HC Deb 10 March 1959 vol 601 cc1107-27

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £18,210,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the Reserve Forces (to a number not exceeding 371,500, all ranks, including a number not exceeding 360,000 other ranks), Territorial Army (to a number not exceeding 330,900, all ranks), Cadet Forces and Malta Territorial Force, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1960.

4.41 p.m.

Mr. Mellish

We notice again that the Government are able to say that the figures are greatly improved. I understand that for the Territorial Army they are up to about 100,000 men now, which is very gratifying. I am one of those who believe that, provided good use is made of the Territorial Army, it is a very important part of our defence forces. I also think that the time is certainly overdue when the trades union movement ought to play a much stronger part in the recruitment of some of their members into the Territorial Army. I am on two recruiting committees, and each of them is dominated by the employers. The trade unions ought to play a much stronger part, and I shall certainly do what I can to encourage them so to do, because the Territorial Army belongs to all of us and is not the prerogative of a certain section of the community. The people I should like to see on the Committees are those whom I think most of us on this side of the Committee represent.

I am very unhappy about the rôle of the Territorial Army. We are told that it is now to do some mobile civil defence work. May we learn something more about this? How do the Government see the future of the Territorial Army? Is it to go on from mobile civil defence? Is it visualised that the Territorial Army will take over perhaps one day almost all civil defence? If so, the Government ought to say so.

We are moving towards a Regular Army now with new weapons and new equipment. At least we hope to have them by 1963. I do not want to go over the old ground about what happened in the past on equipment and weapons. What about the equipping of the Territorial Army? What sort of weapons will they have? May we have some information to show what the Government have in mind for the future of the Territorial Army?

4.43 p.m.

Mr. W. Yates

I should like to make three points concerning the Territorial Army. Two of them were raised in the Adjournment debate on 1st August, 1958. The first is mentioned in the OFFICIAL REPORT for 1st August, 1958, at column 1790. It is the question of more junior officers for the Territorial Army. At a recent Territorial Army exercise at Chester one of the senior officers drew the attention of all concerned to the desire and need for additional young men to come forward as volunteers with the object of eventually becoming officers in the Territorial Army. It would be a good thing if, when the Under-Secretary of State replies to the debate, he could give some information on the way in which the War Office intends to help.

If the Territorial Army is to carry out the duties at present allotted to it, it will need more junior officers. Whereas I as a Territorial Army officer congratulate the Government on the splendid recruiting figures for the Territorial Army, I would add that it would be a good thing if the recruitment of junior officers for the Territorial Army could be examined. This devolves very much on employers, on nationalised industries and on the trades unions. If this country wants to have a Territorial Army, then some of these great firms or institutions must make sacrifices and must allow these officers and men freedom to do their fortnight's training. No Territorial Army officer is worth wasting a penny on unless lie attends the annual camp. I hope that the Minister will look at the matter again.

Secondly, I wish to raise the question of better training centres. I know that this will cost additional money, but for some time now the Territorial Army Association for Shropshire has been asking the Minister to carry out the plans which he has had in mind for a good number of years to reorganise training in Shropshire and to concentrate it at a training centre in Sundorne Road. Shrewsbury. There are camps such as Camp E at Donnington. I do not mind mentioning them again. I believe that those places are not suitable as training centres. I should like to hear very much more from the Under-Secretary about the improvements that he intends to make if this money is granted.

My third and final point is about pay for the Territorials. In the Adjournment debate on 1st August, 1958, I stated that I felt that the pay of very junior officers in the Territorial Army was unsatisfactory. I gave some reasons at that time, and I can state them again. When an officer has attained the rank of captain or major in the Territorial Army he should be fairly well established in civil life and, therefore, his training or his extra expenses should not fall too heavily upon him. But the very junior officer on the threshold of his career, probably young and married with a family, needs more pay.

I made this point to the Under-Secretary's predecessor, and he made what I thought was a rather unfortunate remark. He asked me whether I would be prepared to see a junior officer in the Territorial Army during his fortnight or his weekend training receiving more than a lieutenant in the Regular Army. I will give him my answer—yes. The Minister should examine this matter again. If he wants to get an adequate supply of the right type of junior Territorial Army officers, he should examine the pay rates, even if it means some reduction in the pay of higher ranks.

I hope that other hon. Members of the Committee, especially hon. Gentlemen opposite, will support me in my plea. I hope that those in private industry, in the Government or in nationalised industries, will support the Territorial Army, and ensure that we have people in it to make it worth while calling it an Army and worth while spending this money for which we are being asked tonight.

4.49 p.m.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I wish to deal specifically with the Territorial Army. I wish to raise my voice on the question of procedure, and I hope that I can do it on this Vote very briefly. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has already referred to it and so has my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). I was somewhat perturbed, because they disagreed with our present procedure. We have improved the procedure to a great extent in recent years. We now have a system of a two-day defence debate and a day allotted to each of the Service Estimates. We can examine the individual Votes and raise specific points with the three Ministers concerned.

The procedure that has been adopted in the last few years has improved things a lot. The two-day defence debate has given us an opportunity to look at defence as a whole, while the debates on the Service Estimates have given those hon. Members interested in one or other of the three Services an opportunity to see how each fits into the defensive role, and to raise specific matters on practically every Vote.

The Minister no doubt feels just as pleased about the recruitment to the "Terriers" as he does about that to the Regular Army. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, who has a fanatical urge for being a statistical worm and chasing the records, often wriggles round and gets some very fascinating results, and we have been obliged to him on many occasions. However, I do not think that that was necessary here in order to find out the major reason for the increase in the Regular and Territorial Army recruiting figures.

Unemployment cannot be dissociated from that increase. It is one of the major causes. In past years, whenever unemployment increased, Regular Army recruitment increased, and I do not think that it was worth while chasing through all the records to find out what is, to me, an obvious fact—

Mr. H. Fraser

It may seem obvious to the hon. Gentleman but a study of the graphs produced by the Grigg Committee, those produced by others, and the figures I have myself brought out, will show that he is not talking sense. There is no direct statistical connection.

The Temporary Chairman

I think that we dealt with that on the last Vote.

Mr. Mason

I am obliged to you, Sir James. Before the war, there was no difficulty in getting recruits to the Regular Army. That was due to people being thrown on the scrapheap of unemployment by declining industries. We see the same thing happening again. As industries slow down, people lose their employment and go into the Regular Forces. Allied to that, of course, is the fact that they are attracted by the better pay and conditions now prevailing.

The Explanatory Note says of the Territorial Army: The current rôle of the Territorial Army on the outbreak of war is … (b) to provide a number of divisions and other formations and units with the initial task of home defence in all its aspects … The Under-Secretary was present during the debate on the Army Estimates when I intervened to say how pleased I was that the Territorial Army is now to take over the duties of the mobile defence corps in civil defence. That is very encouraging and interesting, and I am very much in favour of it. I should like the War Office to go a little further. I want to see the Territorial Army, with its growing numbers, gradually increase its civil defence rôle to … home defence in all its aspects …. Although many local authorities and public-spirited men have in the past done a great deal in maintaining civil defence in face of its many critics, I cannot see them operating what is called civil defence in the event of nuclear warfare. One thermo-nuclear bomb over one built-up area would create such panic in the minds of the citizens that it would require the discipline of the Armed Forces and not the discipline of those now in civil defence to restore order from chaos. There would be panic.

People would be streaming from the stricken city. With all due respect to the many who have done the job so far, I cannot see them having the command, the measure of discipline necessary to tackle that situation. Therefore, I hope that the Under-Secretary will spend some little time in giving us some idea of how the Territorial Army's rôle in civil defence will increase. It is something that I favour, and I hope that the War Office will encourage it.

4.55 p.m.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

Following on what my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) has just said about the Territorial Army, I would point out that I complained during the general debate that under this scheme the Territorials would probably become no more than pioneers and scavengers. That is not the rôle of those men. They join to become soldiers—and proper soldiers. If we are to maintain the present very good figures of recruiting, we should not do anything to harm their prestige.

We do not know what civil defence will be able to do in the circumstances of modern warfare, but I believe that local civilian volunteers, especially when led by men of local public reputation, would have a far greater power to control the population than would soldiers brought in from outside the area to do civil defence duties. I hope that, during the debate, the Army's function in civil defence can be made clear, so that we may know whether it will mean a cheapening of the prestige of the Territorial Army.

On the issue of procedure, I intervene reluctantly. Our Estimates debates are becoming a farce. It is all very well for my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley to say that we can discuss every Vote, but there just is not time to do so. Had he been here, as were some of us—like my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—in 1929–31, and since 1945, he would know that we used to debate the Estimates until 3 o'clock and 4 o'clock in the morning, and even then we had not exhausted all the subjects.

My hon. and very dear Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is not without blame in this respect, because he sold the pass in the first place over the Army Act. Until then we could discuss Army problems at great length. I mention this to explain my reason for not having been so prominent at this stage of the Estimates debates. I spoke for half an hour on Vote A, but as many hon. Members were squeezed out of that discussion I felt that I should not, in fairness, speak for too long now. However, I did want to protest against the inadequacy of these discussions.

It is scandalous to expect us to take nine, ten or eleven Votes in three hours. Hon. Members have to be the public's watchdogs on expenditure, and the watchdogs of the Service men's rights and privileges. To expect them to be able to do that in the miserable three hours allotted is absolutely ridiculous. I hope that before we discuss further Service Estimates, some new method will be found—through the usual channels, through unusual channels, or through new channels—to restore some of the rights of back-benchers to discuss the Estimates in greater detail than has been possible during the last two years.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Mason

If I may say so, we never exhausted the time on the Air Estimates, the Army Estimates or the Navy Estimates and, if hon. Members wish, the debate is not confined to three hours today. We can continue discussing the Army Estimates for as long as we wish or, at least, until ten o'clock. We are not confined to three hours. This is an informal discussion which is taking place, and, if we wish to continue with the Army Estimates, we can.

Mr. Simmons

It is all very well for my hon. Friend to say that, but in those debates hon. Members knew that it would be futile for them to come in. The Army Estimates nearly went their length, but hon. Members knew that, if they came in, there would be no chance of their getting into the debate, so they stayed away. We have killed the interest in the Estimates by the procedure we now adopt. I want to see that interest revived.

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)

I think that we should now return to the Vote before the Committee.

5.1 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I intervene only because of certain things said by the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates). I am sorry he is not here, but I gave him no notice that I intended to make any comment, so I have no complaint. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the position of officers, especially junior officers, in the Territorial Army. I have had representations made to me from time to time on behalf of young men in my constituency, and I urge the Under-Secretary to remember, when it is a question of meeting the expenses they have to incur when going away to camp, that it is very desirable that something more in the way of remuneration should be made available for them. I do not advocate what I understood the hon. Member for The Wrekin to suggest—that we should take a bit off the captain and the major and distribute it among the people below the rank of captain. As he said, those are men who are beginning to establish themselves in their civilian employment. Also, they have young families and, on occasions, to my knowledge, the sacrifices they have to make in such circumstances in going away to camp are quite considerable.

I speak as one who joined the old volunteer Army as long ago as 1899. I believe that, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), I am the Member of the House who can look back to the remotest era of military service. I hope that, under the new regime, the Territorial Army will excite the interest and enthusiasm of many young men who think that a knowledge of the way to defend the country is something which every citizen ought to have but who, because of domestic or other circumstances, cannot contemplate a career in a professional army. I believe that the maintenance of the Territorial Army and the understanding that it will perform some useful military service are essential to the defence of a free country, particularly a country such as ours. I hope that the Government will give every possible encouragement to it.

I appeal to all those mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and to others who ought to take an interest in seeing that the people over whom they have some control and for whom they have a responsibility are given an opportunity to discharge this duty of a citizen. I include the local governing bodies in this, for 1 have sometimes been rather shocked at the way in which some local governing bodies, sometimes for ideological reasons —I think that that is the proper way to phrase it—have not been as helpful as they might have been to men on the clerical and industrial staffs who have wished to have the opportunity to participate in this form of voluntary national service.

Everyone should bear in mind that the young man who gives of his time and energy to this Service has to make some social sacrifices which are not inconsiderable. For instance, if it is known that he will have to attend battalion drills on a number of Saturdays during the cricket season, his place in the cricket team may sometimes be in jeopardy. Although my memories now go back, as I have hinted, to a time which everyone present must regard as completely antediluvian, I assure hon. Members that these are things today which ought to be borne in mind. I hope that anyone who is approached by a young man over whose circumstances he has some control will be willing to give that young man what help he can to enable him to perform what I regard as a highly patriotic duty, with as little inconvenience to the individual as possible. I am quite sure that such an employer will find that he will have no less willing and helpful an employee as a result of anything he does along those lines.

5.8 p.m.

Mr. Wigg

The matter of our procedure has been mentioned again and my name was specifically referred to, so perhaps I might say a word or two about it. The problem which faces the Committee is the problem of keeping the Army Act up to date without taking up too much of the time of the House of Commons. In 1951, we were faced with an Army Act which was eighty years out of date. The Army Act is not only a code of law; it is a code of discipline. It is what binds the Army together; it gives a man his pay and gives him a square deal. We must remember, when we give enormous authority and power of life and death to a man's commanding officer, as we must, that, at the same time, after giving that power, we are bound to make absolutely sure that machinery exists to dig out any complaint or any unjustified working of the Act.

When we dealt with this matter yearly, it had the result of keeping the Committee up. By tradition, the Government, by not moving the Closure on Vote A, were kept here. We have not given anything away now. I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) that we put it in suspense for a period of five years. This procedure has gone on for three years and, in a year or two, the Government will once again have to remit the Army Act to a Select Committee.

Mr. Bellenger

Surely that is quite separate from the Service Estimates.

Mr. Wigg

They are tied up one with the other. On Vote A, the Government are continuing the practice of not moving the Closure and then they get the Vote under the 9.30 p.m. Guillotine later. The other difficulty arises because there are three separate Service Estimates. If one looks at page 735 of Erskine May, one sees the difficulty; no method has ever been found of taking the three Services together except on a Government Motion. If one takes a Government Motion, one then has an extra hour or two, by leave of the Government, whereas the old procedure, as we did it in 1951, was not by leave of the Government. We put down a sufficient number of Amendments to bring Government business to a standstill. That is why the Government appointed a Select Committee—not out of love for as but because there was no alternative.

Having had our two-day debate, as it were, on the overall policy, and then the three, as it were, Second Reading debates on the Service Estimates, what happens today is an extension of the redress of grievances. This is why I resented, not as an individual but on behalf of the House of Commons, any apparent arrangement—I do not want to stress it —which took away the rights of the backbencher, because the right the backbencher exercises here he exercises on behalf of every humble man in the Army.

The Army is the kind of institution in which one always remembers the things that go wrong. These things are heralded across the front page, but nobody remembers the good things which the Army does. I entirely agree on this subject with Lord Montgomery. The most efficient Department in Whitehall is the War Office. One has only to put the Colonial Office in juxtaposition with it and consider the mess which that Department is making to see the truth of that statement.

We are not aiming our observations at the present Secretary of State. When we criticise, we are helping him, because we are keeping the Department on its Toes. That is why the räle played by the back-bencher on these occasions is of such paramount importance.

Mr. Simmons

Will my hon. Friend say how he would get over the difficulty about squeezing out the other two Departments? Would he have one day for each Department?

Mr. Wigg

Yes. I have long held that the existing procedure has become obsolescent if only because we are discussing many things which are on the edge of secrecy. There are many things which a Minister would say to us if we were behind closed doors but which he would not say here.

I had the privilege of serving for two and a half years on the Select Committee on the Army. It was borne of the most bitter party strife. The terms of surrender were taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) who came to the House in the early hours of the morning to accept them. But once a Select Committee had been appointed and once the doors had closed and the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) had been appointed Chairman there was never any question of Labour or Conservative. What voting took place was cross voting across parties. The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South has just entered the Chamber, so I will repeat that from the moment he was appointed Chairman of that Select Committee all party considerations disappeared.

I believe that the Estimates, in the interests of the Service Departments and in the interests of the defence of this country, should be handled with meticulous care and the Committee should have power to send for witnesses and papers. We should be given a great deal more information on this matter. A committee of secrecy should be set up every year to which the separate Estimates would be remitted so that they could be gone through with a toothcomb behind the scenes. The House could still retain its existing procedures. This would be in the interests of the House. It would build up an informed opinion on both sides of the House and would help the Government and the Opposition.

Mr. Bellenger

As other Western Parliaments have done already.

Mr. Wigg

I labour for my own cabbage patch. I do not know what happens in other countries, but I have tried to discover a method whereby our procedure can be improved, and I am sure that a great deal of the ignorant bilge which is talked on both sides of the House during defence debates would not be heard if hon. Members were given access to information. That is what my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Shinwell) is always saying. We need more information, not general information such as at which end to put a bullet in and which end it comes out, although it is perfectly clear from the speeches of some hon. Members that they have not learned that. The first requirement of a democrat is the ability to make decisions on limited evidence. That may mean wriggling for facts. But I prefer wriggling for facts rather than trying to dodge them.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

If such a committee were set up, there would be only a limited number of Members on it and only that limited number could have the information to which my hon. Friend is referring. The rest of us would continue to talk bilge, because the rest of the Members of the Committee would be sworn to secrecy.

The Deputy-Chairman

I hope that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will not pursue this matter too far. It is rather out of order, but I did not want to interrupt him.

Mr. Wigg

I did not pursue it in the first instance. I was led into it. I shall talk about Vote 2, which is concerned with the Territorial Army and the Reserve Forces which are governed by the Army Act. That enables me to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). Obviously, if a committee is appointed it cannot be a committee of the whole House, but there is no objection to having a secret session. Secret sessions should not be conducted as they were during the war, when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) kept copies of his speeches and circulated them as a book after the war. If one circulates one's speeches, they cease to be secret.

Mr. Ede

We might not all get the same sale for them.

Mr. Wigg

The point is that the right is there. I would not mind if the procedure were established that hon. Members who wanted to be members of such a committee could get that information provided that it was handled responsibly. It is perfectly clear that our defence debates suffer from a lack of information. I suggest that a committee of secrecy should be set up to discover what the procedures should be, or perhaps when the next Select Committee on the Army Estimates is set up—it cannot be more than two years—its remit should include an examination of any procedures which would best inform the House on the details of the Estimates. I agree that at the moment we are dealing with sums which are so vast and expressed with such a generality of expression that we do not know what they are all about.

I now want to talk about Vote 2. We have had a two-day debate on defence and a three-day debate on the Army, Navy and Air Force Estimates, and yet what obviously is the most fundamental problem of all, the problem of expansion should unhappily we find ourselves threatened with war, has never once been mentioned. If we are to reorganise the Army, as the Government are setting out to do and in which we all hope they will succeed, the way in which the G.1098 is issued is of fundamental importance.

My mind does not go back to 1899, but it goes back to not so long after. I am old enough to remember 1914 vividly. I have always honoured the "Old Con- temptibles," but what made the victory of Mons possible, as I have said many times in the House and I am sure I am right, was the genius of Haldane and his mobilisation plan which enabled us to put four divisions in France, together with 60,000 horses, inside nine days, so that at first light on 22nd August they were in a position to out-march, out-shoot and out-fight the cream of the German army. It was a superb mobilisation plan, and a superb Army.

What was the basis of it? The cardinal system was that every man, every reservist, had a 5s. postal order in his pocket with his number on it. He went to the depot, and when he got there a rifle, two suits of uniform, two pairs of boots and equipment were waiting for him. Once he was inoculated and he got over his inoculations he was an effective member of that force. At Mons, 60 per cent. of the troops in action were reservists. We have nothing like that today. The silence of the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State on this matter means that, although the Government have departed from National Service and are retaining the same forms of Reserve service, they have given little or no thought to the Army Emergency Reserve.

In the early part of the year I asked some questions about ordnance depots. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) has mentioned Donnington, but that is one only of a string of ordnance depots which contain the guns, ammunition and stores which would enable the peace-time set up to be mobilised and equipped if the necessity arose, one hopes, in a matter of hours. I do not believe there is a mobilisation plan at all or that the Government have even looked at the position on mobilisation.

One of the significant features of the Grigg Committee's Report and of statements made by Ministers is that while they are pretty sure they will get the "teeth" arms, they are not sure about the ordnance. Those are the difficulties about recruiting. When men join they go to a depot and find themselves in Bicester or Donnington and they are there for two years neither as technicians nor as soldiers, but a bit of both. From time to time one sees reports of the reactions of these men and there are large numbers of courts martial of absentees because of this unhappy situation.

Mr. W. Yates

I hope the hon. Member does; not refer to all ordnance depots M those terms.

Mr. Wigg

I am not talking about Donning-ton, but of some of the others. The command ammunition depot at Kineton had over fifty courts martial in six months. These are unhappy places, not because their officers or N.C.O.s are bad, but because of the conditions in which they operate. They are neither civilians nor soldiers, yet they handle stores of enormous value expressed in terms of cash. Millions of items have to be handled and, if one happens to be missing, a man's life might be forfeited.

I should like to hear from the Under-Secretary what has been done about the organisation of the great ordnance depots. I shall not mention them by name for security reasons. One or two have been mentioned, but I shall not give a complete picture, although I could do so. It is obvious that as the size of the Regular Army shrinks, the defence plans become more and more dependent on the method of swiftly mobilising and equipping reserves. I am sure it is right to hold the view that neither the 1914 nor the 1939 type of mobilisation would be practicable in the event of nuclear war, nor even if the necessity arose to reinforce those four or three and a half divisions in Germany at present.

I was talking last week to someone who really ought to know better, about the troops in Germany. I asked if anything went wrong what would we do about it, and he replied, "It will not go wrong". This Committee has no right to leave our constituents, our relatives and kith and kin, on the end of a limb, or rather like a tethered goat, hoping that there will be no Russian attack. I do not believe there will be a Russian attack, but the reasons why they are getting tough on Berlin at present are the result of a switch of Russian policy, which is passing from nuclear stalemate to nuclear parity. They know that the Americans could kill 70 million of them in as many hours over the Pole, but they could kill 12 million or 15 million Americans in the same number of hours in the same way. They know there is no object in the world for which American policy w ill face the death of 12 million or 15 million Americans.

In Berlin, we face the kind of situation which had its origin in the Spanish Civil War. It may bring chaos with the soldier on the ground being responsible for the maintenance of law and order. That is the issue. The boys who are made to bear the brunt are not the five American Pentagon divisions which are among the best equipped troops in the world, but the three and a half divisions of British troops, half trained and badly equipped for facing any attack on this country. It is an essential requirement for the Government to think out, if they have not already thought out, how they are to reinforce those three and a half divisions should the necessity arise.

What is true of Berlin, is true of any part of the world in which British troops are called upon to serve. The problem is that if we put men there we must be in a position to get them out or to support them. I do not believe the Government have thought out a plan, but it is time they did. I shall be very interested to hear what the Under-Secretary has to say about it.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. H. Fraser

On Vote 2, I should like to thank hon. Members on all sides of the Committee who have expressed their gratification at the improvement in recruiting and the size of the Territorial Army and to express thanks for the ideas put forward by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), speaking from almost unparalleled experience of voluntary organisations of all sorts in military and civil life. I am sure that his remarks will be taken to heart by all interested in these matters. I also wish to thank the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) for his remarks about trade unions and the part which could here be played. He discussed the rôle of the Territorial Army in general. If I may, I shall come to that in my general remarks at the end of this short speech.

We still keep creeping back to the issue of how Army Estimates should be debated. If it is agreeable to all present, I ask that that debate should now cease until a later occasion, otherwise we could spend the rest of the time debating what our procedures should be. We have not much time, and there is a lot to be got through, as I am sure is the view on all sides of the Committee.

The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) wanted more civil defence for the Territorial Army, but the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) seemed to want less. I cannot work that conflict out.

Mr. Simmons


Mr. Fraser

I cannot give way as I am in a great hurry.

The hon. Member for Brierley Hill seemed to say that they should not be just civil defence wallahs but men who were fighters. I do not know whether I am putting it in his words, but that was the point. There must be a proper balance and the balance we have achieved is that the function of the mobile defence corps should be taken over. We had a long Adjournment debate on it the other day. If hon. Members want information about the subject, they can find it there. We think that one year in four as the basis of civil defence training for the Territorial Army is about the right value.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey, quite rightly, raised the issue of the rôle and equipment of the Territorial Army. This, as it is put in the Memorandum, shows it is obvious that a Territorial Army has a vital part to play in the defence of this country. What form and what size it should be and how it should be done, remains to be seen. I would point out to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that there is, of course, a mobilisation plan, but how far a mobilisation plan is to be effective depends enormously on the circumstances of whether it is a local, regional or global war. Of course this is in hand.

Of course, we have not got the same heights of simplicity of efficiency as were possible under Haldane, but the whole problem is infinitely more complex than that of the inevitable European war on the coast of Europe and the availability and possibility of having reservists in the amazing movement the hon. Member described—60,000 of them out in ten days. I am sure our plans are well in hand on every conceivable problem we can see. I can assure the hon. Member of the possession of records and numbers. Until June this year we have a very large number of people available and after June we shall still have quite sufficient.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey raised the question of equipment, which is a vital matter. Our immediate rôle is to see that the active Army is properly equipped. When we come on to Vote 7, we shall have to refer to a fair number of difficulties which we have had in this sphere of equipment. That is our first priority. Our second priority is to see that the Territorial and Reserve Armies are adequately and properly armed, which they are.

The hon. Member for Dudley raised the question of the ordnance depots. I could not agree more with him that these depots are the key to any mobilisation and military plan, since they represent the equipment behind our Forces. I am glad to say that, since I have been in office, I have been to visit two of the largest depots, spending two days at each. The one at Kineton, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, has greatly improved during the past five or six months. It has been amazing to me what an improvement has been made there, and also at Chilwell, where M.T. spare parts are stored. These organisations always keep in touch with the latest changes in the G.1098 issued by the War Office. These things are in line, and there are plans. There are plans dependent on the kinds of attack we may suffer, and I think that this organisation is sufficiently elastic, and certainly competent enough, to cope in so far as it is humanly possible to cope with the problems that may arise.

5.31 p.m.

Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)

I have been waiting to hear what the Minister had to say in reply to the debate, and I now want to say a few words on the rôle of the Territorial Army.

I have heard hon. Members talking about the need for giving better pay to young officers, and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) made an impassioned, or at any rate a very sincere, appeal for greater numbers to go into the Territorial Army, while my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) talked about the employment of the Territorial Army in Civil Defence. In my view, people do not enter services of this kind either for purely monetary reasons or in a vacuum. We cannot just say that we want trade unionists or people who work in the nationalised industries to be well paid; of course we do, but first of all we have to make people of that kind aware of the motive for that particular service. That is where I think the Government have fallen down.

For example, how can we enthuse young men to go in for voluntary service in the Territorial Army when wide publicity is rightly given to the kind of statement which the Minister of Defence made in his speech of 11th February, when he said: Therefore we could not honestly say to the people of this country that in the present mate of scientific knowledge there is any effective means of defending the country as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1959; Vol. 599, c. 1174.] If that sort of observation is made by the Minister of Defence, the chief Defence Minister of the Government, it is hardly a spur or incentive to recruitment. Similarly, we have to explain to people what we intend them to do. The Minister of Defence has a conception of defending rocket sites—the point of launching the great deterrent. When we come to look at civil defence there will have to be a little more reality about this if we are to get people to take pleasure in service of this kind. It really will not do to have the kind of exercise, for instance, which we had in May of last year, when the Home Office on that occasion organised an exercise in which it was assumed that fifty hydrogen bombs had been dropped in the Preston, Birmingham and Leeds areas.

Mr. H. Fraser

This has nothing to do with Vote 2 for the Army. Surely it is the Home Office Vote that is concerned. I hope the hon. Gentleman will make it quite clear that this has nothing to do with the Territorial Army.

Mr. Griffiths

With the greatest respect to the Minister, Sir Gordon, I thought you were in charge of our proceedings. Certainly, if you call me to order I will resume my seat, but I do not think it is the Minister's job to usurp the functions of the Chair.

The Deputy-Chairman

Questions relating to the Home Office cannot be discussed on this Vote, but I am not quite sure of the point which the hon. Member is now making.

Mr. Griffiths

I am illustrating my argument. There has been much talk this afternoon about the rôle of the Territorial Army in the field of civil defence, and there has been an easy assumption that it will be the proper function in future of the Territorial Army. All I am seeking to show is that if the T.A. is to take part in civil defence, and I am not at the moment arguing whether it should or should not, civil defence as a whole will in future have to be conducted with a greater sense of reality than it has been in the past. If I am arguing that it has not been developed with a sense of reality, I am entitled to call in aid the answers given by the Department of Government which is responsible in this House a fortnight ago, and that is all I am doing.

I am seeking to enlist the aid of the Under-Secretary in getting the Government as a whole, when the Territorials are used in a civil defence exercise in future, to conduct it with the sort of sense of reality that would persuade an intelligent trade unionist and workers in general to enlist in voluntary efforts of this kind. I feel very strongly indeed that no person is going to take part in something which is merely a charade and has no reality about it.

I was going on to illustrate the point by saying that it is not good enough to conduct exercises in which it is assumed that fifty hydrogen bombs have fallen. I was going on to say that there is great controversy among physicists as to the effects of the dropping of hydrogen bombs of various sizes. I understand that it is generally agreed, however, that one 10-megaton bomb will destroy a densely populated area ten miles across, so that people are very concerned about these matters and discuss them in many places. Thus, the effects of the widespread devastation following upon such an attack are well known, and, therefore, to conduct an exercise which is supposed to be realistic and valuable in training for the future defence of the country when we are told that 13 of the bombs in that exercise were assumed to exceed the 10-megaton range is just ridiculous.

For goodness sake, in our approach to this matter, let us consider whether we shall get voluntary service from our people unless we treat them with common sense and offer what appears to them to be sensible and also excites their interest. I should be out of order if I said that I do not think the conduct of the Government in the field of foreign affairs is an encouragement to the people to join in civil defence or to join the T.A. In fact, I think it is miraculous that the numbers in the Territorial Army are increasing, in view of what has happened. While I understand and support the motives of my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey in seeking to encourage recruitment to the T.A., in which many members of my own family have taken part in past years, I say for goodness sake let us do it in a realistic and sensible manner.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £18,210,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the Reserve Forces (to a number not exceeding 371.500. all ranks, including a number not exceeding 360,000 other ranks), Territorial Army (to a number not exceeding 330.900, all ranks), Cadet Forces and Malta Territorial Force, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1960.