Motion made, and Question proposed,
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.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)
In the course of the defence debate last week the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brawn) asked why it was that the gross expenditure in the Army Estimates for this year was £4 million down compared with those for last year. In fact, the net estimated expenditure is almost the same this year as it was last year. Out of a total of £431 million there is a difference of only £50,000. In asking his question, the right hon. Member could not have taken full account of the fact that between the beginning and the end of the two financial years concerned the size of the Regular Army would have decreased by about 80,000 men. I should have thought that it would be more understandable to put the question the other way round, and ask why the considerable reduction in manpower has not led to a more notable decline in expenditure.
The Motion before the House concerns Vote A, which deals with the number of all ranks in the Army. The decrease in numbers has not been matched by a decrease in expenditure for three reasons. First, the proportion of higher-paid Regular soldiers compared with National Service men is steadily rising, so that the saving in pay and allowances cannot be proportionate to the run-down of the Army. Secondly, £3½ million is included in this year's Estimates for increases in allowances, pensions and other improvements recommended by the Grigg Committee. These measures, coupled with 229 last year's increases under the pay review, have considerably improved the financial position of the soldier, and it is broadly agreed that his remuneration now compares well with that of his civilian opposite number. Thirdly, our re-equipment and building programmes still demand very substantial expenditure.
The Motion provides for a maximum force of 351,000 all ranks. As the Committee knows, this figure of Vote A strength includes, for constitutional reasons, Gurkha, Colonial and Commonwealth troops, and also women in the Army. The figure which has generally 'concerned the House in debates on the Army during the last few years is that of the actual strength of United Kingdom adult males. In this respect, we shall be running down by 38,000 during the year, from a strength of 290,000 to 252,000. This means that the run-down in the Army, from a strength on 1st April, 1957, of 365,000, to a strength of about 180,000 on 1st April, 1963, will move past the half-way stage in the coming year.
The Committee already knows of our decision to raise the Army's recruiting target from 165,000 to about 180,000. By taking in about 15,000 more recruits the Army, and particularly its fighting units, will obtain a welcome increase in strength. I want to emphasise that this decision does not affect the structure of the Army as it was settled in 1957. The number of units and the arms to which they belong remains the same.
The second phase in the amalgamation of units will continue as we had planned, but the addition will enable us to keep our fighting units abroad and in the Strategic Reserve at a higher strength. In respect of the infantry, upon whom falls the greatest burden in the cold war, the plan for the 165,000 Army was drawn up on the basis of the majority of infantry battalions being at a strength of 635, which was the establishment of an infantry battalion at the time the re-organisation was decided upon. Experience in working with this figure has shown us that there are certain circumstances in which a higher strength would be better. This was most noticeable in Cyprus, when things were at their worst, and when units were at full stretch day and night. It 230 was then necessary to keep battalions at a strength of over 700.
If the Army were at a strength of 165,000, we would increase the strength of such a battalion, in such circumstances, by cross-posting from another battalion. This is manageable, but it has its drawbacks, and it would be more comfortable if all battalions, whether abroad or in the Strategic Reserve at home, were at a strength sufficient to meet the most onerous peace-time commitments. By and large, we will be able to do this within an Army of about 180,000. The same principle applies, to a greater or lesser extent, to other fighting arms. The increase of strength of units within the fighting arms will take up 11,000 of the 15,000 increase, and the remaining 4,000 will go to improve the administrative support of the Strategic Reserve.
I do not intend to go over yet again in detail the well-worn ground of recruiting figures. I will merely say that they continue to be better than most of us had hoped, and considerably better than some had feared. I gather that no one is more glad that that is so than those who originally doubted. The progress continues. In January, the number of recruits was 2,543, as compared with 2,250 in the same month a year ago. It now seems quite clear that the improvement in recruiting which began last spring is quite different in kind and character from any of the short-term spurts which have occurred from time to time in the post-war years. If we can maintain the momentum we will surely reach our target.
In the course of this speech I shall be dealing with many aspects of Army organisation, but we must never lose sight of the fact that manpower is the Army's first concern. We may remember the words spoken by the Duke of Wellington to Mr. Creevey, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo.There,said the Duke, pointing to a private soldier,it all depends upon that article whether we do the business or not. Give me enough of it and I am sure.Basically, it is the same today, but with the difference that we now have to lay a greater emphasis on quality. Time was when any fit young man could do a 231 soldier's job. Today, many aspects of soldiering are highly skilled. The great cry being raised by all our industries today is for more highly trained technicians, and the recruiting sergeant must join in that chorus. We have to convince the youth of this country that there is a satisfying job in the Army which is suited to their particular talents.
Before leaving the subject of recruiting I must draw the attention of the Committee to the remarkable growth of the Territorial Army in the last twelve months. On 1st January, 1957, the volunteer strength of the Territorial Army stood at about 76,000, and at the beginning of 1958 it was 78,000—a gain of about 2,000. By the beginning of this year there had been a further gain of 23,000, bringing the total number of volunteers on 1st January to over 100,000. It is most encouraging to see this revival of the volunteer spirit in the Territorial Army. There is not much financial reward in it, though we do our best to ensure that people are not out of pocket as a result of their training, and the growth of the Territorial Army has been a heartening feature of the last two years.
I now turn to the question of accommodation. The building programme is gathering way. We have under construction today barrack accommodation at home and abroad for about 5,000 soldiers and 1,100 married quarters. We plan to start on accommodation for a further 8,000 soldiers and 2,000 more married quarters here and overseas in the coming financial year. Against the strength of the all-Regular Army which we shall have in four years' time these figures are at last beginning to assume a reasonable proportion. Taking into account buildings erected just pre-war and the good accommodation we have in Germany, 117,000 soldiers—82,000 in barracks and 35,000 married men with their families—now enjoy accommodation of the standard at which we are aiming for the whole Army, and I am determined that the building programme shall continue to be driven forward with all the urgency which it deserves.
As I said in my Memorandum, our building projects in Cyprus for the coming year were to concentrate on further improvements to the temporary camps scattered over the island. Happily, events 232 have made this unnecessary. As we reduce the number of units in Cyprus, so will the temporary camps be closed down, and we will now be concentrating our efforts on accommodation within the British base areas.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the notable part played by the security forces in Cyprus. Since the war the British Army has been involved in many unpleasant situations, varying from minor internal security troubles in the West Indies to a considerable war in Korea, but the situation in Cyprus was, for the Army, the most delicate and most difficult of all. The security forces knew full well that the final solution had to be not a military but a political one. For four long years their efforts were devoted to maintaining law and order among a population a proportion of which were intent on disorder. It was a hard and thankless task, and I feel that the Committee will agree that the units who served in Cyprus in those four difficult years have maintained the British soldier's reputation for steadiness in the face of great provocation, and that we owe them much for the part they played.
A feature, if not the main feature, of last week's defence debate was criticism of the state of the Army's equipment. I got the impression, listening to the speeches on that subject, that the background of the problem was not fully appreciated. The war ended with the Army holding large stocks of equipment. In the immediate post-war years it was on this that the Army lived. For that reason, between 1945 and the outbreak of the Korean War, little of our research and development effort was devoted to Army equipment. When the Korean rearmament programme was launched there was precious little modern equipment available for the Army. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), urged on, I have no doubt, by his right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), set about his programme of building up the Army's equipment with a will. That was followed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head).
They could only buy what was available at the time and that, with a few exceptions, represented equipment of last-war types. At the end of the rearmament programme, which lasted, broadly, from 1950 to 1954, the Army 233 was left with a large quantity of equipment which was needed, but was still predominantly of wartime types. It was during this period that greater emphasis was placed on research and development into modern types of equipment, and it is only now that this programme of research and development is bearing fruit. It is against this background that I would give a detailed report of the progress of re-equipment of the Army, taking it arm by arm.
First, vehicles, which are common to all of them. Here, the position, I am happy to report, is now quite satisfactory. The vast majority of vehicles are in the quarter-ton, the one-ton and the three-ton ranges. Of the quarter-ton and one-ton trucks, all are modern types and there is no problem with them. Most criticism is centred on the three-ton lorry, of which, until recently, there had been a large number of old types with units. This has been commented on, particularly in B.A.O.R., but there have been great improvements in the last year. Whereas twelve months ago in Germany only 18 per cent. of the three-tonners were modern, today the figure is 84 per cent. By the end of the coming financial year all units will be entirely equipped with modern three-ton lorries.
In the air, the equipment of the reconnaisance flights of the Army Air Corps with the Saunders Roe Skeeter helicopter is continuing. Various types of four- and five-seat fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters have been under examination during the past year, with a view to issue in a year or two's time to the liaison flights of the Army Air Corps.
I turn now to weapons and, first, to the infantry. The F.N. automatic rifle has been issued in large numbers, and this year the issue to teeth-arm units of the Regular Army will be complete.
§ Mr. Soames
At the same time, several thousand Bren guns will have been converted to take the same round as is fired from the F.N. rifle, the 300. In the next twelve months, all the infantry should also have the converted weapon. Both the Vickers medium machine gun and the converted Bren will remain with the infantry for a few years yet, but a 234 new sustained-fire machine gun is undergoing trials. We think that this might take the place of both the Vickers and the Bren in time.
The battalion anti-tank gun, the Mobat, which is a much lighter and more accurate version of the original Bat, is now being issued in quantity, and the whole of the Regular Army will be equipped with it this year. Our order for the Saracen armoured personnel-carriers has been fully met and all the infantry serving with armoured brigades now have it. This year we shall be getting the new pattern of web equipment for the infantry, which is much less cumbersome than the old, and far more comfortable, and I am told that it is impossible to polish it.
For the Artillery, the important items are a new field gun and new anti-aircraft weapons. For the field Artillery we need a gun which can be readily airportable and can if necessary be dropped by parachute. For this purpose we are trying out the Italian 105 mm. howitzer. Where anti-aircraft guns are concerned, the L70 Bofors, with modern fire-control equipment, is a great improvement on its predecessors for dealing with low-level attack. For the higher level, we have coming into service this year the Thunderbird mobile surface-to-air guided weapon. This has a considerably higher ceiling than any gun. There is a great deal of development to be done yet, but it will be developed and improved, I have no doubt, in the years ahead. I turn to the Armoured Corps.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say something about the Sterling submachine gun?
§ Mr. Soames
I think that it is issued throughout the whole Army now. If it is not, it will be, during the course of this year.
Armoured car regiments are being equipped with the Saladin armoured car and the Ferret scout car. Many units have had them for some time now, and deliveries will be completed to all the armoured corps during the next twelve months. The Centurion, which has proved such an outstanding tank, is being converted to carry heavier armour and a gun of greater power and accuracy.
§ Mr. Soames
I am referring to the Centurion. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, because he had something to do with its inception, it is a medium tank. We are certainly going on with it.
In the present stage of tank development the Centurion has the edge over every medium tank in the world. It has been widely sold to foreign countries. By putting in this gun, with greater tonnage, and by armouring it up slightly in certain places, we believe that it will continue to have that edge over any other tank which we know of coming in the future for many years yet.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
What about the tank of which there have been trials in the past two years?
§ Mr. Soames
Trials that have been going on for two years? I seem to remember telling the hon. Gentleman, in an Answer before the Christmas Recess, that we would be doing trials with the prototype of a new medium tank which will come in, years ahead, to succeed the Centurion. Preliminary trials will take place some time this year of this new tank, which, if successful, may be the successor to the Centurion.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In view of the need for greater mobility, does the right hon. Gentleman think that there is any future for the tank at all?
§ Mr. Soames
Wherever there is a major battle fought, as far ahead as the right hon. Gentleman or I can see, there will be the need on the battlefield for the tank. I am absolutely convinced of that.
Now I will move on from armour. I have been paying particular attention, in conjunction with' my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, to the production of the Army's new range of wireless sets. Here, the best has tended to be the enemy of the good and as successive improvements have been made in radio communication in the last few years there have been many modifications in design which have delayed production. The programme of re-equipment is now well under way. Its total cost is about £20 million for the wireless sets. More than £11 million worth has already been bought and there is a further £3 million provided for in these Estimates.
A number of these sets is already with units in Germany, and B.A.O.R. will 236 have the great majority of the sets it needs in the next twelve months. The Army, world-wide, from headquarters down to the forward troops, will be equipped with the new range of wireless sets by the end of 1961. That is also the date by which the Royal Engineers well be re-equipped with a new range of plant and machinery and most of the bridging equipment which will replace the Bailey bridging.
In view of the concern which has been expressed, I have given the Committee a rather detailed catalogue of equipment now coming into service. Re-equipment will not cease on 31st December, 1962. It is a continuing process. There will be other weapons to come. There are weapons now in the stage of research and development which will come in in the 1960s. I believe the hard facts and dates which I have given to the Committee show that weapons and equipment which are now going into service are of a standard which will match the prowess and be the pride of those now serving and of the recruits who will be joining them.
An aspect of equipment which was referred to by a number of hon. Members in the defence debate was standardisation within N.A.T.O. We are doing all we can from the point of view of the Army to promote this. Our policy is to go for the best weapon we can find in its particular field, wherever it is produced. For example, the F.N. rifle is from Belgium, the Corporal has come from the United States and we have our eye on developments in anti-tank weapons in Canada and Australia. The 105 mm. airportable gun which we are trying out is Italian in origin. It is possible that the eventual sustained-fire machine gun will be Belgian.
On the other side, I am pleased to say that many of our N.A.T.O. Allies are using British equipment. For instance, the Centurion has been widely accepted as the outstanding tank of its generation and has been bought in large quantities by three N.A.T.O. countries. The Ferret scout cars are also finding a considerable market within N.A.T.O. We are providing facilities for our Allies to test our new equipment and we are always prepared, in consultation with them, to consider modifications which will make any 237 particular piece of equipment more acceptable for general N.A.T.O. use.
We gave a demonstration of Army weapons last summer to senior military representatives of N.A.T.O. and Commonwealth countries. This demonstration showed that we had drawn not only from our past experiences, but also from a great deal of data gained from work done at Ministry of Supply research establishments and War Office technical schools. I know that our visitors were impressed with the quality of the items coming into production and that, as a direct result of the demonstration, we have had a number of inquiries about weapons and equipment from our Allies.
One of the great advantages which the Soviet bloc has over the Western Powers is the monolithic character of its development and production. National interests and independence, which are a feature of life in the Western world, militate against such a monolithic war machine. If we are to sustain the long haul of competitive co-existence without placing too great a strain on our economies, a high degree of interdependence among Western countries in research, development and production is the only policy which makes sense for an Alliance with a number of national armies, many of them quite small. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said in the defence debate, we have not made the progress in this respect within N.A.T.O. that we would have liked, but we intend to continue to do all we can to improve it.
This year, we arrive at the half-way mark of the vast reorganisation of the Army foreshadowed in the Defence White Paper of 1957, and in the debates held in the spring and summer of that year. The amalgamations and redundancies announced in 1957 came as a considerable shock to the Army. The Army as a whole and the individuals directly affected by the changes—that means the majority of Regular soldiers have faced them with a will and with exemplary loyalty. For some time after the announcement of the reorganisation, the Army had to take on trust the promise of better things to come, but now there is evidence in the form of improvements in conditions of service, new equipment and the building at home and abroad of new accom- 238 modation, to show that the hopes held out two years ago are being fulfilled.
I do not mean to imply by this that all the problems of an all-Regular Army have already been solved. Although I think that the main objectives we set ourselves are within our grasp, there is plenty yet to be done. One particular problem which we still have to overcome is the recruitment of officers. We are not getting enough young men of suitable quality to offer themselves as candidates for Sandhurst. On this, I have taken note of all that the Grigg Committee has said, of what has been said by hon. Members on both sides, and of the views of many other people. This year, we are starting with a scholarship scheme whereby a boy receives a bursary for his two final years at school before entering Sandhurst. We have hitherto regarded Welbeck College as our alternative to such a scheme. We are very pleased now to have both. That should help.
I do not think that it is widely understood how much the scope and interest of the average Army officer's career have increased in recent years. That is one of the facts that we have got to get across to headmasters and parents. Science is becoming yearly more important to the Army and we intend that not only specialist officers but also a large number of those serving on general duty should be well informed on scientific matters. With the growing complexity of modern equipments, the Royal Military College of Science, at Shrivenham, is now assuming a greatly increased importance in the education of the officer. It is our intention that the career opportunity for the technically educated officer should expand, so as to ensure that a sufficient degree of technological awareness is maintained at all levels in the Army. The qualification Passed Technical Staff College will be for officers required to fill primarily technical appointments, but our aim is to produce the "Double Blue", P.T.S.C./P.S.C., to whom every senior appointment in the Army will be open.
But officer recruitment is a many-sided problem to which there is no single solution. No one of the alternatives put forward at different times—alter the Regular Commissions Board system, increase the intake from the ranks, get more boys from the grammar schools, provide more security for the officer— 239 will produce the answer. In 1951, a Committee, under the chairmanship of General Sir Montagu Stopford, rendered a Report which resulted in the founding of Welbeck College, which is proving such a great success in producing officers for the technical arms of the Service. There have been many changes since then and it is time this problem was again put under the microscope. So I have recently set up a Committee, under, General Sir Richard Goodbody, to report on all the ramifications of the problem of officer recruitment.
Simultaneously, we are having a thorough review of the career which the Army offers to its Regular officers to see what we can do to make it more attractive both as regards offering a longer career to some, and enabling those who have not a long-term future in the Army to leave at an age when it is easier to start afresh in civil life. We have broken the back of the other rank recruiting problem and we are certainly not going to fail in the related question of seeing that the Army is well officered.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Could I put one point for consideration while the right hon. Gentleman is considering these matters? The great source of officer recruitment in the old days used to be the military families who went into the Army from generation to generation. It is that source in which there has been the largest falling off. Is not the reason for that falling off the fact that the older pensioners and retired officers are labouring under a feeling of great injustice and are saying to the boys, "Do not go into the Army. You will be treated like I am"? Is not perhaps the best recruiting we could do to give justice to people who have suffered in that way?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, may I add this? It seems to me, from my experience at the War Office and viewing the officer recruitment problem, that perhaps the most important assurance that the potential officer requires is that when he leaves the Army, or is compelled to leave the Service, he should have some assurance of profitable employment. That is the real problem as I understand it. Unless something is done about that, either so that the officer has a longer career or, if he goes out at an earlier age, he should be assured of some profitable 240 employment, the problem of officer recruitment will not be solved.
§ Mr. Soames
Those two interjections show the wideness of the scope of the problem. There is a great deal in the points made by the right hon. Member for Easington and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). Those are the sort of problems—I assure hon. Members opposite, and there are numerous others—which will be taken into consideration by this Committee.
On all this I and my colleagues on the Army Council are keeping open minds, except for one principle, to which we hold fast. The standard of leadership to which the British soldier has been accustomed in the past must not be lowered. A regiment is as good as the officers in it and the British soldier deserves the best. On that, we will not compromise.
There is another issue in the forefront of our thoughts. That is mobility of the Army in all its aspects. The Committee knows of our plans for strategic air mobility between home and overseas and between theatres—the Britannia for troops and the Britannic for freight—and of our plans for tactical mobility within a theatre with the Beverley and later the Armstrong-Whitworth Argosy; but mobility does not end with the provision of aircraft. This basic concept of flying to the scene of operations with equipment that allows units great battle mobility must be a primary consideration both in our training and in the design of new equipment, whether fighting vehicles, guided and electronic devices, personal weapons, or administrative support.
This goes right back to fundamentals; for instance, the weight of equipment which the ordinary unit has to carry around with it. Not counting vehicles, the weight of the G1098 of an infantry battalion today is of the order of 56 tons. This is too heavy, and we have this year been carrying out experiments to see in what ways it can be lightened, both by the production of new and lighter articles and also by cutting out certain items of equipment. The Parachute Regiment has already done a lot in this respect. The G1098 of a Parachute battalion used to weigh 45 tons and it has succeeded in reducing it to 32 tons. This year our experiments, which hitherto have been confined to battalions, will take place at brigade group level, and I believe that they will lead to satisfactory results.
241 The transformation which is now taking place in the Army is unparalled in time of peace. When I say that, I do not forget the great changes made at other periods, but we are at one and the same time not only changing the Army's operational and regimental structure, its weapons and its order of battle, but, simultaneously, we are putting into effect revolutionary changes in the soldier's whole circumstances and conditions of service. Moreover, this is all being done at a time when, as never before in peace, the Army has been fully extended on cold war and internal security tasks throughout the world.
I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members of the Committee will join me in paying tribute to the way yin which these tasks have been sustained throughout this period. I have had the opportunity, in the last year or so, of seeing the Army in all major theatres, other than the Far East, and on each occasion I have gone away with the abiding impression of high efficiency and high morale, of a growing belief, which I am sure is well-founded, that at the end of this transition period we will have a well-balanced Army which is up to date in its equipment and, every bit as important, up to date in its outlook.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
Once again it is a pleasure to congratulate the Secretary of State on the most interesting survey which he has given us. As he said, a great deal is being done in the Army. There was never a time when there has been a greater transition going on. Therefore, he had a lot of interesting things to tell us. In the earlier part of my speech, I shall follow the order of subjects which he took.
The right hon. Gentleman began with the subject of manpower, and there again we congratulate him, the Army and all those who had confidence in the rate of recruiting and in the building up of an all-professional Army. We are very interested in the change of target from 165,000 men to 180,000 men. We think it right; but I could not help noticing that the Secretary of State gave us a totally different reason for this change than the one put out in the Defence White Paper. The right hon. Gentleman said it was to bring units to a higher level of establishment. That obviously is very desirable, 242 but the Defence White Paper gives us quite a different reason. It says:While the Government are satisfied that their present plan for an all-regular Army is soundly conceived, they consider it desirable to ensure that its strength shall not fall below the planned figure of 165,000. Since in any voluntary force fluctuation in the levels of recruiting are inevitable, it has been decided to accept recruits in excess of this figure, up to an overall ceiling of about 180,000.
§ Mr. Soames
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Member so soon, but I want to make clear that I was not endeavouring to give the Committee the reason why the ceiling had been raised. What I thought the Committee would be interested in was what we would do with the 15,000 and an explanation of where we would be putting them.
§ Mr. Strachey
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was saying that it would be nice to have 180,000 because then establishments could be raised to a higher level and generally strengthened. That is eminently sensible, much more sensible than the reason in the White Paper.
I should not necessarily go so far as The Times, whose comment on that passage in the White Paper was that it was particularly silly. That is harsh, but I think it is a pity that that excuse was put in because, if we need to have a target of 180,000 in order to be sure of getting 165,000, clearly if we had a target of 165,000 we would have to be sure of getting 140,000, and everyone would agree that that would be on the small side. It would have been much more sensible to admit that 165,000 was what was thought possible and that now it was found there was a good prospect of getting 180,000. That really is all there is in it.
There is one more thing I should like to say about recruiting, and that is to utter a word of warning. We have all studied the interesting answer which the Secretary of State gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) on 24th November in which the right hon. Gentleman broke down the increase in recruiting to the different recruiting centres. It is very difficult to be dogmatic on the result of that, but on the whole, it suggests that the main and most important increase in recruiting has, at any rate, some correlation to the increase in unemployment throughout the country. If that is so, we must remember that the 243 present level of recruiting may be connected with the present level of unemployment.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I should like to clear up this point. I am doubtful whether there is a direct correlation between recruiting and unemployment. I think there is a correlation between recruiting and the incidence of unemployment. If I had had the opportunity to speak, I would have made the point. It is the availability of jobs rather than the specific movement of unemployment. It is the same pattern as before the war.
§ Mr. Strachey
Yes, but, for instance, in towns and districts where there is a shortage of jobs today there is, on the whole, the most marked upward movement in recruiting. There is some evidence of that, at any rate.
We ought to be warned that, as and when a future Government bring unemployment under control again, further inducements may be necessary to maintain the level of recruiting. We ought not to take it for granted that recruiting efforts will continue to be so successful. When one has made that caveat, the fact remains that the recruiting figures are better than almost any of us imagined they would be. Both for the Regular Army and, as the Secretary of State said, for the Territorial Army they are very encouraging. I wish to join with him in congratulating the Army as a whole on the wonderful resilience, patience and good sense that they have shown in accepting the profound reorganisation which has been necessary in this transition from a National Service Army to a full professional Army.
The House was very much concerned with equipment in the defence debate last week. The Secretary of State was very wise to devote a great deal of attention to this matter in his speech and to attempt to reassure the Committee on it, because a very great deal of concern was expressed in the defence debate on this matter, and quite as much from the other side of the House as from this side.
It was good to hear the list of new equipment which we were assured by the Secretary of State would reach the Army in the near future. All it amounted to was a promise from the Secretary of State that all would be right from now on. If 244 we accept that promise completely at its face value, it does not mean that we can pass over the situation as it has been for the last few years and as it is, to a considerable extent, today. We think, in common with Members from all parts of the House, that, for whatever reason, the state of Army equipment has been deplorable and that the Grigg Committee, a completely non-political body whose Report is accepted by the Government, was justified in making its particularly severe strictures on this subject.
It may be held that the House, the Grigg Committee or anybody else ought not to say too much on this subject, because it affects the morale of the Army or affects recruitment, but one must probe this matter precisely in order to remedy it. I have not the slightest doubt that it will be remedied. If it is not remedied by the present Secretary of State, I can assure the Committee that it will be remedied by the successor Government which we believe will come into office in a fairly short time. No potential recruit need be discouraged in the very least from joining the Army by the state of things which we are bound to reveal and re-emphasise, as has been done again and again in these debates.
The explanation which the Secretary of State gave us was that the great Korean spurt in production was necessarily all of equipment which is now out of date. No one can deny that. When we made the spurt in arms production at the time of the Korean war, we could obviously produce only the items of equipment then in existence. That was eight years ago. Therefore, it was equipment of that vintage. I re-emphasise that that was eight years ago.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman must not be too modest about it. In paint of fact, it is eight years since we negotiated at Washington on the British rifle. If when the Tory Government came to power in 1951 they had rejected the advice of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), we should have proceeded with the manufacture of the British rifle, which was regarded by the War Office technical experts as the best in the world, and we should have been able to supply every arm of the Service with the best rifle in the world, instead of which we went on to the Belgian rifle.
§ Mr. Strachey
I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend. The rifle is a good example of a piece of equipment which was not of last war vintage, but a new post-war weapon which we proposed to go into production with at once. That also applies to the Centurion.
§ Mr. Soames
Would the right hon. Gentleman forgive me for a second or two? Am I following his thought aright if I understand that, looking back on it, he would have advocated us adopting a rifle of a different bore than that which other countries in N.A.T.O. were adopting?
§ Mr. Strachey
I think that is the case. I continue to deplore the change-over from the Enfield-produced rifle to the Belgian rifle. The Belgian rifle is an incomparably better weapon than the one it has succeeded, but we have re-equipped the British Army with the second-best rifle in the world and not with the best. That is a great pity. The Secretary of State states simply that the re-equipment with the Belgian rifle eight years ago was re-equipment with the best weapon of its kind. Of course it was. That does not excuse the failure year after year to move forward. The fact is that it is still in the future—we are told now in the immediate future—when this new weapon will come into operation.
I must call the attention of the Minister to statements in the Grigg Report, which, after all, are much more ex parte than anything I can produce. Paragraph 64 of the Grigg Report says:The Navy and the Royal Air Force, are on the whole, reasonably well equipped; but this is by no means so of every Army unit.The Committee goes on to describe the situation in one unit after another.
This is not something which the Opposition is inventing. It is something which is common ground for students of the matter. Paragraph 138 of the Grigg Report explains why that is so. It must be so if one looks at the financial con- 246 siderations which have gone to making the Army Estimates over the past five years. They state:The amount allocated by the Army to production has declined by 65 per cent. over the past five years.The consequence of that is that the Army is now receiving only 15 per cent. of the total given to production for the three Services, as compared with 30 per cent. five years ago. There can be no doubt that the Army has fared very badly in comparison with the other two Services. It is not a question of the total. It is the proportion that the Army has received.
The real point to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee is this. As I read the present Estimates—and the Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong—that process is still continuing. The expenditure of the Army on the production of new weapons and warlike stores generally is still dropping. To take another set of figures which we have calculated, for production and research as a whole in 1953 the Army was receiving just about one-third as its share. In 1959 it will be receiving rather less than one-tenth of the expenditure on production and research over the whole field. That is a very severe drop.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is the two taken together. That is a drop of such a magnitude that it needs some explanation. The Secretary of State explained it partly by saying that at the same time the number of men in the Army has gone down sharply and, therefore, the provision of weapons and the like per man has gone down to the same degree. That is true. It is an offset on one side. The Secretary of State forgets that at the same time the value of money has gone down. Those two factors are bound to offset each other. It remains true that the proportion of effort on military production which has gone to the Army has been, right up to now—and, as I shall show in a moment, will be over the year for which we are estimating—lower and lower.
Vote 7 is the critical Vote in the Army Estimates. The essential subheads are E. Mechanical Transport and Aircraft. and F, Technical Stores. Once again, the amount is still dropping. It is true that 247 mechanical transport and aircraft are up by £111,000; but technical stores, which is the Vote under which weapons come, are down by £2¼ million. Therefore, the process of decreasing the money spent for arming the Army continues.
When I look at the breakdown of Subhead F, Technical Stores, I see a very strange factor which I do not understand. The Secretary of State tells us that re-equipment in signals and wireless is going very fast and very well, but we find that the amount of money provided for signals and wireless equipment drops from nearly £7½ million to just over £4 million. Once again, the actual amount being provided seems still to be going down rapidly—
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider it is at least possible that the reason for this does not lie in the hands of the Secretary of State for War but in the hands of the Minister of Supply, who is not, in fact, meeting the orders he has been given? If the Ministry of Supply is not meeting those orders, then, of course, the money is not spent. That may well be the reason, although I do not know that it is.
§ Mr. Strachey
Far be it from me to allocate blame between two Government Departments. The hon. and gallant Member must do that for himself. I myself put the blame on the shoulders of the Government, whichever Department it may be—and I could not say which Department it is—
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Is my right hon. Friend's argument that the Estimates are not big enough?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
This is a new one on me. If every one is to have his pet theory advanced the total bill must be largely increased.
§ Mr. Strachey
The next page of my notes deals with that very matter, as I was quite sure that some hon. Friend would ask me that very question. We are asked: are we proposing to spend more money? In this field, we certainly 248 are. These two subheads of Vote 7 amount to £50 million. Out of that sum has to come all the equipment for the Army, and, be it remembered, that £50 million appears in Defence Estimates of £1,500 million. It is therefore a very small part of the general Defence Estimates.
I think that the Secretary of State would agree that if those two subheads were £10 million higher the re-equipment of the Army in any given year would be transformed. And £10 million is well within the margin of error of the present Defence Estimates. It is a matter of fact that that error was more of the order of £30 million this year. Therefore, the actual amount spent on the earlier re-equipment of the Army would be well within the error that there must be in Defence Estimates of this size.
Cheeseparing or delay, whatever the reason—I do not pretend to know—in this particular aspect of arming the Army has been really bad economy, and I must reinforce the pleas that came from all sides of the House last week that it should end.
During the defence debate we were given a lot of reasons for this having happened. We were told, and I think the Secretary of State repeated it, that it was because of having to use up stocks. That is an understandable reason, and to some extent we accept it. What we could not accept—and I must refer to them again as I see them in HANSARD—Were the reasons given by the Minister of Supply.
He gave two reasons, and they were extremely strange. One of his reasons for not re-equipping the Army had nothing to do with costs or technical difficulties. According to him, it could not be done because of tradition. He said:There is something here which is deeply embedded in tradition. The weapons of the Army, by tradition, change but slowly.He gave examples of how far back some of the existing weapons of the Army date. He mentioned the rifle, dating back to the First World War—it would be almost true to say that it went back almost to the Boer War. He went on to say that this was because:… the weapons of the Army, to a much greater degree than those of the Navy and Air Force are either personal weapons of the individual soldier, or are introduced on a considerable scale and are made universal for 249 the entire Army, with the result that the process of re-equipment is expensive and protracted. That is traditional …He went further. He became almost philosophic, and said:I am suggesting that there is latent in things a slowness of change …That, indeed, is a very broad way of putting it.
Frankly, this is nonsense. We know that the Army is crying out for new, efficient and up-to-date weapons and equipment, and it does not do for the Minister of Supply to say that if we furnished these weapons the soldiers would not use them because they are so traditionally minded. I invite some Minister lo correct that statement.
That was not his worst reason for not re-equipping the Army. His worst reason was this. He said:The question which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are really seeking to ask is: why has this happened now and not before? The answer is that the prompting factor is the change from National Service to a volunteer force.… Yes, the very size of a conscript force makes the question of equipment very much more expensive and holds it up. With the removal of that impediment, the opportunity of change is being seized."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1317–20.]If those words mean anything at all, it is that we could not re-equip the National Service Army but could do so when it became a volunteer Army. That was a most unfortunate thing to say. To say to the wretched National Service man, who is forced to go into the Army, that he must be given inferior equipment because it is too expensive to equip him properly is a dreadful thing. Someone should withdraw that statement and make it clear that that is not why the re-equipment has been held up.
Frankly, I do not believe that these are the reasons. The real reason comes out of what we discussed in the defence debate. It has been the false military doctrine of the Government as a whole; and the Minister of Defence especially, with his intense nuclear preoccupation or obsession, has really not cared about the equipment with conventional weapons of the land Army. He has not felt that it was of really high priority, or mattered very much. That is why the thing has slipped and has gone on so slowly.
It does not, of course, mean that the Army will not eventually be re-equipped, 250 but it matters very much this year, and it is a tragedy that it has happened. It arises from this doctrine that has failed to identify what the real rôle of the land Army in the present-day world must be. I do not think that that is easy—it is very difficult—but it is indispensable if we are to agree about the re-equipment of the Army, and re-equip it in the right way. We cannot do that until we know what its jobs are.
The Army's jobs would seem to be three. I will not repeat what I said last week, but the first is the capability of fighting conventional war in Europe, because unless it has that capability we are back to the Minister of Defence's terrible dilemma of either giving in to any Russian aggression or of blowing up the world as one's only reaction. If the Minister of Defence will expound how he is to avoid that dilemma unless he has an Army capable, as part of the N.A.T.O. force, of fighting a conventional war, I should be very grateful. I myself see no way of otherwise avoiding it.
Next, the Army must have the capacity to fight with tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons because, obviously, the Russians may have them and might use them. We discussed that last week. Further, there is what might be called the overseas function, which is the distinct one of being able to mount an expeditionary force to some part of the world in some emergency, the nature of which we may not be able to foresee but with which we must have the capacity or the capability to deal.
It is that third capability that seems most difficult to provide for, because it raises the whole technical question of air transportation, air portability or equipment on the one hand, and of overseas dumps and bases on the other. There is also the possible question of naval portability of transport, to which we have often resorted before, although always on a sort of emergency basis by aircraft carrier or naval vessel. The answer may be, as I suspect, a combination of all three methods.
I do not think that anybody has really given to the House—they may have thought about it—a rational picture of these three functions of the Army and how it should be equipped to deal with them. The idea of the Army finding its equipment overseas and of the dumps 251 placed about the world for it to go to is an attractive policy, but it means bases all over the world, and that raises very difficult and far-reaching political issues.
In this connection, the Secretary of State referred, and I refer, advisedly to Cyprus. There, of course, we join with the right hon. Gentleman most heartily in congratulating our troops on their conduct when doing what, as he said,—and I entirely agree—was the most unwelcome and the most ungrateful of all the jobs they have had to do.
As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he said that while naturally the expenditure on temporary accommodation for large masses of troops of up to 25,000 or 30,000 men was being scrapped, there was more building work to be done and more expenditure to be incurred on the two bases that we retain at Dhekelia and Episkopi. I was interested in that. It may be right, but I am doubtful about these two bases. I ask hon. Members opposite to recall what has happened. These two bases are to be in an island over which we shall not have sovereignty. Therefore, they will be in exactly the same position as was the Suez base before the Suez operation.
The Government were abundantly right but appallingly late in making the Cyprus settlement. They could have had that settlement and could have retained bases in an island over which they did not have sovereignty years ago without precipitating any of the protracted trouble, the immense burden on the Army, and the world-wide odium that the Cyprus situation created. All the Government have got is what they could have had at the very beginning—bases in foreign territories.
For a time, those bases may or may not be useful, but I am rather sceptical—and are not hon. Members also sceptical by now?—of basing a world-wide strategy on bases that, at the very best, turn out to be wasting assets. Therefore, I do not really believe that this principle of obtaining mobility by having dumps over the world will suffice, in the long run at any rate, and I am driven back to the view that an important function of the Royal Navy in the future will be to transport and maintain troops overseas and that part of their heavy equipment which it is not really practicable, 252 and will not be for many years yet, at any rate, to move by air.
These are the rôles of the Army. We shall certainly want a very versatile and well-trained Army, because, of course, we cannot have three separate armies to perform the three separate roles. I should be the first to agree that a National Service Army is not one which could possibly be trained in the three roles, but I should have thought that, although it is a very difficult one, it is a possible assignment for an all-professional long-service Army which could be trained in the three separate though to some extent related rôles of major conventional warfare, warfare with tactical nuclear weapons, and overseas expeditions.
I should like to know whether the training authorities and the best training advisers consider that this is a possible task to give to an all-professional Army. If it is not, we shall have to think again very hard. I cannot see that the numbers suggested could possibly suffice unless the Army could be given that versatility and, of course, the very considerable amount of equipment necessary to perform all those three rôles.
It seems to me that, while we on this side can certainly congratulate most heartily the Army on its performance over the past year, on the way it has tackled the tremendous job of transformation into an all-professional Army, and the way it has done the hard jobs we have given it all over the world—we congratulate the Secretary of State, too, on the efforts he has made for the Army—we cannot congratulate the Government at all on their attitude to the Army. On the contrary, we feel that, within the defence programme as a whole, the Army has been, in the Government's view, a poor relation.
This is a very profound mistake to make in the world today. It is a profound mistake for the reason which my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) gave, and which I endeavour to repeat, in the defence debate, that, because of the circumstances of the world balance of power today, because nuclear parity is approaching, and because of the appalling character of nuclear war, the capacity of the Army to deal, without recourse to nuclear war, with some outbreak of force in the world is something on which our very lives 253 depend. Therefore, far from the Army being a poor relation among the Defence Forces, it ought today to have something like the very highest priority.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
The Committee will have listened with its usual interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). I am very glad indeed to welcome him as a supporter of the Army. Indeed, I welcome support for the Army from whichever quarter it may come. I wish to take up only one point with him. I did not want to make my own speech by way of interventions, but I wanted to comment on his remarks about the relationship between unemployment and the recruitment figures. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Grigg Committee dealt with this matter and, in paragraph 5 (a) of Appendix B said:… no correlation between unemployment and recruiting can be established from the figures, although on the face of it one would expect such a relationship to exist.I do not think that one should pay too much attention to the coincidence of a certain development of unemployment in some areas and the recruitment figures as they now exist.
I last spoke in a debate on the Army Estimates in 1956. I then moved what I thought would be the last of the intervening Amendments. Right hon. and hon. Members will remember that those were Amendments which used to interrupt our debates at 7 o'clock and tend to disrupt the debate for the rest of the evening. Now, unfortunately, we are to have another interruption today. I was wrong in thinking that the Amendment I moved on that occasion would be the last intervention in the middle of a debate such as this.
I referred then to the fact that the defence problem was completely overshadowed by nuclear weapons which had introduced completely new factors into strategical and tactical thinking, and I ventured to call for a comprehensive review of the organisation of the Army, first to decide what its task was likely to be—
§ Mr. Hall
—and, secondly, to ensure that it was adequate to carry out that task. It is often very salutary, and some- 254 times rather melancholy, to reread old speeches. Reading my own speech on that occasion, I do not think that there is anything I should like to alter in it apart, perhaps, from the grammar. I do wish, however, that I had on that occasion been much more emphatic in the case I then put to the Committee. It is only now that we are beginning to appreciate what rôle the Army will be called upon to play.
It is generally admitted—indeed, there is no attempt to disguise the fact—that at this moment the Army is not adequately equipped to carry out that rôle. It is not really my purpose to review the mistakes, hesitations and lost opportunities of the years since the last war. I have no wish to make a party speech or party points on this matter. Everybody has to take a certain measure of responsibility for the mistakes which have been made. We must remember that the development of nuclear weapons posed for us completely new strategical and tactical problems the answers to which even now we do not really know. From time to time I have had the opportunity of listening to the discussions of senior Service chiefs from the three Services. When I have heard the very considerable differences of opinion which have been expressed among them, I have had the greatest sympathy for Ministers of both parties who have been called upon to make defence decisions on the advice they have received.
My purpose is to try to review the rôle of the Army in the defence structure in the type of warfare which it is most likely to have to encounter. I do not wish to discuss the deterrent, because this was very adequately covered in the defence debate, except to express the view that, provided we can take it that any potential enemy is convinced that we will use the deterrent if we are faced with an attack which we cannot meet with conventional forces, we can, I think, assume that we shall not have a world shooting war except by accident. If that accident happens, then the Army of the United Kingdom together with the Reserve Army, or such of them as is left, will be fully occupied with rescue operations purely and simply. I do not think that we should he very much concerned then with how the rest of the Army in other parts of the world might be deployed or operating.
255 In this connection, if I may stray from my main theme for a moment, I want to put two questions to the Minister. In his admirable survey of the Army Estimates, he said that there had been a considerable increase in recruiting to the Territorial Army. This is very much to be welcomed. It is due partly to the understanding that the Territorial Army will play an operational rôle in providing units or divisions for the support of N.A.T.O. Forces. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he thinks that he will still obtain recruits at anything like the same rate when a number of units are diverted to purely Civil Defence operations which, by their very nature, are not very glamorous and are much duller than the operational roles which one may expect in the field.
Secondly, does my right hon. Friend see any future in the Army Emergency Reserve. The Army Emergency Reserve depends almost entirely upon the supply of National Service men. What will happen to that organisation when National Service comes to an end particularly bearing in mind that the A.E.R. was organised originally to provide Service units for the reinforcement of a Continental or overseas Army?
I now revert to my main theme. In my view. the main task of the Army is for policing actions and for limited war. I do not think that we can in this country, with all our other commitments, have an Army which is capable of fighting, even in conjunction with its Allies, a major conventional war. I do not think that that is possible; it is certainly not possible without reintroducing National Service. With an all-Regular Army, we must, I am sure, confine ourselves to police actions and limited war. If warfare did spread to a major conflict, we should, in fact, have started a nuclear war then because, without any doubt at all, in those circumstances nuclear weapons would be used.
For the purpose I have in mind, I think that we should have—I should like to quote here from the concluding words of the speech I made three years ago-… a highly trained, highly efficient and fully mobile Army, free of National Service …"—OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 1452.]We are certainly within sight of the last requirement, but, by the time National 256 Service ends, are we likely to have a highly trained, highly efficient and fully mobile Army?
I will deal with mobility first. The Secretary of State in his speech referred to air transport and other methods of deployment. We are told that we are likely to have a force of 180,000. The original conception of a force of 165,000 meant that we had battalions at what I might describe as a lower lower establishment. With 180,000, we shall probably have infantry battalions of about 750, still, in my view, too low a strength for real operational efficiency. Indeed, I would say that the curse of the Army for many years, both before the war and since, has been this conception of a lower establishment in peace time which has meant that units have had to be reinforced and brought up to strength by reserves brought in either from other units or by recalling men to the Colours whenever it was necessary for units to act in an operational rôle. That was all right, perhaps, when there may have been time to train and deploy units so that the newcomers would become accustomed to their new command, but I do not think that that is a very effective method now.
We must face the fact that we shall have this Regular professional Army of 180,000, and that will be less than the United Kingdom enlisted Army as it was in 1937. It is, therefore, all the more essential that this Army should be completely mobile. It is essential also that there should be prior deployment of units and reserves in such of the strategic bases around the world as are still available to us.
I do not think that it is any secret that, to put it no higher, there has been some delay in providing the Army with the air transport it requires. I wonder how much of this is due to the fact That this air transport is carried on the Air Estimates. It is very understandable that the Royal Air Force is reluctant to give too much of its resources to providing the Army with transport if, by so doing, it must deprive itself of some aircraft which it regards as more important for its own purposes. I am not at all sure that we should not change this method and bring air transport for the Army on to the Army Estimates, even if it happens to be 257 administered, serviced and crewed by the Royal Air Force.
Whatever the reasons may be, I wish to emphasise something which I feel very deeply. We must do all in our power to ensure that the supply of aircraft now ordered is hurried up as much as it possibly cart be. Everybody will agree that, if we have a small force, it is essential that that force should be taken very quickly indeed to any spot where trouble breaks out, because by so doing it is sometimes possible to put a stop to an outbreak of trouble which. if left, might required ten to twenty times the amount of troops to deal with it at a later date.
I now come to the other points which I made about training and the efficiency of the force. The efficiency of any force must be dependent to a large extent on its equipment, and I hope, having heard what the Secretary of State said, that by the time National Service ends the Army will be fully equipped with modern and up-to-date weapons, and especially with first-class communications. Communications in the operational Army today are appalling. No army can fight efficiently unless it has first-class communications. I look forward with the greatest interest to the development and issue of new signals equipment to the Army in the next few years.
Given adequate equipment, the fighting efficiency of an army is dependent on three things: first, the quality of its officers, N. C. O. 's and men; secondly, the standard of training which it receives; and thirdly, the ability to generate among the soldiers themselves pride in themselves and in the army to which they belong, born of some understanding of the cause which they are called upon to defend, and of confidence in their equipment and in themselves as fighting men.
I am not satisfied that the quality of officers and the standard of training in the Army is all that it should be. I know that it is customary for retired lieutenant-colonels approaching late middle-age to consider that the rising generation of young officers is not what it was in their day. In looking back on one's early career, in one's mind the tail and horns disappear and one finds that in memory one's head is surrounded by a halo. I have no doubt that there is a certain amount of that sort of thinking in one's reflections about the quality of officers today.
258 However, making every allowance for that tendency, I am disquieted by the evidence which I constantly receive that young officers today are much more interested in the social prestige and privilege of their position than in their job and the men they command. There are many exceptions to this and I must generalise, because it is unfair to stigmatise and condemn everybody in the same way. There is, however, a tendency among many young officers to treat their job as a sort of nine-to-five job and to believe that when they are off-duty they should have no further concern or interest in the men for whom they are responsible. That must be bad for the Army as a whole.
It is said in the Memorandum that there is considerable difficulty in getting candidates of the right quality to submit themselves for commissions. I suggest that there are several reasons for this. Although the question of pay may be incidentally connected, I think that the pay of a young officer, certainly up to the rank of captain, is extremely good, and I doubt very much whether many young men at the age at which they are likely to become captains would do better, if as well, in civil life.
The really able young man, however, who takes an interest in the career which he has decided to follow looks beyond that. He considers the pay rates above the rank of captain and he finds that they are by no means as good as those for comparable responsibilities in civil life. When a man goes above the rank of major, to lieutenant-colonel or brigadier, the pay and allowances which he receives do not compare favourably with the rewards of men with positions of similar responsibility in civil life. He realises, too, that his chances of promotion are limited very largely by the establishment of the Army, which may be reduced during his career. He knows, too, that if he is not fortunate enough to get promotion beyond the rank of major, he may well come out at the age of 45 or 50, which is the most difficult age at which to obtain other employment.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Would the hon. Member say what jobs in civvy street carry a rate of pay equivalent to that of a major?
§ Mr. Hall
I can give the hon. Gentleman any number of positions throughout 259 industry where a man with the responsibility and background training equivalent in civil life to that of a major would certainly get as much and possibly more. Indeed, one of my own responsibilities is trying to find executives in the medium and senior range for various appointments in industry, and I find it extremely difficult to get people to accept anything like the rate of pay which a major receives. A person with commensurate ability who is trained for professional or commercial work could hope to get more than, say, a lieutenant-colonel who is approaching the end of his period of service.
A lieutenant-colonel, unless he is fortunate, is likely to come out of the Army at the age of 55. Between 55 and 65 is the period of the major earning power of most people in civil life, during which they go on acquiring and accumulating the greater part of their income. That is denied to a lieutenant-colonel in the Army and he has to come out on moderate pension and try to find suitable further employment.
I should like to suggest some of the remedies which might help to attract young officers. First, we must acknowledge that many officers will leave the Army at the age of 30 and onwards if they have no chance of promotion. We must provide industrial, technical and professional courses and training for them against the time when they leave the Army and we must try to make it possible for them to maintain contact with some of the industrial and professional firms and organisations which might be prepared to employ them when they leave the Forces. In the higher ranks, we must compensate the more senior officers who may have to retire between the ages of 45 and 55 either by giving them increased pay during service or by improving their pensions. I am convinced that we shall not get men into the Army if their career is likely to be interrupted at what should be the peak of their earning power.
Even when the financial conditions and conditions of service are right, we shall still not attract the right young man unless we build up in the Army a pride in the Service and develop the sense of prestige which it had in the past and which attracted many people who remained 260 loyal to the Army even though they were, by today's standards, grossly underpaid. This is a vital problem, because with mediocre officers we shall have a mediocre Army, which even the most outstanding non-commissioned officers will not be able to put right.
I now turn to the question of training. My impression from such investigations as I have been able to make is that training in the Army today is not sufficiently constructive and purposeful or filled with a sense of urgency. It is, perhaps, understandable that during the continuation of National Service, and with equipment dating from the last war, it is difficult to give adequate training; but, if we are to have a first-class Army, it is absolutely essential to destroy the sense of boredom which seems almost inseparable from peace-time soldiers and which is summed up by the expressive term of the soldier that he is "browned-off" or "cheesed-off". He has long periods of inactivity between short terms of intense activity. This problem springs largely from insufficient constructive activity and the lack of close personal contact between officers and men. It also springs from the lack of opportunity for training which bears some realistic relation to the task which the Army will have to perform.
I suggest that there should be far more training in movement by air as well as by road and foot—I stress, by foot. One of the problems that we are likely to be up against is that we may be fighting a physically tough people. If the Army becomes too road-bound or too unaccustomed to be moved by transport, it will come up against great difficulties in certain parts of the world. A few toughening up courses would not only be good for the Army but would be welcomed by many of the men.
Training is a very big subject and I do not want to go into it in detail. In fact, it would be quite impossible to do so in the course of a speech. It is, however, something which is important enough to be investigated again by the War Office, because I have a shrewd suspicion that there should be a lot of re-thinking, not only about training in general, but about our present training methods.
On the point about the esprit de corps which should be generated in the Army, 261 I think that we must try to develop a sense of pride, confidence and understanding of the way of life which soldiers may be called upon to defend, to match the sense of personal dedication which we may find in some of the troops who may be opposed to us in a future war. This matter comes under the heading of "psychological warfare" to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) referred during the defence debate. It is essential that we must have complete belief in the cause which we defend if we are to prevail against superior forces and, which is very much more important, if we are to win the war of ideas.
I believe that we have our priorities wrong. Behind the shield of the nuclear deterrent, to which we make a contribution, our priorities should be, first, defence and counter-attack in the cold war—by that I mean economic and ideological war —and, secondly, in a limited shooting war. I do not believe we can go further than that.
I think that we are losing the cold war. We are being out-flanked and out-manoeuvred, particularly in what is described as the war for men's minds. It is not a question of pouring more money into underdeveloped countries, as was said in the defence debate. I do not think that money necessarily makes friends. The United States found that out to their cost. Often, in giving money away, one incurs enemies, because one places people under a sense of obligation, which they do not like. It is not a question of getting more students over here as a counter to those going to Czechoslovakia. A lot of students come over here and we educate them. but it is the Communist Party that gets hold of them—
§ Mr. Hall
Intelligence. It might be out of order to discuss this matter too far and to discuss the White Paper recently issued on overseas information services, although I was grievously disappointed with the very small additional amount voted for that purpose. However. this has a relevant bearing on the subject which we are now discussing. The Army, after all, is only one of the weapons which we must use in the war which we are fighting even at this moment.
262 I am certain that to help the Army in its task we must have an intensive psychological penetration into other countries in all forms—I will not detail them all—and we must have field work by men and women who passionately believe in the cause which they are trying to explain, and the same sense of purpose and urgency which animates Communism. It must be recognised that this form of psychological warfare is our main weapon. If we lose the battle of ideas and the war of the spirit, then in the end, whatever we may do in this debate and whatever we may vote for the Army. we have no other defence.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stock ton-on-Tees)
We have heard a very realistic and at times highly critical speech from the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall). I hope that the War Office will pay particular attention to what he said, because he has underlined many points which were made from this side in the defence debate last week.
I want to deal with the manpower situation. The original intention at the end of National Service was to make do with an Army of 165,000 men. I say "make do", because in view of the expert contributions from a number of hon. and gallant Members in the Committee it was quite clear that the realistic figure was something nearer 220,000 to undertake all our commitments. Nevertheless, the War Office settled on 165,000 men, because it really believed that that was all it would get. But that is not all the story, because in that figure of 165,000 there would be serious gaps in technical arms and in skilled manpower. During the debate on the Grigg Report, I put forward the view that the Army should be allowed to recruit up to whatever number the War Office thought it could obtain. I am particularly pleased, therefore, that the Government have now changed their mind and are establishing a ceiling of 180,000.
Does the Under-Secretary think that that 180.000 will give him a sufficient number of skilled people to enable him to fill the gaps which he then detailed as existing? If so, does that mean that there will be some spill-over to go into the less skilled arms and so increase their numbers? This figure of 180,000 is not based on commitments at all, but on the 263 assumption of the numbers which the Army is likely to recruit.
On the question of the relationship between National Service men and the Regulars, the Secretary of State, in his very forthright speech at the beginning of the debate, made it clear that certain new modern arms were going to the Regular soldier. Does that mean that the Regular soldier is now being organised into separate departments and regiments? Otherwise, we shall have in one regiment a Regular armed with an F.N. rifle and a National Service counterpart doing very much the same job with a 303 rifle. Are the Government working towards an organisation which foreshadows the future rôle of the Regular and which will keep him as far as possible in units separately organised from those in which the National Service man will be organised? If this is not done, there is bound to be trouble in the relationship between the Regular and the National Service man. At present, there seems to be a fifty-fifty division between Regular and National Service men in the Army's make-up.
When the White Paper announced that certain regiments were to be disbanded, many arms were raised in horror at the ending of tradition. It was said that this would affect recruiting. I never believed that. I believe that we overrated the strength of tradition in the Armed Forces, and I think that the new regiments will be just as effective for recruiting purposes as the old ones which they superseded.
I understand that at the peak of the disturbances in Cyprus 40,000 troops and security people were involved. It was stated in the defence debate last week that the figure was now 25,000 and would be reduced eventually to 6,000. I take it that that reduction must take place within twelve months of the signing of the recent Agreement. The sooner we get that figure reduced the better. If it can be done in six months instead of twelve months, it will be very much better for the political atmosphere in the island as well as from the point of view of expenditure by the United Kingdom.
When will that reduction take place and how will it be phased? Where will the troops go to from Cyprus? I understand that the bulk may be going to Germany. If that is so, will we be asking for a further contribution from the 264 German Federal Government towards their maintenance? [HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] Well, we can ask for it. Whether we shall get it is another matter. Further, what about the emergency steps which were taken as a result of questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) about accommodation in Cyprus? I understand that efforts were made to put that matter right, but it seems now that they will be unnecessary. The Secretary of State has said that we are now to concentrate on buildings in the base areas, and I gather that there will be permanent military installations. Can we have some idea of what that involves by way of provision of married quarters, recreational facilities, and so on?
We seem to be discussing the Army in a somewhat objective, unrealistic way. without bearing in mind the main theatre in which, if anything happens, they would be involved, namely, Germany. That is where the Army is at the moment playing its fullest role, both in the Berlin garrison and in its contribution to N.A.T.O. forces. If unfortunately something went wrong in May, our troops as now organised and equipped would be out on a limb in Berlin. We have, therefore, particular responsibility for the welfare of our troops in Berlin and in Germany as a whole. Just how competent is our garrison in Berlin to withstand an initial surprise attack? That, obviously, is something which the War Office must be considering, hoping all the time, of course, that it will never come about.
In view of the critical article in the Manchester Evening News, to which reference was made in the defence debate last week, what action is being taken to organise our troops in Germany on an up-to-date basis? I would refer, in particular, to the remarks made by the author about signal equipment. Mr. Harold Evans said:Perhaps the most shocking deficiency of all, though, is in Signals equipment, the vital equipment that enables an Army to move as an organised unit. Our signals equipment is junk. Indeed, the obsolete, defective, last-war signals equipment in Germany makes our Army almost a 'blind' Army.After dealing with tanks and the lack of an adequate, light anti-tank weapon Mr. Evans said:The point is that the general picture is one of equipment quite inadequate for a modern 265 war, equipment that makes ours the Antique Army in the eyes of our Allies. I certainly did not enjoy a German officer telling me how sorry he felt for his British colleagues when they had trouble with their equipment on manceuvres.That comment has been made without adequate refutation by the War Office. It portrays a picture of an Army which is armed, to say the least of it, with the secondd-best.
The idea was put forward in the defence debate that we have not been able to give our troops adequate weapons first, because of some traditional reason in that they like to use old ones and could not be got out of the habit of using them, and, secondly, because it was too costly. We should knock both those ideas on the head at the very start. I should like to quote a disturbing sentence on the first page of the "Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War relating to the Army Estimates, 1959–60", which states, in paragraph 5:A substantial part of the Army's maintenance requirements will again be met from accumulated stocks with a consequential saving in cash expenditure.That seems to me to point to the fact that we are still going on in the old way and making the Army do with something less than the best in order to save money.
The Memorandum adds:The sale of surplus stores is expected to realise £8.5 million.Has the War Office calculated in that sum the million pairs of boots which are now littering some store or other?
This is not good enough. The Army is armed as to 50 per cent. with obsolete rifles in Germany and our Allies are armed with the F.N. rifle, we have no adequate replacements for Sten guns everywhere yet, and no adequate replacements in signals equipment and transport, and so on. It makes one wonder where all the money has gone. It was stated in the Grigg Report that in Germany that it was necessary to employ two cars to make sure that V. I. P. s got to their destination. In which car did the V. I. P. s ride? In the first, or in the second? This is one of the things about which we ought to inquire. If the impression is going abroad that we have to send two cars or two lorries to do a job which one ought to do, it brings the whole of our forces into dis- 266 repute. In the matter of equipment, are we reaching the end of accumulated stock, and can we give our troops long before 1962–63 the best in equipment?
A question of overlapping and duplication in the Army and the Air Force arises from the Defence White Paper. As I understand, the Army will have the anti-aircraft weapon Thunderbird, but the Air Force will use Bloodhound. Is there any reason why we could not have one of these weapons to do the same job, whether it is the Army or the Air Force which will be using it? It seems to me that there is considerable overlapping and duplication in the production of antiaircraft land-based missiles. I do not know which is the better weapon, but cannot we have only one of them in production instead of spreading our efforts too widely on both?
I am sure that we are all extremely pleased that National Service is coming to an end and that men born in the last quarter of 1939 will not be needed. They have been put out of their misery, but the nearer we get to the day when National Service will end the less and less reason will National Service men already in the Armed Forces see for their being there. It will not make sense to them in the months nearing the day when National Service ends. As many of them tell me, they are already kicking their heels in this country for long periods; and that does not make any sense to them. either.
Are the Government wedded definitely to the idea of keeping them there until the end of their time, or would they, if circumstances permitted, be willing to have a general relaxation either by cutting down the period of service to eighteen months or by putting back to the first quarter of 1939 the date on which those who will still be liable for National Service must have been born?
I wish that the War Office, in particular, would be more generous with its release policy. In my dealings with the three Services I find that in the matter of compassionate release the War Office comes off worst. It is much easier to deal with the Air Force and the Navy. They seem to release people with far less fuss than their counterparts, the Army. I ask the War Office not to hang on to their people if it does not really need them, because they would be doing a much better job in civilian life.
267 On the question of accommodation, I should like to know what is going on at Catterick. I understand that there are large-scale preparations there for the rebuilding of barracks and married quarters, which will take a considerable time and will involve large expenditure. Is it now decided that the home forces will be concentrated in the Aldershot area, in the south, and in the Catterick area, in the north?
Incidentally, in relation to Cyprus, it must be remembered that a base is only as good as the local population will allow it to be. It may be that now we shall have more co-operation from the people of Cyprus and that we shall be able to use the base there for the accommodation of about 6,000 people. In any case, if the base is to be used for actions further east, it becomes of less and less value, because it entails flying over possibly hostile, or at least neutral, territory to get anywhere where the soldiers are likely to be needed.
For instance, if they have to go to Aden to reinforce troops there they would have to go over neutral territory. If they have to go to Jordan or Iraq, they can only go by air by permission of the Israeli Government, and that is very doubtful in these circumstances. Therefore, a base on the old lines really ceases to have the same importance as it had a few years ago.
If I may go on to deal with Malaya, may I say that we have heard about our forces in Cyprus and the job which they have done. We have a number of troops still left doing very unpleasant duties in Malaya. Could we be told something about their activities, to let the people know that they are not part of a forgotten Army, but that we do think of them there, and try to do something to improve their conditions of service while they are there?
Now I wish to have two "moans", which may be considered trivial, in a way, but which, I believe, are of great psychological importance. The first one concerns the question of dress. I still believe that the Army is at a grave disadvantage in the public esteem because of its antiquated dress, and because of the groundsheet and all the rest of it. We have been told that action is being 268 taken to put this right, but can we be told just what stage has been reached in this direction? I cannot see why the troops cannot be issued with raincoats. There are many firms in this country, in Development Areas and where there is serious unemployment, which would welcome the possibility of large-scale Government contracts to refit the troops with decent, serviceable modern dress. I hope that that can be considered.
The other point is on the question of batmen and officers' servants. I can see a need and could defend the use of soldiers as batmen in officers' messes in remote areas where no civilian labour is available to do the job, but, for the life of me, I cannot see why a soldier, even if a volunteer, should be asked to do ordinary household duties in an officer's house for the officer's wife. I cannot see why we cannot take the same position as the R.A.F. does in Germany in employing civilians to do that kind of work under a proper contract of service between the soldier and the civilian concerned.
There is something very undignified in this aspect of a soldier doing a job in a house, polishing floors, minding the baby, and, according to one letter I have had, even doing the washing of the officer's wife's panties. I did not believe that, but, apparently, it happens in some cases. It seems to me that that is a wrong use of manpower in the forces, and that it is something which can be looked at. Instead of providing male servants for officers' wives, we should revert to the old system of giving allowances so that the officer or his wife could make their own arrangements for doing their own household chores.
§ Mr. J. Hall
May I interrupt the hon. Member, who is making an extremely interesting speech? On the subject of using soldiers as batmen, did he see the several letters recently published in the Daily Mirror, one of which, in particular, impressed me? It came from a man who said that he enjoyed his service as a batman because it made him a very much better husband afterwards.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I would hardly think that that was the reason why he joined the Army. It does not seem to me to be an effective recruiting slogan, "Join the Army and learn how to wash up." 269 It does not seem to me that, in modern conditions, it is the way to get the type of man which the Secretary of State was talking about. I think that we should look at this matter again.
come to a plea which, some day, I hope will be realised, and that is the unification of the Services. I am sure that much of the trouble with the Army and the defence priorities, in particular, arises from the fact that we are still looking upon the three Services in watertight compartments, and that unless we get that idea right out of our minds, we shall not get the best and most efficient use of the men we have available.
Therefore, I hope that some attention will be paid to seeing, as far as possible, that we get common, joint services between at least the Royal Air Force and the Army. I admit that the Royal Navy presents a different problem, but in many of the rôles of the Army today they will be doing the job which the R.A.F. will be doing in guarding missile bases, and so an, and I would have thought that that is something which would repay serious attention.
The final point I want to raise in the debate is about the Defence White Paper, concerning the use of tactical weapons in Germany. We know that we are now armed with Corporals—at least. I believe one regiment in Germany has them. We know that when necessary it moves from wherever it is to somewhere else for operational purposes, but the real difficulty is: who decides when the Corporal is to be used? After all, we are unleashing something here which, as the hon. Member for Wycombe said, might easily cause a limited war to spread into the major nuclear war. Here again, any decision on the use of this weapon must be a political decision, and not one which is left to the commanders in the field.
Although I have ranged rather widely over this subject, there are many other points that ought to be raised, but at least I think we can now say that the Army is taking shape and is showing what it is going to be in 1962. I only hope that it will not be called upon to go into action with the kind of equipment that we have got now. Indeed, I trust that it will never be called to go into action at all.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I must congratulate my right hon. Friend 270 the Secretary of State for War on the success of his recruiting drive, and I would also congratulate him on the welcome transformation in the equipment of the Army which he has been able to announce this afternoon. But there is one aspect of this problem which still deeply disturbs me.
When I last spoke on the Army Estimates, almost two years ago, I drew attention to certain inadequacies in the field during the Suez campaign and again in the fight against Mau Mau in Kenya, of our signals equipment, and today I share with the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) a disagreeable feeling that our signals equipment is still inadequate. In Germany, during the past year, I came across a particular "19 set" which had been made almost sixteen years ago—before I joined the Army. This particular set had been rebuilt a couple of times since then, which is more than can be said for myself, but it still seems to me disgraceful that this old-fashioned inadequate and obsolete wireless set should be playing a major role in our Army.
In Malaya, an adequate and compact wireless set has been produced which functions well in the jungle, but this set was developed not by us, but by the Australians, and our source of supply was very gravely threatened when Australia went television mad and it became more profitable to turn factories over to the production of cathode tubes for television sets.
Signals equipment provides the nervous system of an Army, and when that Army is a small one, it is all the more important that that system should function quickly and effectively, just as a lightweight boxer needs faster reflexes than a heavyweight. It is most discouraging, therefore, to find that the amount of money that is being spent on new signals equipment appears to have been cut back sharply this year. I am told that the industry itself cannot provide any more sets. but we know that the radio industry of this country, when given its bead, can provide vast quantities of equipment quickly. We know that it is well capable of advanced design, and that it has produced some of the best navigational aids for aircraft in the world.
What, then, really is the problem? Two years ago, when I raised exactly this same 271 point with the Army, I was given this answer, "Well, you see, it is really the fault of the Ministry of Supply. All their best men are busy designing radar screens or guided rockets, and they really are not capable of looking after the Army as well." Two years later, that is exactly the sort of answer that one gets when one asks the same sort of question, and I think that the Committee ought to know if and when this system of design and production is to be put on a sounder basis than it is at the moment. I cannot help thinking that if this same sort of problem had arisen in Russia, a number of people in responsible positions would henceforth be devoting their energies to the extraction of salt from the mines in Siberia.
In the whole field of weapon development, there is a tendency to devote more and more effort on weapons which will be used less and less, while we ignore the very real military problems with which we are faced almost every month. For instance, I am delighted to hear that the up-gunned Centurion is doing so well in its tests, and that the ground-to-air missile, the Thunderbird, also seems to be doing well in its tests, but I doubt very much whether these weapons will be used seriously in the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, we and the whole free world, are frequently faced with the problem of internal security and riots. Very shortly, we will be interrupting this debate to discuss the emergency situation in Nyasaland and the serious riots that have occurred there. We all hope that it will be possible to deter the outbreak of a global nuclear war, but I doubt very much whether any Government, however good and capable, will ever be able to deter riots. The pattern is very familiar. A mob forms, the police are threatened, there is a danger of their being overrun, tear gas is brought up, if there is any in the vicinity, the tear gas does not work effectively, and troops are called in. The troops eventually have to open fire, and people are killed.
What the Army and the colonial police really need is a deterrent—not a nuclear deterrent, but a mob deterrent. Tear gas is not enough, and bullets are much too much. What we want is a weapon that will temporarily incapacitate, but not permanently injure. It does not seem to me that this sort of development should be 272 beyond the wit of the scientists who now send missiles hurtling past the moon towards the sun. It is a paradox of modern defence that our new weapons are becoming so powerful that they become increasingly irrelevant to the sort of military fracas in which we find ourselves.
The best possible deterrent against riots and the other internal subversion problem is the man on the ground, and I wish that the new soldiers who will be brought into the Army through my right hon. Friend's successful campaign could be formed into new units, and that Phase II of the reorganisation should be put off rather than being used to reinforce the establishments of existing units. In particular, I would be sorry to see these new men disappear into the military sponge of Western Germany, because it seems to me that another of the paradoxes of modern defence is that in Western Germany, in N.A.T.O., one needs fire power rather than manpower, but in almost all the rest of the world one needs manpower rather than fire power.
I suppose that no single remark in the defence debate created more attention than the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), when he suggested that in the struggle against international Communism it would be better to have a £5 million educational programme in Kenya than to have two Blue Streak rockets. This afternoon I would also like to recommend some forms of expenditure that may pay an indirect rather than a direct military dividend to this country.
During the past twelve months a country on the borders of the Communist world asked this country whether it would be possible to send for training into the Commonwealth two of its police officers who wanted training against subversion and in Special Branch activities. Eventually, those two polce officers were given that training, but it took a great deal of time and effort to find the money to bring those people to the training school, and I cannot help feeling that training those two men was a great deal more useful than having two platoons on the banks of the Rhine.
Again, there is the problem of the new armies in the emerging countries of the Commonwealth. Often there is a great need and demand for the continued service of British officers and N.C.Os. I 273 would like to see that service continue where possible, because I believe it important that we should try to continue to influence the Armed Forces in these new countries. Yet time after time one hears of arguments about the rates of pay for seconded British officers and N.C.O.s, of arguments as to how much should be borne by the local government, how much should be borne by the War Office at home.
I suggest that when dealing with this problem we adopt one simple rule of thumb, namely, that Her Majesty's Government should continue to be responsible for the pay and allowances of seconded British officers, and that we should then ask from the new Commonwealth countries, the emerging Colonies, the amount of money they would have paid to a locally recruited officer if such an officer had been available to do the job. In that way employing British officers and other ranks would be no more and, at the same time, no less expensive than employing local officers. Also, the local malcontents, who are only too often anxoius to get British personnel out of the way, would have a convenient stick removed from them.
Finally, I again congratulate my right hon. Friend on the success of his recruiting campaign. but I wish that he would get some wireless sets quickly.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
We have just heard a most interesting speech, with which I find myself in general agreement. I shall come back in a moment to some of the points made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), but I will start by making one or two general propositions which I do not propose to argue now, but which will be the basis of what I have to say.
The first of those general points is that as the nuclear deterrent increases, so does it neutralise itself. The general deterrent—the massive deterrent—is rapidly reaching the stage where it is a deterrent only to the massive deterrent. As this happens and credibility goes from it, the need for ground forces increases, but it will be highly necessary during the next few years not merely to maintain the 55,000 men in Germany to which we are committed, but largely to increase this force.
274 How are we to do that? There are two questions there. Firstly, in terms of money, where does the money come from? I would reply emphatically—from the other two Services. There is a kind of inter-Service carve-up which, within our present defence needs, means that the Army gets far too little, the Navy far too much and the Air Force a great deal too much. The job of the Army is the job upon which our survival depends if we reach a nuclear stalemate. A large part of the naval activity, and a great part of the air activity, is to deal with contingencies which can arise only after atomic warfare has abolished us.
These kind of post-mortem activities do not seem to me to be a very worthwhile priority within our defence. A much higher priority should go to the Army. I am glad to see the Leader of the Liberal Party here because in the course of the defence debate he suggested that our contribution to N.A.T.O. should be doubled. I am not committing myself to that precise figure but I remember the Minister of Defence proceeding to think it was frightfully funny of the hon. Gentleman to say that he wanted our contribution to N.A.T.O. doubled and did not want conscription reintroduced. In the eyes of the Minister of Defence that apparently was a self-evident absurdity. That the Minister of Defence can think on such lines fills me with alarm, because it is perfectly practicable to double our commitment to N.A.T.O. on a volunteer system if we are prepared not to waste our Army on a series of tasks for which soldiers are quite unfitted, which is what we are doing at present.
Cyprus is a classic example of this. The job of soldiers, and the only job of soldiers, is to meet the organised forces of the enemy, to destroy them and to disrupt them. That arises when there are organised forces of the enemy. Nothing of the kind existed in Cyprus. E.O.K.A. never put so much as a platoon in the field and never held an acre of territory. All E.O.K.A. did was to send out odd assassins, who never operated in bigger numbers than two's or three's and, when they were cornered—with only two exceptions—they either started to cry or to sing like canaries.
That is not the kind of proposition in which troops are properly employed, and 275 the evidence of it was that 30,000 of them did not succeed in catching Grivas. They did not succeed in catching General Grivas—as we must now call him—because he knew what he was dealing with, and he did not give his boys much to sing about. None of them ever knew where any of the other ones were and this prevented them from giving each other away. It also meant that there was no kind of organisation. What kind of an Army is it when no man knows where anybody else is? Yet that is what he deliberately created.
§ Mr. Paget
If in Cyprus we had had 500 trained policemen who understood the police job, they would have been of incomparably more value than 30,000 troops.
Kenya was a different proposition. There was a period in which the Mau Mau put real forces in the field. The attack on Fort Hall was an attack in rather bigger than battalion strength and they fought well. They were well organised and they provided quite a high level of mobility. At that stage there was a real and valuable use for soldiers, and a very good job they did. As soon as we had disrupted the organised forces of the Mau Mau, and they became gangs in the forest, it became a police job. In the later period the troops became almost useless. The people who succeeded in clearing it up were the trained police who were brought forward and who, frankly, were never developed in Cyprus.
That is the situation with which we shall now he faced in Nyasaland. It is the pattern of folly which we see developing time after time. The first thing we do is to arrest the leaders, with whom alone we can negotiate and on whom alone we are in a position to bring effective pressure. First it was Kenyatta, then Makarios, now it is Dr. Hastings Banda, and the particular folly of it is that those are three men who like their creature comforts and would not be of much use in the hills. Therefore, while they are available and free and an influence, they are an instrument with which one can produce pressure, but if they are taken away, authority is passed to the chaps who are all right in the hills and the 276 forests. That is what, for the third time with unbelievable folly, the Government are now proceeding to do in Nyasaland.
Having created a lawless situation in which they have disrupted the only effective command of the enemy with whom they can deal, having created a situation impossible for troops, they call upon troops to pull them out of the mess. The 30,000 men whom we are now releasing from Cyprus will be gradually called on and used as our folly in Nyasaland increases. It is the same old pattern and while the Government continue to do that they will not be able to fulfil our proper commitment which is needed in N.A.T.O.
What we need for this sort of job is a trained police reserve. That is what we should build up. To give a figure which is purely a spot guess, I should say that we require a force of 4,000 or 5,000 men, of whom about half would be in this country ready to be moved and being trained in the latest police methods, since these are police jobs. The other half would be serving attachments of a relatively short period in all the various Colonies, so that if there were trouble in any Colony members of that mobile reserve would know that territory and its people and would have worked there. A force of that sort would relieve the Army of the sort of commitment which calls for 30,000 troops.
§ Brig. Prior-Palmer
I have very great sympathy with what the hon. and learned Member is saying, but he is suggesting that the Army Vote would be relieved of the cost of 4,000 or 5,000 men. In which case, who would pay for that force? On what Vote would it come?
§ Mr. Paget
That is the sickening part. The moment one gets to the no-man's land between Departments, one meets the buck-shifting competition. I do not care a sausage out of which pocket of the Government the money comes, whether from the Army Vote or the Colonial Vote. If there is a way of doing a job with 4,000 or 5,000 men where we should otherwise require 30,000 men, and if that way is far better, then it does not matter who pays for the 4,000 or 5,000 men.
The first essential if we are to make proper use of our troops is the creation of a police reserve, trained and organised on a police basis and doing policing jobs 277 when necessary, instead of having them done by this extravagant method of using troops neither organised nor trained for that work.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Before the hon. and learned Member leaves that interesting subject, will he answer a question? We are now finding it difficult to recruit a police force adequate to do what we want done in the United Kingdom. From where will the men whom he requires come? Has he ruled out the possibility of local recruiting?
§ Mr. Paget
No. I shall deal with local recruiting. It is unnecessary that all these men should come from this country. It is a job which amounts to seeing the world, it is different from ordinary police work, and I do not think that it would be even competitive with ordinary police recruiting.
My second suggestion is this. The organisation of the Army which we create for N.A.T.O. is such that we try to provide the maximum possible fire power with the minimum possible manpower. The equipment of the men has to be tremendously expensive and tremendously powerful. The men have to be spread out as thinly as possible. The sort of trouble which may occur in Africa or in the Gulf is one where little fire power is required but where many men are needed. It is the opposite type of organisation.
It is very extravagant that one should use the tremendously expensive article, the high fire-powered European soldier, when what is required is many men. I urge that to cover our African commitment we should raise African forces. It has always seemed to me to be the oddest sort of folly to have a European reserve in Kenya. It is extremely expensive and it has long communications. The sort of forces which we require in that area could be far better provided by Africans. I have tried hard to get figures of the relative costs of a European brigade and an African division. I would be very surprised if an African division cost as much as a European brigade, and in Africa it is more men that we require.
Equally, from the African point of view such recruiting would be of tremendous value. The African likes it. It is curious, but the African loves drill. That is an 278 eccentricity which I cannot understand, but which the African does understand. He immensely enjoys soldiering and the ex-African soldier makes a valuable citizen.
If in Kenya the Wakamba, the other great Bantu tribe, had joined the Kikuyu, Mau Mau would have been a very much more difficult problem, and one with which we should probably still be dealing. The Wakamba is the tribe which provides the King's African Rifles and the ex-soldier of the Wakamba in his village is the man who kept the Wakamba loyal. But for those men, Mau Mau would have spread throughout the Wakamba country.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
Will the hon. and learned Member deal with the difficulty that if there is an African reserve in Kenya, when Kenya emerges to self-government, that reserve becomes no longer mobile?
§ Mr. Paget
In fact, that reserve would remain very much mobile. The important thing is that it would be not an army of Kenya, but an army which we had raised and for which we paid, thereby putting currency into the Kenya economy, currency which that country urgently needs, and providing security forces at no expense to Kenya. As Kenya develops into a new country, I do not think that she will in the least wish to shoulder that sort of financial burden.
The other delusion on this subject is that as African nationalism emerges it will make those troops unreliable for dealing with trouble in Africa. I believe that to be exactly the opposite of the truth. Providing that African troops are decently led, their tribal and national instincts can be directed to their regiments. They are tremendously loyal and effective, and I am afraid that there is nothing they like more than beating up a fellow-African for whom they have acquired an enormous contempt. That may be morally desirable or undesirable.
§ It being Seven o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair, further Proceeding standing postponed until after the Proceedings on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House standing over under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance).
§ [Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.]