, and, in the thinking of our military commanders there, more emphasis on this possibility.
As I said in the defence debate—I do not want to repeat the arguments now—there is a grave danger of a nuclear stalemate. We have reached the position now where anyone in the West who takes the decision to use the strategic nuclear deterrent knows that, as a consequence, several cities in the West will certainly be wiped out. In a sense, it would be a decision to commit suicide. Therefore, I think that there is increasing need for what has been called the N.A.T.O. shield in contradistinction to the sword of the deterrent.
I know that people say it is unrealistic to suppose that 30 N.A.T.O. divisions would be able to cope with over 200 Russian divisions, but that is not the problem. No one envisages that 200 Russian divisions would be brought against our 30 divisions in opposition along a central front. I could never envisage a war starting in which the Russians would summon their divisions in a long line and someone would blow a whistle and off they would go to war. Surely that is completely unrealistic. I do not think that a frontal war of that kind would start. It is more likely, if the Russians decided to start a war, that it would be one of a surprise, strategic attack rather than trying to line up 200 divisions along a front.
I understand that there are 22 Russian divisions in East Germany, 18 of them mobile and armoured; that there are two in Poland and that, in addition, there are seven East German divisions. Even if they have reinforced them by stealth, I do not think that on a central front at the beginning of the aggression we should have to face more than 50 divisions. I think that a ratio of two-to-one, two attackers against one defender, is a quite realistic position. If we get 30 divisions, 377 it would be more like a ratio of three attacking against two defending.
It is remarkable how the advantage of the defender has increased over the period of military history. I was reading an interesting paper by Captain Liddell Hart, an outstanding military historian and one of our great military experts, on the ratio of force to space. He calculated that at the Battle of Waterloo the density of the line was about 20,000 men to the mile. In the Franco-German war the figure had dropped to 12,000. In the First World War it was between 3,000 and 6,000 men to the mile. In 1940, we went back a bit, as we generally do at the beginning of a war, to the worst features of the previous war, and the figure was 6,000 men to the mile. As the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) said in his interesting speech in the recent defence debate, it was not the failure of the Maginot Line which caused our defeat in 1940; it was because of the original use of mechanised divisions by the Germans and the new tempo of war which was not appreciated by the Allied commanders, on the one hand, and the complete neglect on the part of the Allied commanders to anticipate an attack in the ArdennesS—
§ Mr. Antony Head (Carshalton)
The hon. Member referred to Captain Liddell Hart as an eminent historian. He will remember that before the 1939 war Captain Liddell Hart was one of the foremost advocates of the fact that the strength of defence was so great that any attack in any future war would be a stalemate.
§ Mr. Paget
Strictly that is inaccurate. What Captain Liddell Hart said was that if any attack was attempted with infantry the capacity of the defence had become overwhelming. But if an attack was made with armour and parachute drops, there was a great prospect for an attack. And after all, General Guderian said in his book that his scheme was entirely based on Liddell Hart's teaching.
§ Mr. Mulley
I should trespass too far on the indulgence of the Committee if I went into a lengthy debate on points of view before the last war, but I know from my personal experience in the 2nd Division, the first British troops in Belgium, that we did not see a German until we retired into France again because of the failure to protect our flanks. Whatever may be said about Captain 378 Liddell Hart's views on paper before the war, a lot can be said about the strategy of Allied generals in command of operations on the ground. But I think that the point is valid that successful attack needs, both in armour and in numbers, to be very much superior to those in defence and that that general principle still applies even though one might argue about the numbers.
In Normandy, I understand, we rarely attacked successfully unless we had a superiority of five to one. On the other hand, on the Eastern front the Germans were often able to hold Russian attacks where the Russian superiority was seven to one. I make this point to show that it is quite feasible, having regard to the time factor in amassing more than 50 divisions against us on the central front, that we could hold out against a Russian attack by conventional means. Obviously, if there is an out-and-out offensive, our ground troops would be insufficient, but we need to ensure that it is impossible for the Soviet Union or any other aggressor to be tempted by the prospect of an easy gain.
I believe that at present, on the north of the central front, there would be a possibility of an attack across Germany to Denmark and we would be faced with a decision whether to release a strategic nuclear deterrent and commit London and New York to destruction for the loss of certain parts of N.A.T.O. territory. That is an extremely difficult decision for anyone to take. Therefore, it is much better to avoid that decision by having sufficient forces on the ground by conventional means to remove any temptation to any adventure of that sort.
The Government have not done as much as they ought to have done towards strengthening the shield. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that however we do the arithmetic the 55,000 men we have in B.A.O.R. at present are not the four divisions we have promised. I know that these days "a division" is a rather elastic term. There is such a difference between various organisations that it no longer means the same thing to different people, but it is fair to say that the minimum number of fighting men in a division is 13.000. Three brigade groups would be nearer 15,000. If one 379 allows for the necessary supply and base personnel, the minimum figure is about 17,500 to 18,000. That means that our 55,000 men in Germany represent only three divisions.
I know the difficulties which the Government face, particularly in the matter of balance of payments. It is on the record that at Western European Union I have done my best to defend the Government against some of the more outrageous charges against them, but here I cannot get away from the fact that we could do very much more. We ought to send a fourth division into Germany and get some element of leadership in Europe. For every extra British soldier we get there we have a strong moral argument to ask that some of the French divisions come back from Algiers and some of the other commitments to N.A.T.O. are maintained.
I should also like to see, as I have advocated elsewhere, all the Western European Union countries committed to place a certain number of troops under SACEUR. I ask the Secretary of State to give serious consideration to this need. I should like him and the Minister of Defence get rid of their obsession that nuclear defence is the only matter of concern and of first priority. As I have said, in a small way, in the re-equipment of B.A.O.R., they are coming round to a more realistic point of view. I would, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman not only to give priority to issuing new equipment to B.A.O.R., but to do his best to get four divisions of British troops under the N.A.T.O. shield during next year if at all possible.
§ 11.56 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I should like to follow the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in some of his remarks, but if he wishes to leave the Chamber I will not refer to them in his absence. He made one or two points about the possibility of raising a colonial police force for the purpose of doing jobs which hitherto British troops had had to do with the aid of a civil Power, which I heartily endorse.
I have found this debate to some extent encouraging, as was the defence debate the other day. It appears that if one 380 says things often enough other people eventually come to agree with them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) said, in the defence debate, that the battle was in the minds of men. I think that I first said that when there was a Labour Government between 1945 and 1950 and we had a debate on the Christmas Adjournment on the subject.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton has been urging something which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir H. Mackeson) and I once said in an Adjournment debate. I still believe that there is a great possibility of avoiding British troops having to be used in aid of a civil power if we were to take some positive steps now to raise a colonial police force rather more of the armed police type than as we know the police in this country.
On the other hand, we have to bear in mind what Field Marshal Lord Montgomery said in his book about the Palestine police and the changes which had to be made there before we finally evacuated Palestine. Certainly, I would say that the danger of having a colonial police force is that one is liable to get something which is neither one thing nor the other, such as resulted in Palestine.
What is most important in this context is to get a clear distinction between what are police responsibilities and what are military responsibilities. To attempt to employ police as soldiers results in just as many evils as attempting to employ soldiers as police. One point which the hon. and learned Member overlooked was that in many—I should say in nearly all—of the operations in Cyprus the troops on the ground have been working very much under the orders and instructions of the police. I am sure that that is the right way round when dealing with what is primarily a civil aid problem.
The hon. and learned Gentleman overlooked, too, that if we are to raise police locally for keeping law and order it is important that the police should not be put in the position in which the Greek police were placed by E.O.K.A. in Cyprus. It is known that a considerable number of the police in Cyprus were members of E.O.K.A.
381 Not enough tribute has been paid to the British constables who have often been serving in isolated positions, without any fellow countrymen with them, in police stations primarily manned by Greeks and Turks. The rôle which these men have played has been magnificent. They have had far too little credit for it. Although they are not carried on the Army Vote, I think that the Army would be the first to congratulate them on what they have done.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am sorry, Sir Gordon. I began this, and I apologise. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton does not imagine that I am not fully aware that there were many police, Greek, Turkish and British, whose conduct was magnificent. I made my comment because I wanted to answer the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton that, with a view to economising in the use of Army manpower, we should use such a police force. I wanted to point out that there is danger of falling into the kind of situation which E.O.K.A. produced if we rely too much on the police in those circumstances.
I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) was a little unfair to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in his comments on the illustrations in the Memorandum. A pleasant sense of nostalgia comes over me when I look at the picture of those barracks. It reminded me that in the first months of the war I had to get myself organised and remember that there was "a war on". I am very glad to see that there has been "a war on" against the building at the far end of these barracks. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud may not realise that the ground floor, designed originally as stables, was occupied by men for many years after the war. The conditions in which the men lived were far from good 382 enough. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton may have had some responsibility for having them improved, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary State does not claim all the credit for it.
I must make an observation about the building shown at the bottom of the picture. Why is it that British architects seem to have gone "flat-roof crazy"? Of all countries in the world, this is the country in which flat roofs should not be used. There may be some strategic purpose in this decision, although I doubt it. A flat roof gives more trouble than any other type of roof, and I am sorry to see that the Army has to endure what so many education authorities are being forced to endure.
I turn to the main points which I wish to make. The first concerns training areas, which were also mentioned by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). I want to raise, in particular, the question of the training areas which will be available to our troops left in Cyprus. I spent some months in Cyprus during the war, and I was there long enough to know that there is no more demoralising place for troops if they have not enough to do. The two base areas at Akrotiri and Dhekelia will not be big enough to keep the troops occupied, if they number several thousands.
In the Annex to the Cyprus Agreement, on page 13 of Cmnd. 679—The Declaration by the Government of the United Kingdom—one of the rights which we reserve isto use from time to time certain localities, which would be specified, for troop training.I do not know what that means. Does it mean field firing ranges, for example, or does it mean that at intervals the troops in Cyprus will be able to do formation exercises across the island? It also depends to some degree on the nature of the arms left there, whether armoured or infantry, or both. To bottle up armoured or mechanised regiments in those bases will make the men very bored.
"Browned-offness" is an experience which is never very happy and if the bases are to be the areas where most of the training is done there will be some trouble. This is a matter of extreme urgency and I hope that before any of 383 these areas are specified my right hon. Friend will give this matter his serious consideration. I also note from the Annex that we have the right to travel from one base to another at will, using the roads, and I do not take that to mean that the area between the two bases can be used at whim for training.
I want, finally, to refer to officer recruitment. I have heard some disturbing reports of what certain schools are planning to do with their combined cadet forces. Some public and grammar schools have provided a supply of young officers in the past, and it is obviously desirable that they should continue so to do. If, as I fear may be the case, some schools start cutting down their combined cadet forces, now that National Service is ending, we may lose some potentially good young officers.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to reassure us on this matter. Headmasters tend to have their own views about this subject and I doubt whether my right hon. Friend could get an agreed common policy running through all public and grammar schools, but it is very important that the Secretary of State for War should let it be known beyond all doubt that he intends to rely on combined cadet forces to a considerable extent and that he will try to encourage them.
I see that expenditure has gone up slightly this year, by about £20,000. I wonder whether that is sufficient and whether my right hon. Friend has done enough to ensure that combined cadet forces are not steadily run down over the next few years, which would be a great pity. However much some boys may dislike it, it is very good for them.
I join with others in congratulating my right hon. Friend on his presentation of the Estimates. It is significant that the debate has been badly attended. I can only suppose that everybody is satisfied. Generally, when there is likely to be cause for disgust, dismay or anxiety, the Chamber is crowded out. The fact that my right hon. Friend has been left in peace for much of the time is significant, for it means that the Government's plan is working out. It is a plan which has the general approval of hon. Members. I hope that it is able completely to work itself out and that we shall have a very 384 well equipped Regular Army at the end of it.
§ 12.9 a.m.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
My remarks will not be technical, tactical, or profound. They will be the simple remarks of a simple "bloke" asking some simple questions. I want to follow what was said by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) about the Army Benevolent Fund. Trying to trace that fund in the Estimates, I came across a reference to artificial limbs—it is curious what one can find in the Army Estimates if one tries.
Being interested in artificial limbs from my experience at the Ministry of Pensions, I wondered how they came to be mentioned in the Army Estimates. I found that I had to refer to page 129 and to Vote 7 C. However, I could find no reference to artificial limbs there, unless they are included in the expression "etcetera" I should like to know from the Under-Secretary whether the Army is trespassing on the preserves of the Ministry of Health, who, since the merger of the Ministry of Pensions and the Ministry of National Insurance, are responsible and, as far as I know, solely responsible, for providing artificial limbs for disabled people.
The Under-Secretary might also have another look at the Benevolent Fund question. How many kinds of benevolent fund have we for soldiers and disabled soldiers and for the dependants of soldiers and disabled soldiers? When I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions we had the King's Fund and were able to supplement pensions a little through that fund. There are also the various corps and regimental funds of a benevolent character, and the Ministry used to be able to call on them. Then there is the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Association, which is also benevolent. Is it not time we got together and tried to get some co-operation between all these funds?
The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) seemed to suggest for the future Army the rôle of police and scavenging. He said that the British Army in N.A.T.O. would be an ineffective unit. That is an amazing suggestion, because when the "Frogs" and the Yanks had not arrived it was the old 385 British "Tommy" who held the line. To suggest that the British Army is not, even with all the modern alterations, capable of taking its full share in any action in which N.A.T.O. is concerned is an insult, because the spirit of the "Old Contemptibles" is not dead, even if the form and structure of the Army have been somewhat changed.
The hon. and gallant member for Lewes (Major Tufton Beamish) referred to the present target of 180,000 Regular serving soldiers to be obtained by voluntary recruiting, and suggested that it should be 200,000 because we had to consider such possible future commitments as we had in Korea, Egypt, Cyprus and elsewhere. Surely, if we had a Government which did not do inflammatory things, we should not have so many Cypruses, Koreas, Suezes, and situations such as we now have in Nyasaland. The size of the Army should depend on the foreign policy of the Government. We on this side of the Committee are content with the figure of 180,000, because we know we are not far from office, and when we are in office the foreign policy we shall pursue will mean that an Army of 180,000 will be sufficient for the defence of our interests.
Before throwing brickbats I want to see how many bouquets I can present. The most pleasing aspect of the Army Estimates is the assurance in the Memorandum that conscription will end on the date formerly agreed, and the fact that there has been a great improvement in voluntary recruitment. We are told that the position of officer recruiting is not so encouraging as it is for recruiting for other ranks. I wonder why there should be two kinds of recruiting. We are told that some officers are to be sent to Sandhurst. How many working-class lads will go there? How would they feel there? They would not have the old school tie to wear, and they would probably feel entirely out of place. They might go to Welbeck, for technical training.
If two castes of officer are to be created, one at Sandhurst and the other at Welbeck, what kind of soldier will we get? It is a great mistake to divide officers into the technical and Sandhurst types. I believe in the comprehensive school for the education of our children, and I want a comprehensive college where the working-class boy with ability can go without 386 feeling out of place, and without feeling that undue class distinctions are being imposed.
What is Sandhurst today? Is it the same kind of snobbish place it was between the wars? Must those attending it have university degrees, or a good ancestry, or public school qualifications? The social set-up is a very important factor for the Army of the future. If we want a democratic Army we must create the conditions which will promote one. The lad from the slum or the ordinary working-class home must have an equal chance with the product of the public school.
Some of the age-old aids to recruiting have gone. Massive unemployment was one, and it would be interesting to know what impact the recent rather alarming increase in unemployment had on the recruiting figures. We could find out what effect it had by going to those areas where unemployment has been most prevalent and ascertaining the figures for recruiting there and comparing them with those for the other areas where unemployment has been negligible.
Another aid to recruiting is the fast-disappearing old county regiment tradition. Even such a non-military person as myself has to acknowledge the traditions of my old regiment, the Worcesters, with a cap badge motto of "Firm". It still conjures up nostalgic memories; and the strains of the old regimental march still stir my blood. That county spirit and tradition, which was formerly such an aid to recruiting, is disappearing.
Perhaps we are living in the past and do not realise that the present age has no time for sentiment. Modern youth would rather have the Corporal, Blue Streak, Thunderbird and all the mechanical gadgets of our modern armies than the Colours, the regimental march and comradeship, all of which have contributed to make the British soldier the finest in the world. With a small Regular Army it will be necessary for manpower to be effectively used. One is glad to know that, according to the Memorandum to the Estimates, the process of transferring certain duties to civilians is proceeding smoothly and, as I read it, that is likely to continue. The relation of "teeth" to "tail" is likely to be improved in favour of teeth.
387 Is all possible being done to conserve manpower? Is tradition standing in the way here, although it has been swept away in other respects? What about officers' servants? Are officers' wives' housemaid duties still done by soldiers? Recently, there was a report in the Press about an airman who absented himself because he had to wash babies' "nappies." There are two letters in this morning's Daily Mirror about soldiers doing these menial chores. One said that he even had to wash officers' wives' "undies." It is there in print.
Can we have some information on this aspect of the use of manpower before this debate ends? Why officers' servants at all? If there are to be officers' servants, why should there be servants to wives of officers, paid for at public expense and using valuable manpower? If these people want servants, let them go get them through the registry office and not take British soldiers in uniform to do these disgusting duties, make them feel small and so humiliated that they go absent without leave through having these rotten duties imposed on them.
How about the Household Cavalry, the Royal Horse Artillery and the "Debs' delights" in the Guards? I am not suggesting that ceremonial occasions should be eliminated. They are a great contribution to the tourist industry. The Yanks love them. They like to see the changing of the Guard. I am not suggesting that we should stop that. It is an attraction to tourists and a magnet to visitors to London. These gaily plumaged units of the Army are part of our tradition.
§ Mr. Simmons
I am not saying where they are; I am saying what I think of them. They are part of our tradition and I am not suggesting that they should be abolished, but that these functions could be performed by smaller numbers of men. The rarer the bird the more attractive it is. If we are to have these rare birds for ceremonial parades, let us see that we keep them to minimum numbers. Why not take them out of the category of the fighting forces altogether and put them on the Vote for the Royal Palaces?
Of course, the "Debs' delights" are in another category. They are part of the 388 fighting forces. No one who served in the First World War will dare to question the courage and bravery of the Guards regiments. We pay tribute to their great battle service for their country, but should these fine regiments have to provide escorts for the pampered pets of a decaying aristocracy and an arrogant plutocracy in an attempt to bolster class distinctions?
§ Mr. Simmons
Of course I made it up. Why not? I like to be word perfect if I can.
I saw an article in the Press the other day about how Guards officers, as part of their duties, have to take these "debs" out, running them round the town and all the rest of it. Why should an officer of wonderful regiments like that be used for this snobbish, class-distinction kind of operation?
§ Mr. Simmons
I call it an operation—a nice operation.
Another corps which might be pruned is the Military Provost Staff Corps, which is responsible, according to the Memorandum, forguarding, training and rehabilitating soldiers under sentence".How many, including officers, does this service swallow, and how effective are they? Does the "glasshouse" still exist? I would love to know that. I never quite got there. [Interruption.] I do not mind the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams). Perhaps he himself did not get there. If he had been there when we used to sit until about 8 o'clock the next morning on the Army Estimates, he would have something to grumble and growl about. I want to know whether the "glasshouse" still exists, with its futile and inhuman punishments. Do men still have to go out in full pack and carry weights around the square and do all those futile and punishing things which they did while I was in the Army?
Has there been some improvement? If there has been an improvement, for goodness' sake let the War Office take the credit for it. The "glasshouse" was a terrible punishment in the days of my youth, which are now long past, when I was a member of one of Her Majesty's 389 regiments. Has rehabilitation any real significance? I do not see how the "Red Caps" could rehabilitate anyone; they do not seem to be the sort of chaps who could help in rehabilitation. They are usually rather cocky; they go about very arrogantly. I do not see how their services could help in rehabilitating soldiers under sentence, as it is stated here. The kind of "rehabilitation" the soldiers would receive would probably be a mouthful from a serjeant-major. What rehabilitation goes on in these penal establishments of the Army?
If the increase of £3,400,000 in the expense on works is mainly due to improved barrack accommodation and married quarters that merits another bouquet, because one of the biggest factors in recruitment is the standard of housing for the soldier, whether he be single or married, in decent and reasonable conditions. The pictures opposite page 6 of the Memorandum are instructive about the outward appearance of the barracks and they show a very welcome improvement. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) complained about the flat roof, but I thought that it was probably left flat so that another storey could, if necessary, be put on top. I am not an expert in architecture, but they look better than the old barracks from the outside, anyway. What about the inside? Can we have some information about the facilities and amenities available inside the barracks.
§ Mr. Simmons
Do we still have communal sleeping, or is the new Army to be given cubicles? It would not cost much. Privacy is very precious to all human beings at one time or another.
On the whole, the new pensions proposals are good. I have looked closely at them. The Government would not expect me to let them pass without some comment, and I say that, on the whole, the pensions proposals are very good. Some of the terminal grants are most generous. One might suggest that the Tory Government are attempting to create a new capitalist class. With a little imagination one could think of a few success stories based on the possibilities now opened up to retired soldiers. It might even dis- 390 courage the literary urge so prevalent among generals and field marshals. "From brigadier to captain of industry" may well be the title of a Press interview in the near future.
Think of what could be done by a brigadier with a pension of £980 a year and a terminal grant of nearly £3,000. That would be a nice variation on the theme of the poor boy who came to London with a few shillings in his pocket and ended up a millionaire. A private with a pension of £95 6s. 8d., plus £85 terminal grant, would not be so advantageously placed in the scramble to become a capitalist, but he would have the odd 6s. 8d. to pay for legal advice on floating his company.
The blot on the scheme is the provision for widows. Widows whose husbands died before 4th November, 1958, do not get any increase. The widow of a private, corporal or sergeant therefore does not get any pension as all, and even those who now qualify get the miserable sum of 15s., 18s. 4d. and 23s. 10d. respectively. The officer's widow gets basically the same rate as existed 100 years ago, and 60 per cent. of these widows cannot qualify for a national insurance pension. Surely the cost of bringing all widows in would not be prohibitive. I am informed that the cost of increasing the pensions of widows of officers would be only £324,000. To bring in all of them would not break the bank.
The Grigg Report said that the present treatment of widows was bad for recruiting. If we want our Regular Army on a permanent basis, this is one of the things that we must deal with. I ask the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary to look at the widow provision in the scheme—I have said that, on the whole, the scheme is a very good one—and see whether they can do something for widows whose husbands did not die on just the right day or did not retire from the Army on just the right date.
I must again draw attention to the miserly provision for the holders of the Victoria Cross. It is not good for recruiting to read in the Press of the holder of a V.C. dying in poverty, or struggling to keep the wolf from the door while alive. I reiterate that no one can place a value on the Victoria Cross, or name a sum which it would be adequate 391 to pay as a pension to the holder, but the £10 pension is an insult. I implore the Secretary of State to consult the Treasury officials, or deliver an ultimatum to them, that something adequate must be done to improve the position of the holders of the Victoria Cross.
Finally, I believe that it would be a disaster if the methods of nuclear war made our Army too weak and ineffective to do the normal job of an Army—if the soldier of the line became defunct. The deterrent is the deterrent only as long as it is held in reserve, held as a very last resort. If we so weaken our striking power in conventional warfare after making it clear that we intend to rely entirely on the deterrent the potential enemy will know that we actually have no deterrent at all. A border incident or the defence of the status quo in Berlin would, in these circumstances, lead to nuclear war straight away. Personally, I have not much faith in the nuclear deterrent in the hands of several nations. In my humble opinion, it is an effective deterrent only if it is within the control of a supranational authority, and I should like to see negotiations begun between all the nations which now have the nuclear weapon to see whether it could be handed over entirely to the control and authority of the United Nations. The threat of its use without the possibility of its counter-use by the aggressor is, in my opinion, the only effective way of deterring the aggressor without destroying civilisation.
§ 12.36 a.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I do not think that I had better follow the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) in all the details with which he has dealt, not even the "Debs' delights" and the "glasshouse," but I would agree with him very much on two matters The first is that I think it is a great pity that we do not get more of the regimental spirit as manifested with the bands playing and the colours flying and that sort of thing. It is a very impressive sight to see an effective, well-drilled unit marching at its best. Fortunately, in my constituency that does sometimes happen, but only, I regret to say, all too rarely.
It has always been a great pity, I believe, that it has not been possible to 392 renew the Aldershot Tattoo, and it is sad to reflect that another tattoo, I think Woolwich, has also fallen by the wayside. It is very sad indeed, but I suppose it is just one of the things which the modern Army has to face.
I wish to say one word about the widows' pensions for the older widows. I do not think that the cost is very great, as the hon. Member has just said, though I think it is rather more than he said, but what seems to me so infernally trying is the fact that no decision has been arrived at. We have been pressing the matter, and it has been before the Government for some considerable time, and still no decision has been made. In my opinion, it is only fair that these old ladies, who suffer through no fault of their own and many of whom are below or on the subsistence line, should know one way or the other, yea or nay, whether or not they are to get an increase in their pensions. It is no exaggeration to say that the matter has been under consideration for four or five months. The amount involved is not great, but the human anxiety is very considerable, and I hope that the Government will make a definite statement upon that matter.
Let me say just a word or two on constituency matters. It is a source of great satisfaction to me that there has been a very great improvement in the Army buildings which have been built in Aldershot, but there is still a lot to be done by way of ordinary accommodation for the soldier, and, I should think, even more in the married quarters. A number of useful steps have been taken and for them I wish to thank the Secretary of State.
It is important that a strong public relations connection should be maintained with the local people in garrison towns. They should not be made to feel that anything they wish to do is being made difficult. Local councils or officials may not feel hampered in their activities, but citizens individually may experience frustration. It had been said that no Army land should be made available for other purposes in the Aldershot and Farnborough district. That is probably correct, but the reason should be made clear beyond doubt to the public. We have had a number of statements about the military importance of training grounds and what is necessary in that regard 393 but where a vast amount of land would seem to be available it should be made clear to the people living in the area that the land is necessary for military purposes.
The circumstances of "dilutees" in the Aldershot area are unfortunate. Often they have worked hard at their jobs and trained themselves, but because of an agreement with the trade unions, it is impossible for them to continue in their jobs unless there is a vacancy for them in their particular grade. I have had correspondence with the Under-Secretary on this subject and one person who was a dilutee about whom I wrote was placed in employment and was able to continue in his trade, but I realise that, in law, he has little standing.
In Aldershot, there may be sufficient employment for everyone, but I am afraid that there may be a number of cases of dilutees whose earnings will be reduced. If that is not to happen the reason should be made clear. It may be that there is room for secondary industries which would provide work for those who are not required by the Army. The local authority should encourage industry, if necessary, to come to the area so that in future there will be no more unemployment than is absolutely unavoidable, and the Service should make its position clear. These are points which should be dealt with as matters of urgency so that those who live in Aldershot may have early information of their position.
Two other matters of a different character which I should like to mention deal particularly with equipment. The first is that there does not seem to be any reference in the Memorandum on the Army Estimates to units of armoured personnel carriers. As I understand, in any future nuclear war we shall need a good many of these to enable troops to get about the battlefields safely and quickly. I understand that in theory, in the exercises, it is pretended that these are available. Apparently, there are some one-ton armoured trucks, but there is not a sufficient supply of them to make units of armoured personnel carriers. This matter is of great importance in nuclear conditions and I should be relieved to hear it if my information is not correct.
§ Mr. Soames
I can set my hon. Friend's mind at rest. I am not sure 394 whether it is mentioned in the Memorandum, but I said in my opening speech that all the Saracen armoured personnel carriers we have ordered—which are bigger than the one-ton armoured trucks—have been delivered and all infantry units with armoured brigade troops haw' the Saracen carrier.
§ Sir E. Errington
I am very pleased to hear that.
The other matter relating to equipment refers to wireless communications. I am told that wireless equipment is not supplied to units below sub-areas in Civil Defence, with the result that it is not possible to practise meeting any emergency at a low level. I should like to know whether it will be possible to supply wireless equipment to Civil Defence units below the level of sub-areas.
Finally, as to recruitment, particularly, though not exclusively, of officers, the Grigg Report was quite clear that there would be an attempt to evolve a two-tier method, whereby some men would continue in service up to the comparatively early age of 45 and some would continue for a longer time, say, to 65. I hope that that policy will be pursued, for the reason that we shall have satisfactory recruitment only if a complete career is provided for those who come forward.
I hope that such a career will not necessarily be limited to the Army. As far as I can see, there is no reason why, in these days, it should not be open to people to serve in the public service for the greater part of their lives, up to the age of about 45 in the Army, and then in some other form of Government service. The experience of the Ministry of Labour committee which has placed in employment men who have left the Services indicates that there is a good deal of room for that kind of practice.
The Grigg Committee's Report is on the right lines, but it is the Government's job to say that if people are prepared to come into the Services they will have a career for the whole of their working life.
If that is so, I am satisfied that we shall get better recruiting, not only of the ordinary rank and file, but also a better type of recruiting of officers, I hope that consideration will be given to that point, because I am sure that it is 395 one of the most important factors in determining whether we shall get an adequate supply of the right sort of officers.
§ 12.51 a.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Half-past three yesterday afternoon seems a long way away. Last year, when I had the privilege of winding up the debate on the Army Estimates for the Opposition, the same sort of thing occurred as happened today. We were interrupted for three hours by an Adjournment debate. I remember that I wound up even later than tonight; I believe it was just after 2 o'clock. On that occasion we discussed a Spaniard on the Adjournment Motion. I do not know what subject we shall discuss next year; let us hope that the Army Estimates debate will not be interrupted. Of course, I believe it is right that this debate should have been interrupted at seven o'clock; I merely make the point because one almost forgets what the Secretary of State said at the beginning of this debate, as it seems ages ago.
I should like to begin by saying to the Under-Secretary of State for War, who is to make his maiden speech in his present office in the Army Estimates debate, that I wish him well and I hope that he can answer many of the questions which have been asked today. He has quite a task ahead of him, because many of the questions which have been asked are technical and I suppose that he will find it almost impossible to cover the enormous field which this debate has covered.
It is my sincere belief that the standard of debate, in spite of the interruption for another debate, has been very high indeed. There has been a genuine desire on both sides of the Committee to help the Army, not just to be critical but to try to devise the best way of getting the finest British Army possible.
The debate started with the Secretary of State presenting his Estimates in an excellent fashion, and very clearly. I remember that part of it, at least. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) also made a very constructive speech in reply.
I want to deal with the Memorandum of the Secretary of State, with particular reference to the deployment of our troops, and to ask one or two questions. I wish 396 to pay a tribute to our troops who are now in Malaya. I am sure that the Under-Secreary will wish to support me in that tribute. I believe that there are 10,000 of our troops in Malaya, and they have done and are doing a magnificent job. I had the misfortune to spend nearly three years in that part of the world during the war, and I know there cannot be a worse climate anywhere. Fortunately, I did not have to undergo some of the hardships which the men are suffering today.
I can only say that the conditions there are very grim. The climate is about the worst in the world, and sometimes we forget the men who are there. We are indebted to them. I should like also to pay a tribute to my own national newspaper, the Daily Herald, for publishing a series of articles calling attention to the fact that we have many men out there and that they are doing a magnificent job.
On the deployment of our troops in the Arabian peninsula, we read, in paragraph 23 of the Memorandum:The Sultan of Muscat and Oman requested Her Majesty's Government to assist and to train his armed forces which were occupied in overcoming the resistance of rebel leaders…I understand that this war, or skirmish, or encounter, is still going on. We get some indication of this from the Royal Air Force Memorandum. We are told that there were 70,000 sorties out there. We have been told nothing about it in the Committee. What is the position?
Does the reason that we have not been informed lie in the fact that the type of command out there is different from that which used to exist and that the War Office is not receiving the information which it might have received? Our troops are out there, and if fighting is going on, it would not be a bad thing to find out who is winning. [HON. MEMBERS: "It may be a draw."] The only comment in the Memorandum is that wesuccessfuly occupied the area held by the rebels".I am told that the rebels are not satisfied with that and have been making some efforts to get it back. If so, we ought to find out more about it.
I could start a long debate, although at this late hour I do not wish to do 397 so, on the deployment of our troops. Cyprus has been mentioned. We know that there has been a settlement in Cyprus, which evidently pleased the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Colonel Beamish). I can only say what I said in the defence debate: that I feel that no Englishman can be pleased with the way in which the trouble in Cyprus has been settled. I still claim, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition claimed, that we should have had a settlement long ago. At the end of the day we had to negotiate with Makarios, which, in the circumstances, is nauseating for most British people.
We are certain to have trouble in Malta. I hope that we shall at least learn one small lesson from Cyprus and from the troubles we have had there. We may think that Dom Mintoff is a truculent and difficult person, but we can be certain that in the end a British Government will negotiate on the position with him. They will have to do so, because he is the only man of any substance there. At the end of the day we shall have to come to some sort of terms with him. I hope that our troops do not become involved in Malta.
I want to ask a question about our troops in the British Army of the Rhine. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) mentioned it. In paragraph 11 we read:Training has been based on a study of the tactics of the brigade group in nuclear war and unit training has culminated in a series of full-scale brigade group exercises.In the next paragraph we read thatdivisional headquarters have been streamlined and standardized.How many brigades have we there? Have we eight brigades with four divisional headquarters or nine brigades with three divisional headquarters? What is the position in respect of our commitment to have four divisions in Germany? Let us have a straight answer to that question. I hope that we shall also be told what the Government mean by a division.
Turning to the recruitment to the Regular Army, I want to congratulate the Government. We are delighted that it seems that the target will be hit. We are as pleased about this as any hon. Member opposite. We argued from this side of the House a long time ago that 398 conscription had to be abolished. I want to ask only the sort of questions which are helpful to the Government on this question.
One of the pleasant features about recruitment to the Regular Army, as the Minister himself said, is the recruitment of a larger number of boys. The number of boys entering the Army has risen to 6,000 a year. The recruitment of these young boys, later to become adult soldiers, raises the problem of the promotion prospects which will be available in the Regular Army. The Grigg Report is almost the Bible today on matters concerning the Army, and one turns to it to support any criticism which one may wish to make. Naturally, I, too, have referred to it.
If the Under-Secretary turns to page 33 of the Grigg Report, paragraph 168, he will see that the Committee was itself very concerned about the promotion system in the Army. It is useful to get this on the record. It states:The War Office told us that the Army's rules for the promotion of technicians were worse than those in force in the other two Services, since the Royal Navy had a system of time-promotion and the Royal Air Force a trade structure which permitted advancement irrespective of establishment limitations to the equivalent of non-commissioned rank. The War Office believe that this discrepancy of treatment has an adverse effect on prolongation, and if the Army's rules are in fact less favourable, it is something which should be put right quickly".To that, the Government replied that the matter was being studied. How is that study getting on? What is the hope that some time we will make the promotion prospects in the Army a little more realistic, since, in the long-term, the discrepancy in promotion prospects may be a deterrent?
The important feature of the recruiting figures submitted by the right hon. Gentleman, is the man-year figures. Here again, the Government are to be congratulated on the increases in pensions, allowances, and so on, because those will undoubtedly act as a further stimulus to getting people to stay in the Army. My hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) paid justifiable tribute to some of the pension rates which are now to be paid, especially those applying to men with twenty-two years 'service.
399 For example, a sergeant with twenty-two years' service could retire at the age of 42 with a pension of about £4 a week and with a terminal grant of about £700. I know of no private industry which can match that. That is the sort of propaganda we want to get over in a big way if we want more people to stay in the Army for twenty-two years.
I have only one comment to make on the recruiting of officers. That concerns the scholarship scheme. There is a reference to the scheme in paragraph 44 of the Memorandum. The terms are that a maximum of 40 scholarships a year will be awarded to boys and that there will be maintenance grants and tuition fees totalling up to £200 a year. I do not want to start any class antagonism about this matter. I have no objection to public school boys becoming officers. I am all for it. I met a number of them in the Army and many of them were first-class, but I do not see how this scholarship will apply to grammar school boys.
The yardstick should be the income of the parents and the need. The reference to refunding tuition fees means that the scholarship is for boys at boarding schools and that rules out most grammar schools. Grammar schools provide an enormous reservoir of potential officers and we want to encourage the type which conies from a grammar school. The good grammar schoolboy is as good as, and, in many cases, far better than, the public schoolboy.
However, I hold the view that one of the finest types of officer is that type which has had experience of serving in the ranks and who knows something about the men's conditions and outlook and point of view, and even language—which at times can be very useful. Man management is very important and it cannot be learned by a few courses at a specially selected school. One has to live with people and understand them to understand man management. That is an important part of the training of officers and I do not know why we are not more enthusiastic about getting more officers from the ranks than hitherto.
There is another important matter associated with recruitment and seeing that those in the Army have an even better life. I concede at once that pay 400 is very much better than it has been in the past and that, in the long term, that must help a good deal. But public relations are also very important. Sir James Grigg devoted a number of paragraphs of his Report to public relations and the importance of that subject for the Army. I do not know whether we do it or intend to do it, but do we have courses for senior officers on the subject of public relations?
I had an interesting experience while visiting Germany just before Christmas, where I saw the extraordinary lengths to which they go to teach their officers something about public relations. They are, incidentally, also teaching them something about democracy, which their senior officers need badly, but public relations is an important part of selling the Army to the local people wherever the unit is, and for dealing with bigger problems.
This is not something we can casually write off. There should be courses on it, and as Sir James Grigg says:Although there has been a great deal of progress over the last twenty years, a number of officers forget that public relations is a part of modern life, and that all the great industries pay much attention to the problem of presenting themselves properly to informed opinion and of reducing the amount of uninformed opinion.He goes on to say:The Services have no need to fear the Press.That is true. The Press are anxious to put over a good story for the Armed Forces—provided that they are given the good stories. But recently the Army decided to copy the Americans in calling up a rock 'n' roll singer. In fact, they tried to do an "Elvis Presley." The reports of that were ridiculous; the whole affair was rather nauseating to the British public. As a matter of fact, this wretched boy should never have been called up. He was in the Army for only two days and was then in a mental hospital. If they had looked at his case history they would have known that his family was so affected.
This is one of the things in which we blunder rather badly. If we are to put anything over on the public relations side, we should not make it cheap or Americanised. We are proud of our Army, and we want something sensible. Do not let us exploit individuals, either.
401 On discipline, Sir James Grigg is equally good. He said one thing which I said last year, about military policemen on railway stations. I said that from my experience in the Army these people were an absolute pest and a nuisance. It makes the average soldier feel so annoyed when he is going home when he is asked what right he has to be walking about a railway station, where is his pass, and so on. I experienced it in the ranks and know of many others who feel the same. Sir James Grigg says:There is a feeling, too, that military discipline is allowed to obtrude overmuch into the Serviceman's free time. The military policeman patrolling the London railway stations symbolise everything that the Serviceman dislikes on this score; he feels that, unlike men in other walks of life, he is not treated as a responsible adult.If I were Secretary of State for War, one of the first orders I should give would be to take military policemen off all the railway stations. All I would have on the main stations would be the R.T.O.'s office, where the soldiers could get friendly advice, instead of having these wretched characters walking about with so much arrogance and making the soldier's life a misery.
Again, on discipline—and it is important not to ignore the Grigg Report—there is still so much going on in the Army which should be abolished. The War Office said in reply to Sir James Grigg that it was being studied, but we should like to know how far that study has gone, and whether we have abolished such things as pay parades, making men receive their money as though it is a great honour to do so. Why can they not be paid in a normal way? Why cannot we adopt a system which recognises that when a man leaves the barracks he is free from discipline? We should allow him to wear civilian clothes, and not object to a certain kind of civilian outfit.
One matter upon which the Government have started to claim a lot of credit is accommodation. They have put up some good-looking figures concerning what they are going to do in the future. It is about time. We have already had an argument about the money that has been available for some time with nothing being done with it. I think I remember reading that a total of about 20,000 married quarters was required. I believe that it was said that that figure would break the back of 402 the need for new married quarters. Perhaps we can be given the exact requirement in this respect. If what I have read is correct, the Government's figures do not look quite so good; it would appear that we still have a long way to go to bridge the difference between what is needed and what is being provided. We must not be complacent, because unless we provide good married quarters and accommodation we shall have a great deal of trouble and friction in the Army.
In the last paragraphs of his Memorandum the Minister talks about the simplification of Army administration and the introduction of automatic data processing equipment. I am all for the introduction of machines to do some of the stupid jobs which now have to be carried out by men, but no machine can take the place of a man or Department which deals with men's grievances. We should not go too far in this respect, so that we reach a position where letters from men do not get the human treatment they deserve.
Much criticism has been devoted to the shortages of weapons, vehicles and equipment. The Secretary of State has been very unhappy about these criticisms. Some time ago he seemed to convey the impression that they might retard recruitment. I do not agree. It is a healthy thing that Parliament should discuss these matters openly and frankly, and I am convinced that much of the agitation from these benches, and also from some hon Members opposite, has prodded the Government Front Bench—not necessarily the two Ministers who are sitting on it now, but their predecessors—into doing something which at least looks like providing a first-class Army in the future. The more prodding we do in this respect the better it will be.
We have an extremely good case on the question of the way in which the Army has been dealing with new types of weapons, vehicles and equipment. I have been doing some research in this matter by reading some of the previous statements made by Secretaries of State for War in their Memoranda. Let us take the example of the FN rifle, which we now know that we shall get this year. In 1954, the Secretary of State's Memorandum said:… it has now been decided to adopt the FN rifle.403 In 1955, the Minister of Defence's White Paper said:Large-scale trials of the FN rifle will be carried out.The Secretary of State for War's Memorandum in the same year said:5,000 FN … rifles are now being tried by the troops.… Preparations for production are now being made.In 1956, the Secretary of State's Memorandum said:The FN rifle has passed its trials and production plans have been made.In 1957, his Memorandum said:During the last year troop trials of the FN rifle have been completed … United Kingdom production is due to start this year.In 1958, the Memorandum said:In the coming year a proportion of the Army will be re-equipped with the British version of the FN rifle.In 1959, it is said that some of our troops are getting these rifles for the first time.
§ Mr. Mellish
We know that some of our troops in Cyprus had them, but when they went to Germany they had to leave their rifles because there were not enough to go to the troops in Germany. The story given by the several Ministers of Defence and by the War Office is not one for which they should take credit. The FN rifle is only one of many problems with which we have had to deal.
We on this side of the Committee are far more satisfied with the Army Estimates than in previous years. We think that there is an indication that in the not too far distant future we shall get the sort of equipment and weapons that the Army should have had a long time ago. There is a small point about wireless equipment, about which so much fuss is made. I do not blame them for bragging about it—they have little chance to brag in the Army—but they make a great deal of noise about this. One thing which intrigues me is the enormous reduction made under this subhead. Last year under the heading, "Technical Stores", expenditure on signals and wireless equipment amounted to £7,443,000 and this year it is reduced to £4,187,000. I expect the hon. Gentleman will be able to say what that means.
404 National Service grants are payable to National Service men whose families are in trouble and, although we are getting fewer National Service men in the Army, it is expected that the grants will go up nearly £½ million. I expect that the answer is that we have been doing a lot of advertising that this grant is available.
This debate has shown that there is a genuine desire to try to make this Army of ours an Army of which we can be genuinely proud. It may be said that in a few years' time that will be so. I hope that the Government will not try to defend the past. Many of our men have gone into combat ill-equipped and badly armed, and of that we cannot be proud; but we can make certain that in the years to come we shall have the sort of Army which, when it goes into battle, will be as good as any army that it might have to face.
§ 1.18 a.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hugh Fraser)
I think it fair to say that we have listened to a long and sometimes critical debate. I can, however, say with pride on my first appearance to make a proper speech at this Box for the War Department that nothing has been said today that in any way diminishes our conviction—the conviction of the whole Committee—that the British Army will fulfil whatever tasks are laid upon it. It is in this spirit that the debate has been approached on all sides of the Committee.
I think it fair to say that when hon. and right hon. Members look back over their speeches of the last few years and the speeches in this debate—which will be digested by the Department over the next few months—they must note with some pleasure that, if some of their fears have proved dupes, not a few of their aspirations and inspirations have become accepted doctrine. That is the real value, or part of the real value, of these debates.
A very large number of topics has been dealt with today and yesterday. There are certain main topics with which I hope to deal in a more orderly process, but, before I come to them, I should like to turn to some of the special points which have been raised.
One question outside the main stream of argument this evening was asked by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees 405 (Mr. Chetwynd). He spoke about a new dress for the Army. Troop trials are being carried out now for a very great variety of clothing, and these trials will be over by May. The trials for the raincoat, which the whole Committee, I think, will agree will be an important item of personal equipment for the soldier, begin in April. We hope to go into production with these coats this year, so that there will be actual distribution to the troops in 1960.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees asked about the employment of batmen on domestic duties. This question was also raised by a number of hon. Members opposite. I would merely say that a batman is provided to give personal service to his officer. That is perfectly proper. Some do undoubtedly carry out voluntarily duties outside this rôle. If the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees or the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) will inform me of any cases where there clearly is not this voluntary arrangement between the batman and his officer, I will certainly investigate them.
§ Mr. Mulley
When one talks about voluntary agreements, one should also bear in mind the relative bargaining strength of the parties, and I think that a senior officer and a private soldier, in legal language, could not be said to have equal bargaining strength.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend. That was a very useful intervention by a former Minister of Defence.
Special points were made by the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) and by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) about training with atomic weapons and the control of these weapons. We believe quite clearly—and this has been stated before—that there must be political control of atomic weapons which accepts responsibility for their discharge. That remains the 406 doctrine of this country and, naturally, of the War Office.
Questions about the Army Benevolent Fund were asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) and by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill. I will endeavour to get in touch with them as soon as I am able to find out the details.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park asked about the resettlement of other ranks. The Resettlement Advisory Board, of course, works equally for officers and for other ranks. The Board has had a successful initial year. I have not the exact figures here, but I think that of the 38,000 other ranks coming out of the Army in 1958 about 3 per cent. were unemployed at the end of the year. The organisation, working inside the Army and through the Resettlement Board outside, is proving very satisfactory.
The hon. Member for Brierley Hill asked about Sandhurst. Entry to Sandhurst is for those who can pass the examination and the interviews with the Regular Commission Board. This means that it is open to boys not only from public schools, but from grammar schools or any other school or no school who have the necessary qualifications for getting in. The hon. Member asked whether Welbeck College and Sandhurst were in opposition. That is not so at all; they are complementary.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) raised various points about his constituency. Aldershot is the Army's sacred city, and we must naturally pay special attention to any representations made by my hon. Friend. I will look into the points he has raised, but I am sure that if there is conflict about the War Department having to give land to the Aldershot local authority it will be an extremely difficult matter. We need our land there. Aldershot's problem is in trying to have its cake and eat it; it wants the Army and it also wants industrial development. Frankly, I feel that there is not room for both in the area.
The dilutees in the area constitute a very large problem. However, when one looks at the rundown of the Army and the need for further civilianisation and the need also for the building programme in Aldershot itself, my hon. Friend may 407 find that the problem there may be a diminishing one.
§ Sir E. Errington
My anxiety is that if that is the case it should be demonstrated to be the case. There is a degree of uncertainty about it. It is not that I deny the need, but I should like to see the need for both land and employment demonstrated.
§ Mr. Fraser
I should hate to demonstrate for several hours tonight, but I will see what can be done to make this more clear if it is not clear already.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), in an extremely able winding-up speech, referred to married quarters. As things stand, we have 117,000 in accommodation—barracks and married quarters—which is up to a proper standard. The gap in certain areas is one of about one-third in an Army of 180,000. That does not mean to say that we have not a very large problem still to overcome. Our main objective—and we are spending nearly £500,000 this year on modernising and converting existing quarters—must be new accommodation. That is what we are setting out to do.
I turn now to the speech of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). Naturally and properly, many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have raised the question of equipment. The right hon. Gentleman sought to argue that under the Conservative Administration the War Office's expenditure on production and research has been dropping at an alarming rate and that, compared with the other Services, its proportion has been falling rapidly. The right hon. Gentleman chose the figure for 1953 when the production and research of the War Office—these are extremely difficult figures to analyse—was 33 per cent. of the total. The right hon. Gentleman said that by 1959 this had dropped to 10 per cent. My main answer is that he chose an extraordinarily difficult year, for 1953 was a period when the full flood of the Korean production was bursting on us. 1953 was the year in which we were getting almost the consummation of the armaments programme over which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) resigned; it was part of the £4,700 million programme. 408 Indeed, at that time there was a big flood of material coming through.
What we want to do, as my right hon. Friend pointed out today, is to spend more on new equipment, and this year we shall be spending over £3 million more on new equipment than last year
The hon. Member for Bermondsey raised the question of the F.N. rifle. It is only appropriate that I should now give some answer to the points he made about the lag in supply and to his accusation against my right hon. Friend that he was able to produce scarcely any rifles. In the year 1957–58 the production of these rifles was about 9,000; in 1958–59 it was 47,000; and in the year to come it is going to be 60,000. So I think we can say that they are coming forward fairly well.
Many hon. Members referred to the problem of wireless equipment. Of course, this is a major difficulty. As one of my hon. Friends said, the whole problem on this question is so to time our decision that we come up with the right sort of equipment. I think we have made the right decision. By the end of the year the Army in Germany will be largely equipped with wireless equipment some of which, I believe, will be the best in N.A.T.O. Certainly the new tank set is proving a very fine set indeed and almost making possible a revolution in tank tactics.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bermondsey raised the question about the difference of £3 million on what we are spending on wireless equipment. Last year we set out to spend about £7 million and managed to spend about £4 million. This year we are setting out to spend just over £4 million which, I believe, thanks to the overcoming of technical difficulties, we shall be able to spend. This figure will be a tranche of the total of £20 million which we plan to spend to improve the whole of our wireless equipment.
We are switching over in general from h.f.—which has nothing to do with Hugh Fraser!—from high frequency to very high frequency. This has great advantages, of course. I am not going into technical detail, but I think it will interest hon. Members to known that the greater proportion of Russian units still use h.f. 409 as distinct from v.h.f. sets, which means that they have difficulty in operating at night.
I think I shall leave the wireless question at this point as the hour is late, but I think it would perhaps be useful to give the Committee some figures which are relevant in response to some other equipment criticisms which have been made today.
One hon. Member talked about the Sterling submachine gun. This submachine gun is now in full production, and I think, though I cannot be absolutely certain down to the final unit, that almost all the units in B.A.O.R. have now been issued with it.
I should like to look at some other items. This year we shall be producing well over 1,000 new one-ton armoured trucks. We are improving production of light utility trucks, Ferret scout cars and Salad in armoured cars—in some cases by as much as 80 per cent. That does show that the stuff is beginning to flow off in considerable quantities. We shall be up-gunning and up-armouring the Centurion. We shall be producing this year new light assault bridge units, and also some heavy ferry equipments. We are also introducing a new range of light recovery vehicles. This year we shall be spending six times as much on guided weapons as last year.
I think that, clearly, one of the prime objects over the next years must continue to be this question of equipment. We must, however, get this problem into proportion. Our Army is not equipped with quill pens, carrier pigeons and arquebuses, although the right hon. Member for Dundee, West seemed to suggest that it was. We are not too badly off, and so far we have been able to meet all our commitments. The Army has not fallen short in the tasks which it has been called on to do, and over the next few years it will become as well equipped as any Army in N.A.T.O.
Despite the great progress which has been made, for which my right hon. Friend and the War Office have received bouquets from both sides of the Committee, and despite the success in the building up of the Regular Forces, there are special problems which will have to be met. Two of these problems which face us relate to officer recruitment and 410 the recruitment of technicians in the administrative corps. My right hon. Friend has already spoken of the pending Report of General Sir Richard Goodbody, which will deal with all aspects of officer recruitment. I wish to refer to certain steps which we are taking prior to the production of this Report and which may assist in solving the problem of officer recruiting.
We have instituted a direct entry short service commission. Although a start was made only in January, there have already been over 600 inquiries and about 90 firm applications. We are pushing on with the scholarship scheme, about which I should like to write to the hon. Member for Bermondsey. A fair point was made about whether maintenance should be allowable for boys who are not at boarding school. We are studying methods of increasing the rate of intake from grammar and public schools, and we have improved matters considerably. One director at the War Office is now in charge of liaison with the public and grammar schools. A good team of Army lecturers has been formed. Young officers who have had wide and interesting experience in the Army are visiting schools and trying to interest boys in the Army as a career.
I am glad to see a growing interest in the Territorial Army, and the growth of O.T.C.'s is important. At Oxford University there are 20 starters for Regular commissions, which has not been the case at Oxford University O.T.C. for many years. I am glad to say that my sister-in-law has become a WRAC.
On the medical side, we are reverting to the pre-war short-service intake which proved so successful.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to the scheme for the promotion of technicians, and we are getting on with that. We shall have a report in the not-too-distant future. Reference was made to the question of recruiting boys to the Junior Leader and Army Apprentice Schools. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this movement in the training of future technicians and, in many cases, future officers. I have not the exact figures, but a remarkable number of young officers have passed through the Junior Leader and Apprentice Schools.
411 I will not go into details, but regarding certain technical arms, including the Medical and Dental Corps, we are running into difficulties which are in part a reflection of the difficulty experienced throughout the country because of the shortage of dentists. Through improved recruiting of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps other ranks there is a possibility that we shall be able to meet some of the shortages in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
As a background to the subject of recruiting, I should like to say how important are both the Combined Cadet Force and the Army Cadet Force. The year 1960 will see the hundredth anniversary of their formation. A hundred years ago a number of schools formed their own volunteer corps and a number of volunteer units formed cadet companies of their own. The present strength of the Army Cadet Force is 43,000 and of the Combined Cadet Force about 71,000, of whom about 59,000 are in the Army section. I hope that the fears expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) that with the end of conscription headmasters will turn away from these cadet forces will be unfounded. They perform a most useful and valuable part in the formation of an interest in the Armed Forces amongst our youth and are of immense value to us as grounds for recruitment for officers, other ranks and junior leaders.
I will not say very much about the Reserve Army and the Territorials. Some mention has been made of them. The important thing is to comment, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud on the remarkable increase which we are seeing in recruitment. Last December we passed the 100,000 mark. We should all be pleased with the progress made.
There are one or two important points in this connection. We are trying to make training as exciting, entertaining and as practical as possible, but with the run-down in the Army we find it necessary to concentrate T.A. formation training in the months of May, June and July. This offers some disadvantages to those units which like their training carried out in the autumn camps, but it has the advantage that they will be certain for four years ahead when their 412 camp dates will fall so that it will be possible for them to make arrangements in connection with their businesses. By this concentration we can also give greater help from the Regular Army and civilian organisations so that the camps will have better facilities.
We have also reorganised the weekend training system. This previously was based on an economic calculation, but we have now changed it to the basis of giving each commanding officer a number of days per head which can be spread out as he thinks suitable throughout the unit. This means better opportunities for those specialists who want longer training in individual units.
Reference has been made to what should be the rôle of the Territorial Army. I would simply say that, first, it is home defence in all its aspects and then as need should arise. In this age when war could take so many forms the Territorial Army must remain an essential and basic part of our preparedness. It is impossible to go beyond saying at this stage that these gallant men in it should regard it as a basic and essential part of our preparedness against whatever may come.
I apologise for speaking for so long, but there have been a great many points for me to attempt to answer. I turn now to operations and deployment, which, after all, is what an Army is for. As the right hon. Member for Dundee pointed out last year, when we had a similar debate, immense difficulties faced the British Army during this period when three or four major reorganisations were going on simultaneously. These still continue and will probably do so until 1961 or even the beginning of 1962. In spite of all that, the point can well be made that the Army continues with its essential task in the operational field and in the spheres of military thinking and training.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already enumerated some of these tasks. They were well done in Cyprus where without them there could have been no political settlement.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to the task of our forces in Malaya, and I should like to add my tribute to the excellent work being done there. In Malaya, working with the troops of the Federation Government the 413 British Commonwealth Brigade has made an outstanding contribution. A few years ago there were about 10,000 Communists in the jungle. Now there are under 800, and the whole of Malaya, with the exception of parts of the states of Perak and Kedah, has been declared "white"— that is, free of Communists. That is a very fine achievement. Our contribution has not only helped this vital part of the Commonwealth but has enabled the Federation Government to withdraw troops for training and to build up its new army to greater strength.
In the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates the attention of hon. Members will have been drawn to the airborne operations in the Middle East. In Aden and in the Protectorate our forces have helped to maintain order and prevent incursions across the Yemeni frontier.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey asked if I could say something about operations in Muscat and Oman. As hon. Members will know, a request was received some months ago for help by the Sultan of Muscat in training his troops. That aid was readily granted. Since then, as is well known, there was a continuation of the fighting of 1957, and that had reached a crisis at the end of last year.
At the end of January the Sultan of Muscat's Armed Forces, assisted by two squadrons of the S.A.S. and dismounted elements of the Life Guards, with R.A.F. support, succeeded in forcing their way to the top of the rebel fastness on the Jebel Akhdar, which is a steep and dangerous escarpment. The rebels were caught by surprise and there was little opposition to the assault. It was a great physical achievement, because the Jebel Akhdar is not only precipitous but rises to a height of 9,000 feet. A considerable quantity of rebel equipment was captured, and the rebel leaders are thought to have left the country. The situation, as far as we know, is quiet, but I regret that, although there were no casualties on our side in the final assault, during, the last six months there have been three British casualties in the area through rebel activity. In two cases, I believe—though I could not swear to it—these were due to mines.
We have been carrying on our help to Commonwealth and colonial Govern- 414 ments. It is remarkable that with all the burdens and changes that we have had to face, 1,150 officers and nearly 1,200 other ranks are now serving with Commonwealth and colonial forces. Tribute has been paid to this important rôle that our forces are playing and I agree that these men are of the finest type.
Several hon. Members have asked whether the brigade group was superior as an organisation to the pentomic division. We have had nearly a year's experience with the brigade group, and exercises have convinced us that it is and will remain our basic organisation. It also has the advantage for us that in our many commitments outside Europe the brigade group is a more flexible organisation and fits into our conception of a strategic reserve. We are glad we took this decision.
§ Mr. Fraser
As to the divisions in Germany, they are organised in a brigade group fashion, and the divisional headquarters does not mean anything. He knows the number of brigade groups there, which I am not going to mention across the Floor of the House.
In one of his profound speeches, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton asked many questions. I am afraid that I shall not be able to answer them now, apart from making a comment on his remarks about Kenya. Kenya is essentially a base for highly skilled and highly trained mobile troops. The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that the Africans should take over this section of the strategic reserve. Great as is my confidence in and appreciation of the excellence of African battalions, I do not believe that they could conceivably have the training and flexibility to take over this task. Because of the air-sea barrier, we must have a force in Kenya. I think that answers one of the hon. and learned Member's questions, but I should need much more time than is now available to answer his wider questions.
I have been asked about Cyprus. We still have responsibilities there. It will be a year at least before our troops can be finally withdrawn to their base areas. Under the Agreement we have to remain until the new State is set up, but we wish, of course, to withdraw members of 415 our Forces to the strategic reserve at home and elsewhere as soon as possible. It is impossible at this stage to forecast, but we have high hopes that we shall be able to make a movement as soon as possible. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Isle of Ely raised the question of training areas in Cyprus. I think that this will be covered by the Agreement. I will pay special attention to this point.
Many interesting points have been raised in the debate and I wish that I could have dealt with them more effectively. I will try to answer later those which I have not been able to answer today. The debate has been inspired by the will on all sides of the Committee to make a success of the Regular Army. 416 That unites us tonight and it is the hope for the future.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 351,000, all ranks, be maintained for the safety of the United Kingdom and the defence of the possessions of Her Majesty's Crown, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1960.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received this day; Committee to sit again this day.