Motion made, and Question proposed.
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 317,000, 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. 1961.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)
The Army Estimates for 1960–61 provide for a total of £470 million. This is, on the face of it, an increase of nearly £39 million on last year's Estimate, but if a true comparison is made by excluding the provision of about £27 million for functions taken over from the Ministry of Supply the net increase is seen to be just under £12 million. A comparison on this basis is given in paragraph 3 of the Memorandum.
Hon. Members will see from the abstract published on pages 4 and 5 of the Estimates that there are no wide divergences from the pattern of expenditure in previous years. Perhaps the most notable thing is that, despite the continuing rundown of the Army, Vote 1 is slightly higher than it was last year. This is accounted for by the increases in pay for officers and other ranks which come into force on 1st April and make an addition of about £6 million to the Estimates.
I should like, first, to say something about the return to the War Office of that part of the Ministry of Supply which has, for twenty years, dealt with the provision of Army stores. As the Committee knows, this does not include guided weapons and electronic and wireless equipment, for the provision of which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation is now responsible. The main reason for the reorganisation of the former Minister of Supply's functions 427 last October was, of course, to bring responsibility for the aircraft industry and civil aviation under a single Minister.
But in the War Office we have welcomed the redistribution of duties which has brought under the direct control of the Army Council everything which was comprised in the old "munitions" side of the Ministry of Supply as opposed to the "air" and guided weapons side. This includes a responsibility for supplying certain equipment and stores to the other Services and several other customers as well as the Army.
After I had been in the War Office for some time, I felt that there was room for improvement in the arrangements both within the War Office as between the War Office and the Ministry of Supply for the provision of stores. With the agreement and support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), who was then Minister of Supply, I set up a committee within the War Office to report on the problem. We were lucky that this committee was sitting at the time when the new arrangements for supply were decided upon, since it was then able to direct its attention to the new organisation required within the War Office to meet these additional responsibilities.
Following the committee's report, the Army Council decided on a considerable reorganisation of that section of the General Staff which formulates requirements for weapons and equipment. Also, we have set up a small new planning cell which will be known as the Directorate of Combat Development. It will comprise soldiers, scientists and representatives of the finance department. It will not have any day-to-day responsibilities, but will be free to concentrate on thinking about the future pattern of war years ahead and the types of weapons, training, tactics and logistics which will be called for
Apart from these alterations within the General Staff, the new organisation for supply has meant transferring to the Army Council responsibility for the provision of artillery, small arms, ammunition, vehicles, engineer equipment, general stores and clothing. Of outside establishments, there have been transferred to the War Office 14 ordnance 428 factories, seven research establishments and six experimental ranges, the whole complex employing a staff, military and civilian, of about 45,000.
No organisation can sustain such a sudden increase in its strength as the War Office has had as a result of these changes without running into quite a few problems on the way, but these are on matters of detail and, having already had an opportunity to visit several of the former Ministry of Supply establishments myself, I wish to say how grateful I am for the willing, co-operative and optimistic spirit which has been shown by the transferred staffs.
The special position of our scientific work and of the ordnance factories, with their many customers outside the War Office, will be emphasised in the new organisation by having the Chief Scientist and the Controller of the Royal Ordnance Factories reporting to the Army Council through the Permanent Under-Secretary of the War Office.
For the War Department, the new arrangement has several advantages. It is good for the Department to be once again fully responsible in its own right for the research, development and production of the mass of its own weapons and stores. The user and the purveyor will be in much closer touch with each other's needs and problems, and the tendency to blame the other fellow diminishes strikingly when the other fellow becomes oneself. There is an advantage on the financial side with the removal of the need for many complicated adjustments between Departments.
Finally, there is also the advantage of the Master-General of the Ordnance having a seat on the Army Council and being present, therefore, at the very earliest stage when matters affecting his personal responsibility are discussed, as opposed to when previously he was Controller of Munitions and did not have a seat on the Army Council.
Before I leave our supply arrangements, I have a word to say about changes in uniform. Orders are now being placed for the future dress of the Regular Army, and substantial deliveries will begin next year. Every Regular soldier will have modern combat clothing and two suits of Service dress as a parade and public uniform. Blues 429 will stay for the present as a dress uniform for officers, N.C.O.s and bands. As the new uniforms come in, battledress will be abolished. The Committee will appreciate that changes of this scope, on a scale of hundreds of thousands of suits, costing some millions of pounds, must take time to prepare and complete, but I am sure that they will make a great difference to the soldier's pride in the Service.
By 1st April, 1961, the end of the coming financial year with which these Estimates are concerned, the amalgamations and disbandments of Regular Army units announced in White Paper of 1957 will have been completed. On that date, the active Army will be at a strength of about 216,000. During the next two years, its strength will be declining, with National Service men completing their Service and no new National Service men coming in. I shall deal later with the prospect of reaching our Regular recruiting target figure by 1963, but first I should like to say something about the other all-important problem of the recruitment of officers.
First, and I think most important, we have tackled the question of officers' careers. Hon. Members will recall that the Grigg Committee held the view that the biggest single impediment to the recruitment of officers was the length of career which the Services could offer— a career which ended for all but the most successful officers in their early fifties and for the great majority, the majors and lieutenant-colonels, in their late forties. The Committee advised a move by all three Services towards both earlier and later retirement, making it possible for officers either to leave the Service in their later thirties or be assured of employment until they reach the age of 60. That was the Grigg Committee's recommendation.
To see to what extent these recommendations could be adopted, the Army Council set up a committee under General Sir Richard Goodbody. Its recommendations are reflected in the new Army career structure and in the revised pension rates which were published last month. In the main, we have been able to implement the Grigg Committee's proposals, although we found that, with the best will in the world, the Army could not offer an assured career to all officers 430 beyond the age of 55. This is common to all three Services.
In outline, the reasons for it are these. The Army is a fighting machine and fighting is a young man's job. There are many staff and administrative appointments, but these cannot all be filled by older men even in peace time, let alone in war. The British Army long ago evolved a system by which qualified officers alternate between staff and regimental duty. I think that hon. Members will agree that this is right and that we could not accept a reform under which, to take an extreme case, officers did not serve outside their regiments until the age of 40, while the staff of all brigade, divisional and higher commands were middle aged. As I say, still we have found it possible to offer a career at least to the age of 55 for all officers who attain the substantive rank of major and above.
One necessary consequence of this higher retiring age is that some officers who have attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel will, while retaining that rank, during the last five years of their service have to cover duties normally carried out by majors. This is necessary to ensure that promotion of younger officers is not blocked. In the rank of lieutenant-colonel, it is most important that promotion should not be blocked, because the lieutenant-colonel, commanding a battalion or equivalent unit, is a key figure in the Army, and we regard it as absolutely essential that officers holding that command should not have passed their early 'forties.
The other important feature of the new career structure is that officers who, for one reason or another, do not wish or are not suited to a full career in the Service should be able to retire at a young enough age to enable them to start afresh in civil life. When my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence announced some weeks ago the fact that the Services were introducing new career structures, the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) asked whether it was to be left entirely to the choice of the officer whether he retired at the earlier age, or whether the decision rested with the Service concerned. The officer structure of the three Services has to be tailored in each case. There has to be some variation between the arrangements in all three Services.
431 This is what we have decided for the Army. An officer can opt to retire voluntarily and, provided his services can be spared, he will be allowed to do so. If sufficient officers in the different arms of the Service opt to retire voluntarily when they become qualified for a pension, it will not be necessary for any others to be retired. However, we cannot hold more majors than there are posts for them to fill, so we must, therefore, reserve the right to retire officers at this point in their career, but with a pension, if it proves necessary.
It is for that reason that our new career structure entails the new feature of selection to major. A career to the age of 55, therefore, is only half the story. What the new career structure offers is either employment to the age of 55, or the right to leave with a pension after sixteen years' service, say at 37, when it is comparatively easy to start a new career.
These changes cannot and should not be brought in over night. The new retired pay code is already in operation, but the bulk of the measures for the change over to the new career structure will be introduced in 1962. Before then, we shall gradually be raising the retiring ages in the ranks of lieutenant-colonel and above.
I have gone into some detail over the new career structure, because I think that it is the biggest single step towards the improvement of the officers' prospects which has been taken since the introduction of time promotion in 1938. If the Grigg Committee was right on this issue—I think that there is general agreement among hon. Members that it was—this should go further than any other single factor towards convincing candidates for commissions and their parents and others who advise them that there is a well paid and full career to be had in the Army.
At the time that the revised pension code was announced, the new pay code for officers and other ranks based on the first of the biennial reviews was published. As a result, officers in various ranks have received increases in pay ranging upwards from about 8 per cent. A particularly large proportional increase of 16 per cent. has been given to the junior subaltern. One of the 432 features of recent years which has not hitherto been sufficiently reflected in the Army pay code has been the larger starting salaries offered in the professions and industry to younger men.
Apart from these alterations in career structure, pay and pensions, we have been doing some other things to improve the officer recruiting position. Our new university entry scheme has brought forward some much needed candidates for commissions. As I mentioned in my Memorandum, the number of candidates entering Sandhurst last September and January was 399, compared with 295 in the two previous intakes. This is a significant and promising improvement. But we cannot escape the deficiencies of the last few years and to remedy them we introduced, last year, a scheme for young men to obtain short service commissions through Mons Officer Cadet School. About 200 cadets are at present training under this scheme and 43 have already been commissioned.
The ranks are another obvious source of officer material that we must never neglect. Hitherto, I think that our methods have been satisfactory in picking out from the ranks soldiers still young enough to go to Sandhurst and, of course, warrant officers have always provided a fine body of candidates for quartermaster type commissions. But I do not think that our system has been so good at picking up officer material from rankers in the mid span of their Army careers whose only opportunity of obtaining a Regular commission after the age of 20 has been by the indirect route of taking a short service commission in the hope that it will later be converted to a regular one.
There must be an upper limit to the age at which we can grant a direct Regular combatant commission because the candidates must be young enough to obtain experience as a platoon commander or equivalent, and also young enough to earn promotion at the usual age to lieutenant-colonel, which is the key rank in an officer's career. We have now raised this age limit from 20 to 26. But after 26 it will still be possible for the ranker to obtain a Regular commission via a short service commission, although if he starts his commissioned service at that later age his career will be more limited.
433 At 30, the average Regular soldier will have eleven or twelve years' service behind him and, if he is above average, should either already be, or be in sight of becoming, a warrant officer and, in due course, a candidate for a quartermaster commission. The Committee will be glad to know that we are increasing the number of posts which will be available to holders of this type of commission from 1,700 to 2,000. This is a considerable increase when we look at it against the background of a reducing Army. I think that hon. Members will see, from the many and varied schemes and proposals that I have touched on, that we are doing all that we can on a broad front to solve our officer recruitment problem.
If I do not deal with the question of other rank recruitment at great length it is not because I have any doubts about its over-riding importance. But we have been over it all so often, the last occasion being as recently as November in the course of the Army Act (Continuation) debate. In that debate other rank recruitment is almost the only subject that comes within the rules of order, whereas today everything is on the menu.
The trends have not altered since November and the tables at the back of my Memorandum show the position —a fall in the numbers recruited last year compared with 1958, but a considerably smaller fall in man-years recruited because of the increasing preference for the nine-year rather than the six-year engagement, and, at the same time, a very welcome increase in the intake of boys and apprentices.
As for the position in which we shall find ourselves in 1963 when the last National Service man has left, I see no reason to alter our belief that, at that date, we shall have an Army of at least 165,000 all ranks and that in the majority of arms we shall be past that point and on the way to the eventual target of about 180,000. There are two reasons why it is not possible to give too precise an estimate.
First, we do not yet know the effect on recruitment of the pay increases announced last month. In 1958, the improvement after the pay review was very considerable and it lasted longer than on previous occasions. We do not yet know what the effect of this one will be.
434 Secondly, the estimate depends on something of which we have had no experience since before the war, that is the extent to which recruits who wish to join one particular arm or regiment can be diverted, if that regiment's quota is already full, to another arm. In reaching our forecast we have made assumptions about this which I do not think are too optimistic and we may well be agreeably surprised in the event.
The pay review has made considerable alterations in the other rank pay structure. Everyone is agreed, I think, that the two principles by which we should be guided in fixing the soldier's pay are those of fairness and simplicity. Unfortunately, in certain spheres these militate against each other. The principle of fairness has to cover the payment if soldiers in the seven ranks from private to W.O. I., committed to varying periods of service for which there are five separate scales of pay and, apart from their different military skills, serving in over 220 trades. In the 1946 pay code, a most ingenious system was introduced for providing a relationship between the pay of the fighting soldier and the various categories of tradesmen.
This star system achieved fairness and equity between the pay of one soldier and another. But, in time, it became more and more elaborate, first, because we had to provide for additional skills, and, secondly, because of the introduction in 1956 of committal pay for different lengths of engagement. The general effect has been nearly to double the number of different rates of pay that there were when the system was first introduced. This has made it far too complicated.
The other difficulty has been that, by establishing a fixed relationship between the technician, the skilled tradesman, the semi-skilled tradesman and the fighting soldier, it has been most difficult to alter the rates of pay for one group or class of men without moving the whole scale for everybody. This may suit a small regular content in a large conscript Army, but it does not suit an all-Regular force which has to compete for men with a number of different skills and which must keep greater flexibility in its pay structure.
To summarise, what we have done is to reduce the number of pay groups from five to four. First, the technicians, 435 secondly, Group A, or skilled tradesmen, thirdly, Group B, or less skilled tradesmen, and, fourthly, the righting soldiers. In the technician group there will be one pay grade only in each rank. In the other groups, once the soldier has passed the recruit stage, there will be only three grades in each rank below corporal, two in the rank of corporal, and one in the higher ranks. In the case of tradesmen these grades will be related as before to trade qualifications and, in the case of the fighting soldier, to military proficiency.
Let me give examples of the changes in pay rates as a result of this review. First, the unmarried soldier on a nine-year engagement will receive seven guineas a week after the recruit stage. The platoon sergeant committed to serve for nine years who is married and living in quarters, will draw in pay and allowances over £16 a week, or £870 a year. Finally, at the top end of the scale, the W.O. I. technician committed to serve for twenty-two years, married and living in quarters, can draw nearly £25 a week.
I honestly do not think that with these figures, anyone can argue that, in future, pay will be a bar to recruitment. Indeed, a young man who seeks a career which couples service, travel, adventure and comradeship with a high material standard of life would find it hard to single out a career which offers these in greater measure than do the Services today.
To turn to our Reserve forces, the volunteer strength of the Territorial Army has now passed the 120,000 mark with the highly satisfactory net increase of 20,000 during 1959. This is the best index of its health and spirit that I can give to the Committee. As a second line of the Regular Army the Territorial Army, with the Army Emergency Reserve, has an essential part to play in the defence of this country, and the importance of our reserves rises as the active Army gets smaller.
At Territorial Army camp, most major units now devote one year in four to Civil Defence training, which has been carried out with the same zeal as we have become accustomed to look for in the Territorial Army's other activities.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Has the War Office contemplated at any time in recent years or months raising the bounties and the pay of the Reserve forces?
§ Mr. Soames
No. We have not, but I think that the general increase in recruitment is a sign that the Territorial Army is not displeased with its rates of bounty.
§ Mr. Soames
At Territorial Army camp, most major units now devote one year in four to Civil Defence training, which is being carried out with this great, considerable Territorial zeal. Not long ago, there were certain restrictions which we had to place on the Territorial Army's out-of-camp training. I can assure hon. Members that the storm which burst on the War Office then removed any shadow of doubt about the vitality of the Territorial Army, and that satisfactory arrangements have now been arrived at.
This year marks the centenary of the formation of the cadet forces. Both the Combined Cadet Force, with 62,000 boys in its Army section, and the Army Cadet Force, with 43,000 boys, are doing well. We do not aim only at providing a narrow military training for these boys. We want to develop a boy's character, powers of leadership and self-reliance. As National Service comes to an end the ties between the Army and the civilian population will, regrettably, be weakened. We look to the cadet forces not only as a source of recruitment for the Services, but also as links with the civilian population and as a contribution which the Services can make towards the training and upbringing of the nation's youth.
The corollary of the decision to revert to a volunteer, long-service Army in 1957 was the provision of good accommodation all over the world for single and married soldiers. In my Estimates Memorandum I went into some detail about our building programme at home and abroad. In fact, there is a record rate of building falling on the Army Estimates this year. There is work in 437 progress for over 11,000 soldiers in barracks and over 2,000 married quarters. Both these figures will be increased in the year ahead.
I do not want to weary the Committee with a long list of figures, but I would mention two places where we have particularly pressing building problems. In Germany, there is a serious shortage of married quarters. In certain areas, by arrangement with the German authorities, we expect to go a considerable way in the coming year towards solving this problem by hiring on long leases multiple blocks of flats. In Aden, we are concentrating on prefabricated construction. A contract has been let for accommodation for an infantry battalion and 242 married quarters. The first block will be occupied in August or September and the whole project will be completed by the middle of 1961. We are already providing air conditioned accommodation for the armoured squadron which has just reached Aden. We have now erected air-conditioned huts for 400 administrative troops in Aden, and the programme will be completed by the end of 1961.
In general, the accommodation we are now building at home will have a useful life of sixty years, and in the same period we can expect a steady rise in the general standard of accommodation in the country. There are now clear and agreeable signs of an increasing interest among all sections of the community in the standard of public building. We have a lot of building ahead of us in the Army and we must see that the quality of the buildings we erect bears comparison with the best. We have started as part of the general reshaping of the War Department works organisation, which will be completed this year, a building and research development group. Its purpose will be to study improved methods of design and layout so that our buildings will be not only functionally efficient, but also pleasing to look at and to live in.
In the Estimates debate last year I dealt in some detail with the new weapons and equipment which the Army is now receiving. Re-equipment is a continuous process, and there is never a time when any army is fully equipped with all the most up-to-date weapons, but it is also true that re-equipment goes in waves. At the beginning of 1957, when the de- 438 cision was taken to do away with National Service, the Korean wave of re-equipment had spent itself and the next one had not built up. The situation is very different now when we have already gone a long way towards meeting the programme which my predecessor outlined in 1957 of virtually re-equipping the Army in the five-year programme.
I know that there are some hon. Members who have felt that this programme was not going fast enough. I would ask them to bear in mind that, even if it were considered wise now at this point when we are half-way through the programme to make a considerable infusion of extra money, it is doubtful whether the tempo of the programme could be altered to any marked degree. And there are many factors involved besides money. There is the rate at which development and trials can be carried out prior to a particular item being put into production. There is also the rate at which it is militarily sound to assimilate new equipment into an army, with the extra burden it puts on the training machine. In brief, the present re-equipment programme is now well into its stride, and I do not think that we should get any appreciable gain by lengthening it.
In the Memorandum I have drawn attention to the progress which has been made during the last twelve months. The programme as a whole is running up to time, and in some respects we are doing better than we hoped. The new range of combat wireless sets, for example, has come forward more quickly than was at first hoped, and re-equipment will be complete a year sooner, by the middle of 1961.
One other thing of which I should like to make special mention is the up-gunning and rearmouring of our Centurion tanks. The 105 mm. tank gun is in full production for the British Army and for several other countries, and there is no doubt that it is the best tank gun in the world at the present time. The equipping of our tanks with this gun has, of course, to be phased in with the production of its ammunition, and it has to be spread over a period. This gun makes the Centurion so much more formidable than it was that when armed with it it is virtually a new class of tank. Our existing tanks will now retain their superiority over any likely opposition 439 till the new battle tank comes into service. This has recently started its development trials and is to undergo Army trials during the autumn.
Where our nuclear capability in Germany is concerned, we have recently, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence announced in the defence debate, made arrangements with the Americans under which we shall receive during the coming year Honest John free-flight rockets. We also expect shortly to deploy in Germany the 8-in. howitzers. Both weapons are capable of delivering atomic missiles, and with the existing Corporal units will give B.A.O.R. a formidable nuclear potential.
In reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), I announced that we were not proceeding with the anti-tank guided missile known by the name of Orange William. In view of what my predecessor said in the Army Estimates debate in 1957 about this weapon, I feel that the Committee would like to know what prompted us to cancel it. My right hon. Friend has been quoted as saying that this weapon would remove the tank from the battlefield. In fact, he was referring not to tanks in general, but to the heavy tank. He was telling the Committee about the Conqueror tank and he said that it might well be the last of the heavy tanks which we would produce. That is still so. He then said that this anti-tank guided weapon should, if all went well, remove the heavy tank from the battlefield. He went on to say that there would still be the need for medium tanks.
There were two reasons which led us to cancel Orange William. The first is that, as its development proceeded, it became clear that if it was to meet the Staff requirement it would have to be of such an order of complexity as to make it unsuitable as a front-line weapon. The second factor is that as the development of the new main battle tank and its gun proceeded it became clear that it would be able to deal with any tank which, so far as we can see ahead, it is likely to have to meet.
On the other hand, we have, as the Committee knows, placed an order for the anti-tank missile Malkara. In time-scale this is far ahead of Orange William 440 and it is a much less sophisticated weapon. We may deploy some in B.A.O.R., but its greatest value to the Army lies in the fact that it is an air portable long-range anti-tank weapon which could be flown to any area of conflict to which we might not be able to get tanks quickly yet where we might be meeting any new tanks.
§ Mr. Soames
Orange William was its name, as the right hon. Gentleman will recall.
Air mobility is the pivot of all our plans for the use of the Strategic Reserve. We have been having progressively more ambitious training with the R.A.F. in the last few years, and in a fortnight's time we shall have the largest exercise to date—Starlight—in which a brigade group will be flown from this country to Libya and will be committed as soon as it lands to manoeuvres in which it will be largely dependent on air supply.
This is the type of training which is so vital to an Army today. We must train in the closest co-operation with R.A.F. Transport Command, whose task these days we see as including the air supply of troops right forward to brigade headquarters and also the tactical movement of troops on the battlefield itself. Nothing brings home to one more forcibly the different concepts and tactics that govern the Army's thought today than comparison of this type of training with what units were limited to not many years back in the confines of Long Valley, Aldershot.
This is the third year in which I have introduced the Army Estimates. I remember that two years ago we were under attack with regard to the recruiting position. Last year, it was mainly equipment. There are still chinks in the armour, but I feel that I can say with confidence that Army affairs generally are in a healthier state this year than they were last year and that we have good reason to believe that the improvement is continuing. The Army has for years had to put up with old-fashioned Victorian buildings and, since the days of the Korean rearmament programme, with much old equipment.
We have some years to go yet before all our buildings are new and our equipment is modern, but when hon. Members 441 visit the Army during this coming year I believe that they will notice the considerable improvements that there have been recently. Certainly, the Army is very conscious of this—soldiers are seeing the new buildings going up and the new equipment coming in—and this naturally, is having its effect on the morale and spirit of the Service. Those who have joined the Army since we went over to the 6-year engagement can justly feel that during the time of their active service they will see the equipment of the Army and the services and amenities which it provides rising to a standard which will match the fine human qualities of the British soldier.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
As he reminded us, the Secretary of State for War has introduced three Army Estimates. I should like to congratulate him on that and on the interesting things which he has told us. I congratulate him, also, on still retaining his responsibilities, indeed, his heavily increased responsibilities, as he told us.
I do not want to go into the question of the abolition of the Minister of Supply and the transfer to the right hon. Gentleman of very important and substantial functions, but anyone who has been a War Office Minister must feel sympathy with those in the War Office on their assumption of these functions. But, on the other side, there is a loss of unity in the Services in losing the common provider. It is a balance of considerations, but I do not want to go into that today.
I should like to say a few words about the various things which the right hon. Gentleman said. We were glad to hear about uniforms. We have heard about them for the last ten years, but I hope that now the War Office will press on with this matter of the supply of combat uniforms, I remember seeing prototypes of this uniform when I was at the War Office. Therefore, it is time that the matter was really got on with now.
The right hon. Gentleman was very interesting on the recruitment of officers and on the career structure, and he also dealt with pension rates. I would say only one thing about that, and it is perhaps an unexpected thing to say from the benches on this side of the Committee, but I do not hesitate to say 442 it. It is in connection with the circular which I think we have all received from the Officers' Pensions Society Ltd.
I do not know, and I do not pretend to know, how much the Government could do for the existing officer pensioners. It is a very difficult question, but I am impressed by the argument which the society produces about the relationship between the treatment of existing officer pensioners and officer recruiting. There is no doubt that both for officers and other ranks from the military families the treatment of existing pensioners is an important factor in recruiting.
I realise all the difficulties, which not so much the right hon. Gentleman but the Treasury raises, about the taking of one particular class of pensioner, about altering pensions retrospectively, and about keeping pensions in line. But concessions have been made and I think that the circular which we have all seen is worth looking at again and that, in view of the considerable and welcome improvements which have been made in the new code, it is worth looking once again at the men—and the women— perhaps above all, the widows—who are under the old code. I put it to the Secretary of State that this is not an unimportant factor in the officer recruiting about which he has spoken.
Still on the question of officer recruiting, but from the ranks, I was particularly glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about the raising of the age-limit from 20 to 26. I am sure that it is something which needed attention. I ventured to draw attention to the two-ladder system on several occasions during debates on Army Estimates. If a man got a substantial way up the other ranks ladder, it was extremely difficult for him to go over to the other ladder which led to promotion to the commissioned side. I am glad that steps have been taken in the right direction in this matter.
As to the pay review, I regret very much the abolition of the star system. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, could make an impressive argument on complication and on the formidable number of separate rates, but it was an ingenious system for giving the same possibilities of advancement to a fighting soldier as to the technician. I am, 443 personally, very sorry to see it go. I know that it has not gone completely, because there are still grades in the pay of the private soldier. The abolition of the star system may have been inevitable, but I cannot help feeling great regret that it has had to be sacrificed.
In passing, may I congratulate the Minister on the record of the Territorial Army recruitment, which is striking?
Now I come to a larger subject, that of general other rank recruitment. Here I would think it right to say that recent figures, though they should not be any reason for panic, are certainly no reason for complacency in Regular recruiting if we are to reach at a reasonable time the new target of 180,000 which has been set. In general, it is true to say that pay increases have an ephemeral effect on recruiting. They improve it, but it tends to level off. That has been recognised by the fact that there is to be now a biennial review of pay. If we are to have an all-professional, all-volunteer Army, the House and the country must face the fact that the Army has to have a wage policy—not a fixed rate of wages, however good—which keeps the pay and incentives of the other ranks in line with the rising standard of life of the population as a whole.
There is no other way in which this can be achieved. As one pay increase tends to drop behind a rising standard for the rest of the country, then recruiting tends to taper off and another pay increase becomes inevitable. This must be faced. I do not see that any of us, at any rate on this side of the Committee, should deplore it. The Army must keep pace with an expanding economy and a rising standard of life, because that is incomparably the most civilised and proper way of raising Armed Forces today.
Last week, in the defence debate, the House discussed the possibility of doing this and the alternative. Several hon. Members on both sides cast doubt on the possibility of doing it and pointed out that the only known alternative was conscription. That is true, but it seemed to me that they confused the purposes of conscription. If it was a question of raising the old form of mass Army, such as we knew in the two world wars, then a general system of National Service, such as we have had in this country since 444 the last war, is the only possible way of doing it. I have never been one who thought that intolerable or something which the country would not support, because experience has shown that it will do so.
If that is the purpose, to have a great mass Army such as was contemplated ten years ago when I was at the War Office, which then thought in terms of 11 divisions ready, 14 divisions immediately mobilisable behind them and then, as the years of war went on, perhaps another 20 divisions as the nation became completely mobilised—if that is the conception of the type of emergency which is to be prepared for, National Service is the only way to do it, and the proper and appropriate way to do it.
What seems to me not to be universally grasped now is that no one is dreaming of raising an Army of that kind. In the nuclear world that is a totally irrelevant kind of Army. Therefore, the purpose of universal National Service, which is essentially to provide great numbers of trained reserves which can be called up in war, is an anachronism today. Conscription, in the old sense of the word, as a universal National Service, is not a good thing or a bad thing; it is simply something which is no longer applicable to the present situation. If, and heaven forbid, the world should ever be involved in a nuclear war, the time-scale would be an entirely different one, and all question of calling up or deploying vast Armed Forces of that kind would be impossible.
I was very much impressed by a remark made to me last summer when I was talking to one of the most brilliant of the scientific experts of the American Government in that remarkable institution the Rand School. He put it like this: "All this talk of a world war of the future being very short is probably exaggerated. It might not be so short after all". I was surprised to hear him say that, but then he said, "No, I do not think it would be as short as many people seem to think. I think that it might last as long as three days". That is the kind of time-scale of which the men who, for their sins, have to think in terms of nuclear war really have in mind.
So the old conception of conscription is now totally inapplicable. What we are 445 thinking of as the requirement has nothing to do with that. It is the requirement of a British contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield force of ground forces. For that conception of a shield force of ground forces—above all with a conventional rôle but with the capacity of a nuclear rôle as well—the idea of a mass Army with large trained reserves of the old kind is totally irrelevant. This is because the function of the British contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield force, and of that shield force itself, is to impose a pause, if there is aggression on the ground, using conventional means.
In the admirable phrase of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), it would impose "a cushion of time" in which the world would have the opportunity, at any rate, to draw back from the final destruction of nuclear war.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that important point, and because I am extremely impressed by the opinion of his American friend, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend asked him why, if he thinks that, the Americans still retain conscription?
§ Mr. Strachey
The Americans retain their system of conscription for exactly the reason I am giving now, that they rightly attach the utmost importance to the conception of the N.A.T.O. shield force, and to their other responsibilities, also. But they certainly do not believe in the conceivability of fighting a war with a mass army of tens of millions in the old form. They have to keep their six divisions in Germany, and that is what their conception is. They rightly see, just as we do, the absolute necessity for those N.A.T.O. shield forces.
§ Mr. Strachey
Yes, but this is in terms of their six divisions or of our seven brigade groups. As I will argue in a moment, that contribution of ours seems to me rather small, but it is of that order of magnitude. For those purposes it is surely undeniable that an Army of the magnitude of about 180,000 is the appropriate one.
Therefore, we get the problem narrowed down to what the British contribution to N.A.T.O., in addition to our 446 other responsibilities—but that first and foremost—should be, and how that contribution is to be met. That is the problem that we have to face. That is the requirement. And all our arguments must be addressed to whether that is to be met by an all-professional Army, or, if not, how it is to be done; because it certainly cannot be done by a system of universal National Service, for that must be totally inappropriate for it.
We can argue about exactly what the contribution should be in size. To my mind, the seven brigade groups which are mentioned in the Secretary of State's White Paper is on the small side, but the contribution is certainly within our old obligation, which was of four divisions, so that in any case it is not an immense force that we have to deal with. It is a force of that order of magnitude.
How is it to be raised? I was challenged on this matter by the hon. Baronet the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). He asked me to say how I proposed the raising of a force of that sort—the importance of which I actually emphasised, and which I emphasise again—if voluntary recruiting fell short and it could not be raised by that means. That is a perfectly legitimate question, and I will answer it in a moment. However, I put it to the hon. Baronet that he said that if we could not get the men by voluntary recruiting then we should have to get them by selective conscription. He said:I am sure that if the reasons were explained to the country, selective conscription would be accepted. I should like this to be a bipartisan measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March. 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1125–6.]Let us say for the sake of argument that the gap was 20,000 men. If it were a two-year system that would mean selective conscription for 10,000 men each year. Is this really a practical proposition? This is not National Service as we have known it in this country for the last fifteen years, or even anything vaguely resembling it. I suppose that it would have to be done by ballot. It seems to me a totally impossible proposition to think that today we could introduce such a system. It would not be reintroducing it but introducing it, because there has never been anything in the least resembling it in this country. It would be a system 447 by which one could arbitrarily pick out of the whole annual class 10,000 men and make them serve for two years.
§ Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
Would the right hon. Gentleman also agree that it would completely wreck the whole of the beneficial effects of the abolition of National Service on voluntary recruiting? If that great bugbear should suddenly be placed on the shoulders of the Regulars again, we should get nobody taking on.
§ Mr. Strachey
Yes, I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member. It is from every point of view a totally impracticable proposition.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
What would the right hon. Gentleman do if he needed the men?
§ Mr. Strachey
I am coming to that. It is perfectly simple.
I believe that once the Government have—rightly, I think—embarked on raising an all-professional long-service Army they will have to pay, and provide in other incentives, what it turns out to require to get the number of men needed. Within the order of magnitude of the forces which we require—it is certainly of the order of magnitude of 180,000; we can argue whether it is 160,000, 180,00 or 200,000, but it is that order of magnitude—I am sure that there is some rate of incentive which will give one the numbers.
The hon. Member is right in saying that there is not an unlimited number of men who can be induced to join the Army. We could not have a volunteer Army of 500,000, I agree, but within the order of magnitude which I have just mentioned there is a rate of incentive at any given time which can be relied upon to give us the men. It may prove very expensive. I do not deny that for a moment.
§ Sir F. Maclean
The right hon. Gentleman has himself referred to the effects of pay increases as ephemeral, and so has my right hon. Friend, who said that the effect of the last pay increase "lasted longer" than that of the previous increases, which is an admission to the same effect. I am not any more in favour of conscription than 448 anybody else, and, in a small way, the time which I spent at the War Office was devoted largely to trying to find means of abolishing it. However, the question that I posed in the defence debate was this: if one cannot get the number of men required by any other means, what does one do? I still do not consider that the right hon. Gentleman has answered that question.
It is perfectly possible to say, "You will pay till you get the men", and I agree that a very considerable pay increase would probably, in the long run, work out cheaper than introducing any measure of conscription, which is the one thing that we all want to avoid. However, suppose one cannot get one's men by pay increases, which is quite possible —and I think that the right hon. Gentleman is putting it on the low side when he talks about 10,000 or 20,000 men— what would he do then? The Government have said year by year up to this year that what they would do would be to reintroduce conscription of one kind or another. What has he to say?
§ Mr. Strachey
The hon. Baronet has repeated the arguments which he used last week. He does not seem to me to think in the terms in which I, at any rate, an amateur economist, think in these matters. There is what the economist would call a demand and supply schedule in these things. There are demand and supply curves, and at a certain price they intersect. Within limits, that is true of recruiting a Service or an industry and so on.
I suggest that within the limits of 160.000 and 200,000 there is certainly a rate of pay and conditions—I use the word "certainly" advisedly; it is the general question of incentives—which will give one the men. It is not a rate which one can fix and then leave alone for ever. With any rate, the effect is ephemeral. That is true in industry. I appeal to my trade unionist colleagues on this point. Experienced trade union officials do not make a demand for a wage increase and then let it lie for all time. They come back again after a few years, and they are right to do so. It is the same in modern conditions if one is to recruit an Army. If one has not got the whip of unemployment and semi-starvation driving men into the Army, the Army must compete with 449 other employments in its attractiveness, rates of pay and all the rest that goes with that.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am sure that my hon. Friend must feel very painfully about that, but he forgets that the gross national product goes up—
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not want to enter into a debate on this, but the question has been asked over and over again. Is my right hon. Friend advocating that we should spend more money on the Army than the Conservatives do?
§ Mr. Strachey
I am asking that we should spend more on the soldiers than the Conservatives do. I certainly think that the rates of pay in the Army, just as in the coal mines, the railways and other industries, are something which this side of the Committee—I hope the whole House of Commons—should have very much at heart. There is nothing dreadful about the fact that those rates of pay will have to go slowly but steadily upwards if the Army is to be recruited.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have often crossed swords with my right hon. Friend in military matters, and, I think, have come out with my tail feathers unruffled. If national production is to flow upwards surely that means that the demand on labour must be always increasing. If there is an ever-increasing demand on the same number of men by an ever-increasing number of industries, how do we get the recruits?
§ Mr. Strachey
We should be out of order if we went into economics, but the national product goes up by the productivity of labour rising, the demand for labour does not go up pari passu. That is all I want to say on that perhaps rather elementary economic point.
A question which is even more important than the quantity of our contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield force is the quality of that contribution. We may differ about whether it should be seven brigade groups, or whether, as I think, 450 it should be nine, which is our old figure. That is a fairly narrow difference, but if we are down to that very modest quantity then the quality ought to be extremely high, and by quality I mean both equipment and training.
The Secretary of State spoke with satisfaction about the state of the re-equipment of the Army, but I could not quite follow him or believe that his own Memorandum quite bore him out. After all, as he said, we pressed him rather hard last year about the actual weapons coming into the hands of the troops, and we were answered by some very striking statements, not from the Secretary of State himself, but from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), who was then Minister of Supply. This is what he said:It is not an exaggeration to suggest that never will the Army have seen such a concentrated phase of renovation and re-equipment as it is now about to see over the next two, three or four years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1317.]The right hon. Gentleman was delightfully vague about the time, but he wont on:By the early 1960s … the machine gun will be a new one … the mortar will have been displaced, I hope, by the light pack howitzer which we are trying out. …"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1318.]And he went on to give a list of arms which would not only be coming but which would have come, into use by the troops. With that phrase in mind, I turn to the Secretary of State's Explanatory Memorandum this year, 1960. In paragraph 56, he deals with this. I am bound to say that in its essentials it is still all in the future tense.Prototypes of the new battle tank, the tracked armoured personnel carrier and the Centurion bridge-layer (see photographs) will be undergoing trials during the coming year. Army trials of the air-portable Italian 105 mm. howitzer (see photograph) have proved successful. Sufficient howitzers will be purchased. … The infantry will carry out troop trials during the year with the F.N. general purpose machine gun.…As far as I can see, every one of the items mentioned is still qualified by the future tense. I do not see that we have any evidence—it may be that it can be produced—in the Memorandum—which we must go on—that the very glowing 451 promises of re-equipment made by the then Minister of Supply last year have been carried out. It would be only just an exaggeration to say that since the right hon. Member for Hall Green made those remarks the only thing that has happened is that he has ceased to be Minister of Supply. I am not sure that even that was a good thing, because many of the articles that he has written since show that he is a very able man indeed.
I come now to the training of our land forces in our contribution to the shield force.
§ Mr. Soames
I see what the right hon. Gentleman means about the way in which the weapons and developments part of this Memorandum is drawn up. I did not give a catalogue of all the types of equipment flowing into the Army—a matter into which I went in great detail in last year's Estimates— which includes such things as the Saladin armoured car, the Saracen and the rifle. Does the right hon. Gentleman say that as soon as an item of equipment starts coming into service it becomes of no further interest? I endeavoured, in the Memorandum, to set out new items of equipment which have come on to the scene since we talked about these matters last year, and to give the Committee some idea of the new equipment which was coming forward. I hope he does not think that because an item of equipment is not mentioned in the Memorandum it is not continuing to come off the production line.
§ Mr. Strachey
Certainly not. The rifle—at a very slow rate—has been coming off the line for some time. What is disappointing—and I do not think that this is unfair—is that, as far as I can see, he does not point to any new item which has actually come into the hands of the troops for their use in the past twelve months. That seems very disappointing indeed in a period which, we were told, was to be one of rapid re-equipment—I do not want to push it further. Judging from the Memorandum—
§ Mr. Soames
I will take note of what the right hon. Gentleman has said. There will be a special paragraph in next year's Memorandum, if I have anything to do 452 with it, about these matters, but a great deal of equipment has come into use.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am very glad to hear it. The real issue on the training of our contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield force is the issue of tactical nuclear weapons. It is a question whether that training should be exclusively in their use, or exclusively for conventional warfare, or dual-purpose training. I have never doubted that it was inevitable that our ground forces should be equipped with tactical nuclear weapons of some sort, and I think that the words of Mr. Khrushchev which I quoted in the defence debate last week:Our "—the Russian—Armed forces have been to a considerable degree regeared to rocket and nuclear weapons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March. 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1041.]constitute the only but sufficient reason why we have to have them.
Equally, I have always maintained and wish to emphasise most strongly that it seems to me to be suicidal to allow the capability and the training of our forces in conventional warfare to lapse, or even to be eclipsed by training in nuclear warfare. It is of the utmost importance for the future of the world that the capability for conventional warfare of N.A.T.O. forces as a whole should be maintained.
I have never believed the N.A.T.O. doctrine—which I am very glad to hear is ceasing to be the N.A.T.O. doctrine— that tactical nuclears give the West some special advantage. I have never taken that view and I think that it was the greatest mistake ever to suppose that they did. The necessity for them was the necessity that the other side was getting them; but that they give some mysterious advantage to the West is more and more seen to be a total fallacy.
In that connection, I want to mention a pamphlet—"The British Army in the Nuclear Age"—which the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Colonel Tufton Beamish) and I helped to produce when we were joint chairmen of a committee set up by the Army League. That pamphlet had wise words to say on this matter and, on page 12, says:We feel strongly that the West must retain the power at least to hold with conventional weapons alone a sizeable incursion from Communist territory.453 Conclusion 16 of the list of conclusions at the end of that document re-emphasises that. That is the most important issue in the training and equipment of the British Army today.
Another reason why the British Army must retain its conventional capability is that although making a contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield forces is its first priority, it is by no means the Army's only function. It has other very important functions for which it is an absolute necessity that it should retain its conventional capacity. I put it to the Secretary of State that the other function of the Army can be summed up in a single phrase, that it must have the capacity to mount an expeditionary force. I think that that is the simplest and clearest way to put it. That puts a tremendous priority and importance on mobility.
All the things which my hon. Friends and I have said about mobility arise here. I say at once that I am not one of those who think that the mobility of the Army is exclusively a question of air transport. That is very important and we very much welcome the signs that an appreciable air transport force is at last to come into existence—at least, although it is appreciable on the personnel side, on the weight-lifting side we have still not had a date for the Britannic and much will be lacking until we know when the Britannic is coming.
But that is, and for a long time will be, only one side of the matter. The sea transport of armour, which for a very long time will have to be transported not by air, but by surface means, is still of great importance. And so, if it is possible, and where it is possible, and while it is possible, is the making of dumps of very heavy equipment in various parts of the world.
This is a very complex problem, but it is all the problem of securing mobility. The old concept of scattering considerable parts of the Army in garrisons and bases abroad is more and more turning out to be impossible. I do not believe that there will be many more years before we end the scattering of appreciable forces of the Army in various parts of the world. I am against it in principle today, but whether one is for or against it, it will soon simply not be "on". One by one those bases will become independent territories and one by one they 454 will be seen to be something which it is quite impossible, for one political reason or another, for the British Army to use.
How much money we should continue to invest in those bases is an important question. We were told the other day that we have invested the considerable sum of £91 million in the Cyprus base.
§ Mr. Strachey
What do we think is the function of the base, especially that part which is called Episkopi, where the Middle East headquarters is to be sited? We would like to know what forces and what areas those headquarters are supposed to administer. The situation in the Middle East is now quite transformed and totally different from what it was even ten years ago. I am utterly sceptical about the idea of a large and elaborate British base and headquarters in that area.
The Minister of Defence was rather cross with me for reminding the House that he has spoken of the base having to accommodate 20,000 men. I looked up 'his words carefully and that is exactly what he said. He said that up to 20,000 men have possibly to be deployed there.
§ Mr. Strachey
On occasions. I had better read his exact words. He said:If we take this figure of possibly 20.000 men, we must add provision for wireless stations barracks, airfields, radar and a limited range in exercise areas, schools, married quarters and hospitals. …"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1960; Vol. 617, c. 314.]That is a very good account of what a base of that sort necessarily involves, but I put it to the Committee that more and more these large substantial establishments in base areas, scattered over the world largely to deal with commitments which no longer exist, or have entirely changed their character, or will do so in the near future—that the use of these bases is becoming less and less a practicable policy for the British Army.
After all, we are now paying much attention to the possibility—I believe it to be an actuality—of holding many men in Kenya. For a few more years that may be a possibility. Although exception is taken to this, it has 455 been suggested in the Army League pamphlet that some Gurkhas should be stationed there. I do not think that there is any special objection to that; it is rather that in due course there will be an objection to any troops being stationed there. I cannot see that the people who are likely to be ruling Kenya in a few years' time will regard that as a possible arrangement.
So it will go on, and we had better face the fact. The only answer is to spend our money not in these enormous investments—and they are enormous when we consider £90 million on a base area—but in providing the capacity from this country to mount an expeditionary force with maximum mobility —even though that is extremely expensive. That is the other great requirement which the Army is called upon to meet. Those two requirements really sum up all that is needed: an adequate contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield forces and the capacity to mount an expeditionary force which, in all probability, will act in conjunction with our allies in the United Nations. These two requirements are best met by a long-term professional army of about the size that is proposed.
If only the Minister, and the Government generally, will concentrate on meeting those requirements and shape the Army for those two needs, they will do the greatest service. The British Army will be able to do what it has so often done in the past, namely, to make a great contribution to what is obviously the overriding British interest, the maintenance of peace. The shield forces, and our contribution to them, are an indispensable contribution to the maintenance of peace, for they alone can provide the means by which we can avoid the impossible dilemma of either surrendering to a fait accompli or launching a nuclear war. They can also act as an expeditionary force. An Army geared to those two tasks and equipped in the best possible way, to compensate for its necessarily small size, will be a worthy British contribution to the cause of peace.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
I should like to follow the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) in some of the remarks he 456 made, because I am more in agreement with him this afternoon than I have ever been before when he has made a speech on this subject.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the great gap, which has now widened, between the new pension rates which have been introduced and the miserly pension rates which are drawn by the old officers of pre-1950 vintage. This is a poor advertisement for recruiting for our new Army, because those people are the fathers and grandfathers of the people we want in our Army today. I hope that something will be done about it. As an example, a pension drawn today by a major's widow with three children on the old rates of pay is less than a cadet at Sandhurst gets with all his living expenses thrown in free. That state of affairs ought not to be allowed.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his opinion since last year about the N.A.T.O. shield and the rôle of N.A.T.O. on which I have challenged him on several occasions. He said last year that the first task of the British Army was:… as part of the N.A.T.O. force, of fighting a conventional war …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1959; Vol. 601. c. 250.]I pointed out then, and I do so again, that that is not the real rôle of N.A.T.O. which is, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said today, essentially as a shield to give a pause and to give people time to re-think, and, we hope, return to sanity.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am not conscious of having changed the opinion which the hon. and gallant Gentleman read out. I still regard the capacity to fight a conventional war as the first consideration for a British contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield. That is what I said last year, and that is what I endeavoured to say today.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I listened very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I have here a copy of his speech of last year, and the difference this year was most marked. Last year, there was no question of the shield. The right hon. Gentleman said that the task of the British Army was to fight a conventional war in Europe.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I disagree. If we are to envisage N.A.T.O. as fighting a conventional war against big Russian 457 forces in Europe, we must at once rethink about the size of our forces in N.A.T.O., and also everyone else's forces there. If the right hon. Gentleman compares his speech of today with his speech of last year I am sure that he will see the difference.
I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer), about selective conscription. If there was any idea in our new Army that we were thinking of adopting a system of selective conscription the recruiting figures would at once fall off, because I know that the young men who want to make their careers in a long-term voluntary defence force such as we envisage would think again if they thought that conscription, or part-time conscription, was to be introduced which would bring back all the old conditions to which they objected before.
The right hon. Gentleman criticised the equipment and training of our forces in N.A.T.O. I notice that on 2nd March General Norstad made a point of saying how much the equipment and training of our forces had improved. I have a high opinion of General Norstad. He generally says what he thinks, and his comment is significant.
The right hon. Gentleman has underestimated the importance of air transport for mobility, because, in the sort of fire-brigade operations which we envisage our general reserve being employed, speed is of prime importance. Usually we operate against a second- or third-class enemy and it is essential that if the fire is to be put out, it is put out quickly, and one parachute brigade, or even a couple of battalions, which arrive early is worth more than two brigades which arrive about ten days later.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Gurkhas. That is a source of excellent fighting manpower of which we ought to make more use. I was not a Gurkha soldier, but I have been to Nepal and I know the people. The one export of Nepal is soldiers. They are very keen to join in greater numbers than we enlist at the moment, though I realise that the objection to our enlisting more Gurkhas is political and not military. That political objection was perhaps valid a short time ago, but I feel 458 that the rape of Tibet and the pressure that has been exerted on the frontier by Chinese forces may have altered Indian opinion on this subject. I hope that my right hon. Friend will see if that matter can be examined again, because it would be of the greatest benefit to us if we could double our force of Gurkhas.
I do not think that we can estimate sufficiently the value of our new Army, or the Army that we are aiming at, of 180,000 long-term volunteers, as against the old Army which was part Regular and part conscript. The examination of the problem is full of imponderables which I do not think can exactly be set off one against the other, but I think that one has to remember the disadvantages that existed in the old Army, and, in fact, still exist today, in sending out the conscripts for the last part of their training, in the time and manpower that were taken up in training them and in the loss of morale.
I maintain that the Army of 180,000 men at which we are aiming is probably the most effective that we could possibly produce in peace time, because the democracies, and particularly this country, could not have a long-term conscript army in peace time. The only sort of long-term Army that we can have is a volunteer Army, and that is the Army at which we are aiming.
Again to quote General Norstad, I noticed that last year he made particular mention of how much more valuable to him in N.A.T.O. was the long-term soldier than was the short-term conscript. I feel that the more complicated modern war becomes the more essential it is that our fighting men should be recruited on the long-term basis.
As regards the size of our contribution to N.A.T.O., I feel that our seven brigade groups today are about the right size of force that we should have there. As I said the other day, the important thing is that there should be no doubt whatsoever that we and the Americans are an absolute part of N.A.T.O. and that, whatever happened over there, we would all be in it together.
I hope that when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War winds up the debate he will tell us something about the mobile reserve in N.A.T.O. which was announced the other day and what part we are going to play in it. I 459 see from a report in the newspapers that we are to contribute a battalion, and, possibly, an air contingent. I am sure that we should all like to know what our contribution is to be and also what the rôle of the force is to be.
As regards our own fire brigade, as I said just now the whole essence of it is speed. I was glad to hear in the defence debate that we are greatly improving the speed with which we can put small forces into operation. I am sure that we have to a certain extent learned the lessons of Suez. I am not going to argue any other lesson but the military one. What I always think of with regard to Suez is that long six-day period when the landing craft were chugging their way across the Mediterranean and when we could not operate from Cyprus by air because we had not an anti-tank gun which could be transported and, therefore, we were afraid to put down our paratroops on the line of the Canal even in face of a third-rate enemy like the Egyptians, since they had some tanks.
I think that we are learning those lessons. Particularly important is the fact, as my right hon. Friend told us today, that we have an anti-tank gun which is air transportable. We have landing craft, dock ships and the Commando carrier. These things at any rate represent an improvement in our mobility and show that we have assimilated those lessons.
Finally, I think that we in this Committee—and there are a lot of hon. Members on both sides who have had experience of these things—ought now to make it quite clear to our new Army, from which we expect so much, that its job of keeping the peace is more important than any job that any soldiers have been called upon to undertake as far back as one can possibly see. That being so, and I know that we all agree about that, we regard their status as second to none. I agree with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West that we must from time to time re-examine their status and their pay, and if we really mean that they should carry out this all-important task —and it is all-important—then we must see that their pay and conditions are commensurate with the job.
Thirdly, we must make it quite clear that we intend to support them in all the 460 difficult and sticky jobs that they will have to undertake in keeping the peace all over the world. As far as my information goes and from what I have learned in my contacts with young men in the Army today, I am quite certain that our new Army is in very high heart, that it is proud of itself and proud of the assignment that we have given it, which is to see that the next war never happens.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
In taking part in a debate of this nature one must be objective in one's praise or criticism. I propose to start by praising the Secretary of State for War as far as some aspects of his Memorandum are concerned. The first thing I wish to say is that I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman that the pay conditions of the troops are now on a basis which most hon. Members who have gone into the subject would agree is satisfactory for the time being.
With the biennial review of rates of pay provided for in the Grigg Report, I think the Army can be satisfied that, although it has no trade union to speak for it like civilian workers, the House of Commons has, at least, done its job properly over a number of years and has raised the rates of pay to a satisfactory and firm basis.
As regards housing, I also think that at long last the Army is really attempting to solve its problems, especially its slum problems, which so many of us have seen either during service or after. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) who really started this improvement when he persuaded the Cabinet to agree to the housing loan which placed Army housing on a more or less permanent basis. The present Secretary of State for War has inherited a good deal of that policy and he is making good use of what happened in those days.
As regards the Territorial Army, I agree that hon. Members on both sides of the House ought to be proud of the ready and willing response of young men, and also some not so young with previous war service, who volunteer to serve in the Territorial Army. The only doubt I have is whether during their period of fourteen days' training, later to be increased to fifteen days, they really get 461 training in military matters. I should not think it is possible to do anything more than on a unit basis. I wonder what the rôle of the Territorial Army is to be.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that for one year in every four years the Territorials will get Civil Defence training. I do not want to say much about Civil Defence. It is not entirely a subject for the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, in part, it is something about which we shall have to call the Secretary of State for the Home Department into account, because he is mainly responsible for the whole Civil Defence system of the country. Nevertheless, I do not know whether it is possible for the Undersecretary of State when replying to say what the rôle of the Territorial Army is to be. In so far as the hon. Gentleman answers that question today we can see whether tins large body of enthusiastic volunteers is really getting the training which it ought to have. Considering the money that is spent on the Territorial Army we the taxpayers, or the representatives of the taxpayers, are entitled to ask for that information.
I welcome the photographs in the Memorandum. The right hon. Gentleman has already said that he will increase the amount of information on weapons coming into distribution in the Army in future years. He might consider the possibility of publishing more photographs. Nowadays with television and picture newspapers, there is no doubt that photographs appeal to a wide section of the population and, I believe, a wide section of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Soames
I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman said about the photographs, of which I am rather proud. I started them in the Army Estimates, but they have now been cribbed by the other two Services.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Imitation is probably the sincerest form of flattery. I am very glad that the other two Services have followed suit.
I have a little criticism concerning helicopters, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) was quite right in being suspicious about the future tense used by the right hon. Gentleman in his Memo- 462 randum, particularly in the case of helicopters. The high hon. Gentleman may say that we are producing much new equipment. No doubt we are. I have a feeling—I challenge him on this—that the Army as regards mobility is sadly lacking in helicopters. I have watched some of the field exercises which the Army occasionally stages. It seems that helicopters are now part of battlefield mobility.
It is no good the right hon. Gentleman saying that they will be coming into service. He should tell us what the Army has now. I do not ask him to say how many helicopters it has. Anyone with any knowledge of the Navy knows that for years the Navy has been better equipped with helicopters than the Army has been.
I wish now to deal with the scientific training of senior officers. I am sure that the junior officers now being commissioned into the Army are being equipped with a good deal of scientific knowledge, which they must possess if they are to use the modern weapons with which they are being issued. I wonder, however, how far senior officers in the Services are equipped with scientific training. How is it possible for staff officers to issue operation orders and the supply part of the Services to deal with those matters sufficiently adequately in battle if the senior officers themselves are not trained in a scientific way, as so many officers are now being trained at Shrivenham?
Many senior staff officers have served many years in the Army. They have served to a large extent on what one might call the conventional training which the Army gives them, or have even taken part in conventional warfare. As more tactical nuclear weapons in particular are issued to the Army, senior officers will need a much higher standard of scientific knowledge and training. I should welcome any evidence which can be given to the House on that subject. It may very well be that some senior officers will have to be retired on suitable and adequate terms to make way for the younger commanders and staff officers who are more versed in scientific methods.
I am not sure that I fully agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West about the deployment map 463 at the back of the Memorandum. His point is obvious to all of us—that, as we are forced to give self-government to many of our Colonies and overseas possessions where our troops now are, there will not be the facilities at our disposal in which to garrison many of these troops. I should imagine that very few troops are stationed in the West Indies. It is only in the Mediterranean —for example, in Libya and Cyprus— and in Kenya that we see a bigger concentration of troops. In view of the very unsettled and dangerous state of that area, it is necessary for us to be there, just as it is necessary for America to keep her troops in Europe—far away from her own territory where she could base her strategic reserve if she wanted to.
Germany, and her relation to N.A.T.O., has been mentioned. Obviously in the House of Commons on a day like this we cannot discuss foreign affairs or Germany, but the part that we are playing in N.A.T.O. with our forces is possible only if it is linked with other forces. I read in The Times of yesterday that the German forces will be built up to 33 to 36 brigade groups by 1963. That was the figure stated by the Defence Minister of Germany to the Foreign Press Association yesterday. We have seven brigade groups in Germany. There was an ominous sentence in the Minister of Defence's White Paper that those seven brigade groups are there "for the time being".
I wonder whether the whole of our strategy, and consequently the size of our forces to be stationed in Europe, may not undergo a change as Germany builds up, if only because there will not be adequate training facilities and training grounds. The bother about the Spanish bases which we discussed last week is due, so we are told, mainly to the lack of training facilities, supply bases and so forth. What will happen to our troops when Germany builds up to 33 to 36 brigade groups? Is it not possible—indeed, may not the Minister of Defence have had this in mind when he used the phrase "for the time being" in his White Paper—that eventually some of our forces will be withdrawn from Germany?
There will be a meeting of Defence Ministers in Paris at the end of this 464 month. It seems to me that the whole policy is decided by the Minister of Defence, and the Secretaries of State or the heads of the Service Departments are merely glorified Under-Secretaries of State carrying out the policy laid down by the Minister of Defence. It therefore behoves us in the House of Commons to know whether it is necessary on military grounds—I am not talking about political grounds—to keep so many of our forces stationed in Germany as the German forces build up. My right hon. Friend did not mention Europe. He mentioned only the Middle East and such areas. What he said would, however, apply to Germany also.
I want now to refer to a subject which we were not given the opportunity to discuss adequately in the debate on the Army Act, because the Chairman then ruled it out of order, largely because of the intervention by the Secretary of State for War. I refer to the lecture given by General Cowley at the Royal United Services Institution. I want to refer to that lecture for two reasons. There has been much discussion, both during the defence debate and, possibly, today, about the necessity for tactical weapons. It has been argued that tactical nuclear weapons should not be given to our German Allies, and therefore presumably should not be used by us.
During his brief intervention in the debate on the Army Act the Secretary of State urged hon. Members to read the lecture, a copy of which was placed in the Library. I read it, and found this very interesting statement by General Cowley, that he agrees that the arming of Western Powers in Germany with tactical nuclear weapons is a wise thing to do. My right hon. Friend has already paid tribute to the General for his lecture, and we must take the lecture for what it is. The General said in his lecture that he was of the opinion—presumably he is an expert—that the arming of the Western Powers with tactical nuclear weapons is necessary. I should have thought that it undoubtedly follows.
What has the Army to do? It has to face an opponent and it is no good facing an opponent well-equipped with weapons like that and being ill-equipped ourselves, otherwise we face certain defeat. Therefore, purely on those 465 grounds—utility grounds if one likes to call them such—I am of the firm opinion that our troops, especially our Regular Forces, enthusiastic volunteers as they are, must be given not only the best possible terms of pay and working conditions but also the best possible weapons.
I think that it was the Chief Whip of the Tory Party, now Lord Margesson, who once said during a debate on the Army Estimates that he was "coming clean" with the House. He did not and I do not suppose that any Secretary of State in his speech on the Army Estimates has ever come quite clean in explaining to the House of Commons what his Department is really doing. I know, as does my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West, who has been Secretary of State for War, that the speeches of Secretaries of State are composed in the Department with the different directorates all putting in their little pieces in the jigsaw puzzle with the Minister throwing overboard a lot of it, pruning it and coming to the Box to make his speech, as the Minister did today.
Of course, civil servants and high military officers in the War Office will not give more information to the Committee than they think necessary. They are security minded. "Top secret" is written all over the place in the War Office, so why should they give to the Committee a lot of information when they know very well that most hon. Members have only a glimmer of an idea about it even if they have connections or associations with serving officers. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman, in asking us to approve these Estimates, which he himself said represent a large sum of money and a great increase on those of last year, should be a little more forthcoming.
Time and again, I have suggested in the House of Commons that there should be some sort of military committee which could examine these matters with expert guidance, but that has been denied by successive Governments. I do not suppose that we shall ever get it, although foreign Parliaments have it and that is the reason why foreign Members of Parliament are much more informed about their military affairs than we are in this House of Commons, the mother of Parliaments. That is possibly why there is less dispute 466 about certain military issues in foreign Parliaments than there is in this Parliament.
Even in Germany there is a large section of the population, and, indeed, I think some of the military population, who do not want tactical nuclear weapons and do not want strategic nuclear weapons. But even there, because expert guidance is given to both sides of the Bundestag, the members of that committee, pledged to secrecy in various ways for security reasons, obviously not because it would not be wise to impart knowledge to their colleagues in the Bundestag, are able to give a balanced opinion and support their Government perhaps more generously than it is possible, or it has been possible, to do in this Committee.
I am speaking not only of post-war years but of pre-war years. I shall never forget those years when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) was trying to call attention to the lamentable deficiencies in our defence forces. Today who is there on either side of the House of Commons who can speak with the authority and also with the expert knowledge which he was able to gain not only from his past experience as a Service Minister, but also from the close contact that he had with those who knew. I hope that my voice is not one crying in the wilderness and that hon. Members opposite will join somehow or other in seeing that the House of Commons is given more of the essential information that we should know. I am not asking for top secrets— not at all—but I am asking for the information to enable us to form a balanced judgment, and not merely to have debates like the one that we had on defence, with a slanging match, when matters of vital importance to the House of Commons and the country are involved.
I have been a critic of the Government on several occasions and I hope that I have taken a responsible view about the necessities for defence, but unless one is to be termed an irresponsible critic, always nagging the Government or being complacent, what is one to do? I am not at all sure that the picture which the right hon. Gentleman has presented to us today is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He knows 467 the serious deficiencies that exist now. It may be that he is not responsible for them, although he will not long be able to say that, now that the Ministry of Supply has shut up shop and most of its functions have gone over to the Army. Therefore, he must not be surprised if, in future years, he or his successors find themselves much more severely criticised, perhaps even from their own benches, as was indicated last week in the defence debate.
All that we want to know is the truth. If it is possible for hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to see more of what the Army is doing, and the other two Services, we would be better able to see for ourselves whether some of the deficiencies which we fear really exist or not. In order to be brief, as I spoke in the defence debate, I conclude by saying this: Mr. Khrushchev who is always making all sorts of suggestions has now made another one. In today's Guardian he is reported as having suggested to the Mayor of San Francisco that he was prepared to destroy all nuclear weapons, subject, I suppose, to the usual reservations. I do not know whether that suggestion is genuine or not, but it ties up with the Estimates which we are discussing today, and the other Estimates, too. We are to have a Summit Meeting and if only we could get agreement on that I think that the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly has to face in these days would be eased considerably.
As I have proclaimed my belief in an international police force I am bound to say that we should test the possible foe and be ready ourselves not to hold on to nuclear weapons, because they are modern weapons, but to reduce those weapons if we possibly can and rely, as we should rely then, on conventional forces. I know the danger of saying that in view of the vast hordes of Russian soldiers, but I must say that if one could get an agreement like that everything else would fall into place and we should get the phased disarmament which we are all concerned with.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should give up atomic weapons and put ourselves entirely at the mercy of a conventional force which is much bigger than our own?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not suggest that we should do it unilaterally. What I suggest is that, if the Russians are genuine in what they say, we should be prepared to discuss it with them. Let us never forget that if we are talking about the shield forces of N.A.T.O., we are not talking, as we are today, only of the Army of Britain, but of the Western forces, which even in the numbers of conventional troops are equivalent to, and, perhaps, even more numerous than, the Russians. If the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. A. Glyn) looks at the position in the biased way in which he spoke, we shall never come to disarmament and every Secretary of State in future years will come to the House of Commons demanding more and more money which we shall not be able to pay.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has been calling for more information from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and has invited him to "come clean". I would like to address the same invitation, the next time he speaks, to the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), who, considering that he is in opposition, was remarkably evasive. One expects the Government to be rather evasive, but one does not expect the Opposition to be evasive, too, especially on fairly clear-cut issues such as those we are discussing today.
The right hon. Member for Dundee. West seemed, for instance, rather halfheartedly to accept what he called "somewhere about the figure mentioned by the Government". It is not all that easy to make out the exact figure at which the Government are aiming as the strength of our future all-Regular Army. As far as we know, however, it lies somewhere between 165,000 and 180,000; and when, to that already vague definition, one adds "somewhere about", it does not leave anybody much the wiser.
The right hon. Gentleman was also rather less informative than he might have been about how he would get the necessary number of troops if he failed to get them by voluntary recruiting. The most that I could learn from what he 469 said was that, supposing he were Secretary of State himself, he would introduce what he called "some sort of wage policy". I wonder whether that would really work. For my part, I was assuming that that expedient had been tried and had failed. It was only in those circumstances that I would think that some form of selective conscription would be necessary.
We have to remember that the Americans pay their soldiers at the most astronomical rates; probably a top sergeant in the United States Army gets roughly what a colonel gets in our Army. But the Americans still do not get all the men they need. They still have to resort to selective conscription. My view is that pay increases are not enough. That was recognised, I thought, by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West when he talked about the "ephemeral" effects of pay increases, and also by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State when he said that the effect of the last pay increases had lasted rather longer than that of previous pay increases. I think that in all this the right hon. Member for Dundee, West might have been a bit more forthright, especially when one considers how unlikely it is that he will be called upon to take up the burden of office in the foreseeable future.
My own feeling is that the target of 165,000, with the rather shadowy 180,000—if we are lucky—in the background, is not high enough. It is really a simple question of arithmetic. The figures have been quoted before, but perhaps the Committee will forgive me if I quote them again.
We have 55,000 troops in Germany—we are told, for the time being. My view is that it would be a disaster if we tried to reduce them any further, because that would have a calamitous effect upon the morale of our allies. We have a strategic reserve and forces overseas which, I think it is generally agreed, amount to another 70,000. A figure of 25,000 for the pipeline is certainly on the low side rather than on the high side. Finally, there is another 70,000 for staff, workshops and home commands. That makes up to 220,000. With the best will in the world, it is extremely difficult to whittle down that figure any lower than about 200,000. Therefore, I am sure that the target of 470 165,000 is nothing like high enough if we are to fulfil our commitments.
Of course, it is possible that before long we shall not have any commitments left to fulfil. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), who spoke after me in the defence debate, pointed out that we have already been told by the probable future rulers of Kenya that we shall not be able to have a base in that country. It does not look as if we shall have a base in Cyprus much longer either. The state of affairs may well come about to which the right hon. Gentleman referred when he said that we probably would not have any bases at all.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend, because he has been a Minister and, I presume, knows the sort of responsibility that Ministers should have. I cannot, however, regard it as very helpful to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is at present negotiating with Archbishop Makarios, to make the sort of remark that my hon. Friend has just made.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend is as good a judge of the Government's intention as I am. I do not know whether it is the intention of the Government to maintain their position in Cyprus by force. If it is, our chances of having a base in Cyprus are probably better than I had thought. But we do not have an awful lot of troops in Cyprus to do it with. That is all I would say on that point.
Personally, I am reminded of something that Dr. Johnson said about the Highlands of Scotland after the rising of 1745 and after the deliberate extermination of the Highlanders that followed. Dr. Johnson was not a great admirer of the Scots, but on that occasion even his sympathy was aroused. He said:To govern peaceably by having no subjects is an expedient that argues no great profundity of politics.It seems to me that to meet our commitments by having no commitments does not argue any great profundity of politics either. And that is another reason why I consider that the figure of 165,000, which as was said in the defence debate has been picked upon by the Government for one reason or another, it nothing like high enough.
471 This year the Army will run down to about 216,000 all ranks. Already, everywhere, we know that units are under establishment and under strength. That is with a strength of about 216,000, just under the figure fixed by the Hull Report. If units are under strength now, what will they be like by the time that the Army has run down to 165,000?
We are told that the recruiting for teeth arms is good. But it is the teeth arms, amongst others, which are under strength. We are told that recruiting for the tail is not so good, and that is rather lightly passed over. It would, however, be very mistaken to under-estimate the importance of the tail. There was a time when everybody was emphasising the importance of the teeth at the expense of the tail. But, as weapons and equipment become more complicated, so the importance of the tail increases. The fact that there are known to be very serious gaps at present in the supporting services, in the tail of the Army, is most alarming. So is the fact that there is difficulty about officer recruiting and I am very glad indeed that my right hon. Friend is paying so much attention to that.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West had something to say about selective conscription. As I have said again and again, I am against conscription of any kind if it is possible to get the troops by any other means whatever. But, having listened carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman had to say, I still fail to see what other means there are of getting the troops—if all other methods fail. If we cannot get them in any other way, I think that, in spite of its wastefulness and unpopularity, selective conscription is all that is left.
Here, once again, I would recall the example of the Americans who, in spite of the very high rates of pay offered, still do not get the men they need. The fact is that some men like being soldiers while others will not be soldiers at any price. Factors such as full employment, unemployment or rates of pay, mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, do not make much difference—
§ Sir F. Maclean
The American method seems to work fairly well, and is not all that unpopular. There is also 472 the perfectly straightforward method of the ballot. All conscription is unsatisfactory, but. as the right hon. Member for Dundee, West said, we are not talking about conscription for a national army, and it should not be beyond the intelligence of the Departments concerned to devise a system that would work. It is a last expedient, but it is a last expedient that cannot be ruled out altogether.
It is well known that this figure of 165,000 to which we keep reverting is based on something that my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Aviation said in 1957. It is based on what I think is a total misconception, namely, that one can replace larger numbers of conventionally-armed troops by smaller numbers of troops armed with tactical nuclear weapons. That is the most dangerous notion anybody could possibly have. If carried to its logical conclusion, it is likely to lead, almost inevitably, to total nuclear war. If it is not carried to its logical conclusion, it will probably lead to capitulations and retreats. But, carried to its logical conclusion, it must lead to total nuclear war.
To take one illustration, I believe that Corporal ranks as a tactical nuclear weapon and that in its warhead there is a nuclear explosive more powerful than the bomb exploded over Hiroshima. I also believe that there are weapons, ranking as tactical nuclear weapons, that have a range of 1,000 miles.
I would ask the House to picture the Government sitting rather anxiously in the Cabinet Room of No. 10, Downing Street at a moment of crisis. What is the tactical target? Wellington Barracks is obviously a tactical target. What would happen if a tactical nuclear weapon, having a range of 1,000 miles and an explosive power equal to that in the Hiroshima bomb, were fired in East Germany? If, in the four minutes or so at their disposal, members of the Government had time to press the button to put our deterrent into action, is there not a very serious risk that they might do just that? In fact, is it not almost certain that once either side started letting off so-called tactical nuclear weapons, the whole thing would start up—
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
But, in saying that, my hon. Friend is completely ignoring the whole meaning of the word 473 "deterrent". Whether it be the strategic striking force, or a Corporal fired in East Germany, it is all part and parcel of the deterrent. We all agree that if nuclear war did break out it would be the end of everything, but the point is that if one side knows that it will have tactical nuclear weapons used against it, it will not take the first step itself.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I think that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) has, if he will forgive me, missed the point that I was making. I am not arguing against our possessing nuclear tactical weapons. We need them because, as the right hon. Member for Dundee, West said in the defence debate, the other side have them. But we do not want to deceive ourselves into thinking that they will take the place of adequate conventional forces. I am quite convinced that they will not do so. If we think that the answer to not having enough conventional forces is to have troops armed with tactical nuclear weapons we risk being forced into the position of either having to capitulate, or of using them ourselves, thus letting loose a total nuclear war.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
But would not my hon. Friend agree that if we did not have nuclear tactical weapons we should be in exactly the same position? If we did not have them, we should be equally compelled to throw in our hand.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I do not think that that would apply if we and our allies had adequate conventional weapons.
§ Mr. Kershaw
But how does my hon. Friend suggest that one can combat nuclear tactical weapons with only conventional forces?
§ Sir F. Maclean
For exactly the same reason that we would hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons so the other side would hesitate to use them, because they would not want to have the major deterrent on top of them either.
We have also been told that shortage of numbers can be made up for by increased mobility and better equipment. I asked about this in the defence debate, but as I did not then get an answer, perhaps the Committee will forgive me if I ask again. I was relieved to hear what my right hon. Friend had to say about 474 transport aircraft. I hope that we have enough, and I should be interested to have an answer to one specific question —when will the Britannic come into operation, and will it, or will it not, be obsolete when it does come into operation? Then there is the question of sea transport. I hope that we have enough landing craft, and I also hope—although I rather doubt it—that we have enough naval helicopters.
As hon. Members opposite have said, everything is in the future tense in these matters, and it is difficult to judge how many years it will take before we get them. What is not in doubt is the rate at which our forces are being run down. If mobility and good equipment can take the place of numbers it is most important that before our numbers are reduced we should have the increased mobility and improved equipment which we have been promised.
Some of my hon. Friends seem doubtful about the use to which our conventional forces can be put. I would once more refer them to the admirable lecture given by the Master-General of Ordnance in which he says that what we need for imperial policing is infantry, armed with infantry weapons. My guess is that we have not enough of them at present. Some time ago I was interested to read about some very successful operations carried out by the Special Air Service Regiment, in which I was at one time privileged to serve. The men of that regiment are a very good example of the sort of troops needed for this kind of operation—and from everything I can gather they acquitted themselves extremely efficiently in the rô1e in which they were used.
There is also N.A.T.O., and our forces in Germany "for the time being"—that ominous phrase. There has been much argument about rearming the Germans. We all have our doubts about it. Anybody who has lived through two world wars is bound to have doubts. But it is most important to bring the Germans into the alliance, and we can do that only if we are prepared to play our part in it. We can then hope to have both an encouraging and a restraining effect upon the Germans.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Has the hon. Member forgotten that the Luftwaffe 475 bombed and blew up the House of Commons? Is he inviting the Germans to do it again?
§ Sir F. Maclean
I think I saw as much of the Germans as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) did, at any rate in the last war, and I appreciate the danger. That is why I would rather have the Germans integrated in an alliance than have them on their own. when they might attack us or the Russians, or do as they did last time and ally themselves with the Russians, and both attack us. I would rather have them inside the club than cold-shouldered and pushed out of it.
But the inescapable fact is that for all these purposes we need sufficient conventional troops. I agree with what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said about the Gurkhas. Like most people, I would prefer not to see the reintroduction of conscription, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will pursue every other means to get the soldiers he needs. This is one possibility. The Gurkhas have made an invaluable contribution in Malaya. I do not hesitate to say that they have played a decisive part there. I believe that the number of Gurkhas that we recruit is governed by a tripartite treaty between the Government of India, the Government of Nepal and ourselves. I may be wrong, but I also believe that we have already slightly exceeded our ceiling. Having done so, I do not see why we should not still further exceed it.
That, incidentally, is exactly what the Indian Government have done. I do not know the latest figures, but when I last heard about the matter the Indian Government had recruited at least twice as many Gurkhas as they were entitled to recruit. I am sure that an increased recruitment on our part would be welcomed by the people of Nepal, who have always been extremely friendly to us and have always been very glad to serve in our Armed Forces. It would have economic, political and military advantages for everybody concerned. Nor do I think that there would be any opposition on the part of the Indian Government, who ought to have seen the red light by now, if anybody has.
The Army bears the brunt of the cold war. I distinguish between the cold war, which we are fighting now all over the 476 world, and the hot war, which we hope we shall never have to fight, and which, we are told, will last for only three days, at the outside, if we have to fight it. The Army bears the brunt of the cold war with men and conventional weapons, composed largely of infantrymen with infantry weapons. Since he has been in office, my right hon. Friend has done a great deal to uphold and further the interests of the British Army, and I hope that he will continue to make it his business to see that the Army has the men and equipment it needs to fulfil its very arduous and important task.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
As a result of our curious procedure the House of Commons is now coming to the end of its defence season. According to form, the subject will disappear from our consideration, until the publication of the Defence White Paper next year. I think that this is the wrong procedure, and last year, as on previous occasions, I made my usual supplications through the usual channels for a discussion on defence. Nothing very much happened, and so, in the debate on the Appropriation Bill—which enshrines one of the last surviving rights of back benchers in this House—I raised this subject again, last July.
I give notice that if both Front Benches intend not to discuss the subject of defence before we depart for the Summer Recess I shall follow the same course this year. It is scandalous that when we are considering the expenditure of nearly £1,700 million this House of Commons should leave the subject un-debated for nearly twelve months. Each of the Service Ministers must get Vote A, in accordance with constitutional practice, and I suggest that we should have the three Service debates at the beginning of the year, and the debate on defence later, because the Ministry of Defence is not tied up with the necessity of having a certain sum of money voted. In that way we could keep the subject under survey. That is the minimum requirement, which goes some way, although not all the way, towards meeting the point of view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger).
When the House of Commons is debating the Army Vote A it is most 477 appropriate that it should consider the shape and size of the Army. It is a humbling thought that nothing we say today, and nothing that the Secretary of State can do tomorrow, can have any effect on the Army for a considerable time. The Army is a vast organisation, spread all over the world, with thousands of men in the pipeline and thousands more joining and leaving. It is a vast, amorphous organisation, administered as much by hope and faith as anything else.
It is quite clear that when the War Office makes its choice for staff officers it is determining the quality not of the present command but the command many years ahead. Therefore, when we are considering National Service, we should not argue exclusively in terms of what will happen at the end of 1960, 1961 or 1962. We should look further ahead, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and I tried to do in 1952.
I have had many controversies with my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), and I hope, as probably he himself hopes, that we shall have many more. My right hon. Friend has often been inaccurate, but never unfair, but when, in the defence debate, he charged the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) and myself with hankering after conscription I felt that that was a bit below the belt. I make no complaint against him for that, because I sometimes get in a low one myself. Having done it, I apologise for it, and do it again the next minute. I have been trained by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington.
As long ago as the Whitsun debate of 1952, when we were answered by the right hon. Member for Flint, West, we were the first Members of the House who ever asked that we should get rid of National Service. We put forward our demands; the right hon. Gentleman backed me up, and I backed him up. As the result of his Ministerial experience and my experience as his Parliamentary Private Secretary, I said that our partners in the Commonwealth and in N.A.T.O. were not pulling their weight, and that it was, therefore, obvious that we could not go on as a great industrial Power, bearing the burden of two years' National Service, if 478 our colleagues, who were nevertheless our competitors, were not doing the same.
The Prime Minister came to exactly the same view in the most famous of all his speeches in May, 1956, when he said that we were carrying two rifles, while the other chap was carrying only one. He played with the proposal that we should cut the defence bill and he called it a tantalising dream to speculate on what we could do with the money saved. This is a story to which I shall return.
Our defence debates have altered as time has gone on. It is no longer a case of one side of the House being ranged against the other side. I am quite certain that, once I had got rid of the difference with the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), he and I spoke with the same voice. I do not apologise for that fact, even though I gather that I am in trouble in my own party, because it is said that I have no conscience. It is said that I was adopting the demeanour of those who lack a conscience, and that I actually smiled. It may or may not be true, but I do not apologise for it. It is also said that I talk with hon. Members of the party opposite. That is quite true, and I propose to go on doing it.
It is an odd charge to bring against me. It is odd if I am to be expelled from the Labour Party on the charge that I merely talk to hon. Gentlemen opposite, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West signs a memorandum with the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Colonel Beamish), about which the Daily Telegraph got very near the bone when it said that the memorandum was not very well informed. Smile? Yes. Conscience? I have none. I plead guilty to that, and I will come back to that in a moment. At least, it is no worse to talk to somebody opposite than it is to sign a memorandum when a lot of the things in that memorandum do not bear a moment's examination.
I do not claim to have a conscience. How could I have a conscience? I was brought up in the Regular Army. My mother was the wife of a soldier. I have her birth certificate, which shows that she was born on the strength of the Rifle Brigade. How can one have a 479 conscience if one is brought up in the ranks of the Regular Army?
I have given the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) notice that I was going to mention an experience which we shared together when we were members of a Parliamentary delegation which went to the Soviet Union. We met in Mr. Speaker's room before we went and discussed the various things that we wanted to see. Many hon. Members wanted to see the collective farms, some wanted to see housing schemes, while others wanted to see a gold mine. As for myself, wherever I go, I want to see soldiers. I asked whether we could be allowed to see a Russian unit and was told, "Oh, no; no one has ever done that". I asked a Foreign Office official, who said, rather hopelessly, that I had better ask again when I got to Moscow.
When in Moscow, I asked every Russian I met whether I could see some of the units of the Red Army. Finally, towards the end of our stay, news came through that I would be allowed to see one. The hon. and gallant Gentleman and I were amongst the first persons to visit a Russian unit. A Russian staff officer took us to a training unit just outside Moscow. On the way we discussed our various methods of call-up, and it was a very interesting discussion, though it was perfectly clear that there was no tribunal to safeguard the rights of the individual in the Soviet Union. There is no call-up notice. They simply stuck something up on a wall to say that men born in a certain year will report on a certain date. The men report, if they please, but, in any event, sooner or later, the Army catches up with them.
We talked to our very charming and very able Russian staff officer, who could not understand when I tried to explain to him what happened to conscientious objectors in our country. I told him that this system was the pride of our democracy. I told him that in this country we were very proud of the fact that men who had consciences could apply for exemption, but this was completely beyond him. We went on, mile after mile, trying to explain to him, and at last, he turned round and said, "There are men in your country who will not do their Army service? But it is their duty!" This is what the Regular Army teaches 480 one, and, therefore, if I have the conviction that I am right, it is my duty to say so, but this is also the challenge —the challenge of a society which does not depend upon the whims and twists of a political party, but on the realities of a situation, which are presented in terms of duties.
We ought to remember that since 1957 we have got ourselves into an expensive mess. The facts are that in 1956—and I will give hon. Members the references if they want them—both parties began to hedge on the subject of National Service. It started in the Labour Party. We may even have started it in 1952, when we talked about the burden of National Service. Whatever the reason conversations took place in 1956 between the T.U.C., the National Executive of the Labour Party and the Parliamentary Labour Party. Finally, the decision was taken that National Service ought to end.
I was a member of the committee, and I voted against it. I wrote to the Secretary of the Parliamentary Party and to the then spokesman on defence and made is absolutely clear not that I was opposed to ending National Service, but that those who were in favour of getting rid of it were not facing the consequences of the application of their policy. Subsequently, the Prime Minister, with that cleverness and political acumen which we all admire in him, came along and pinched our clothes. He came along just after he became Prime Minister, and we have the evidence of the right hon. Member for Carshalton, with a proposal to get rid of National Service. Let me repeat what I said in the defence debate. To his undying honour, the right hon. Member for Carshalton, who is heir to the same tradition as I am, except that he started on a much higher social level, did exactly what we would expect a Regular soldier to do when faced with the soft option. He refused to take it up.
The Prime Minister sought to get rid of National Service by the introduction of atomic streamlined forces. That is how it was to be done. This was also to save a great deal of money. If hon. Members read the great speech made by the Prime Minister in May, 1956, they will see that he was arguing that it would save £700 million, that it would 481 give us a more effective defence system and that, at the same time, it would ease our balance of payments. These are not discreditable motives. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House wanted to do this, and the Prime Minister thought that he could do it in this way. The intention was to get rid of the V-bomber and of manned aircraft, to depend on the nuclear deterrent, and to have streamlined atomic forces. But the basic intention was to get rid of National Service.
Not a year had passed, however, before the right hon. Gentleman's defence advisers began to show him the gaps in this policy. Gaps were bound to occur if we ended National Service and adopted this new policy and then were faced with an overwhelming Russian attack. We then had the famous paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper, in which the Minister said that the way he would meet this challenge was to drop hydrogen bombs on Moscow.
That was too much for my right hon. and hon. Friends. They objected to that, but their alternative was equally bad. I do not want to go all over this ground again, but my right hon. Friends, speaking from the Front Bench, put forward their famous proposal that the independent brigade in Berlin was to take on the whole of the Russian Army until they were supported with atomic weapons which, be it known, did not exist then and do not exist today.
A year later the situation had become no better for my right hon. Friends, and this time the way it was fixed was to push up the number of Regular divisions from 15 to 28½. They put forward the theory that if, broadly, we had a proportion of one in three, this could be done.
We next move forward to this year, always hoping that in the ultimate we should be saved by that weapon most beloved of politicians—Blue Streak. We press the button and it goes round and round. We do not know exactly how much the Blue Streak project has cost, but from many sources we know that the whole project would cost between £500 million and £600 million.
Blue Streak has gone. What are we to do? We move again. What we now are to do is to go forward to Polaris and 482 to depend upon the V-bombers. If hon. Members read very carefully the speeches that have been made they will see that the V-bomber force has assumed a new importance. This is because we have nothing else. If we have to face a nuclear attack, we have to admit that we have nothing else. That is all there is to it. The nuclear deterrent is credible only as long as the Russians do not possess it. Once the Russians possess it, and once they can do to us even a part of what we can do to them, it ceases to be credible as a weapon and, ultimately, if we are to live, we have to depend upon our ability to maintain law and order.
Right hon. Gentlemen again appear not to see why we have these deployments all over the world. The infantry battalions are there as much as policemen as they are as soldiers. One battalion on the spot is worth a brigade moved there after the trouble has started. Much trouble would never start if the men were on the spot.
Hon. Members have mentioned Cyprus. We have only to look at our current deployment to see why we left Cyprus. The fact is that we could not stay there. It is one of the prices of the ending of conscription. The number of troops we had there could not be borne. If we begin to run our forces down to the point to which we have run them down, these problems arise.
Right hon. Gentlemen must face the facts of the situation which we shall see in the future. This is not an argument among the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), the right hon. Member for Flint, West and myself, or an argument with right hon. Members on both Front Benches. This is a conflict between fact and fiction, because the issue is being determined by young soldiers agreeing to enlist and sign on, or not to enlist and sign on. It does not depend on any whim of any politician. It depends whether these young men join the Army and whether they stay in the Army.
If we look at this situation we can begin to see through the mist the picture as it will appear in the second half of the 1960s. First, be it remembered—and it has not been denied by any right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench—that the figure of 165,000 men is based on no 483 military considerations whatever. It was a figure inserted in the 1957 White Paper by the then Minister of Defence, now Minister of Aviation, because this was the figure which, he was advised by his actuaries, he might be able to recruit in that period. Be it noted that the period to which it relates is that of the bulge years. What happens after the bulge? For we must plan a long way ahead.
In any case, we never had that figure of 165,000 firmly fixed. The first figure which was given us was a total of 375,000, and all efforts to get the right hon. Gentleman to break that down failed. When we look at the breakdown in the White Paper a year ago we find that the number adds up not to 375,000, but to 388,000. Hon. Members will see that there is 165,000 for the Army, 135,000 for the R.A.F., and 88,000 for the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman then came along last year—and I congratulated him, because he must have had a terrible fight, although he looks very well on it—to get the figures for the Army not to 180,000, but to 182,000.
If hon. Members will do the sum of 180,000 for the Army as a minimum, plus the figures given by the Minister of Defence for the Air Force and for the Navy, they will see that the total is 403,000. We had the frankest admission in the Defence White Paper that we shall not get that figure, because in the White Paper the right hon. Gentleman gave the figure which he hoped to get as 400,000. Indeed, he went as far as to say that it will be nearly 400,000. We therefore know that it will be short, but we do not know how much it will be short. Nor does he. He will keep his fingers crossed for a year today, and so will I, because a year today we shall get the first recruiting figures after the end of National Service.
Nobody knows what the figures will be. I sincerely hope that I shall be wrong in my prediction. I would also say to the Government that it would certainly be wrong of them at this stage to accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire and swop horses in mid-stream. They are for it, and they can do nothing else but carry on. The country must face up to the consequences of what they are doing.
From the very beginning I have argued that when we talked about the 484 Regular Army we were, by definition, talking about the long-service officer and soldier. After our debate in 1952 I argued that if ever we wanted to get rid of National Service in this country the first thing must be to get rid of the three-year engagement which was hanging round our necks. The Government have got rid of the short-service engagement, but not quickly enough. Hon. Members who are interested should see how the figures break down. The target is of 180,000 men—a target which we certainly cannot reach. I recommend hon. Members to look at these figures.
The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), if he is called, will doubtless talk about the Royal Ordnance Corps. The rundown for the Ordnance Corps is to 10,000 at the end of conscription, but the planned figure is 8,000, so that the planning is for a shortfall of 2,000. That is not all. Between 15 and 20 per cent. of the Regulars they have at present are on three-year engagements, and in my opinion the men who join on a three-year engagement take it as the soft option, as an alternative to National Service. When National Service ends we shall lose the men on three-year engagements and we may well find ourselves, not only in the Ordnance Corps but in other Services, with manpower starvation.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Defence hedge on this figure of 180,000 men they know, as well as I know, that the absolute minimum is above 182,000 and that to go below 180,000 is to place the responsibility arising from the failure of the War Office and the House of Commons to face the facts on the point where it never should be placed—on the back of the serving soldier.
Why am I dogmatic about this? I have very good reasons to be dogmatic. I have here a copy of a letter which was written by General Poett from Headquarters, Southern Command, dated 15th August. 1959. It is addressed to commanding officers. I will not read all of it, but the first paragraph reads as follows:You will have noticed the unsatisfactory trend in regular recruiting during the last few months. Unless this is reversed we shall find ourselves in a very serious situation in 1962 when we are due to reach our ceiling of 180,000. If we fail, either the strength of units which we believe to be the minimum will be 485 reduced or the order of battle will need to be cut. The effect of any such action on our general efficiency and on our ability to undertake our commitments must be clear to all of us.That is a very serious statement, because the one thing we know beyond any shadow of doubt is that the Government do not even expect to get 180,000. These are the facts. In defence debate after defence debate, and in the Army Estimates debates, all I have done is to give the facts. If I am wrong, I should be shown where I am wrong, but, if I am right, the responsibility of facing the situation in not mine, or that of the right hon. Member for Flint, West, or the right hon. Member for Carshalton. It is the responsibility of the whole House of Commons.
It is no good saying, "We cannot face the problem by conscription. You are asking us to impose conscription on the country for the sake of 15,000 or 20,000 men." If General Poett is right and the Minister of Defence is right— that we are not going to get 180,000— we have to face the question, what is to happen to the Army if it is 10,000 or 15,000 short? The right hon. Gentleman told us last year, with great honesty, the existing situation of the infantry of the line. Units were being asked to carry on in active service conditions with an establishment of 635. Eleven thousand of the 15,000 increase was to raise the establishment to a minimum of 800.
What are we to do? Unless we face the problem which confronts all of us, we shall 'have a rundown of the Services and under-establishment units littered all over the world. This is not my problem. All I can do is to stir out the facts. If any hon. Member wants to contradict me, I will give way.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I do not want to contradict the hon. Member. While entirely accepting his statement that all of us in the House of Commons are responsible for this, and that we can quite easily make a wrong decision which can hurt the British soldier more than anyone else, I want to make clear that the reason I support the idea of ending National Service is not to satisfy public popularity, but entirely because I believe that as a result we shall have a far more effective Regular Army. I have yet to meet a Regular officer or man who does not welcome the ending of National Service.
§ Mr. Wigg
Certainly; that is a question of judgment. The hon. and gallant Member is quite entitled to hold that view, but I hope that if he holds that view, and urges that advice on the House of Commons and the House accepts that view, he will face the responsibility of what happens if he is wrong.
I was about to say that I would take a bet on this, but it is too serious a subject for that. I am sure that we shall not get the solution. I think it more than likely that the right hon. Gentle-main, in the teeth arms, will get what he wants, but he has to answer the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, who again gave the figure which I gave last week, and which was given to us by the former Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Member for Carshalton.
The figures he gave added up not to 180,000, but 220,000. Some of those figures did not come from the right hon. Member for Carshalton. For example, the figures for the overseas bases and the reserve were given by the Minister of Defence, a year ago. All we can do is to take the information available to us. There is a great deal more information than some people like to believe there to be got and we can do our own sums. The hon. and gallant Member has to face the fact that the figures add up to 220,000 and that we shall not get 180,000. If he is satisfied with that, I am not.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I do not think that my hon. Friend has met the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). The argument put forward by the hon. and gallant Member is that even if we got conscription the soldier in the modern mechanised Army cannot be produced by two years' conscription. If a soldier of this kind cannot be produced by two years' conscription, does my hon. Friend say we must impose three or four years' conscription on the country?
§ Mr. Wigg
I can only reproduce the arguments which are put to us.
The Russians have the hydrogen bomb, the atomic bomb and conscription. Every country behind the Iron Curtain, with the exception of East Germany, has some form of National 487 Service. The Americans, the French and the Germans have conscription. It may well be that in this country we cannot produce the number of forces we need without some form of conscription. It may be that our democracy would say, "We will not have it". In that case, we would have a Government formed of people like my hon. Friend, who hold that view, and it may be that our democracy would perish. It may be that the people of this country are not prepared to pay the price in personal inconvenience for effective defence. That was the point of my Russian story. The Russian said, "It is your duty."
I turn to the question of equipment. I had some sympathy with the Secretary of State for War in his controversy with our Front Bench on the question of what was in his Memorandum. I thought it a perfectly fair explanation of what we have got. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not attempt to reply to what was said in the document I read last week, in which a senior staff officer said that, having regard to our commitments, the British Army was among the worst-equipped armies in the world. Of course, that does not contradict what the right hon. Gentleman said. A great deal of equipment has been coming forward in the present year.
The right hon. Gentleman deserved the "Hear, hears" he got when he said that the Army could not have absorbed much more in terms of training, for the Army has to carry out its training on first line equipment. There are new weapons and new signals equipment, but there are no war reserves at all, no mobilisation equipment, nothing in the larder whatever. The mobilisation plan is a piece of paper. The money has never been provided or sanctioned by the Treasury. If one is living on a very narrow margin there should be not only re-equipment of the front line, but reserves as well against contingencies.
Over Suez, I never had much doubt about what happened. I remember looking up the First Lord's Memorandum for the Navy to see what landing craft we had in 1956. I found that we had seven and we had 54 in reserve. Since that time we have had General Keightley's despatches and we have had Sir Anthony Eden's memoirs. Both of them complained bitterly about the 488 shortage of landing craft. What have we got now? Four years have gone by and a lot more money has been spent. I remind hon. Members that we had seven landing craft before—this year we have in service seven, but in reserve we have only one. We had a reserve of 54, but now there is one.
In his Memorandum in 1957, the Secretary of State for War told us that the War Office had taken over a few which had gone to the Gulf or were operating south of Suez. But that is only a handful. Again, I say, we had a reserve of 54 in 1956 and now we have the humiliating climb-down of having only one. Hon. Members opposite applaud Sir Anthony Eden's memoirs, but apparently they taken no notice of them.
The problem facing us now is much the same. Of course, the bill has gone up. It is bound to go up if one keeps the figure at the top roughly what it was and one goes on increasing pay, chasing the will-o'-the-wisp of trying to build up Regular forces which are not there to capture. Where can the saving be made? It can come only from the expenditure on equipment, and that is exactly what has happened.
I say with no pleasure at all, and with the very sincere wish that I am utterly wrong, that those of us on both sides of the House of Commons who saw the way this problem would develop have been proved 100 per cent. right. The ceiling was altered to meet political convenience and, after the time for getting rid of National Service has passed, we are told that there is a gap of only 20,000; and, of course, no one can be expected to reimpose National Service to meet a gap of 20,000. The result is that the Army will once again, as has so often happened in the past, be asked to pay the price for politicians' deficiences. There is only one way to pay. A few more wooden crosses. That is true. That is what we face.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am sure that there is an alternative. I am quite prepared to accept that, if we are wrong, if we do not get the men—if we get only 160,000 when we want 182,000, or what we really want is over 200,000—there is something else which we must all face, and that is that we must reduce our commitments.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is a perfectly fair and straightforward expression of view, and, in that case, there is no difference of opinion between the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I have always considered this matter in all humility and looked carefully at the pacifist position, because I have thought that, in the ultimate, my hon. Friend may be right. Our democracy may be so effete that it is not prepared to take steps to secure its own preservation. But, at least, my conscience will be clear.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I would very much like to follow the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in the whole of his speech. We have all heard it many times already, but that does not mean to say that it is any less worth hearing. It agreed with what my hon. Friend said earlier.
I am not so pessimistic as the hon. Member for Dudley is in this matter. Unlike him, I believe that we shall have the recruitment. It is purely a matter of opinion, but I do not think that either of us can set himself up as a clairvoyant and say categorically that we shall not have the recruits. Moreover, I would humbly say to the hon. Member for Dudley—he knows perfectly well that I have the greatest respect for him—that I do not believe it does any good outside the House to keep on reiterating the points which he has made. To say them once is all right, but to keep saying them and let such ideas sink into people's minds is, I think, a little damaging.
In all these figures, nobody has taken into account the whole of the Gurkha divisions, which are quite a formidable force, and the possibility of increasing Gurkha recruitment. Nor has any account been taken of the four Marine Commandos which total 2,500 men. Both of those factors affect this problem very much indeed.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War on both the content of his Memorandum and the lucidity with which he presented it. I welcome, also—because for many years 490 I have advocated it—that the War Office now has control of the supply of its own equipment. I have always thought that it should not be in the hands of a Ministry of Supply. As I said last week, I hope that Treasury control of the War Office will not militate against the success of the new arrangements. I hope, also, that my right hon. Friend will encourage his senior officers to see to it that the users are in on any project absolutely ab initio, from the earliest discussions, because they are the people who know what they want and who know the limitations of various weapons. Many mistakes of the past could have been avoided if that had been done. It was done during the war, but it lapsed somewhat after the war.
I do not want to be thought to be suggesting that I am always right, but, again, I have often advocated flying units to far countries, training them there and bringing them back. Two years ago I made that very suggestion, that the first thing to be done at the earliest oppor-unity was to establish a "fire brigade" which could be lifted and sent out to be trained and then brought back again. After all, that is part of the deterrent. Quite apart from the advantage and benefit of the training, it is part of the deterrent to show potential enemies that we can do that and do it very well. I am delighted to know that it is being done.
I thought that my right hon. Friend missed an opportunity in his speech today and I hope that the omission will be rectified by the Under-Secretary of State when he winds up, although, unfortunately, his words will not have the publicity which will be accorded to those of my right hon. Friend. When my right hon. Friend speaks about pay and gives the actual figures of the pay received by the various ranks, we in the Committee and all in the Services know perfectly well that those figures are basic only and that there has to be added the value of food, clothing, quarters and every other kind of perquisite. I think that my right hon. Friend, for the sake of the Press and people generally, should have said what it all amounted to so that people could compare present total rates of pay with civilian wages. When expressed in those terms, of course, Service pay compares extremely favourably.
491 Of necessity, after our defence debate so recently, one must talk in rather detailed terms in an Estimates debate. This brings me to another point. The hon. Member for Dudley beat me to it. I happened to tell him that I was going to make the point, and I am delighted that he did it as well. I wish to support him and I hope that other hon. Members will support us. The hon. Member and I together carried a torch at one time for the abolition of the intervening Motion—that ridiculous nonsense we used to have. Here is something else now. It is entirely wrong to have the whole of our defence discussions and our Estimates discussions in one short period and then, as the hon. Member said, see an entire year pass before we can have them again. A defence debate should be a debate on policy and the financial aspect, and should be divorced—
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
I am sorry, Sir Gordon. I think that I have, perhaps, made my point. I assure you that I thought that it was very relevant to our discussion this evening. Since you have given that Ruling, Sir Gordon, I must leave it there.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. Would it not be in order for my hon. and gallant Friend to suggest that we might be enabled to consider part of the Vote now, with, perhaps, a Vote on account for part of the year and the possibility of a debate later in the year?
§ The Chairman
I thought that the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) was going rather wider than that.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
I only did it, Sir Gordon, because your predecessor in the Chair permitted the hon. Member for Dudley to deploy the whole subject. However, I think that I have made the point. We should have a defence debate in June, or two if necessary.
I wish to refer now to the new proposal for the officer structure and to the subject of the retirement of officers and their maintenance in the Services to a certain age. As I have said, my right hon. Friend knows my views. I hope 492 that we are not taking a retrograde step here.
A short time ago, we managed, by considerable financial inducements, to get rid of a very large number of majors who were not recommended for promotion. Up to then, they had been acting as a sort of film through which the young bright officer could not break. He was becoming frustrated. He could not see any promotion ahead. I think that it is a slightly retrograde step that officers may be permitted to stay on for considerably longer, but provided they are not blocking the promotion ladder of those in executive command it will be all right. That matter will have to be watched very carefully. It is not right for an officer to feel that he has no prospect of further promotion, and has another eight years to do in an awful sedentary job. He will become demoralised. He may deteriorate mentally and physically and not be very good at his job.
I do not know what the Wombat guided anti-tank weapon costs, but I imagine that it is rather expensive. I have an idea of its performance regarding rapidity of fire. I shall not mention that. What I am a little worried about is this. I was the unfortunate witness of the result of an unpardonable order given by a very senior officer when practically an entire squadron of one of our finest regiments was obliterated in the time that it will take me to tell this story. This damage was caused literally in seconds by two German 88 mm. guns. I said in the defence debate that I saw a National Service man, under much more pleasant conditions, do a similar thing to 16 Centurion tanks at Lulworth in 48 seconds. He knocked out 12 with 12 shots and then took 12 more shots to knock out the rest. That is the sort of fire which is necessary in battle.
This one-shot one-tank business, however long it may take to reload, is not a very practical proposition. I take the point that the Wombat is an air portable weapon, but so is a jeep-towed anti-tank gun. I now return to my old theory that the way to knock out tanks is with anti-tank guns and not with tanks. I maintain that the tank is an infantry destroyer and not an anti-tank weapon. Until we get back to that theory we shall continue to walk down the wrong 493 road. I therefore hope that not too much water will be poured down that drain. A well-trained gunner can do the job twice as efficiently, as was shown at El Alamein on the first day of the battle when two gunners knocked out 26 tanks in half an hour. Admittedly, both men were gunnery instructors who had just returned from Cairo, but it can be done, and I hope that we shall not spend too much money on this weapon.
As I have said before, although I have not seen it yet—I am looking forward to doing so—I think that our new tank is a splendid vehicle and will be as good as any other in the world, but I am wondering whether it should not be our last conventional tank. The Americans, I believe, have already stopped the production of conventional tanks and are searching for something different. We may have to accept two types of tanks. I know that that is anathema to some people, especially those in the Royal Tank Regiment, but I believe that we must have a sort of cold war tank which can be transported by air.
When I was in America the other day, I saw a self-propelled gun, a fairly heavy vehicle, although not as heavy as our Centurion tank. However, it is as heavy, or, if one likes, as light, as the sort of tank which I am envisaging, which can be carried by aeroplane and dropped from the air by parachute. I believe that that is the sort of tank about which we should be thinking, because I am one of those who do not believe that, providing we keep our guard up and keep our nuclear deterrent, there is the slightest chance of a major global war with conventional weapons. We must be prepared for the cold war. I hope that the research department of the War Office has in mind the sort of things about which the French and Germans are talking.
I should now like to turn to the question whether our regiments are under strength. I say to my right hon. Friend that there is nothing so distressing for an officer as to have to try to command a platoon, company or battalion which is under strength. Let us hope that we shall never return to the day of the red flag representing a machine gun and something else representing the position where a company should be. My right hon. Friend must use every ingenuity to rectify as 494 soon as he can the discrepancies or deficiencies in the other trades so that, for instance, well-trained soldiers are not taken from the fighting units to go on courses to become regimental cooks.
I am certain that front line soldiers are up to strength, but I think that we are short of men in other branches. The Regular soldier should not be told, "I am very sorry, but you will have to go away and undertake a cook's course because we cannot get cooks in the Catering Corps". That is the worst thing that can be done in any army.
Everything possible must be done by publicity and advertisement to get men to join the Army. I do not think that publicity in the Army is as good as it might be. Publicity in the Navy is better. This is an easy matter for the Navy. It has only to throw open an aircraft carrier in order to get 3,000 people to look over it. The Army has never had quite the popularity of the Navy. Could not we achieve a little more publicity through the cinema and television? Most of the plays about the Army are ridiculous, ludicrous farces or criticisms of the Army, and this sort of thing denigrates the Army and does harm. We want films which depict an action or an incident, with a little humour thrown in here and there.
I was delighted to hear about the changes in uniform. This is an important matter. A good, smart walking-out uniform is a great recruiting sergeant. There is another matter which has not been mentioned and which is even greater, namely, the bands. There are far too few bands in the Army and they do not play often enough in public. I am convinced that they have a tremendous emotional effect. In my own regiment, a great friend of mine once walked over to the orderly room to hand in his papers of resignation. On the way, he met the regimental band coming round the corner. Thereupon, he tore up his resignation papers and threw them in the wastepaper basket.
Much more use should be made of the bands. They are part and parcel of the propaganda in selling. We have something very good to sell. I hope that it will be impressed on commanding officers that men join the Army for imaginative, exciting and even dangerous training. The more of that sort of thing which they are given the happier they 495 are. Also, men like to be fully employed. If they are not, then they should be sent on leave. We should not keep them kicking their heels around the barracks. Commanding officers and serving officers should believe those who are in close touch with the public, much closer touch than they can ever be. The truth of the matter is that there are still far too many complaints from soldiers and parents about men kicking their heels and doing nothing. I know that that aspect has been improved a lot, but we get these complaints and there is no reason why we should disbelieve them. I hope that that will be remembered.
We in the House of Commons can congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on what he has done for the Army since he has been at the War Office. I assure him from experience that the Army is proud to have him. He has done a wonderful job. He has helped to raise the morale of the Army considerably. Its morale is being raised by the new equipment by leaps and bounds, and I believe that the spirit of the Army has never been better.
The recruiting posters should emphasise that the finest thing a man can do today is to join the fighting Services of his country, not to fight a war but to prevent a war, and that this is a crusade. The slogan should be, "Our purpose is to prevent war. Come and join the Army and help us to do it." The spirit of the soldiers whom I have met and seen recently is of a very high order indeed.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I begin by reassuring the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) that I do not intend to denigrate or attack the British Army. The only time I have exercised that privilege was during a brief and undistinguished career early in the last war as the only private representing the House of Commons in the infantry. I certainly took full advantage of it in those days. After all, it would not be the Army if the Army from within did not criticise itself.
As a politician, however, I feel free to criticise the policy, Ministers and the Estimates. I hope, therefore, that anybody on this side of the Committee who 496 criticises the politicians on the benches opposite or who criticises the Government's policy or defence strategy as a layman, will not be charged with attacking the British Army or what it stands for.
The British Army has an impossible task to do. Things are expected of it which we have no right to expect of it. Things are expected and asked of it which it can never perform in the context of the nuclear age. In nearly a quarter of a century of listening to debates on defence and on the Estimates, never have I felt such a sense of unreality about the word "defence" and the rô1e of the Army within that context.
Today, we have had hon. and gallant Members on the Government side, who have spent their lives in the Army and know a great deal about it technically and operationally and who have had distinguished backgrounds and careers in the Army, at each other's throats on the tactical, strategical and political level. If that kind of thing had been happening on this side of the Committee, it would have been headlined tomorrow as "Split in the Labour Party on Defence". Nevertheless, it shows a wholesome interest in possible different approaches to this problem. It shows that the minds of hon. Members opposite are by no means closed to alternatives to the official Government policy. In time, that kind of thinking may possibly come right down to the Front Bench and the wiser alternatives begin to commend themselves at the top political level.
There was never a time when the word "defence" meant so little or was used so dishonestly. To pretend that the Army or our Armed Forces, or a combination of them, or a combination of them with the forces of our allies, could give defence to our country and population, is to mislead the people and to be dishonest with them, either in Civil Defence or in defence in the wider strategic and military sense. We should start from that more realistic level and tell the people what are the limitations within which the Services must work. We should try to bring them up against the realities about which the former Minister of Defence, who is now Minister of Aviation, was particularly honest. In 497 one of his first speeches as Minister of Defence, he told the civilian population that it could not expect defence and that defence must be concentrated around the bases, the deterrent. From that, one was free to draw the conclusion thai as the deterrent grew the more it consumed the defence and the less protection or defence of any kind would be possible for the civilian population.
The former Minister of Defence was honest in that respect with the House of Commons and the country. We should underline and repeat these things. If people are led to expect protection and defence in the sense in which, to some extent, they had it in the days of conventional weapons and when defence had some reality, they will turn fiercely upon the politicians, the soldiers and the strategists if the time comes when the country is subjected to nuclear attack and they find that defence in the old sense has no meaning.
Not many of the speeches today have referred to the effect of the integration of our forces into N.A.T.O. and the limitations which that places upon the freedom of action and of development of the British Army. Very few people have even mentioned N.A.T.O. so far. Nobody at all has mentioned the United Nations which, as soon as the war ended, if not before, we were creating and hailing with such jubilation as being a new and greater League of Nations, but with real teeth, to keep the peace for all the world and to avoid its breaking up into regional blocs, East and West, and in all sorts of other directions.
Our commitments within N.A.T.O. and the restrictions and conditions which are created by our co-operation with N.A.T.O. or with the armies of other N.A.T.O. countries, inevitably place further and special burdens upon the British Army. I should like to think that there is a full mutuality of benefit in our membership militarily of N.A.T.O. As far as one can judge, however, all the loyalties seem to be one way. All the demands are upon this country and upon our forces and our Army, with very little that is visible to be seen in return.
When it comes to almost any crisis, indeed, when it comes to almost any demand for their contribution, we are told, for example, by the French that they cannot co-operate because their 498 army is engaged in Algeria. If we want and ask for the use of the French Navy for N.A.T.O. we are told that it has to concentrate on defending France's own colonial interests. If the Americans ask for bases in France, they are told, "Send them to Britain or somewhere, but you cannot send them here." That kind of attitude is not confined only to France. Other countries refuse bases and so more bases come here. As more are refused, presumably more and more of them will come here and it will become largely the responsibility of the Services here to look after them, to co-operate with them and to restrict their own activities and developments as these bases are increased in number and the responsibilities increase with them for looking after the bases of other countries—within N.A.T.O., but not of N.A.T.O.
How little is thought, even in Government circles, of the benefits that our Army and our Services generally derive from the N.A.T.O. set-up, integration with N.A.T.O. and the rest of it, is shown by the criticism by the Minister of Aviation, who, as Minister of Defence, said on 26th February last year:I will be quite frank with the House. The reason why no progress is reported on our co-operation with Europe in joint arms development is that the progress has been very disappointing indeed and there is little to report. The disappointment is mine … I am still hopeful that we shall achieve some results, but, to be quite frank with the House, the results up to date have been exceedingly disappointing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1423.]That was on arms development.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who is not distinguished as a critic of N.A.T.O.—or rather I should say, who is an ardent supporter of N.A.T.O.—also made his own criticisms. These defects have their effects on the British Army here and they add to the burdens to be carried by our own forces and this is reflected financially in the Estimates. He said on 29th February this year:Nowadays we are all conscious—are we not?—of the weakness of N.A.T.O. That it lacks political direction is abundantly clear.… We all know that the shield forces of N.A.T.O. are inadequate… We know that N.A.T.O. lacks integration "—that is, no doubt, integration with the British Army and Services as well as 499 with the other N.A.T.O. armies throughout Western Europe—integration of forces, integration of supply, standardisation of production and co-ordination of national policies—and we know that N.A.T.O. itself has a most mistaken, as I believe, nuclear concept."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 880–1.]Having added that to the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Minister of Defence, that the results in respect of arms development and co-operation had been so disappointing that he had nothing to report on them, what on earth is there left to shout about in the way of benefit to the forces and the defence of our country? What advantage for us remains in respect of any of these things through integration with N.A.T.O.? Indeed, what remains of the original N.A.T.O. concept at all? There is not very much left to commend N.A.T.O. by the time one goes through that list from the two chief spokesmen on defence in both parties.
Let us now see with what N.A.T.O. forces are confronted. What are we supposed to be defending against? They are confronting a massive unity of policy and purpose in Eastern Europe. They are confronting a massive ideological dedication, which in itself is a powerful armament. They are confronting a massive unity of military command. They are confronting a massive, integrated strategy, and they are confronting a unified political direction throughout the whole of Eastern Europe, with more than adequate forces ranked against us, and with vast geographical scope in which to operate. All these things confront N.A.T.O., which has been described by leading official spokesmen on both sides of this Committee within the last twelve months in the unhappy terms I have already quoted.
With this weakness in N.A.T.O. integration, the French, when called upon to face the test, or when any demands are made upon them at all, even in peace time, demur, and the resulting burdens fall upon the forces of this country, including the British Army. We have, too, the uncertainty about the traditional neutrality of the Scandinavian countries, along with the uncertainty which we must feel about Italy, whether as friend or foe, and the further uncertainty which we must feel about Greece and Turkey. We are bound—
§ The Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Member will bring his remarks nearer to the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. MacMillan
With all these things which I have mentioned the burden of N.A.T.O. increasingly falls upon the British Army—and I hope I am addressing myself to that subject. It is reflected in turn in the inflation of these Estimates and the demands increasingly made upon our own people in order to pay for a defence which in fact is not a reality at the end of the day.
I need not refer to any of our other worries about our allies, except simply to say in passing that the time is coming when expendable Western Europe will no longer appear on the strategic maps of the United States forces as they go home and rely on their intercontinental ballistic missiles, and when what is left of N.A.T.O. is a powerful German nuclear force confronting Britain on the one side and the Soviet Union on the other, and in a very powerful position indeed to bargain with both of them.
What has led me to this point is the anxiety which hon. Members on both sides of this Committee feel, and which I think ought to be expressed, about the further demand which is being made upon our forces in this country, in particular upon the British Army, that it should make arrangements to co-operate in the training of German troops with nuclear weapons at bases in this country.
In the early days when we were debating the creation of N.A.T.O., in the days when we were debating the German contribution and the admission, the pressured admission, of a then unwilling Germany into N.A.T.O., I do not think anybody on either side of the Committee thought in terms of arming the Germans with nuclear weapons or training them in this country, above all with nuclear weapons. I do not know what the feeling of hon. Gentlemen opposite is about that, but I know what the feeling of my constituents is. I know what the feeling must be of millions of people throughout this country. They must have a sense of resentment and humiliation, and a sense of foreboding, too. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite share it. I hope that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee share it. I hope they do, because the implications of it go a long way beyond tactical training at the 501 Western Isles rocket range. They go far beyond that.
It has been discussed today whether the Corporal and possibly Honest John, all these weapons, will be regarded as being the subject of some gentleman's agreement with the Soviet Union, or whoever we are going to fight against, as being tactical weapons only, beyond which we will not attempt to attack them —or they us—in any new war. I see these names like "Honest John" and the "Corporal". It is as if somebody had been writing funny little limericks over a grave in Belsen. They seem a nauseating, frivolous treatment of such a subject.
However, there it is. Hon. Gentlemen have raised the question of the Corporal and the other weapons. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) particularly mentioned them and gave his own views about them, and his views were, to say the least of it, in conflict with the official policy of the Government, and come from a source of a great deal of personal military experience. Nobody will accuse the hon. Gentleman—if "accuse" is the word—of being a pacifist. No critic would say that he is unpatriotic. I am sure it was from the highest motives of patriotism that he advocated, as he did, that we should not attempt or even threaten to use tactical nuclear weapons, in case they brought upon his own country and his own people the destruction which is threatened against the country of the enemy. It was from the highest patriotic motives he was talking. I do not doubt it for one second.
Apart from the danger of the use of the Corporal and the rest of them overlapping from the tactical nuclear into the strategical nuclear, surely that difference has already been pointed to and defined by the ex-Minister of Defence when he said—I will not trouble to quote him, but I can give chapter and verse—that what matters is not so much the explosive power of the weapon as the target against which it is aimed. Therefore, if at any future moment we were to see our nuclear tactical weapons on lease to the West Germans in a provocative mood, an impulsive mood, or in a slightly nostalgic, imperialist mood, and being slammed by them—one of these so-called tactical weapons—a hundred or a thousand miles 502 into Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain, we should soon know, I imagine, what the Russian view of this question would be—of the difference between the tactical and the strategical weapon. In the expectation of the ex-Minister of Defence, the Minister of Aviation, there would be complete, indiscriminate counter-attack—or, as he put it, there would be a complete, indiscriminate return blow, because he did not want it to be assumed that we had attacked first. That correction was his explanation, and not mine.
But to play with Corporal and Honest John and imagine for one minute that there is a tacit gentlemen's agreement and that the enemy will do exactly the same and that somehow or other one will get a further breathing space under the strategy of graduated defence until the other side thinks that we might hit them with nuclear strategic weapons first is to play with the life and death of the nation. The sooner we stop talking in these terms of military graduations and limitations in expectation that there will be a mutual nuclear agreement, the better for all of us.
I want to protest most vehemently against the proposals which we know have been discussed, and which are admitted by Ministers to have been discussed, to bring in to co-operate with British forces in the British Isles German troops to be trained at the South Uist rocket base and at other places. I hope that every hon. Member will join in that protest. It is an affront and an insult, and a cynical insult at that, to the men who saw military service not against the Russians, who were our allies, tout against the Germans'—and some of them in two world wars. I hope that the Minister will dissociate himself and the Government completely from any move in N.A.T.O. and elsewhere to make these arrangements with the Germans.
There is another aspect of the Estimates and of defence in relation to the Army about which I should like to say a few words, and that is the co-operation of certain branches of the Army in our Civil Defence. This is a subject which was mentioned earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). He did not want to say too much about it because there were other things which took priority in his 503 mind. They were most important things and of great interest for us to hear coming from him with the authority of a former Secretary of State for War. But, despite my right hon. Friend's diffidence, I want to say that we are anxious about the absence of any national Civil Defence in which the Army is permitted, as I think it would be willing, to play a full and useful rôle.
I am not sure of the attitude of the Secretary of State for War to this question now. There have been changes in the last twelve months which some have deplored, perhaps in our ignorance of the reason for them, or in our ignorance of their effect. But since the proposal to disband the Mobile Defence Corps which was a very experienced body, and which was building up into a body which was creating a considerable amount of confidence among local authorities, people have been wondering exactly what has been happening in co-operation between the Army and the civil authorities in Civil Defence.
This is a question which will increase in importance as the number of bases increases. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire visualised the day when we should have no bases abroad, even in Cyprus and Kenya. I do not know whether he will be consoled by the thought that we shall have plenty of bases from abroad in this country, in addition to our own. As their number is increased, so must we, according to Government policy, concentrate defence increasingly around those bases at the expense of the civilian population and with the result of swamping our already inadequate defences, civil and military.
In areas where there are bases now, or where it is proposed to have them shortly, special attention must be paid to civil defence. As a matter of Government policy we are creating special ' target areas which must draw the attention of the enemy as high priority targets in the event of nuclear attack. Therefore, we have special responsibility for them. Will the Army assume full responsibility for civil defence in these areas in the event of attack, allowing for only a four-minute alert? Will the Army take over responsibility for maintaining—or, restoring— power supplies, transport services, decontamination of the civilian population, 504 and decontamination of land, property, stock and animals?
All these things are important, and there has been recognition of their importance. We have had leaflets issued to farmers telling them to take in the cows when the four-minute alert has gone, telling them how to prevent water from being contaminated, where to hide the eggs and poultry and when it is safe to bring them out again. How all those things are to be carried out is quite a different story; but more than farmers are affected and I believe that local authorities simply cannot face the cost, the staffing and the general responsibility for a situation of this kind.
How can we, with any complacency, visualise a situation in which the local public services are bound to break down under an impossible sudden strain, a situation in which social cohesion disappears and it becomes a matter of individual survival? Surely the Army will have a special rôle in maintaining and restoring order and in a hundred different ways. This will absorb a great number of the personnel of the Army, whether they are people specially trained for the purpose or not. The sooner we have some universal minimum of training in that co-operation as far as possible by the Army with the civil authorities the better for all concerned. And it would do the Army itself no harm. It would be faced with that problem eventually and it would be far better to train Army personnel now so that they will not be caught, surprised and untrained, when the time comes.
I have been looking at some of the figures given by the Auditor and Comptroller-General on expenditure on developing missiles. When one remembers that one estimate given in 1948 for a little over £1 million eventually ended up by being £40 million and an estimate of £8 million for the development of four missiles came out in the end at £110 million, one wonders whether it is possible to avoid all sorts of similar accidents in estimating the time that will elapse between a radar 9ignal and the actual falling of the missile. At the rate at which mistakes are now made in financial estimates, my goodness, there will be some curious situations in the matter of time estimates. I should think that the four-minute warning will be 505 reduced to roughly one-tenth of a minute. In that event the civil authorities and the Army personnel who would be expected to co-operate with them would certainly be caught out on a limb.
So far, we have not had any answer to questions about what has taken place in the matter of replacing the Mobile Defence Force. We were told that some of the Territorial personnel would have so many days training in so many years in co-operating in Civil Defence. I believe that it is a matter of fourteen or fifteen days' training in each four years.
I cannot think that the Minister can be satisfied with that. I do not say that he is, but this problem is becoming colossally beyond the experience of local authorities and their staffs and equipment. If the training of Territorial forces is to be over this short period of time, the local authorities certainly have something to complain about. It is not fair to the Army or to the men who are expected to come in and co-operate in an emergency of this kind after only a few days' training over four years. I hope that the Government will consider that question very seriously indeed.
I will give one illustration why we are [...]worried about the weakness in Civil Defence. The Home Secretary was asked a few weeks ago how many Civil Defence depôts there are in the United Kingdom. One would think that the Government and the local authorities would know that, and surely the Army, too, has a right to know the answer, since it has responsibilities in this respect. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman was as follows:I assume that the hon. Member has in mind depôts from which members of the Civil Defence services might operate in war. It is not the Government's policy that such depôts should be built or acquired in peace, and my Department does not maintain central records of the places provisionally selected by local authorities for use as depôts in an emergency as part of their civil defence planning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1960; Vol. 616, c. 29–30.]I can only hope that the Government are in a powerful position to start to build those Civil Defence depôts when they get the four-minute alert, because those depôts will certainly be highly necessary in the event of nuclear attack. If they are not there when the need arises, the Government will be subject to heavy criticism and will deserve it. This 506 affects, as I have said, not only the local authorities but also the Territorials, who will have to work with them. They will surely have to work from known centres where there is equipment for their work and to which they can bring casualties.
My chief criticism has been of the burdens which I believe the British Army and other forces are being asked to bear unduly in comparison with any practical benefit we are getting from our allies in N.A.T.O. I have in mind, also, that we have a prior allegiance to an institution which I have mentioned but which seems to have been forgotten—that is, the United Nations. Why cannot the Government and the House of Commons, in considering questions of defence, get back to what we decided in the middle of the last war we must do— to the re-creation of a more effective league of nations, embracing all nations and all forces, including the British Army and forces of all those nations? That is the only way in which ultimately we shall bring down the Estimates and the cost of our Armed Forces and of defence to anything like a bearable national level.
For years on end there has not been a word about the United Nations in our defence debates and in our discussion of the Estimates. Why cannot the Government, in the interest of defence, in the interest of relieving the burden upon the British taxpayer, for whom we have a special responsibility, in the interest of relieving the burden on the British Service man, try to do what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir Winston Churchill) sought to do through all the years when he was virtually ostracised by the party opposite, and was almost a lone voice in the debates on defence and the Estimates; that is, make a reality of the one and only one world authority by giving it teeth and power and enhance its prestige by insistently and ostentatiously making use of its institutions on every possible occasion? Why not return to the idea of world law and of a world police force, and all the other things which have been given lip-service by all sides of this Committee, instead of trying to escape from nuclear horror and reality in dreams of mobility, dreams of pushing our missile bases out to sea—as if an attacked enemy would not retaliate indiscriminately with all the mass of nuclear power he had when attacked, whether 507 from sea, air, or land? Why not stop being escapist and get back to realities?
If we feel that there is a little unreality about the United Nations organisation, it is we who have created that sense of unreality by failing to enhance its prestige, to use its institutions and to give teeth and power to the organisation which we set up.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot):
I shall not seek to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) in his more complicated references to higher policy. Instead I will refer to some of the details in the Estimates. In the first place, I congratulate the Secretary of State for War on some of the achievements, but I hope I shall be forgiven if I also make some suggestions for improvements.
I believe that the new pay and career structure for officers will give great satisfaction to those now serving and will be an encouragement to others to enter the forces. I have one comment to make in regard to pensions which arises from page 39 of the White Paper on Service Pay and Pensions. There the pension particulars are set out in tables and underneath there is this somewhat ominous statement in small type:The rates are for compulsory retirement. There will be a deduction in certain circumstances for voluntary retirement.That may mean anything or nothing, but there has been some anxiety expressed by those in the Services as to what that limiting factor means. As a result of experience the Services are always suspicious of qualifying sentences relating to either pay or pensions.
I hope I shall be able to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the provision of the new type of uniforms particularly blues. When this matter was raised in our debates two or three years ago we were promised that immediate steps would be taken to provide a walking-out uniform. I hope we shall get this because, although I appreciate that there is an inevitable delay in a change of this magnitude, I believe it to be profoundly important from the morale point of view and so I hope it will be proceeded with as quickly as possible.
I can give unqualified congratulation to the Secretary of State on the building 508 of barracks and married quarters in my constituency. It is a joy to see really good quarters being built in place of the rather terrible places occupied both by serving soldiers and their families. I am very pleased to see those old barracks being razed to the ground, and I believe that the new accommodation will have a profound effect on recruiting and will give great satisfaction within the Service.
There are matters, however, that I should like to raise briefly which I suggest to the Secretary of State require a degree of review. The first matter is that I am not satisfied that in the rundown in size of the Army the commands as at present constituted are run as economically as they might be. I realise that there are very considerable difficulties in this regard because they have responsibilities for Civil Defence and the Territorial Army, but in these days when things have contracted, it would seem to me that the territorial system—I use the words not in the technical sense of a part of the Service but as a division of the country—is not necessarily the best for dealing with the situation. I wonder whether the Secretary of State does not think that the time has arrived when some consideration ought to be given to a comprehensive inquiry in that direction.
I also wish to refer to the subject of the Territorial Army, which is extremely satisfactory in the sense that so many are coming along to join it. But, from what I have heard, I am not completely satisfied that the organisation of the Territorial forces is on quite the right lines. There must be considerable deadweight against any alteration of the basis of the Territorial Army, but if it were possible to ensure that there were not units which were commanded by a higher formation at a great distance from themselves it could be an improvement. A regional organisation based on the main larger towns which are essentially the reservoir of local recruiting, would also be valuable. However, today there are a number of Territorial units which have to look to a considerable distance for their next higher formation.
Also, the Territorial Army is in many cases not established on the basis of population. Therefore, in some parts it is too thin on the ground, and in other parts there is an overplus of population and, in consequence, we probably have an 509 overplus of recruits. As I have said, it is not easy to change these matters, because all sorts of vested interests are concerned which do not like changes, but I would ask the Secretary of State to consider these points and see whether some inquiry might be made into them.
Also, I believe that we should secure an advantage in the use of war equipment, of which there is only a limited amount for Territorial units, if we had it in larger units and in larger sizes. It is not possible—one understands why— for some Territorial units to have the war equipment which they really need for training purposes.
There is a further matter of considerable importance that I wish to raise. I wonder whether the Secretary of State feels that in these days when the problems of the use of land are so pressing some consideration ought not to be given to the areas which the Army really needs. Aldershot, which I represent, looks upon the Army with immense favour, and we very much appreciate the money which is being spent there in providing the barracks to which I have referred, but there is a great deal of land in the district which the ordinary dweller in the neighbourhood is not convinced is being used at all or economically by the Army. When one realises that Aldershot is a little more than forty miles from London, one is perhaps led to query whether in the nuclear age that is the best place to have one's training, by which I mean not the limited, barrack-square training but the active training which results in noise and involves the use of large areas of land.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does the hon. Gentleman think that there is any support in Aldershot for the idea of German troops being trained there and for making Aldershot a German base?
§ Sir E. Errington
I am not worrying about German troops there. They are not coming to Aldershot. All I am concerned about is that we should supply our own Army with the best facilities that we can, to the benefit of both the Army and ourselves.
There has been a great change in respect of training. I was very interested to hear the Secretary of State speak about the value of training in Libya compared with that in the Long Valley at Alder- 510 shot. There is, of course, a remarkable capacity for the Services to cover up in these matters. I am being quite frank about this. It is a bother and a nuisance to them, and the probability is that it involves argument.
I would also mention that in Aldershot we have the problem of a new town in the neighbourhood proposed by the London County Council. Consequently, the proper use of land in the district may become a matter of vital importance. I would not think it right for the Service to say, "We cannot let you have any land", if London has a problem of 300,000 people with which to deal. If we have in the neighbourhood valuable agricultural land, then the Services may well have to justify the position which they have taken up in saying they have no land to spare.
Nothing that I have said should be taken as in any sense against the Services, because we value them. However, these are important problems, and it should not be unreasonable to ask the Secretary of State to consider them and decide whether a review of the training system is called for. I have mentioned the proximity of Aldershot to London; it is almost part of the London conurbation. These are matters which I believe require very careful consideration these days because of the competing claims for land by various authorities and uses.
As I said at the beginning, so many of the things that we have talked about in these debates during the past three or four years have come to pass in Army matters that I am extremely happy at the way things have gone from the point of view of the Services as I know them. I wish the Secretary of State well, but I hope he will bear in mind the matters which I have briefly raised tonight.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I have most painful memories of Aldershot, and I am sure that there are many like me who will be only too glad that the leaking barracks, in which I spent the early days of the war, are to be destroyed for ever. I am a little doubtful about what useful purpose places like Laffan's Plain can be put to, except for training rather old-fashioned soldiers.
511 The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) mentioned the Territorial Army, but I was not quite certain what his conclusion was. I have noticed that, in some places at any rate, Territorial units cover enormous areas. My old regiment is now amalgamated with a neighbouring regiment and is spread, roughly, from the Forth to Aberdeen-shire. That makes it a difficult job for a commanding officer to get round to see his units. This point needs watching. The hon. Gentleman also spoke about uniforms. Uniforms have an extraordinary fascination for high officers in the Army, and no doubt for Secretaries of State as well. I am sure that the present Secretary of State—
§ Sir E. Errington
They have not such a fascination for Secretaries of State that one can get them. It has taken four or five years already.
§ Mr. Grimond
It is the design of uniforms that they find so interesting. This may have considerable effect on publicity for the Army and increase its attraction. I hope we may see the Secretary of State —he is a fine figure of a man—in some uniform. After all, the First Lord of the Admiralty has a little hat and a little coat, so why not the Secretary of State for War? Let us have a little brightness in the higher ranks of the Army, even among Secretaries of State.
I have noticed a change of atmosphere during the debates on defence and the Service Estimates this year. In the defence debate last year I could hardly get a word in edgeways. My speech became a round table discussion in which I felt that the feeling of the Committee was against me, but this year more and more people are growing doubtful about our reliance on our own nuclear deterrent. The debate has, I think, come much more round to the question of conventional forces. Before I discuss them I want to make a point and leave it. I do not expect an answer, for I realise that there are great difficulties, but it should be said.
I believe that in the country, rightly or wrongly, some people are puzzled as to why there is not more confidential discussion between the Government and the Opposition about defence and why more information is not made available. I know that the right hon. Member for 512 Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) refused this when he was in Opposition and when it was offered to him. I know that it has been offered since then and has again been refused. There may be very good reasons for this.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) did, in fact, agree to meet representatives of the Labour Government, but afterwards declined.
§ Mr. Grimond
He did at first accept, but very quickly withdrew. There may be very good reasons, which I do not appreciate, but I think it is puzzling to the public, especially in this day and age. I do not take the view that we are going to be "nucleated" one night in our beds without warning, but this is a chance. What I feel is likely to happen, if we get in a war situation, is that it will build up, and that there will be an extremely awkward period—possibly a few days or a few weeks—while the situation grows worse, conventional weapons begin to be used and there is talk of using nuclear arms. That is what happened at Suez. There was talk of nuclear arms being used. I do not think anyone who was in this House at the time can feel that the situation was handled happily here or that discussion across the House was very useful in a situation like that.
Many people would be happier if they thought there was some basic exchange of knowledge, at any rate, before that sort of situation arose. I leave the matter there. There may be powerful reasons against it, as people with much more experience than I have come out against it.
I come now to the question of conventional forces and, in particular, to the Army. It is impossible to tell how big an army we shall want, unless we are clearer than I feel we are at present about its commitments. It has been said today that the present and necessary strength of the Army is something over 200,000, which will be reduced to 165,000 or 180,000, and this, therefore, on the face of it, will be enough, but there is this question of commitments.
We should not exaggerate the danger of war in Central Europe. That is not to say that it does not exist there, but I do not feel that it is the most likely 513 place for a conventional war to be waged. If war did break out in Central Europe I think it would very soon cease to be conventional. It would become a world war with nuclear weapons. Reading what the Russians say it is quite apparent that on paper, at any rate, they too think that. There has been a change in their thinking since Stalin's day. Stalin appears to have been somewhat doubtful about nuclear war, but for the last two or three years it has been said in Russia again and again that in Central Europe they regard war as becoming nuclear war. It is, therefore, an area essentially for a deterrent rather than for actual defence and fighting.
That leaves us with the flanks of N.A.T.O., and the Middle East and the Far East. In this debate it is not possible to go into our commitments in the Middle East, but I hope the Secretary of State is talking, as an uncle, firmly to his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs about the Tripartite Declaration, because I cannot make out now what our obligations are. I cannot help feeling that this is of great importance. I do not for the moment feel certain either about our obligations in the Far East, in regard, for instance, to India, but in both these areas I take it that what we need is a highly mobile force, a conventional force which can be quickly deployed. If that is right, then I think it is unwise to say that we must go back to conscription.
The argument that we want a highly-trained regular force is a strong one, and to sow doubt, first one way and then another, is to make it extremely difficult to recruit it. If we begin talking about conscription as a serious proposition I do not think we will be giving the present policy a fair chance. Perhaps we ought to have it at the back of our minds as a possibility. It should not be a matter out of which political parties make capital.
It may be that we ought to have some machinery or skeleton for conscription if necessary, but I think it is right that we should first try to spend these enormous amounts for defence in a better way, to get better value, and by putting up pay—as has been done—to a reasonable standard, see if we cannot get the sort of men we want in a modern army without conscription.
514 Now I want to refer to bases. Again, that is something which very much depends on what our commitments are. For instance, I understand that our bases in Cyprus are chiefly to meet our own commitments in the Middle East—not simply those of N.A.T.O. It is my hope that those commitments will diminish I believe that we should trade in the Middle East and buy oil in the Middle East and come to some agreement with other major nations about preserving peace in the Middle East, but we should gradually scale down our defence commitments in the area. I do not say that we should give up our commitments in Kuwait and the Gulf, but our commitments over the Middle East generally must be gradually diminished.
If that can be done, how far, so to speak, is it possible to keep our bases at sea? The Americans have no land bases in the Mediterranean, but they have a fairly efficient fleet and are able to mount small task forces from that base. I do not know how far it is possible for us to do the same thing, but it would get us out of a great deal of difficulty, for we are constantly having to build up bases and then abandon them at great loss and at the cost of great political ill-will from the countries concerned.
§ Mr. Grimond
I appreciate that, but the Sixth Fleet needs a different kind of base and does not occupy an enormous area in someone else's country, which up to now has been the sort of base which we have tried to get. We cannot intelligently discuss the siting of bases until we have decided on our commitments, and I believe that our own commitments in the Middle East should be gradually scaled down.
It has been emphasised over and over again in these discussions on defence and on the Service Estimates that it is vital that we should have an effective and mobile strategic reserve. I have always understood that to be a reserve outside N.A.T.O., or, at any rate, available for tasks outside N.A.T.O. Of course, it is true that strictly speaking the N.A.T.O. area is enormous, since N.A.T.O. is an Atlantic organisation and extends to the other side of Canada, 515 but it is generally agreed that it is primarily concerned with the defence of Europe. Our mobile reserves are required to be available in other parts of the world.
Now we are told that there is to be a N.A.T.O. mobile reserve. Will the Secretary of State tell us a little more about that? I fully appreciate that he cannot go into details and break security and so on, but can he say from where the troops are to come for a N.A.T.O. reserve? There has been talk of one battalion and an air component. Is that the situation, or is some part of the reserve to come from our rather meagre forces already in Germany? Have we troops earmarked, or are we to organise fresh forces? From where is the reserve to operate? Is it to be collected when it is wanted and dispersed when it is not wanted? If that is the case, a fair time will have to elapse before it can be brought into action. Is it envisaged that while it is to be available anywhere at any time, it will be particularly for use on the flanks of N.A.T.O., in which case it would be extremely important that it should be able to get into action quickly? It is generally acknowledged that many small troubles can be stopped if one can get troops there in time.
Lastly, the Supreme Commander has said that the reserve would have a nuclear as well as a conventional element. What does that mean? I accept that the deterrent runs right up from conventional forces to major nuclear weapons and that in that there are the smaller nuclear weapons, but I believe that those weapons should be kept very closely under the control of the Supreme Commander. If they are to be included in a N.A.T.O. mobile task force, is that control possible? I do not suppose that that is a question which the Secretary of State is prepared to answer in detail.
However, I make the point because I agree with those hon. Members who have said that once we start to use nuclear weapons, however small, there is no dividing line and we inevitably run on to nuclear war. Therefore, although it is possible to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent, if one has to fight in a certain area and one wants to keep the 516 fight small, one cannot use nuclear weapons. Therefore, it seems very important that we should not launch this task force and allow it to use nuclear weapons until the situation is desperate, and I hope that those nuclear weapons will be closely controlled.
Those are the principal comments which I had to make and the principal questions I had to ask. However, before concluding I want to tread on the rather dangerous subject of Germany. I imagine that before anyone agreed to support the rearmament of Germany, in even the smallest way, he gave deep consideration and even prayer to the decision that, on balance, the rearmament of Germany was inevitable. I presume that such a decision was not lightly taken by anyone.
However, we have taken it, and if we had not taken it the defence of Europe would have been very difficult. So far as I know, all parties agreed and, having agreed, we are having the worst of all possible worlds by continually girding at the Germans and trying to put them in an inferior position. Surely the lesson of my lifetime is that we must try to get the Germans into the European community and try to encourage their best instincts and not lend fuel to the flames of their more extreme spirits by enabling them to say that they are the outcasts of Europe.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
It is a genuine pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), because, as he may or may not remember, our paths crossed during our military careers. I well remember receiving from him a very angry letter, referring to the condition of the billet which my squadron had occupied, and which I was in a strong position to answer having had prior approval from the barrack officer. It is very rare that one has a complete answer to a question.
It is with pleasure that I listened to the hon. Member's speech. His idea of a base which was not a base appealed to me very much, because that is the base upon which the Liberal Party functions, a base which does not actually touch down anywhere, which floats in mid-air. That is exactly the sort of organisation which those of us who have 517 had to fight elections have known, and the hon. Member obviously has a romantic feeling for that concept.
§ Mr. Grimond
The Liberal base is mobile, efficient, modern, nuclear and rocket-fired, and not one of those ancient stick-in-the-mud mud bases of which the Conservative Party is so passionately fond.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I am very glad to hear that, and since it is now the fashion to quote Latin I will say, si vis monumentum circumspice, which could be translated as, "For a monument to the efficiency of the Liberal Party organisation, have a look at its benches."
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
Some parties count their Members in the Lobbies.
My warfare took place in what I suppose were the Stone Age days, when we did not have deterrents, but I am bound to say that when I found a piece of lead whizzing at me at a fair rate of knots that was a sufficient deterrent for me and for most of my colleagues. Now, apparently, infantry soldiers are much braver and a bullet is no longer the deterrent that it always used to be.
Seriously, I cannot but be haunted by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), in the defence debate, when he spoke these striking words which I cannot forget:Conventional arms have settled many things. Conventional arms ended French influence in South-East Asia. Conventional arms have kept Malaya free. Conventional arms have kept Hungary slave. And so it has been and will go on being. We have great responsibilities not only to the Commonwealth, but to friends all over the world with whom we are allied and to whom it is vital that we should be able to bring timely assistance if they ask for it, and that can be done only by conventional arms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 925.]The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) told us why our recruiting figures would not be kept up. He has argued before in this House that increased pay does not improve recruiting. The recruiting figures have improved, and I understand from the hon. Gentleman 518 that this is due to the increase in population and because we now have more young men of military age. Never mind, I dare say that we shall have as many men next year, I am not nervous about the recruiting figures, but we must still be concerned to see that our available manpower, which is very small, is used to the fullest advantage.
It is right that we should pay tribute to the Regular Army which has suffered this great reduction in strength and the breakdown of many hallowed associations, associations which, in some cases, have gone on for hundreds of years. These amalgamations have been accepted willingly and freely, and today the Army is in good heart.
Tribute is also due to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War for the work that he has done in bringing about this position. It is obvious from the tone of the debate that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are genuinely concerned about the condition of the Armed Forces, their training, their equipment, and their lives.
How are we to eke out our very small Regular forces? My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland mentioned the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army this year is expected to number 325,000. This is a large figure. What will they do? What is being done with them?
According to page 32 of the Estimates the rôle of the Territorial Army is threefold. First, to reinforce the British Army in Germany; secondly, to help in home defence in all its aspects; thirdly, to undertake certain anti-aircraft duties. Surely that is unsatisfactory. Territorial Army commanding officers cannot find it easy to put that argument across in recruiting. Since the forced enlistment of National Service men into the Territorial Army ceased, there has been an increase in Territorial Army recruiting. Speaking as an old Territorial Army soldier, one sees that this voluntary spirit is indigenous in England. It plays its part in all sorts of activities. We ought to foster it, and it would be wrong not to do so.
Some years ago it was the practice to take Territorial Army units to Germany for training. They had the excitement of the trip to supplement the training 519 they received. Today, when so much emphasis is being laid on the need for mobility, it should be increasingly easy for the War Office to spend money on moving the Territorial Army about. We will never get a body with the necessary esprit de corps if it has no idea of what it is required to do.
A very much closer association between Territorial Army units and units in Germany and elsewhere abroad is desirable. Such an association is obtainable if the War Office is willing to spend money on transporting Territorial Army units so that they can spend some time training with Regular Army units, and thus enable both forces to get to know something of each other.
I do not want to make heavy weather of this, because this idea has obviously occurred to other people, but it would help the number of soldiers we have to keep in the pipeline if a number of Territorial Army units were available to reinforce Regular Army units from time to time on a temporary basis.
The other way in which we can help to reinforce our small Regular numbers was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). I refer to the Gurkhas. If my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) manages to catch the eye of the Chair he will have something to say about the Gurkhas, because he has had the pleasure of serving with them.
I see from the Estimates that we are to spend only £1,565,000 on the Gurkhas in the coming year. We are not told how many soldiers we will get for that money, but my estimate is that with four battalions and associated arms, there might be about 5,000 men. That shows that we are recruiting not only efficient and loyal recruits, but that we are not overspending compared with the money being spent on our own forces.
Unlike some hon. Members, I have had the pleasure of going to Nepal which, in a sense, can be said to be our oldest ally. Since the Treaty of Sagauli, in 1815, this country has been on the closest terms of friendship with the independent Kingdom of Nepal, and upwards of 40 battalions of Gurkhas served 520 with our forces during each of the last two world wars. No ally has rendered comparable service over such a long period.
Our influence in Nepal is probably higher now than it has been since the war, because to the Nepalese we are a Power which has no territorial designs on them. The Nepalese are nervous of their big neighbours in India. They are also nervous of China. They find our support and influence a useful counterbalance to those two great encroaching neighbours.
Reference has been made to the contribution to Nepal's balance of payments due to the pay and pensions of Gurkha soldiers. The Gurkha soldier joins the Army for fifteen years. He enlists when he is about 20, and returns home as a respected and useful citizen when he is about 35, ready to take a full part in his country's affairs. He is the backbone of local government and the influence of the British Army proves very useful to him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire asked whether the numbers we could recruit were limited by treaty. I have no knowledge of that, but I can speak with knowledge when I say that the Nepalese would be pleased if they could send us more battalions, and that the influence of India is likely to be felt much less now than it was a year ago before the menace of China appeared.
I had the privilege of seeing the India Republic Day parade in New Delhi, when the Indian Army put on a magnificent display for Marshal Voroshilov. The Indian Army marched by mainly to British marching tunes. It was a moving and warming experience. I do not know what Marshal Voroshilov thought about it, but having served alongside Indian formations I felt proud and pleased.
On 29th February my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said:Perhaps I may give the House a list of places outside the mainland of Europe where today … British forces have a job to do: Newfoundland, Jamaica, Bermuda, British Honduras, British Guiana, Simonstown, Libya, Malta, Cyprus, East Africa, Aden, the Persian Gulf, Gan, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 850.]I do not understand why we have forces in Newfoundland, unless it is to prevent its being taken by the Red Indians—or in Simonstown, which is no longer a naval 521 base, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not give misleading information, and it is clear that in that list there are many places where Gurkha regiments would be intensely valuable. I urge my right hon. Friend to consider this question again.
His Majesty the King of Nepal is coming to this country in the summer. I was glad to see from my right hon. Friend's Memorandum that a contingent of Gurkhas is to come to the United Kingdom this summer so that the British public can see these fine soldiers and realise their military qualities as well as do those who have served with them. I should have thought that that presented an admirable opportunity for my right hon. Friend to press for an increase in the number of Gurkhas recruited to our forces.
I know that many other hon. Members are anxious to speak. I shall not keep them any longer, but I wanted to make those two suggestions for the attention of my right hon. Friend.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I join with the Leader of the Liberal Party in expressing regret that in the absence of what he described as joint consultations hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are not better informed on defence matters. The hon. Member may recall that some time ago I canvassed the idea of the official Labour Party Opposition consulting Her Majesty's Government on the subject of defence, on the natural understanding that in the interests of security it would not be advisable to impart all the information that members of the Opposition desired. In my view, that would inject much more interest into our defence debates.
One of the significant features of these debates is the fact that, apart from occasional spasms, very few Members put in an attendance. Considering that we are spending thousands of millions of pounds of the taxpayers' money one would have expected hon. Members to be interested in the subject. It may be that hon. Members who are outside the Chamber but in the precincts of the House are interested in defence, but not in the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are debating the subject. If that is the reason for their absence it is a great 522 pity, and a very sad reflection upon our democratic principles.
I have no hope that the official Opposition will enter into discussions with Her Majesty's Government on the subject of defence, because it is alleged that if we were to gain more information on this very important topic our criticism would be disarmed. I should imagine that the more information we possess the better armed we are to criticise the Government and point out defects in the defence organisation, but I will not say any more about this matter. I have discussed it over and over again. My views have been spurned and rejected, and I leave the matter there for the time being.
In the course of a recent defence debate grave doubts were expressed about a defence policy based on nuclear strategy. These doubts were not peculiar to one side of the House; they were almost general in character. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches seemed to be critical, in a somewhat cautious fashion, of the propriety of adopting such a defence policy. I will take the chance of making a forecast that when we debate the defence Estimates next year Her Majesty's Government will adopt an even more prudent attitude on the subject.
The trend is noticeable. It is not that we reject the concept of defence; it is that it appears that the nuclear strategy concept is no longer practicable, especially in view of the overwhelming nuclear strength of the Soviet Union. I do not want to argue the subject again tonight, but I repeat my forecast that there is a tendency in the direction not of a complete abandonment of the nuclear strategy, but a substantial modification of it. I have no doubt that a large majority of our constituents support that view.
If the concept to which I have just referred is rejected, we are driven to the inevitable conclusion that we must find alternatives. There are two possible alternatives. One is often stated with great sincerity and honest conviction by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), among other of my hon. Friends. They take the view that we should abandon the whole defence box of tricks because it no longer 523 possesses any validity. They hold that view with honest conviction, but I cannot accept it. It is not that it does not appear to be logical in the present situation, but we cannot always allow logic to determine our course of action.
We must consider not merely the logical consequences, but certain foots which are unpalatable and certain situations which have to be accepted. I therefore come down on the side of the other alternative, namely, that we require some measure of defence. The majority of our people, and people in other countries, seek some measure of security, and the only security that they envisage is the presence of defence forces.
That brings me to the subject of today's debate—the question of conventional forces and weapons. I have a very high regard for Her Majesty's Army. I have been associated with it in both an administrative and a political capacity for many years, and I have a great admiration for it. There may be black sheep in it, even in the higher ranks. Nevertheless, it is a fine body of people to work with. The right hon. Gentleman ought to be proud of his political achievement in recruiting such a fine body of men—all honour to them.
One question has been posed today by almost every hon. Member who has spoken, and, in particular, by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who has so often directed attention to the facts of the situation—to the realities—and who relies, as he himself has said, not on fiction but on the facts. It is, assuming that we have to place some reliance on conventional forces and weapons in a certain situation, can we rely on an Army of 165,000 or, it may be, a maximum of 185,000? The answer, of course, is that it depends upon the situation and almost entirely upon our commitments. If we were to abandon or reduce some of our commitments, the situation would become clarified and we could then see exactly where we were.
Let us envisage a situation in which war breaks out in Central Europe. Let us assume that it is a war of a limited character, for I reject entirely the possibility of a nuclear war, because a nuclear war could not be handled by conventional weapons. That is completely out. 524 If we envisage a situation in which a conventional war—a limited war—occurs in Central Europe, then it seems to me that 165,000 or 185,000 men in the Army, having regard to our commitments scattered throughout the world, is hopelessly inadequate.
I naturally welcome, as I am sure we all do, the increased pay, pensions, gratuities and emoluments for the services. Why should not the people in the forces be as well served as the people in civilian life? But in spite of it all, any idea at all that we could handle a military situation in Central Europe with the number of men that we could inject into Europe is completely out of the question. Let us dismiss that from our minds.
On the other hand, the Leader of the Liberal Party is quite right. Is it not more likely that a limited war may occur in the Middle East? Is it not possible that a limited conflict may occur in the Far East, or in some part of Africa where we have obligations and responsibilities and where we have to take what is called military or police action? That is the purpose of the Army. I emphasise that the number of men we require depends inevitably upon our commitments and our responsibilities. I would abandon some of our commitments right away. Let me deal with the question of Cyprus, to begin with.
Let me tell hon. Members what the position is in Cyprus in the strategic context. When I was at the Ministry of Defence, and we were discussing the possibility of abandoning the Canal Zone, I was told that its abandonment would be the greatest disaster that had ever occurred to this country, and that we must remain in the Canal Zone. When suggestions were made that we might proceed to Libya to construct a cantonment, or go down to McKinnon Road, in Kenya, we were told by high-ranking officers that this was of no value at all and that it was military nonsense.
We came out of the Canal Zone, and we were told that Cyprus had no strategic value whatever. I beg hon. Members not to imagine that I am romancing about this. I remember the discussions very well, but I would not dare to state these things publicly in the House because generals who are now writing their memoirs so feverishly 525 would be down on me like a ton of bricks. At that time they said, "You cannot defend Cyprus for five minutes against the bombers." The fact remains that we are in Cyprus. I beg the Minister, if he has any influence with the Government, to prevail on them not to have too many men in Cyprus. If we can achieve some kind of political settlement there, let us not have too many eggs in that basket.
What about our commitment in Hong Kong? I believe that we have two divisions in Hong Kong, or possibly one division.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has not informed me on this subject. How many troops have we there?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Are we not there on the sufferance of the Chinese on the mainland? They could clear us out quite simply. What a catastrophe it would be if an attack were made. I thought that we had two divisions in Hong Kong, but as we have only two battalions and a tank regiment, the position is even worse; what chance would they have? It is about time we considered whether it is worth while maintaining that commitment, even for police purposes.
There are opportunities for reducing our commitments in many parts of the world without weakening our prestige. The important thing is to be on friendly and harmonious terms with the people in those countries. I remind hon. Members of what happened in Malaya and of what is happening in Cyprus and in Kenya. We do not succeed by military means. We succeed by political means. We have to use political methods to a greater degree than ever before.
I will not criticise the Secretary of State or the War Office for the absence of effective equipment. How right he is when he talks about the difficulties which were encountered after Korea. Korea was a time of feverish activity. Since I am on the subject of Korea, may I digress to mention that at one time we were in serious trouble in Korea because General MacArthur, who was something of a dictator in the military sphere, 526 wanted to go very much further even than many of his friends in the United States, and certainly much further than we of the Labour Government wanted to go.
What was it which prevailed on the State Department and the Pentagon to put their handcuffs on General Mac-Arthur? It was not our beautiful blue eyes. It was the fact that we were able to send a brigade out to Korea and that we were able to make our contribution. When I heard the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), with his long experience of the Navy, talking the other day about the value of our having some conventional vessels, I recalled how our light cruisers at that time rendered such magnificent service. That is the kind of contribution to make.
If we were able to make a balanced, effective and high-quality contribution in conventional forces and weapons, with effective striking power, that would raise our prestige at once. We could even talk back to the United States—and how I should love that. I should love it all the more because our Government are not doing very much in that direction and seem to accept almost everything which has been done either by the State Department or by the Pentagon, and I do not like it. It is just as well to say so.
When the right hon. Gentleman was speaking about equipment I made an interjection. He promised that something was coming along, but I suggested that it might be obsolescent when it came along. That is the danger and the difficulty about equipment. It happens with aircraft, with tanks and all kinds of equipment. I should not be surprised if it happened with nuclear weapons. Someone said the other day that I was talking a lot of nonsense about this. Many people say that, but, of course, it is not true. I said that we should abandon the nuclear strategy but retain some of the weapons. I was then told that those weapons will be outmoded in a few years. Of course, they will be outmoded, but what if they are? We cannot use them now and they arc not an effective deterrent.
One has TO be very cautious about equipment. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to be cautious. I should like to say to the Secretary of State for Air and 527 the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, when pressure is exerted, sometimes from his side of the Committee, to produce more weapons, that it costs money. The right hon. Gentleman should exercise a little caution and make quite sure what is being produced. I remember the occasion when I was at the Ministry of Defence and asked the Chiefs of Staff to present me with a three-year programme based on calculated risks. They put a programme before me of £6,000 million. In the case of the War Office, I immediately struck out £150 million.
Someone suggested, I forget who it was, that it might be a very good thing if we paid more visits to the Army and I believe that the right hon. Gentleman agreed. Do not let us have any nonsense about it. We do not want to be shown the tanks, but to be able to pop in at this door and that and to see the stores. When, in 1929, I visited the old stores in Pimlico, with the director and his entourage, I saw some bales marked "1918". I asked what was in those bales. They got into a panic and said they did not know, so I said, "We had better find out." They pulled down one of the bales and we found in it lovely cardigan jackets. That is the kind of thing we have to put a stop to.
I wish to say a word upon Germany, and I mention this subject only because we debated it the other day. How did the German rearmament business come about? It came about because of Dean Acheson. Dean Acheson was worried because he said that the French were not making a contribution to N.A.T.O. So we had to get someone else in. We called a conference in New York. Mr. Ernest Bevin went as Foreign Secretary and I went as Minister of Defence. There were three Foreign Secretaries and three Ministers of Defence discussing the subject put forward by Dean Acheson— German rearmament. None of us liked it. If the French had "played ball", I doubt whether there would have been any question about German rearmament, but now we have the dilemma that they are in N.A.T.O.
I do not object to the Germans being rearmed now. It is an accomplished fact and it is no use arguing against an accomplished fact. It would cause a great deal of trouble if we abandoned 528 the idea now. What I object to is Germans gaining possession of nuclear weapons, building up a great military organisation, and becoming the predominant military Power in Europe. That is what I am afraid of.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has as much to worry about as some hon. Members have suggested. When my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley was talking about the past he was quite right. In 1952, he and I wanted to reduce National Service and even to abolish it, but we got no support. If it had been done at that time it would have given us an opportunity to build up volunteer forces effectively. I think that it is now too late. Nor do I accept the idea of a selective ballot for National Service.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he must rely on the forces he has. Build them up, of course, with the Gurkhas, if possible, with increased pay, better conditions, better behaviour by noncommissioned officers and even by the officers towards other ranks. All that kind of thing will help. But if, at the end of the day, he finds that he has not got all the men he wants, he must make the best of the job. I believe that it is possible for us, if we abandon or curtail some of our commitments, to provide an Army which will carry with it prestige as high as anything that we have had in the past.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)
I hope the Committee will forgive me if I do not follow the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) in his speech. For a newly-elected back bencher to try to answer his arguments on higher strategy would be far too big a matter. I shall confine myself to the Vote we are considering and devote my remarks to the British Army, assuming—I think that most hon. Members will be with me here—that the British Army has still a vital rôle to play.
Like many hon. Members, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his wonderful achievement in doing what I think most hon. Members would, a year ago, have regarded as impossible, that is to say, in doing away with National Service and keeping the numbers up to the extent he has. He has been able to do this in many ways, by improved pay 529 and conditions, by improved uniforms in promise, by improved training, but, I believe, more than anything else by bringing back to the Army that professional pride which it had lost or was in danger of losing.
All of us who have ever had anything to do with soldiers know that the soldier likes to soldier, that he takes a pride in being a soldier, and that he does not like being mixed up with men who do not. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has made the Army an elite. The feeling that the Army is an élite difficult to join, or, rather, giving the impression to other people that it is a privilege to join, will be a great help to the Army itself in achieving what we ask of it.
Professional pride has been brought back, and I think that the men in the Army are satisfied in knowing that they have weapons which match their professional skill. We have seen pictures of the weapons and they seem to be very good weapons. Such soldiers as I have spoken to are very pleased with them. I was very impressed by the argument of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), when he spoke about reserves of these weapons. If there are not sufficient reserves of these weapons, we ought to have them. I agree, also, with what the right hon. Member for Easing-ton said about the House of Commons being willing to pay for the weapons. If we have not got them, and the soldiers know that they have not got them, the esprit de corps which they have now, and which does much to make the Army strong, will go.
The Army must not be frustrated. I have a feeling that the Army always has been frustrated by the amount of paper which flies about from above. I was very glad to learn today that many of the 8,000-odd bodies in the War Office are scientists and not pen-pushers; but there are as many pen-pushers again in command headquarters, district headquarters and even brigade headquarters. These people give an impression of frustration to the "sharp end" of the Army, and I want my right hon. Friend to assure the sharp end of the Army that he will keep down expenditure in this respect as much as he can. I believe that we can make vast savings in that way, and that those savings could go a long way to produce the reserves of weapons for which we ask.
530 I wish to speak not only about reserves of weapons, but about reserves of men. A very important part of the Army, to which reference has already been made, is the Territorial Army. It may seem strange to say that the Territorial Army has a professional pride since the members of it are amateur soldiers. But they have a professional pride, and the best thing that ever happened to the Territorial Army was when National Service men were not asked to join it. It was extremely difficult to command a Territorial unit composed of men who were only nominally part of the unit and whom one never saw. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having put the Territorial Army on a purely voluntary basis. The unit in which I had the honour to serve is, I think, the strongest volunteer unit in the Territorial Army. The commanding officer assures me that that is entirely because it has regained the professional pride which made the Territorial Army so valuable before the war.
The Territorial Army is being tremendously frustrated because it does not know its rôle. I know that the White Paper and the Estimates make some reference to its rôle, but I am not very clear about the matter. I was speaking to a commanding officer in the Regular Army the other day, a friend of mine who was a very keen staff officer in the Territorial Army. I asked him what he imagined the rôle of the Territorial Army was, and he said "None". If that is the belief about the Territorial Army, it will not improve it or its morale. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to tell us exactly what he expects the Territorial Army to do. He has spoken about it helping in Civil Defence. The Territorial Army will do that out of patriotism, but that is not what it wants to do. The men in the Territorial Army want to soldier because they like to soldier.
I should like my right hon. Friend to consider whether the Territorial Army is getting the training which it requires. Certain divisions of the Territorial Army were earmarked for service in support of N.A.T.O. and of units in Germany. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider training the Territorial Army as a mobile force in that rôle. During a long period in the Territorial Army, the best training that I ever had was in 1947, when the 531 unit with which I served was taken, not to camp, but was attached to a Regular unit in Germany for 15 days. That did a great deal more good than going to any camp which I ever attended. Much would be done to improve the morale of the Territorial Army if it were to undergo mobile training and were taken to Germany with an airlift—.that is the sort of thing that it might have to do, perhaps very quickly—and attached to a Regular unit. If that were done, my right hon. Friend would be very well rewarded for all the expense involved.
The men in the Territorial Army have always felt that they were Cinderellas. They were always hoping that one day they would get the wonderful equipment which is supplied to the Regular Army. The hon. Member for Dudley spoke about reserves of weapons. Surely the best use to which weapons in reserve could be put would be to give them to the Territorial Army so that the men might train with them. That would give tremendous confidence, not only to the Territorial Army, but to the Army itself.
I should now like to refer to the Territorial Army as a source of recruitment for the Regular Army. This matter is not very well understood in many places. When a man has served his time with the Regular Army, if he is keen on soldiering the first thing that he wants to do is to join the Territorial Army. If he finds that the Territorial Army comes up to his expectations, he becomes extremely enthusiastic about it and gets his friends to join. After he has joined, the first thing that he does is to persuade the men in it already to join the Regular Army, thus building up a strong Regular Army. On the other hand, if he goes into the Territorial Army and decides that he is a Cinderella, or, as he will very probably call it, a "heap," he will not do anything about it. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to take note of that point, because I think that if he were to accept it he would be very well rewarded.
Men who join the Regular Army as long-service Regular soldiers and the men who join the Territorial Army do so because they are patriotic and like to soldier, and we must see that they get what they require. If we do that, we shall not only reward our patriotic 532 citizens, but will do a very great deal in helping my right hon. Friend to build up what he intends to build up—a strong fighting Regular Army.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
One point which I should like to take up with the hon. Member for Aberdeenshioe, West (Mr. Hendry) is his reference to the Territorial Army and the position of the National Service man in it. I understand quite well that the volunteer Territorial would prefer to be in a force composed entirely of volunteers, just as in the full-time Army the Regular soldier would prefer to be in an all-Regular Army.
During the time that I held some responsibility for Army matters, however, I was frequently impressed with the determination with which commanding officers in the Territorial Army had set themselves to the job of welding the volunteer and the National Service man together in a Territorial unit with common loyalty. It was a job that had then to be done. We could not have run things without the National Service man.
I trust that now that National Service is coming to an end, the nation and we in the House of Commons will not talk of the National Service man as if he were a rather tiresome nuisance whom we are glad to get rid of. The nation as a whole is, of course, glad to have got rid of the necessity for conscription, but we should remember that during those years it was a plain necessity for our defence and that the National Service man played a notable part in our defences in those years. We can say if we like that he had to because the law said so, but he could have done it either sullenly or with good will. In the huge majority of cases he did it with good will and very valiantly. I hope we shall remember this now that National Service is coming to an end.
§ Mr. Hendry
I would not like the hon. Member to think that I was in any way deprecating the work done by the National Service man. We have, however, eliminated the necessity for him and my remarks were intended to encourage the Territorial Army as a patriotic and valuable body of citizens and to point out to my right hon. Friend how best he might use it.
§ Mr. Stewart
I quite accept that. There has, however, been rather a tendency, because we are all so glad to get rid of conscription, to talk of the National Service man as if he had been mainly a liability instead of an essential asset during those years.
Now that we are coming towards the end of conscription, I hope that the nation will not forget all about conditions in the Army. So long as the situation existed that somebody from every family was liable to serve in the Army, the nation as a whole was keenly interested in what Army life was like and in a way in which it had never been interested before. I hope that we manage to keep the nation interested when the Army is recruited only from a limited section of the nation.
There have been references in this debate to the use of nuclear weapons and N.A.T.O. Those subjects do not lie wholly within the topic which we are discussing today, but they lie on its flanks and they condition a great deal of what we think and say about the Army. I trust, therefore, that I may, without breach of order, say a few words, as other hon. Members have done, on these points.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) commented on some of the weaknesses of N.A.T.O. and on the apparent fact that we sometimes seem to be bearing a greater share of the total responsibilities that fall on the alliance. The conclusion which I would draw from that is rather different from the conclusion drawn by my hon. Friend, that there is a greater necessity to get smooth, common consultation between the members of the alliance and that at present, the alliance is not sufficiently closely articulated.
On the subject of nuclear weapons, I want to say only this. We can take the view, if we like, that in the last resort this country will not defend itself and that in the last resort, if it were faced with a challenge to its liberties or its continued existence as a nation, it would say, "Very well, we shall give way. In the modern world defence is too risky and too terrible." We could take that view if we liked. Some hon. Members do. The great majority of hon. Members and of the nation do not.
534 If we reject that view, if we say that in the last extremity, despite the frightful risks involved, there are points where we shall stand and resist, I think two things follow. First of all, this country by itself could not hope to do that with any possible chance of success. It would have to do it as a member of an alliance. Secondly, somewhere in that alliance there has got to be the possession of nuclear weapons and the power to deliver them, and any potential enemy has got to know that the weapons are there and that the power to deliver them is there. That has got to be somewhere in the alliance. The nation which did not possess that power at all might as well go the whole hog and say it was not in the last resort prepared to defend itself at all.
That, as I see it, is where nuclear weapons must come in. The question of how that nuclear power is distributed among the nations which are members of the alliance and what contribution each makes to preparing it, where it is located, and so on, is fundamentally a technical, military question rather than a moral or political one. The moral and political question is decided for one the moment one decides to reject completely the pacifist solution. So if we say, in the phrase which has been used, that our defence is based on nuclear strategy—I am not quite sure what meaning is attached to that phrase—it means that whenever we talk about the Army, or the Navy or the Air Force for that matter, we must do it in the knowledge that we are members of an alliance which has nuclear power. In that sense all our strategical and defence discussions have got to be discussed on that nuclear basis.
Granted that, it brings one on to the further question of what is to be the comparative importance of nuclear weapons and conventional forces, which are really the proper subject of this debate. I think it comes to this. We are obliged to plan our Army on the assumption that we shall not fight a great war with conventional forces again. I mean by a great war one in which the nations concerned have resolved to stake everything on the issue of war, their future independence, and so on, as they did in the last war. It seems to me that a war of that kind, where both sides are 535 so profoundly at variance that they are determined to press it to a final solution, will never in future be waged with conventional weapons alone. It will be waged with nuclear weapons, with what frightful results to the human race one can only speculate.
§ The Under-Secretary of State lor War (Mr. Hugh Fraser)
If it is ever waged at all.
§ Mr. Stewart
If it is ever waged at all. The whole business of diplomacy and part of our politics must be to prevent it from having to be waged.
The reason I mention that fact is this. It follows from that, I think, that it would be quite idle to try to plan conventional forces on the assumption that we were going to wage a great war with them and with them alone. The function of conventional forces must necessarily be in any lesser conflicts which might arise, conflicts in which the contestants, when it comes to the point, are not prepared to stake everything on the issue of the war. That, after all, was the situation in Korea. It was a big enough conflict, but when it came 10 the point both contesting sides looked at the fearful issues which were involved and were prepared to reach a compromise, an agreed settlement. That was why it fell short of being what I describe as a great war and why it could be waged with conventional weapons only.
We have got to consider on that basis what sort of size of army and equipment we will require. That means that we are no longer thinking in terms of being able to build up the kind of army we had in the last war. We do not look at that at all, in my judgment, when we are considering the kind of army we ought to have at present. We are concerned partly with what is sometimes called police action; we are concerned partly with what is sometimes called the shield of N.A.T.O. We know that both of those, compared with the things we talked about in the last war, require very limited numbers. How large? And can it be raised by voluntary service only? Or are we wrong in giving up conscription?
To me, it seems like this. If we were all quite satisfied that an Army of 120,000 men was sufficient, we would 536 all agree that we did not need conscription. If we were all satisfied that we needed an Army of half a million men we would all have to agree that we should have to have conscription. Our difficulty today is that the right number lies somewhere between those two figures, and that is the reason why sincere and well-informed people can hold a difference of view on this topic.
With great respect to the knowledge and sincerity of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I think, on balance, that his judgment is wrong on this matter because I think that in submitting that the difference between the size of Army we need and the size which we could certainly raise by voluntary methods alone is very small, it might be said nevertheless that it is absolutely necessary and that we must have some kind of partial conscription in order to deal with it. The difficulty there is one to which attention was drawn by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer)— that the moment we start any form of conscription it will have a discouraging effect on our voluntary recruitment. If the object is to tack 20,000 conscripts on to the volunteers in order to get the size of Army that we want, we may find that once we have started on conscription we shrink the number of volunteers and have to have 40,000 or 60,000 conscripts.
We may well find that by the time we have finished, with the expense of that and as the proportion of conscripts in the Army grows, a number of men in the Army at one time are not fit for service because they are either being trained or are training somebody else. The cost of getting an efficient army that way is liable to work out very much heavier than the cost of putting up the pay to get the volunteers up to the number we want.
There is no doubt that if we have the nerve to improve the pay and conditions sufficiently we can get the number of recruits that we want in the Army, but we must have the nerve and we must recognise that even the present very satisfactory scales, as they would appear to most people, may not be enough. If experience showed that they were not enough. the Government must have no hesitation in improving them and the nation must be plainly told, "If you believe in defence 537 at all and if you do not want conscription you must be prepared to pay the price, whatever it is, and there must be no nonsense about that."
I know that it is not only money. There is the question of conditions and opportunities of promotion. In that respect I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) was saying about the possibility of moving from one ladder to another at a more advanced stage. I am sure that that is a move in the right direction. Perhaps, being human, I relish it a little more when I remember the contempt which the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) poured on the idea when we advanced it from these benches four or five years ago. I am very happy that the right hon. Gentleman's views on the matter have been disregarded.
That is how the question of raising the required number of men appears to me. On equipment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well) spoke about calculated risks in that context and, if I followed his speech aright, the point which he was making was that if we are deciding to equip a modern army we are up against the fact that we may take a decision to equip it with a particular kind of weapon and by the time that decision has resulted in anything being produced further facts and scientific evidence have come to light which lead us rather gloomily to conclude that it was possibly the wrong decision. That is exactly the kind of risk which has to be taken. If we try to avoid that situation by dithering about and trying to produce too many different kinds of things we shall get nowhere.
It means that Governments run the risk that from time to time they will look ridiculous in the eyes of the nation. They may have spent a great deal of money on producing something which turns out to be of precious little use, and their only honest answer may be that they made their decision at the time in the light of the best evidence and that nobody else would have made a better decision. The fact that the Opposition will take full advantage of the situation is something which the Government must endure. That is what Governments are for and what Oppositions are for, because the knowledge that they will be pilloried by 538 the Opposition if they make a wrong decision is one of the factors which make it a little more likely that the Government will make the right decision. But at any rate they must be prepared to make decisions. Part of our criticism in the earlier defence debate with regard to forms of the deterrent was that the Government had been hesitating too long before making a decision, and they must not repeat that error in providing the Army with equipment.
Also on the matter of equipment, I see the arguments for getting rid of the Ministry of Supply and for the Army providing for its own needs. Roughly, it seems to me, the argument is that the user knows best what he wants, and the closer contact there is between the person who is to use the thing and the person who produces it the better. I see also one or two factors on the other side. All three of the Services want weapons. This means that to some extent they are competitors for certain types of material and skilled labour which tend to be scarce. In getting rid of the Ministry of Supply, are we sure that we shall be able to co-ordinate those different demands of the three Services into a planned programme and that we shall not get unplanned competition of the three fighting Services for limited amounts of materials and skilled labour? That is one problem with which the Government will have to find a way of dealing in getting rid of the Ministry of Supply.
The other is this. I was for some years at the War Office and for a short time at the Ministry of Supply. My recollection is that the Ministry's task of providing the Services with weapons often landed it with specialised, detailed work such, for example, as making sure that there was a bus service along a particular road to ensure that workers at a certain factory could get there so that the factory could do its job and supply the needs of the Services. Those problems were more acute only a few years after the war than they would be today, but I suppose they are not totally non-existent today. There is not an unlimited supply of every kind of skilled labour of the kind required by the Services even now.
Of course, the Ministry of Supply knew a great deal about civilian industry and about the problems that arise. I am not 539 sure how much of that knowledge there will be in the War Office, and whether it will be as skilful in dealing with that kind of problem as the old Ministry of Supply could be. There may well be answers to those questions. On balance, I think the decision to get rid of the Ministry of Supply may be right, but, once made, it puts on to the War Office the problem of dealing with difficulties like that with which the Ministry of Supply could deal.
It is a long time since I took any pant in a debate of this nature and my knowledge of these matters is rusty, but I believe that those are points worthy of consideration by the Government at this stage.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
In following the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), I should like to pay a great tribute to the National Service men and officers who have, I am sure all hon. Members will agree, rendered very great service to their country. They served not only in Germany but in such places as Cyprus, where I served alongside them. I am sure that the matter is slightly misunderstood at times when it is suggested that the nation is glad to save the money and to have a Regular Army.
We are now basing our Army on a nuclear strategy. For that reason, we have been able to decide that we can base it on an all-Regular, highly efficient modern mobile Army. If we are to have an Army of that nature, surely the first task is to get the recruits and the officers for it. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said that if we pay them enough we shall probably get them. I would go even further and say that it is not so much a question of pay alone, although pay is a very important factor, but a question also of conditions of service. Service men are particularly influenced by that side of their contract.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) made some very good points about the necessity for advertising the Army, and things like bands and the new uniform will, I am sure, act as a very great attraction to bring men to Regular ser- 540 vice. I am sure there are very many points in respect of conditions which could be looked into to enable men not only to be encouraged to join the Army but to stay in it once they have joined.
Among the most important considerations are leave and accommodation. A Service man's life is of necessity a continually moving one, and if he is married one of the things which he needs more than anything else is married accommodation. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the money which he is spending as mentioned in paragraph 16 of the White Paper, but I would ask him to go even further in his building programme and not only to provide accommodation but to make sure that there are sufficient hirings so that married men coming back from overseas can move in straight away, instead of the man having to hang about in barracks and the wife probably having to stay with relations. This is an element of human importance which represents a great deal to the Service man.
Leave is also of paramount importance. Service men who are single or who are separated from their families regard it as extremely important that they should get home from overseas at reasonable intervals. The ideal would be for a man to get home every year. I accept that that is impossible, but great efforts should be made to ensure that single men and men with their families at home get leave at reasonable periods.
We talk a great deal about the mobility of the Army. Perhaps some of that mobility could be used to bring men back home once a year or every eighteen months. When I was serving with my regiment in Cyprus two years ago, there were complaints about leave difficulties not only from National Service men but from many of the Regulars, who said it was unreasonable to expect men to spend up to two years overseas without going home. An improvement in this respect would act as a great incentive not only to join the Army but to stay in it.
Many of us will remember that at the beginning of the war we queued up in long lines for our weekly Army wage. The Army today is paid, fortunately, not in shillings but in pounds per week. It would be a great reform if we could have a form of unit bank so that a man could draw his money out when he 541 required it and would not have to queue up in a rather undignified way once a week. This would act as a great incentive to saving. I understand that it would be very simple administratively because, thanks to the foresight of my right hon. Friend, the Army has now been equipped with unit pay officers. Such an officer could perfectly well run a unit bank and make the issuing of pay to privates and N.C.O.s more efficient and much more palatable to those concerned. I would stress that this would be a great incentive to men not to draw out their pay once a week but to draw it out only as and when they required it.
There is a great deal in the White Paper about the retirement of officers. I understand that Mons will probably be closed at the end of National Service and then Sandhurst will be one of the main entries into the Army. Apart from university, it will be the principal gate of entry. When an officer leaves the Army, the first thing an employer says to him is, "Where have you been educated?" I regard the education at Sandhurst as being absolutely first-class, but there is no question that when a man goes to an employer he does not accept education at Sandhurst as being in the same category as a university degree. It would stand officers in better stead if they could spend slightly longer at Sandhurst and if it could be made what I might describe as the "university of the Army". If they could get a degree of some kind there it would fit them very much better for going into civil life when their pension period came. They could also continue, after having done their period of two years there, to get a further period of military training in a specialist arms course.
When officers leave the French Army they find it very much easier to find employment if they have been educated at the French Polytechnic, which is virtually the French military university, and often an employer will choose a man who has been there rather than one who has been to St. Cyr, though the military education is as good at St. Cyr as at the Polytechnic. We have the opportunity of converting Sandhurst into one of the finest military universities in the world which would equip officers not only for a military career but would stand them in good stead when they left the Army and sought civilian occupation.
542 I feel about the Territorial Army what has already been said by many hon. Members, and that is that what we lack is a firm definition of the objects of the Territorial Army. If we wish to increase and enlarge it, we must give it a sense of purpose. There has in the past been a feeling in it that in time of war most of them would be used for home service. I am not casting any reflections on home service, but it does tend to dampen the enthusiasm of people joining the Service if they feel that they are not going to get any further than Dover. I should like the Secretary of State to make quite clear the rôle of the Territorial Army.
It has already been suggested that members of the Territorial Army should go to Germany for training. This scheme has been in operation already once, in the case of the Emergency Reserve, which I have the honour to represent. Officers and men have been sent there for training in line with modern techniques. If we adopted that line we should achieve a very much better recruitment and a sense of purpose in the Territorial Army.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) spoke about Episkopi. I have been to Cyprus and I regard a base there as fundamental to our defence policy in the Middle East. With the closure of the Suez Canal there are absolutely no air lanes between the Mediterranean and the South, because one has to fly over what one might call "unfriendly territory" and the only way of getting troops to the Middle East is to have them centralised in Cyprus. The whole defence policy must rest round a firm base in the Mediterranean on friendly territory. I do not think it is so important as a military base, but I do know what I was told by the Air Officer Commanding, Middle East—that, from the air point of view, it is within striking range of certain targets and is strategically well placed as a base in the Middle East. We should be losing a great deal if we discarded it altogether.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) suggested that the Russians were willing to lay down their nuclear arms. If they are willing to lay down their nuclear arms, why do they not agree to a comprehensive policy of disarmament? The reason is that they 543 know that so long as they have very much larger forces at their disposal, they have the whip hand. The right course is to have a system of disarmament including both conventional and unconventional weapons.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. A. Glyn) told us some interesting things about Cyprus, which has figured a good deal in the debate. We are all very glad to know that the hon. Gentleman has been able to come back from Cyprus to the rather quieter atmosphere of the House of Commons. I hope that it will not be long before the soldiers from my constituency return, too.
As the hon. Member told us that Cyprus was an essential base in the strategy of the Middle East, I recollected that exactly the same was said about Suez year after year until the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) one afternoon suddenly told us that in the strategic interests of this country, the time had come for us to leave Suez. He was attacked by the "Suez rebels" at the time, who said that it was impossible to use Cyprus as a base for activities in the Middle East.
I remember the argument of the right hon. Member for Woodford at the time —I am sure that we are all very glad to know that he has managed to reach his present holiday destination safely and has not been involved in an air crash— that is was impossible to maintain a big base like Suez with troops concentrated in such a small area when the Russians had the atomic and hydrogen bombs. I thought that that logic meant that, instead of having any base in the Middle East, troops should be brought home. However, in the strategy which I find incomprehensible, the troops were moved to a base 300 miles nearer the Russian danger.
I have no doubt that in time the Government will decide that Cyprus, too, is a liability and then a right hon. Gentleman will say that the time has come for us to face the realities of the situation and abandon the Cyprus base. I say, the sooner the better. Cyprus is irrelevant to the position in the Middle East. Surely we will never wander into the Middle East again to secure 544 our oil supplies. Surely we have learned the lesson of Suez, that however we get our oil the worst possible way is to try military activity in that part of the world. The Arabs have the remedy of proceeding to cut the oil pipes, leaving the Government to try to extricate themselves from the situation.
It was in reply to a Question of mine that the Minister of Defence said that £90 million had already been spent on Cyprus. When I asked about future capital development, he said that another £10 million or £20 million were to be spent. Because of our strategy we have spent £100 million of British money at a time when our education services are being neglected, we cannot afford to spend money on old age pensions, and we are allowing various social services to languish for lack of money.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I wish that he would relate his argument to the Estimates.
§ Mr. Hughes
Perhaps I am being a little obscure, Sir Gordon. The £100 million spent on Cyprus could be better spent at home.
I leave that and turn to the reasons that have been given for the proposed expenditure of £443,273,350 in the coming year. A few years ago we were told that we could expect expenditure on the Army to be reduced. In my constituency, the then Secretary of State for War proceeded to take away a very famous regiment and merge it with a Glasgow regiment. He took away the Royal Scots Fusiliers and merged them with the Highland Light Infantry. The shame of that move has since echoed and re-echoed throughout Scotland.
When that was done, we were told by the Minister that it was essential to cut down expenditure on the Army. We now find that after that small spasm of economy expenditure has gone up. It has gone up to £443 million. I am not surprised that the War Office has come along with this gigantic figure and increased the cost of the Army. The Conservatives won the General Election and they are entitled to rejoice. They are entitled to spend money on the services which they consider to be the most important.
545 This money is to be provided for the Army. As long as the Opposition do not challenge this expenditure, the War Office will be entitled to say, "The Government are receiving the unanimous support of the House of Commons". This trend has gone so far that one is liable to be expelled from the Labour Party if one votes against the Estimates. That is an inducement to all the generals in the War Office to join the Labour Party.
We meet in these small gatherings and although the House of Commons is not very interested in these Estimates there is every reason to believe that the general public are. I have seen various newspaper comments on the fact that these huge Estimates are passed by a very small proportion of the House. One newspaper reported that during the Navy Estimates debate the final count went down to two. I hope that we will not go as low as that tonight. So far, we have a comparatively good attendance.
The newspapers are taking a far greater interest in these Estimates than is the House of Commons. For example, although there has been a good deal of agreement about the idea that German forces should be trained in this country, and that German bases should be established here, that view is not shared by one of the popular newspapers.
My outlook is not the same as that of the Daily Express. I see that that newspaper is so outraged with Government policy that it carries an article headed, "Protest, Protest, Protest", and that is what I am trying to do in this debate. It may be said that this is only the popular Press, but there is every reason to believe that when a popular newspaper takes a certain line it believes that it is voicing popular opinion.
When the Daily Express protests against German bases in this country it is expressing a point of view that is widely held by our people. Is there any wonder at that? In my time we have had two world wars to destroy German militarism. In the First World War we had a long drawn-out battle in which soldiers from all parts of the country died at the Dardanelles, Passchendaele and on the Somme to destroy German militarism. Then we had the Treaty of Versailles, and were told by the statesmen of the time that Germany would never reappear as a great military Power.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but his argument now is more appropriate to a foreign affairs debate.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am dealing with the revival of Germany as a military Power. I thought that it was relevant to the debate to point out that we have fought two world wars to destroy the power of Germany and yet we are now engaged in establishing her military power once again. I submit that the Estimates contain a definite reference to the fact that German soldiers are being trained in the British Army. That is what I protest about. I warn the Government that there is a growing opinion in this country against the training of German soldiers in the British Army and the use of British bases by the German Luftwaffe.
I suggest that public opinion is not behind the Government in this matter. I interjected during the speech of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) to ask him if he remembered that the House of Commons was destroyed by the power of the German Luftwaffe. People have memories—
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
On a point of order. Since Germany is rearming under N.A.T.O., and since we are partners in N.A.T.O., and N.A.T.O.'s military strength is affected by German rearmament, is not my hon. Friend in order in drawing attention to German N.A.T.O. bases in this country?
§ Mr. Manuel
Do I understand you to rule, Sir Gordon, that we are not to deal with the N.A.T.O. contribution in connection with the Army Estimates?
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
If my hon. Friend talks about German soldiers instead of German airmen will he be within the terms of the Vote?
§ Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)
Are we to understand from the Opposition Front Bench that it was the German Army which destroyed this House in 1941?
§ Mr. Hughes
All I am suggesting is that the Luftwaffe will presumably be co-operating with the Army and that if there are German bases here the Army will be there to defend them.
§ Mr. Stanley McMaster (Belfast, East)
Does the hon. Gentleman think it right that East German forces should train in Russia?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is being led astray To pursue that would be out of order.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am indebted to the hon. Member for his co-operation. I welcome his intervention, because he is one of the few hon. Members who has sat through the three debates on the Service Estimates.
I turn to the more general subject of the debate. I suggest that this vast sum of £443 million is almost irrelevant to the kind of war which my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee. West (Mr. Strachey) talked about. In his conversations with the American Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon, they said that the next war would not be a short war. but a long war, that it might last three days. That was the statement made by my right hon. Friend. I say that most of the suggestions which have been made about the rôle of the Army in any possible war are completely irrelevant if we accept that proposition. Having listened to the debate, I think that a large number of hon. Members have no conception of the rôle that the Army will be carrying out during those three days.
I turn to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who sometimes acts as my mili- 548 tary adviser. Although I listen with great interest and sympathy to anyone whose roots are in the Army, I find myself, curiously enough, more in favour of the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West when it comes to the question of conscription. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire has in two debates advocated conscription. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) is a constituent of his and I should be very surprised if he won the North Ayrshire election on a mandate to come here and press for another spell of conscription. I do not believe that the hon. Member is stating the case for his constituents in this debate, and I think that there will be considerable resentment in North Ayrshire when they know that the first thing which the hon Member did on coming to the House was to say that he wanted more conscription for his constituents.
The argument which led up to the question of conscription was that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley said that we could not fulfil our commitments with the sort of Army contemplated by the War Office. Up to that point, I agree with him. Then he made the argument that the sort of Army which is required in this mechanised and modernised age is such that the kind of conscript who was conscripted for the 1914–18 War does not fulfil a useful military rôle.
The argument of the military experts —and I have listened to many of them —is that what we need today is a modern, mechanised Army and that if we conscript every Tom, Dick and Harry between 18 and 21 into the Army we shall not have the kind of Army which we need to fight a modern war. The argument is that during these three days we shall need specialised modern soldiers, trained in the technical work of using modern weapons. I submit that the argument for conscription breaks down completely on the ground that if we have conscription we shall have a large number of men who are not the kind of men we need.
When I point that out to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, he says that the only thing is pacifism—and there I agree with him, because if we reduce to absurdity the idea that all the 549 paraphernalia of military might can defend this country in a nuclear war we must look to the position of the person who believes that in the modern age the usual military defence is no defence at all. That is sinking into the. minds of the people of this country. When they hear about three-minute warnings and they are told that the country can be wiped out in a few days, naturally they ask, "What is this huge expenditure for? How is it relevant to this problem?" To that, the House of Commons today has not supplied am answer. I submit to my hon. Friend that as the years go on he will move nearer and nearer to me and that, ultimately, I shall be advising him on military subjects.
Why do we want this big Army? The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire said that we must have 55,000 soldiers in Germany. It is a curious business. The Germans are saying, "We cannot exercise our armies in Germany and we must find room for them either in Spain or in the North of Scotland". Surely the problem is simple. Why not bring our 55,000 men home and let the Germans exercise their own army in their own country? Although that argument may not be regarded as sound from the point of view of the military and strategic introspections of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West, it certainly strikes a note of common sense. People are asking what is meant by this idea that we must have Germany in N.A.T.O. and that, because she is in N.A.T.O., we must supply Germany with bases in N.A.T.O. countries. People are asking what relevance this has to our position in this country.
We seem to take it for granted that Russia has become our natural enemy. In our time we have had many natural enemies. When President de Gaulle addresses us soon in the Royal Gallery, on military strategy, he will find on one side a picture of the Battle of Trafalgar and on the other side a picture of the Battle of Waterloo. For hundreds of years we were the enemies of the French. For the last fifty years we seem to have been the enemies of the Germans. Now we have taken the Germans to our bosom and are the enemies of the Russians. In that context, I cannot see the relevance of this Army.
550 We are told that we must defend the present military status quo in N.AT.O. and that these 55,000 soldiers are necessary to hold the position in Germany. They are in Germany because we had a war with Germany during which we made allies of the Russians and brought them into the middle of Europe. I remember when the right hon. Member for Woodford sent a special telegram to Marshal Stalin telling him to advance on all fronts. The Russians advanced on all fronts, and the result is the present situation in Germany. We are in the present dilemma because Germany is steadily gaining military power and we have created a new Frankenstein in the middle of Europe.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire said that he knew how capable the Germans were in battle. He knows more about it than I do.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Member saw them under certain circumstances. He performed very gallant services in establishing Communism in Yugoslavia. I would not digress to say whether that was a public service or not, but he certainly helped to create Yugoslavia as a Communist country. Whatever Yugoslavia may think about Russia—
§ The Chairman
I was trying to indicate silently to the hon. Member that he is going a little beyond the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Hughes
My argument, Sir Gordon, is that the revival of military power in Germany is feared in Yugoslavia just as much as the military power of Russia is feared.
§ Mr. Hughes
I quite understand that you do not see the relevance of that, Sir Gordon, but I am sure the hon. Member does.
I now want to turn to a very different subject. In passing, I say that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley will be forced to the fact that neither party will accept conscription and the result will be that the alternative is to cut the commitments. I have already given an indication of where I think the commitments could be cut.
551 I turn to a rather different matter, Sir Gordon. It is well within the limits of the Army Estimates, although when I start talking about it you may not think that it is. I refer to the question of germ warfare. These are the first Army Estimates and this is the first Memorandum in which this unsavoury, disagreeable and very awful subject has been mentioned. It is mentioned on page 10, which says:Among the research and development establishments transferred to the War Office are the Armament Research and Development Establishment, the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment, the Microbiological Research Establishment.This comes into the Army Estimates because it is one of the establishments transferred from the Ministry of Supply. Henceforward, it will have to be explained and defended by the War Office, because it is contained in the Army Estimates. Although I have not been in Yugoslavia, I have been to this microbiological station at Porton. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire has been there.
§ Mr. Hughes
I have the advantage of the hon. Member; I am a specialist on this.
I want to know how much money is provided in the Estimates for the microbiological station at Porton, on Salisbury Plain. After considerable pressure on the Government, we succeeded in getting a Parliamentary delegation to go to Porton in conjunction with the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. It was the first occasion on which Members of Parliament went to see this place.
Presumably, the establishment is a very secret affair. I have information which I do not want to divulge lest I should be accused of giving away secrets; but it is no secret at all to say that this establishment has cost as much as eight secondary schools and five modern mental hospitals. There are many scientists engaged there in preparations for what is called, in simple terms, germ warfare.
I have in Questions persistently demanded that this establishment should not be on the strength of the Ministry of Supply at all, but should be transferred to the Ministry of Health. The 552 fact that it has been transferred to the custody of the War Office shows that it is regarded as a military establishment. During all our discussions about Porton, the argument was that the scientists there were employed only in case an enemy attacked this country with the microbiological weapon, as it is called. Now the argument is different. The establishment must be part of the deterrent. We are told that we must be prepared to have all this hideous apparatus for manufacturing typhus, cholera, smallpox and other epidemic diseases to that we can use them, if necessary, in another war.
I suggest that, when we take that attitude, we take up an indefensible attitude if we think of humanity at all. There may be something brave and gallant in the activities of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire in Yugoslavia, and in the various activities of hon. Members who have risked their lives in military, naval and air warfare throughout the world. But there is nothing gallant, glorious or chivalrous in preparing to disseminate the germs of typhus, cholera and smallpox among the civil populations of the world. We should like to know more about this establishment. We should like to have a more thorough investigation of what it is doing and what part it is playing in the future strategy of our country.
We are passing the sum of over £400 million, an immense sum of public money. We are engaged in passing expenditure which should receive far more scrutiny in the House of Commons than it is to receive. The time has come when we should be probing and analysing in much more detail than we have during the last few years the military expenditure which the House of Commons passes in Service Estimates debates.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I can, at least, agree with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that there is nothing glorious in germ warfare. Indeed, there is nothing glorious about any form of warfare which is regarded as a deterrent. But we have, largely, been considering today, however far our debate may have ranged, matters concerning an Army which is designed for limited fields, and we regard the deterrent as the ultimate 553 argument in the background, which, indeed, will have failed once it is called into play.
The only other comment I make about the hon. Gentleman's speech is that I was, to say the least, very interested that he of all people should call in Lord Beaverbrook to his support.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
I wonder whether Lord Beaverbrook may be anxious that the hon. Gentleman should take the place of Beachcomber.
I shall be brief because I know that many hon. Members wish to speak, and I apologise for introducing a comparatively minor point. It has been said already today that we must have the nerve to go all-out to recruit the limited number of men we require by making the pay and conditions in the Army attractive. I wish to speak about an analogous subject, namely, officers' retired pay, because I believe that that has a great bearing on the attractivenes of the Army as a career. On 1st February, a new code of retired pay was introduced to apply to officers retiring on or after—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for Two hours after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
When we were interrupted, I was saying that a new code of retired pay applying to officers who retire on or after 1st February this year recently came into force. It is a most satisfactory code and I welcome it, but there are certain curious anomalies, the nature of which is bound to discourage recruitment to the commissioned ranks of the Army.
For instance, there are the most extraordinary discrepancies between the position of an officer who, through no fault of his own—perhaps because of age or for some other reason—retired on 1st January and that of an officer who retired on 1st February. Such discrepancies are 554 bound to exist when a date-line is set. It may be said that it depends on the luck of the draw which side of the dateline one falls, but the discrepancies in this case are out of all proportion.
Let me refer to two ranks, those of lieutenant-colonel and lieutenant-general. A lieutenant-colonel who retired with maximum service on 31st January receives £275 a year less in pension and £825 less in terminal grant than if he had retired on the following day. A lieutenant-general receives as much as £700 a year less in pension, and £2,100 less in terminal grant. These are extraordinary discrepancies, and they have caused considerable dissatisfaction among retired officers. In the few minutes that I shall address the Committee, I want to call attention to this matter and suggest certain stops that may be taken.
This matter is relevant to the future, because it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there will be occasions in the future when a new code of retired pay will apply to the Army. It has happened in the past and it is bound to happen again. There have been harsh discrepancies affecting officers on either side of the date-line. I suggest that it is only reasonable that an officer who retired between 1956 and 31st January, 1960, should benefit by one-quarter of the improvements now introduced for each year that he served during that four-year period. It may or may not be possible to make that retrospective at this time, but I suggest that it should be borne in mind when future revised codes of retired pay are applied.
I regard this matter as important because there is a very considerable and increasing difficulty in recruiting officers for the Army. This difficulty arises partly from the fact that there is a strong suspicion among commissioned ranks that whenever possible some unfair trick or cut will be applied to their retired pay. Although retired officers and serving officers will have a new code of retired pay, those who retired in the previous four years feel that they have been unfairly treated compared with officers who retired after 1st February, 1960. I think that the best service I can do the Committee is to stop at this point, because many other hon. Members want to speak.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) has just said about the effect upon recruitment of officers' pensions. We all know that when lines are drawn there are likely to be discrepancies on either side, but the contrasts between the pensions today and when they were fixed perhaps twenty years ago, or whatever date one considers, are so glaring that it is not possible for the parents who have suffered these effects to recommend their children to go into the Army. We all know how many military families there have been in the past whose services we will require in the future.
I, too, like other hon. Members, congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his Memorandum and on the Estimates which he put before the Committee today. I am sure that 1960 finds the Army in extremely good heart. That is especially welcome. The British Army is the only one of the Services which can afford a good defeat these days. It is impossible that the Royal Air Force should afford a defeat, for such an event might well be decisive. If the Navy were to be defeated, there would be no Service left. The Army is the only Service which can afford the luxury of a defeat, and it is good to have it in such good trim that it is unlikely to undergo that kind of experience which is one the British Army often suffers at the outbreak of a war.
I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) who, in an admirable speech, said that no great or world war will again be fought entirely with conventional troops. Therefore, the size of our Army for the future is approximately right as far as one may judge. I am certain that the quality of the Army is superior to what it has been in the past.
I welcome also the statement in paragraph 10 of the Memorandum that it is not proposed that there shall be any major changes in the British Army of the Rhine. I am certain that the presence of these troops in Germany as a gauge of our determination to support the alliance is essential to the morale and unity of N.A.T.O. today, and I very much hope that no steps will be taken in future to reduce them.
556 As regards equipment, I welcome very much what was said about the progress and provision of anti-tank weapons. I agree entirely with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) that if only at the time of Suez we had had the air-transportable Malkara of which a photograph is given in the Memorandum, we might have been able to mount a very different type of operation much more quickly. The provision of wireless is extremely important and has perhaps lagged up to now. I am glad to see that there has been a spurt in going ahead with what I regarded as much too leisurely a schedule.
I have a query about which I should like to be reassured concerning the new armour which is coming into service. I do not know the size of the new battle tank, and I do not ask what weight it is, but my query is whether it is not too big. What sort of war will this battle tank fight? It is principally designed, I suppose, to fight a short, conventional skirmish in Europe or something similar in another part of the world. Its chief characteristic, surely, should be mobility, and not size and hitting power.
What will be its vulnerability to the anti-tank weapons which I have just been praising? Is it possible these days to have a tank, however big and however well armoured, that will stand up to the anti-tank weapons which are available? I wonder whether, possibly, we are not wasting money. Of course, the question of the size and shape of the tank is a matter of tactics and even of strategy and, therefore, it may be thought, a matter in which Members of Parliament should not intrude but which should be left to the generals, who have spent their lives studying these matters.
It is an old tag that the generals prepare for the last war, but the reason for this is that politicians do not give them enough money to prepare for the next. From the size of the Estimates this year, however, that criticism cannot be levelled at the generals today in view of the amount of money that is being provided. No doubt, the new tank is a wonderful weapon. Had we had ten of them in the desert or in Tunisia, we would have been able to wipe out the German Army easily. I wonder if that is the sort of war 557 we are going to fight. I should like to know approximately what the cost will be and how much elaboration of this weapon will add to the tail which we have to consider with any of these modern weapons.
I believe that the rôle which the Army plays in parts of the world other than Europe will be very much easier now that it is coming to be a Regular force with air mobility, and I, at any rate, have the impression that with the planning of the Army at the moment all is well in general.
I turn, therefore, to one or two more detailed points. I notice from the Estimates that the amount of money spent on petrol is considerably down this year. I should have thought that it would have been going up as there is more training and more vehicles are coming into use.
The Royal Military Academy was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. A. Glyn). Like him, I believe that the education given at the Royal Military Academy is of immense importance. I am certain that it should be directed not so much to teaching the young officer his first job in his regiment. After all, his troop sergeant can teach him that. The teaching should be of the things he will have to know when he gets to the higher echelons of command, even to the top. We all know that they carry a marshal's baton in their knapsacks.
I should like to know what liaison with other Western colleges of war is kept, whether there is connection with the schools of war in France and other countries of N.A.T.O., and what the reciprocal arrangements are to teach common doctrine, common organisation and so forth.
I notice from the Memorandum that there are 128 cadets from the Commonwealth and foreign countries at the Royal Military Academy today. I welcome that very much indeed. It will not have escaped notice that, in the Middle East particularly, there are many countries now which are really governed by the army. In Pakistan, in the Sudan and in many other countries the control has gone to the army largely because those people were the first organised and were given ability to run their countries, usually by ourselves, and today they have political as well as military power.
That is something that is very likely to happen in Africa. Perhaps at the 558 Royal Military Academy even now there is some African Napoleon in the making, of whom we shall one day hear a great deal. I believe it was Wellington who said of Napoleon that he was a very brilliant man but one of whom one could never say he was a gentleman. How much better if Napoleon had been at the Royal Military Academy. We do have a large number of these people who will get at the Royal Military Academy a very high education even to university level. I believe that is of great benefit not only to ourselves but to the emerging countries of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Strachey
It fell to my lot when I was at the War Office to send General Kassem, if not to the Royal Military Academy, to the Senior Officers Course at Devizes.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I am very interested to hear that. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman did not catch General Kassem young enough. Perhaps, if he had gone to the Royal Military Academy it might had had a better effect.
The improved career structure for officers recently announced, and elaborated in the Memorandum, must surely be the best that there has been since before the war. No one can now have any doubt that the career structure provided within the limits of possibility of the Service— because we need so many more young officers than older ones—is the best the country could hope for at the present time, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on getting it out of the Treasury and on having the drive and imagination to put it forward. The remarkable pay and other factors for other ranks which my right hon. Friend mentioned in his speech must surely commend the other-rank career to everybody who wishes to have a fine life and a fairly prosperous one.
I must mention a constituency detail which I have mentioned before. While welcoming what my right hon. Friend said about uniforms, I continue to regret that the uniform is not scarlet, which is made at Stroud, but blue, which is made there but not to anything like the same extent.
On recruiting, I should like to know what kind of co-operation the War Office is getting from local authorities in allowing recruiting officers to go into the 559 schools. Are there local authorities which forbid recruiting officers doing this? If so, is my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State for War prepared to say which they are?
My right hon. Friend has been asked more than once about the rôle of the Territorial Army. I urge him not to answer that question too quickly. Recruiting to the Territorial Army is rising all the time. The Territorial Army is in good heart. It appears to be satisfied with the way things are, but if we define too exactly, before we know precisely what the Territorial Army might be called upon to do as methods in the Army change, it might do harm. I certainly do not see what good it could do.
In the long run it is true that Civil Defence is not a very enthralling training. The suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) that the Territorial Army should go abroad to train is at first sight very attractive, but as more and more people who have never served in the forces come into the Territorial Army I doubt whether the Territorial Army will be militarily fit to go to Germany and march about the country during a fortnight's training. Nothing could be worse than to take a regiment there, lose it for a week on Lüneburg Heath, and have to bring it back exhausted at the end of training. It would also, of course, cost a great deal of money. If we are to keep the military standards of the Territorial Army up to what they have been in the past, not fewer but more Regular officers and other ranks will be necessary for training. I know that the numbers have been cut down, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to consider that.
I notice that the strength of the Women's Royal Army Corps is about 4,500 and that every year 2,000 are recruited. The turnover is fabulous— almost 50 per cent. a year. Whilst everybody has great affection for these smartly-dressed young ladies, one must ask oneself as a taxpayer and a Member of Parliament whether their services really are worth the money we spend on them. I hope that I shall be told that they are worth it and that they have a 560 proper rôle to play, because I should be sorry to see them go.
On the question of the War Office taking over the functions of the Ministry of Supply, whilst agreeing that the argument must be finely balanced I would ask, in no sense by way of criticism, that we should be given a few more reasons why this has been found necessary. It seems to me that the arguments which my right hon. Friend deployed at the beginning of the debate were the same as were deployed before the war, but the conclusion arrived at is exactly the opposite. What new facts have emerged from the situation recently which make it now unnecessary to have what has been thought essential in the past?
As to the arguments put forward before the war, I should like to quote from a speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) in a debate on 17th November, 1938. He said:In time of peace, when you have a very small production of munitions, merely turning things over year by year for practice purposes, you can work upon military Departments, in Supply, and Enfield and Woolwich will do their share for the Army, but you have reached a position in which Estimates for many hundreds of millions of £s are being devoted and spent each year and where the whole industry of the country is being increasingly drawn in. To leave that job under the management of Service Ministers is unfair to the country, unfair to the job and most unfair to the Ministers themselves.My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, speaking earlier, said that the tendency to blame the other chap, diminishes when the other chap becomes oneself. My right hon. Friend's relation drew exactly the opposite conclusion, because he said later:By making the Ministers for Air and War responsible for their own Supply, and by making the harassed Minister for Co-ordination of Defence responsible for helping them to get their Supply, you get a tight combine, which cannot deliver the goods in time but which can offer any amount of concerted explanation of why they have not been delivered. If there were a Ministry of Supply the Minister of Supply would be the poor devil who would be in the box, and the Service Departments would bring their reproaches against him. He, in his turn, would go to the Cabinet and would say: 'Here, I did not get financial sanction for this. This was late. We had not had the funds for this. We have not had the powers for that. There has been this difficulty with labour,' or whatever might be the case. Tension, pressure and activity would be increased and stimulated by this 561 very natural and reasonable division of functions. You would get a new energy from the very friction that would result—an energy which is vastly needed."—[Official Report, 17th November, 1938; Vol. 341, cc. 1140–1141.]I do not say that at the moment the energy is vastly needed, but it is interesting that an exactly opposite conclusion was reached in 1938 on this argument from that reached tonight, and I shall be glad if my hon. Friend the Undersecretary can say something about that.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)
I associate myself with the remarks about the Royal Military Academy which were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), who complimented it on the fact that it is doing so well, with more cadets entering the Academy. I make one reservation, however, and that is about the Officer Cadet School at Mons Barracks, which takes in the officer cadet who is to serve three years in the Army. Will these cadets come forward in as many numbers in two years' time when conscription ceases? Would there be some point in amalgamating the two schools, and having one R.M.A. which would produce all the officers for the Regular Army in the future? It would be better if all Regular Army officers could have the same background during their early formative years.
I also associate myself with what has been said about the new career structure for the Regular Army. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson), who referred to the differences between the present pension structure and that of officers who retired in years gone by. It is a startling difference and I hope that my right hon. Friend will find time to consider this point and perhaps deal with it in the future.
I am certain that the strategic thinking of my right hon. Friend is correct, namely, that our forces should be distributed throughout the world. In this debate, there has been a lot of talk about the defence aspect. Frankly, I confess that I have not the mental agility to keep within the rules of order to be able to say some of the things that I would like to say about our defence and the way that we are facing the problem.
In my opinion, the German forces should be allowed to come to this 562 country to train, rather than be isolated in Europe, because it is of paramount importance that all the forces of Western Europe should be integrated in the N.A.T.O. forces. If, however, we isolate the German forces, or any part of them, we shall be storing up trouble for our selves and for future generations. I go so far as to say that I would be prepared to pay the price of German forces coming to this country and training here if it meant that thereby they would stay within the integrated Western European defence organisation. That is, I consider, a vital aspect and one of which we must never lose sight.
I have been extremely gratified at the amount of interest shown by my hon. Friends during the debate in the Gurkha forces in the Far East. I had the honour, during the war and afterwards, of serving with the Gurkhas, and I cannot speak too highly of them and of their qualities in war and peace-time, their cheerfulness and also their extreme bravery. The tributes to them which have been paid by my hon. Friends are more than justified, for they really are very fine soldiers.
I find it a little strange today, when we are in such need of more forces, and particularly of the finest troops that we can have in that part of the world, that we have not more Gurkha troops and that they are confined to three places in the Far East—Malaya, Hong Kong and Borneo, where there has just been a battalion on training exercises. I should have imagined that they would be of tremendous value elsewhere throughout the Near and Far East.
I appreciate that there are difficulties in regard to our treaties with India and Nepal about the use of Gurkha troops, but, as has already been suggested, surely the time has come to look at the matter once again. I feel that India may have changed her mind slightly after all the trouble that she has been having on her border with China and might be a little more prepared to negotiate with us and permit an easier attitude to creep in. If that were the case, I feel certain that there would be no lack of recruits prepared to come forward and serve with our forces in Europe or in the Far East.
The figure of 10,500 Gurkha troops could well be improved. When one 563 remembers also that these troops are, perforce, used to living in the Far East and acclimatised to it one realises what a tremendous advantage it would be to have a larger number of them available in that part of the world. One of the things that I remember particularly between 1935 and 1945, when I was serving in the Far East, is that it took British troops going out there for the first time from this country at least two or three months to become acclimatised to the heat and moisture. It was a long time before they were capable of going into action without being unnecessarily sacrificed, because they were not acclimatised to the conditions.
Therefore, we must remember when we talk about "fire brigades" being prepared to fly out at a minute's notice from this country to a trouble spot east of Suez that we shall be sending out troops who will not be acclimatised. Nothing could be hotter than Aden or moister than Malaya, Borneo or other possible trouble spots. Therefore, I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider not only increasing the number of 564 Gurkha troops, which might to a certain extent obviate the necessity of sending out "fire brigades" from this country, but also the vital necessity of sending our brigade groups stationed in Britain and Germany on a rota system to our garrisons abroad so that they may have some degree of acclimatisation at reasonably frequent intervals.
I appreciate that it would mean a great deal of troop movement, but the advantage would far outweigh the extra cost and disturbance caused. It is not much good committing troops to an action, especially one which, presumably, has to be settled very quickly, when they are not fit to take part in it.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way he has put forward the ideas for the new Army, and I ask him to bear in mind the points which I have made. I am certain that the spirit of the Army today is fully equal to that which we found between 1939 and 1945, when we emerged victorious, and that if we continue along these lines we shall not waste the money which will be spent on Her Majesty's Armed Forces.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
As a layman, I hesitate to participate in a debate on military matters with so many experts present, but there are a few points that I should like to make.
A lot has been said about the shortfall in men. It seems to me that if the figures quoted are correct, that shortfall is between 20,000 and 30,000 men—that is to say, the difference between 180,000 and 210,000 men. Although I have not much experience of the Army, I believe that it is generally accepted that for every man who pulls a trigger or pushes a button, there are four or five men serving him, and I feel it is in that direction that a saving could be made. When I was in the Home Guard, which is the only military experience that I have had, I remember an occasion when a platoon of sixty Home Guard men did exactly the same work one Sunday afternoon as a platoon of thirty Army men did in a week. I have nothing against the Army, but in the Home Guard we had good farm foremen who knew how to put men to work, whereas I feel that the Army do not know how to put men to work.
During the war, in an exercise, a gun crew put a gun alongside my farmhouse and let the gun slip into a ditch. I was interested in the procedure and watched the men trying to get it out. First they tried to pull it out with a tractor but could not get it in the right position. Then they tried a winch, with the same result. At last, I could bear it no longer and said, "There are ten or eleven of you. Just take those wheel ropes and heave." The officer said, "It is far too heavy for that." I said, "You just try it." Not only did the gun come out of the ditch, but it went right across the road and into the ditch opposite, and the whole procedure had to be repeated.
Another experience that I had was immediately after the war. I was driving a car, when a W.A.A.F, driver flagged me to stop. She said that she had a puncture and asked me if I could lend her a wheel brace. She had a box key and a tommy bar; all that was lacking was the strength to turn it. To my amazement I saw the two gentlemen 566 whom she had been driving sitting in the back of the car watching her, and doing nothing to assist. If only required a twist from me to slacken the wheel bolts. I do not know whether there is anything to be learned from that.
Since then a son of mine has done his National Service, and I have heard from him stories of the tremendous waste of labour, not among the men who are directly concerned with the fighting but among the men who service them. The hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon), in the defence debate last week, inquired whether enough work study was carried out in training men to get a job done. In industry, and particularly in my own industry, we are producing more today with one man in seven less than we were ten or twelve years ago. I suggest to the Secretary of State that, with the right kind of training, the necessary saving in manpower could easily make up for this shortfall about which he and others are so worried.
Another matter which is of some importance is Service housing. Where I live in Scotland there is a whole "village" of R.A.F. accommodation which has stood for years lying idle. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the number of houses and other married quarters being built. Transport facilities are more readily available nowadays and I should like to think that those houses were not being built too near the job. There is no longer any need for people to live on top of the job. There is no reason why Service personnel should not live in villages and towns and travel to their duties. It is a bad thing for people to live too close to their work and we hope that in the not-too-distant future we shall no longer need these houses for sergeants and that they will then be available for the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Fraser (Plymouth, Sutton)
I hope that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) will forgive me if I do not follow too closely his rather after-dinner impressions of the Army. I want to address myself briefly to something which emerged from the speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who referred to the note of doubt which had crept into the debates on 567 defence subjects over the last few days, particularly doubts about the fundamental nature of the deterrent. In contrast, I was impressed by the note of confidence in my right hon. Friend's speech today.
It is probably not by accident that we should have had that note of confidence and firmness in my right hon. Friend's speech, because the Army has less than the other two Services to do with the nature and policy of the fundamental deterrent. I was delighted with my right hon. Friend's confidence; but, if there is confidence, it must not be based on any undue reliance on the rather facile concepts of the possible nature of a future war which are prevalent inside and outside the House of Commons.
Speaking with great diffidence because of his very much greater experience of these matters, I must say that the speech of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) did not escape the criticism of seeming to rely on a facile concept of the likely course of events. I may be wrong, but he gave me the im-pression that it was easy for him to make remarks about the likely length of a future war. He seemed to find it easier than I believe it to be to prophesy what might happen.
Hon. Members will remember that prophecies of that kind have been made in the past and have nearly always turned out to be entirely wrong. One's mind goes back to the rôle which the Regular Army of 1914 was called upon to play in France, a rôle entirely different from what almost everybody had foreseen. In the Second World War, the development of aerial strategy and bombardment and their effects were totally different from what all but a few intellects had been able to foresee. We must constantly bear in mind that what has happened in the past is likely to happen again.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is an interesting point. I do not pretend for a moment to be able to foresee the nature of some future war. All I feel is that one must exclude as almost inconceivable a war of mass armies and of long duration without the use of nuclear weapons. Nothing is inconceivable, but I should have thought that that was so unlikely that our preparations ought to be for other types of war, because if we attempted to make preparations for that we would 568 have to reverse all the existing policies and go back to the concepts of twenty years ago. We cannot do both.
§ Mr. Fraser
I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. We must stick to the point that we may be faced with a totally different strategy from anything we can readily, or easily, or in a facile way, see at the moment.
Among the possibilities with which we have to contend is that of a fairly lengthy struggle in which the nuclear army, though it will be in the background, will not necessarily play a major part. The lesson I want to draw from that is that we should not allow ourselves to fall into the temptation of letting the Army feel that it is destined to play any one simple rôle. One trap into which we could fall would be to say to the Army that it was destined in the main to represent the British contribution to the Western shield forces. That is a logical rôle and one that the Army may have to play, but we cannot so design our Army as to restrict it to a rôle of that kind.
Before I came into the House of Commons I was a Regular soldier, and I know how tempting it is to put behind one the complexities of modern war and say, "Our main rôle should be a purely conventional rôle of the kind we understand—a sort of expeditionary force." There is a great temptation to simplify the rôle of the Army. That is a grave trap from a strategical point of view.
The Army must develop in such a way that, by reason of its formidability and great range, and its possible methods of employment, both politically and militarily—and that is the important point— it can regard itself as a potentially decisive force despite its moderate size. It can never be more than moderate, but it must be so equipped and designed that it can play a decisive rôle when it is called upon to do so, as it has been more than once in the past.
Broad as that conception is, we cannot base the future of the Army on anything less than that. We cannot achieve that concept of the Army's rôle except by retaining the potentiality for independent action and being prepared to pay the bill for training and equipping the Army accordingly. During the course of today's debate I wondered—as I did during the defence debate—whether the 569 true position about paying for this had been fully appreciated by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have spoken. Although, in monetary terms, we are spending more each year, for some years we have been spending a decreasing proportion of our national product on this matter, which has such a vital bearing on our future.
I will now address myself to the question of the primary, long-term rôle of the officers, men and women with whom we are concerned under Vote A. A fact that has been referred to far less than I as a newcomer to the House, would have expected, is that the most vital and important rôle of these men and women is their rôle as members of the Commonwealth rather than of their own Army. In that rôle they are in no sense the cement of a military empire, as they once were. There is no question of the Commonwealth developing into a military empire. We and the other members of the Commonwealth are pieces of a very diverse group—a group of nations which has been growing steadily during the past decades and which will become an ever more important force in the world as we travel towards the end of the present century, simply because it is the best pattern that has yet been devised for a viable organisation of the whole world.
The rôle which the Commonwealth is steadily forcing itself to play in world affairs—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member, but I hope that he will direct his remarks as closely as possible to the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Fraser
I apologise, Sir William. That is all I wish to say upon that matter. I wanted to point out the tremendous significance of the rôle which our Army and other forces have to play during the remaining years of this century.
If I am right about the growing influence of the Commonwealth, this is a period in which we must shoulder the burden of maintaining a first-class military posture, no matter how moderate may be the scale on which that posture has to be maintained. This is vital to the rôle which the Army and the other Services have to play. It involves fields 570 well beyond the conventional; it involves the technicalities of nuclear warfare, about which it is impossible for my right hon. Friend to say as much as he would wish.
It may well be that the weight of action in future warfare is already developing outside the purely nuclear field. In one way it is developing upwards and outwards into space. In another way it is developing towards chemical and microbiological warfare, as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said. If that is so, then surely it is vital that we of all nations, because of the moderate scale on which we have to do things compared with the major Powers, should be thinking and acting ahead and should not be lagging behind. The whole Committee wishes to see disarmament achieved, but if there is to be steady progress outside the purely nuclear field and into new fields of frightfulness—and it may well be that this is what we must expect—than we must ensure that we hold our place there, too.
Not surprisingly, the conclusion which I draw is totally different from that drawn by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. I welcome the decision that the Army should take over from the Ministry of Supply the establishments mentioned in paragraph 61 of my right hon. Friend's Memorandum. Nothing is more important at this stage in the Army's history, from the technical point of view, than that, however frightful the field into which it may lead, we should all the time be in advance in our thinking, and if possible in our practice, of other countries. It is vital that this should be so.
It is also vital that the Army should be two things: it must be a killer force and, however modest in size, it must be a first-class force. If this leads, as I believe it may, to greater rather than less expense over the next few years and perhaps beyond them, I shall be prepared to go to my constituency to support it, whatever that may mean from the political point of view, for it is essential to the future of this country and of the world, for the out-of-order reasons which I tried to develop, that this expense be met.
The Estimates seem to me to show that we are on the right road from that point of view, although they carry the implication that we have a good deal 571 further to go along it. I do not doubt that my right hon. Friend will be as active in the future as he has been in the past in steering us along that road.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. I. Fraser) was right to direct the Committee's attention to the imponderables in trying to predict the nature of a future war. I think that we should direct the whole of our strategy not to trying to predict the nature of a future war but to preventing war. In the defence debate, the Minister of Defence—although he did not use the words "graduated deterrent"—made it clear that we must be able to deter at different levels. I also agree with the hon. Member that we must look at our defence and Army commitments in the light of our world position. I will say something about that later. I shall, however, come to a different conclusion from that reached by the hon. Member.
This has been a wide-ranging debate, as is inevitable with a debate on Service Estimates. We have had a discussion about the recruitment and employment of the excellent Gurkha troops and a talk about the bombing of this Chamber. In between, we have been to most places in the world. It is difficult to get a central theme in such a debate.
However, one opinion, which was echoed in more than one speech—for example, it was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and other hon. and gallant Members—was that we really do not get enough information on which to base our defence debates. In another capacity, in Western European Union, where I produced some defence Reports, I have thought it of prime importance to give as much information as possible. When one of the Reports was submitted for security check objection was taken to information in the Report which had not been derived from any military source at all but had been taken direct from one of the New York papers. There is very often an over-tendency to deny not only hon. Members of this Committee but experts and others interested in military subjects the information necessary to form the right judgments. I think that 572 my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is often in a privileged position, because he does manage to inform himself and to quote documents which are not generally available.
However, if we in this Committee do have to form a view of these very important Army and other defence matters I would ask the Government to try to give us more information. The Minister of Defence, in opening the defence debate, indicated that he wants to place more at the disposal of hon. Members. I hope that was not just a token offer, and that there really will be an attempt to give more information.
Frankly, when I read the Memorandum relating to these Estimates I was reminded of the story of the Minister who was marooned in a fog with his private secretary. They were completely lost, and they stopped a local they ran into to ask him where they were. All they got by way of answer was, "You be in a car." The Minister used very un-Parliamentary language, but his private secretary said, "Well, Sir, it did follow the rule we have to apply in the Department in drafting answers to Parliamentary Questions. It was short; it was not inaccurate; and it told nobody any more than he knew already. "That was my impression when I read the Army Estimates and Memorandum embellished with a few photographs of weapons we hope to have and to hear more about. I feel we can be given a lot more information.
To some extent, of course, we are in a difficulty this year because we had no clear guide from the defence debate about the proper defence strategy which the country should pursue. Partly, we understand, it was because the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of Defence, we hope and believe, are beating a retreat from the pinnacle of folly to which the Minister of Aviation took this country's defence policy. I am rather sorry that a certain haze, created by some differences on this side of the Committee possibly, enabled them to get over an exposed piece of ground with less loss than they might otherwise have suffered.
At the same time, it was interesting to observe today that when the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) was speaking there was great 573 competition on his side of the Committee, with the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) and the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) all competing with one another, to get in and dispute with him. So disputes on defence, quite clearly, and, I think, quite rightly, occur evidently on both sides of the Committee. It is a very healthy thing. But we must view Army and defence requirements against the background of our world commitments. The Economist, in its issue of 5th March, summed the matter up very neatly when it said:Britain's influence in the world, it was argued, no longer rests at all, if it ever did, upon the old and costly far-flung chain of properties and footholds, marked red on the map, across the world. It rests, essentially, upon the strength and resilience of Britain's own economy and political arrangements; upon the closeness of its ties with Europe to which two world wars, as well as the cold war, have proved that Britain inescapably belongs; upon maintaining the American alliance which has been proved, equally, to be the indispensable guarantee of Europe's and Britain's, security; and upon the readiness of British statesmen to make use, in Britain's interest, of the forces of change in the world, in and beyond the Commonwealth, and not to fly in their face.Our task in judging the Defence Estimates is to ask whether the Government have got the manpower and weapons to carry out these tasks.
It was surprising to find in the Secretary of State's speech today and in the Memorandum itself practically no reference to our responsibilities in the alliance. I believe that the Government believe in collective defence. It would not only do a lot of good in this country, but also within the alliance, if they would acknowledge publicly on these occasions the fact that no country today can defend itself, and that we should orientate our policy to make the most effective contribution to the alliance.
We have heard a great deal about the obligation to contribute to the N.A.T.O. shield. I ask the Under-Secretary whether the seven brigade groups we have there are, in fact, up to strength: whether they do fulfil our reduced obligation of 55,000 men; and whether or not we are to maintain divisional headquarters there, which at least would give some semblance of our obligation to supply three divisions or the equivalent.
574 I would plead with the Minister of Defence to get rid of the phrase "for the time being" at the earliest opportunity, because clearly while we are the only country committed to keep troops in Europe, if we could put extra troops there it would then strengthen our position to argue with the other Allies that they are falling down on their commitments. But while we have to go through the embarrassing procedure of getting permission from the W.E.U. Council to reduce the strength of our forces in Germany, other countries can reduce them without anyone's permission. While we are in the position of publicly having to reduce our forces, we are in no state to stress in the negotiations and the various meetings of Ministers that take place the paramount necessity of strengthening the N.A.T.O. shield.
While I do not wish to go over again some of the points made in the defence debate about the nuclear situation. I think we are all agreed that the most likely source of war is not by calculation or deliberate decision on one side or the other, but by mistake. Having regard to the state of nuclear parity, at least in the sense that each side has the means of destroying the other—and I think we shall reach nuclear parity not only in the strategic but in the tactical use as well—it means that we have the important task of having a sufficient conventional force to help the balance there. While talking about tactical nuclear weapons, I would ask the Under-Secretary why it is that we have now decided to go ahead with a battalion of Honest Johns. It seems an extraordinary decision to go in for Honest Johns in 1960 when we know that this weapon was first commissioned in 1955. It must have taken a great deal of courage to buy, outside the country, weapons that are five years old.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman can also say something about the proposals of the Supreme Commander, Europe to produce a joint allied brigade with tactical nuclear weapons. The suggestion was that it should begin with a British, an American and a French battalion.
When one considers the question of tactical nuclear weapons, it is necessary to stress, as I have tried to do before, 575 the aspect of political control. My experience is that, in talking about these things with military commanders, the general to whom one talks agrees that the control should not pass below his level in the Army. If one talks to an Army commander, he thinks that he should retain the decision. The divisional commander similarly thinks that he should have the decision to use tactical nuclear weapons. I am sure that brigadiers and battalion commanders feel that they, too, should have the making of the decision. It is an immense problem which will become more acute as the size of the technical nuclear warhead becomes smaller. As things are going, one envisages the nuclear weapons going right down the scale until they become, if not battalion weapons, certainly brigade weapons.
We must face the fact that there is a conflict between the military use of these weapons and what we would deem to be the proper political decision to use them. Perhaps the best time to use tactical nuclear weapons is when the enemy is believed to be beginning to form before an attack, which is when they might be most effective. In the case of aerial use, we might need to send a hundred aircraft on a tactical bombing mission using conventional weapons, whereas one or two with nuclear weapons could fulfil the same task.
My view, which is shared on this side of the Committee, is that the first use of tactical nuclear weapons must be a political and not a military issue. I am convinced that once we use tactical nuclear weapons, we have no possibility of preventing widespread nuclear war.
That brings me to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) in opening the debate: what is the Army doing about dual-purpose training if, as we believe, the political decision to use nuclear weapons may have to be delayed to provide a pause? Is the Army being trained and equipped to deal at least with possible local incidents, or the war, that is caused by mistake, wholly by conventional means?
§ Mr. Mulley
I was taking the long view. It is no secret that attempts are being made to reduce the size of the nuclear warhead. I am taking the long view because, as, I think, my hon. Friend will agree, it will be a long time before a reasonable system of political control over these weapons can be achieved.
§ Mr. Mulley
Most assuredly, they do not exist now; but one must anticipate events in the political arena, because time will be needed for that.
When visiting units of our Army in Germany, I was distressed to find that when we had tactical discussions, the officers concerned went immediately to the blackboard and explained the whole situation in terms of nuclear strategy alone and did not accept that there could be any kind of war except nuclear war or war in which tactical nuclear weapons were used on both sides.
We want an assurance from the Government that not only are we equipping our troops to fulfil a conventional rôle but that they are being trained to do that. Just as we hope that the right hon. Gentleman is coming along our way in the matter of the importance of the dual aspect of our troops, so we hope that he will bring his officers and their training along that way too.
There is also, as I observed in Germany, a great difficulty about training and there are considerable restrictions on the use of tanks not only because of the terrain but because of the restrictions on fuel for exercises. It prevents our getting the forces up to the maximum efficiency. The fact that training is restricted also means that the Army becomes rather boring and frustrating to the troops and the officers.
In this connection, I should like to stress the importance of air transport. Considerable discussion has already taken place on this aspect. In the debate on defence, the Minister of Defence said that last year we increased 577 by three times the air-lift capabilities of our troops. This is an important and impressive statistic, but one wants to know its basis and how many troops we could move now by the aircraft that are available.
I always recall on the subject of statistics the very impressive figures once given by a colonel commanding a regiment about the incidence of illness among teetotallers and among those who were not teetotallers. He said, "When I was on a campaign, 50 per cent. of the teetotallers in my battalion went down sick, but only 10 per cent. of those who liked a drink." These seemed impressive statistics until it was discovered that he had only two teetotallers in the battalion. Therefore, when there is talk about this threefold increase we want to know the basis of the statistic. I hope that the Under-Secretary can give us more information, because I think that the whole Committee was extremely impressed by what the Secretary of State told us. [Interruption.] Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?
§ Mr. Soames
No, but I was saying to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that I wish that we had been given notice of that question if the figure interests the hon. Member, because it will be difficult to find it out in time before the end of the debate.
§ Mr. Mulley
I appreciate that there may be a difficulty. Perhaps we can be given the figure tomorrow, though I should have thought that as great play has been made of the increased mobility of our forces in the course of the debate it would have been very much in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly told the Committee about the brigade group going to Libya on an exercise. That attracted the Committee's imagination. I understood that the group would come from the Strategic Reserve. I wonder why we cannot have some of our Strategic Reserve in Germany. With this mobility we could move them, equally quickly if need be, from Germany for an exercise of this sort. We have had some discussion and we need a reply from the Under-Secretary about the future of our bases in Cyprus and in Kenya and, particularly, about the function of the Middle East Command. My 578 right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West referred to these matters and I need not go over them again. But serious and searching questions have been asked of the Government about the future of these bases and the commitments envisaged there. I hope that we shall have a reply on these subjects.
Perhaps the key topic of the debate has been manpower and the arithmetic which has fascinated the Committee over a number of years. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West and a number of other hon. Members have gone over the arithmetic of the number of troops that we expect or hope to get on the one hand and our commitments on the other.
I do not think anyone doubts—I certainly do not—the great sincerity of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. Although my experience of the barrack room is much less than his, I think we should both say that infallibility is not an attribute that goes down well in a barrack room. It is common knowledge that there is not much future for a man who is always right.
§ Mr. Mulley
However, in politics one sometimes gets advancement by being wrong, and there is a good deal of evidence of that on the other side of the Committee at the moment.
It is extremely difficult to say categorically whether or not the recruitment figures, whatever steps are taken, will produce the necessary numbers. It is agreed that the test lies in the future, and so we shall have to wait to see who is right. Where I differ from my hon. Friend is in assessing the responsibility as being that of the House of Commons as a whole. I do not see that in this limited matter of the numbers in the Army we become a Council of State whereas in all other matters the responsibility rests on the Government benches.
I take the view that if there is a failure it is wholly a Government responsibility. My proposition is quite simple. My hon. Friends and I say that we want effective defence and collective defence within the alliance. I accepted before the Prime Minister did his very simple 579 exposition of this when he came back from Washington in 1957, having discovered a year late that the time had passed, as he said, when any country, however strong, could have an independent policy. Therefore, we expect the Government, through the alliance, to provide effective defence and the men and weapons for it, and if they fail they must fully accept the responsibility because they have, after all, occupied the benches opposite for nine years.
Also, I do not, of course, have all the information that I should want before I could come to a final conclusion on this matter. It is not only a matter of the number of people recruited. It is also a matter of the use to which one puts the people that one has in the Armed Forces. Several hon. Members have made this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) made it in a very penetrating speech. Oddly enough—we should like an answer to this—the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force have referred in their memoranda to work-study operations, but apparently the Army does not seem to need any work study. Is it satisfied that every man and woman in it is properly and effectively employed? Also, we do not know to what extent civilians are used to the maximum where they can usefully be used. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing made some very pungent remarks about trained soldiers being used as cooks and so on. We need to know that the manpower in the forces is used to the maximum before we can come to a final conclusion.
One encouraging thing about the recruitment figures was that in 1959 more nine-year engagements were undertaken. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has stressed, in all these assessments it is not only bodies but man-years that one has to take into account.
In passing, I should like to draw attention to the point that was forcibly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) about National Service. I hope that now we are getting out of the National Service era, right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite will not condemn National Service men and say that they did not do a good job. As a National Service man of 1939, I resented the statement by the Minister of Defence in the defence debate 580 that one volunteer is equal to three conscripts, quite apart from the reference to Germans. There is this increasing tendency.
§ Mr. Mulley
No, I was not. I was a conscript. I was conscripted in July, 1939, for six months that turned out to be six years. In trying to fight in a covering action to Dunkirk there was every opportunity for testing the quality of people who had been so conscripted, just as life in a prisoner of war camp afterwards was a test of character which gave one a chance of assessing National Service men and Regulars. It would be unfortunate if the impression were to be created that all National Service men were bad and all Regulars were good, and I hope the Under-Secretary of State will say something on this point when he replies.
Another matter to be borne in mind when discussing recruiting more men is that one needs to consider not only the pay element but many other factors which deter people from embarking on an Army career or from continuing the career once they have started. The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. A. Glyn) made a simple but important suggestion about pay parades. There is the whole question of messing people about, keeping people waiting and treating them in a way in which they would not expect to be treated in civilian life. One knows that Army life is different from civilian occupations, but I am certain that if one considered not only pay but some of the more intangible and other reasons not connected with finance which deter people from joining or staying in the Army we should get some progress in recruiting.
In addition, as several hon. Members have said, we need to have better publicity. We need to say more about pay plus the allowances, as the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing said. The Secretary of State referred to the better pay. But if we compare a civilian job with life in the forces we need to take other considerations into account.
Finally, I should like to refer briefly to weapons. It may be that tomorrow we shall have an opportunity to discuss this matter in more detail. If time permitted, 581 I should have liked to quote what the former Minister of Supply said last year in this context. As my right hon. Friend has said, in paragraph 56 of the Memorandum, we are again in the future tense. I know that the Secretary of State said that next year he would include some reference to what had actually been supplied to the troops in the current year. Frankly, I think it is time that we knew more about what the troops are actually getting. We find, for example, in paragraph 11 that they are getting the Mobat anti-tank weapon, and in paragraph 56 we read that in the future they may be getting the Wombat, but there does not seem to be a clear decision to go ahead and equip with this weapon.
The Saladin and Saracen, for example, have been talked about for five or seven years in defence debates and yet we are told that the Army will not get them completely until the end of this year. In the Economist on 27th February—I do not know whether it is right—it is saidThe Army has designed a new armoured carrier several inches too wide to fit into the new Argosy transport plane so either a new plane or a new tank—please not both—is now needed.I would like to know whether that is right. The Malkara anti-tank weapon has been much criticised and, as has been said in previous debates, perhaps the Government are not working as closely as they might with their Allies in N.A.T.O. and W.E.U. on the integration and standardisation of weapons.
Now that the Ministry of Supply function for Army weapons has gone to the right hon. Gentleman—I know that that has given him satisfaction—he must understand that he has considerable responsibilities as well, and we shall want to know what he is doing in that respect. I know that it is extremely difficult and that Allies are not easy to work with because, oddly enough, like ourselves they think that it would be wonderful if we standardised on their weapons. That is a view we have often put. While it may be disappointing, I feel that it is only by collective defence, by planning our weapons on the basis of N.A.T.O. and Western European Union and the integration and standardisation of weapons, that we shall get the value for money which all hon. Members desire.
582 We want an effective Army. I served for six years without very much distinction in the Army and I certainly do not want the Army of today to be faced, as I and my colleagues were in 1940, with fighting in an Army without any air cover and with weapons vastly inferior to those against us. Clearly, we cannot have everything. We have to have priorities and the Army has to decide the priorities and we should be told what they are. I also believe that in the whole of our defence strategy priorities should be given to the Army, particularly to that part of its task which is to strengthen the N.A.T.O. shield, because, as I recommended to the Minister of Defence in the defence debate, I recommend to the Secretary of State, he should frame the Prime Minister's words on the wall of his office:The time has passed when countries, however strong, can follow independent policies.That goes for the Army, for defence and for foreign affairs as well.
§ 11.28 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hugh Fraser)
I will follow the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) rather briefly, because during the next half an hour I must endeavour to cover as many points as I can which have arisen in seven hours of interesting debate.
The hon. Member, as we all know, is a strategist of some European repute and he has tried to rally his forces in the last twenty minutes in a desperate effort to make an assault on the Government and shatter the feeling of a Council of State which has been engendered by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) and his hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who seems to have been driven from the stricken field.
I assure the hon. Member for Enneld, East (Mr. Mackie), who made a witty and amusing speech about his military or quasi-military experiences with W.A.A.F.s and F.A.N.Y.s, that there is a most elaborate work study organisation in the War Office.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park raised many points, some of them very wide and more for a defence debate or his deliberations in Western European Union than for the rather humble position which I occupy when speaking on 583 the Army Estimates. I should like to correct the hon. Gentleman on certain points. There is dual purpose training by our Army in B.A.O.R. but it is, of course, only realistic that considerable attention should be paid to the training for atomic and global war.
The hon. Gentleman raised a point about the strategic reserve in Germany. Because of the need to retain a balance between home and overseas postings, it would be unfair on our soldiers to post more soldiers overseas than is necessary to meet our Western European Union obligations.
There are various points that I want to raise. As the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) said, we are moving into a period when it is vital that the link should be established and maintained between the Army and the civilian population. With the ending of National Service there will no longer be a civilian in nearly every family who has a link with the Army.
On behalf of all hon. Members, I should like to pay a special tribute to those voluntary bodies which are of such immense benefit to our soldiers. S.S.A.F.A. handles family problems all over the world, and in 1958 it dealt with over 60,000 cases. The Forces Help Society and Lord Roberts Workshops dealt with about 48,000 cases and the Officers' Association with about 27,000 cases in 1958. There is also the Council of Voluntary Welfare Workers which co-ordinates the activities of about 12 religious and philanthropic bodies who look after the interests of the troops throughout the world. All these people are doing valuable work. Finally, I should like to thank hon. Members for the help they give in bringing to our notices individual cases where help is required.
This afternoon we have been discussing the build-up of the Army. I think that we ought to consider some of the problems of the rundown of the Army which goes on at the same time. The problems are often those of heartache for individuals, for units and for institutions or districts losing their connections with the Army.
The placing of people coming out of the forces has been satisfactory. Of special note is the fact that we are now able to place other ranks, especially those 584 with N.C.O. and warrant officer experience, in the sort of job they ought to have when they come out of the Army instead of their going into jobs which are below their potential ceiling. With the help of the Minister of Labour we are trying to see that these people get decent jobs and we find that when the attention of industry is drawn to these people there is a great demand for them. This resettlement is an important job, and the other aspects of the rundown are also going well. Since 1956, we have closed 62 ordnance depots, including 17 in this financial year.
The hon. Member for Fulham raised a point about relations with our industrial workers. These are good, both in the Royal ordnance factories and elsewhere.
Medical services have not been mentioned this afternoon. As everybody knows, there will undoubtedly be a problem of recruitment in the years ahead. There are problems here, but these problems can be overcome and they are now receiving attention. I am happy to report to the Committee, moreover, that Miss Wigg is joining the Q.A.R.A.N.C. I am sure that she will give us far less trouble than her illustrious father. I wish her well and welcome her into the Army.
I would also point out that W.R.A.C. recruitment has risen slightly. The W.R.A.C. is doing a good job and we have various steps to take in connection with the Corps which may be of importance. The appointment of Dr. Margaret Yates, as Adviser on Women's Recruiting, will be of assistance.
I now turn to the speech of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). He raised the important point of officers' pensions, as did other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson). This is a perennial problem, and a very difficult one to solve. It raises issues far beyond the conditions of Army officers alone. It affects State pensioners of all kinds, whatever jobs they may have done. Improvements can be made only by way of the Pensions (Increase) Acts and, in the case of the forces, the Royal Warrant. In August, 1959, there was such an increase of between 4 per cent. and 12 per cent. and, in the case of widows, 10 per cent.
This was a bad point from the point of view of recruiting, and it was raised 585 in the Grigg Report. If we had been able to keep all pensions up to the level of the new pensions the sum involved would, I think, have been between £15 million and £20 million a year. We cannot go any further in this matter, or even accept the system which my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham advocated, of trying to spread the increase over a period.
§ Mr. Fraser
I always give consideration to the remarks of my hon. Friend.
Another important question is that of equipment. As the right hon. Gentleman said, this is the permanent problem of the War Department. Hon. Member after hon. Member wants more information. We give them information and, by doing so, we give away the seed corn for next year. We say that we shall build a certain thing this year, and when it comes into production it is no longer of interest.
One or two interesting developments in equipment coming into service occurred last year. There was the Thunderbird, and the lightening of the G.1098 scale. There was a large variety of wireless equipment, including the Manpack set for S.A.S. patrols, which was a very difficult thing to design.
The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of our bases. We believe that the argument for the retention of certain bases can best be put by reminding hon. Members of the happy relationship achieved with two quite independent members of the Commonwealth, Malaya and Singapore, where British troops have been retained. The almost pusillanimous attitude of certain hon. Members in this connection is entirely unwarranted. These bases are for the protection of the British Commonwealth and the interests of its people. As time goes on we may find that our soldiers, sailors and airmen are welcomed by the people of other countries achieving independence.
Some hon. Members talked about fleet trains. For this country it would mean not one but several, and the Front Bench opposite would be joining with the hon. Member for Dudley in suggesting conscription for the Navy, to keep the fleet trains in being. I will endeavour to answer the other points 586 raised by the right hon. Member by letter.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) raised several points, including the recruitment of Gurkhas. My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) and other hon. Members also raised the issue of more Gurkha troops. No one can pay a higher tribute to the Gurkhas than that paid this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North, who is so well acquainted with them. I should like to add my voice in paying tribute to these excellent soldiers. Whether we can recruit beyond the present numbers is governed by the Tripartite Agreement among Nepal, India and ourselves, and that is a matter for the Foreign Office. I cannot comment on it tonight.
I am happy to say that this year a Gurkha contingent is coming to this country, and I hope that at the various displays, such as the Royal Tournament and the Edinburgh Tattoo, and perhaps at the Guard of Honour for His Majesty the King of Nepal when he comes here, many of our people who have not had the experience of seeing these excellent soldiers will be able to do so.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park and the Leader of the Liberal Party asked what was the purpose of the mobile force in N.A.T.O. The formation of a N.A.T.O. international air-transportable mobile force was proposed by SACEUR last year. For the United Kingdom's part, we are happy to put at his disposal a reinforced air-transportable battalion to be provided by B.A.O.R. This is in the planning stage, and when the plan has been made in detail we shall be happy to report to the House how it is proposed that it shall work.
§ Mr. Fraser
It is for reinforcement, at the central disposal of SACEUR, and within his control. It is a fire brigade force at the behest of the Supreme Commander.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) asked about the scientific 587 training of senior officers. We are working on the problem. There are a number of courses during the year. We are encouraging officers coming up to try to obtain a degree at Shrivenham as well as going to the Staff College. The ideal is for future senior officers to have been to both. I should like to answer several other points which the right hon. Member raised, but I have only a quarter-of-an-hour left and I must pass to the speeches of other hon. Members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire raised a variety of points before he joined forces with the hon. Member for Dudley. One of his main points concerned establishments. He asked, "If, in certain instances, we are below establishment when we have 240,000 men in the Army, why do we believe that the units will be up to establishment when we have only 165,000 or 170,000 men?" The short answer is that we are going through a period of both build-up and rundown. I referred to this at the beginning of my speech. It is a difficult period of amalgamation and we are winding up the training machine which has been necessary to produce the conscript force which we have had up to now.
I come to the main issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire and the hon. Member for Dudley, that of abandoning our idea of an all-volunteer Army. Here, I join forces with other hon. Members from all sides of the House, including the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)— an ally of the hon. Member for Dudley —the leader of the Liberal Party, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer), in saying that we are determined to see that the volunteer Army is a success. I am quite certain that it will be a success. Both the hon. Member for Dudley and my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire have spoken courageously, but I think that they are wrong and we are right. We will get the men, and I believe that we shall perhaps produce the most efficient Army that this country has ever seen. I hope that we shall.
There are many other matters which right hon. and hon. Members have raised, and one specifically was brought up by the hon. Member for Dudley, who is 588 such a mine of information. Of course, one of his techniques is to give wrong information so that I shall give him the right stuff. I will not give it him about landing craft tonight. I will, however, tell him that his estimate of the landing craft we have available is a gross exaggeration of what there is. [Laughter.] Gross underestimate, I mean, of course. I wanted to confuse the hon. Gentleman by giving information which he could not digest. Clearly, I have succeeded.
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. Member failed to do a simple calculation of adding the Army and Navy figures together. He will find the number larger than he purported to believe.
I turn again to what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing said. He quite rightly raised the question of officers serving till 55 and the importance of their promotion not being blocked. That is absolutely vital. I agree with him. I believe that it is all right if looked at in the long term. In the short term there are special arrangements. I am glad to say that under the new scheme, as opposed to the present scheme, the chances of promotion from major to lieutenant-colonel, which are about 60 per cent. at the moment, will increase, under the new scheme, to just under 70 per cent. This is a clear advantage in the rates of promotion. I am glad my hon. and gallant Friend raised the point.
My hon. and gallant Friend expressed doubt about Malkara. It is air transportable. That is of value. Whatever doubts he may have I hope that they will be relieved by the thought that where it is impossible to get heavy tanks into action through stockpiling or other action we can use this formidable weapon.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
My hon Friend will agree that the jeep-towed anti-tank gun is also air-transportable?
§ Mr. Fraser
Yes, but it has not the striking power of this weapon at certain ranges.
589 The hon. Member of the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) seems to have set like the sun in that region, so I shall not refer to his speech. He is not here.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
If the hon. Gentleman would care to refer to my hon. Friend's speech I will convey to my hon. Friend what the hon. Gentleman says.
§ Mr. Fraser
I think that we can confer afterwards, so that we shall both report to the hon. Member what I had proposed to say.
I turn to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South, who raised several matters. One of them was the question of the Territorial Army. Many other hon. Members mentioned it, too. I think it is a matter of pride in this Committee that the Territorial Army should today be going from strength to strength, that it should be up to a strength of 120,000 and more. Some hon. Members have said there is a need to define precisely the rôle of the Territorial Army, but I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) was right when he said it would be foolish to define too closely the rôle of a force which may have to undertake a multitude of different tasks.
Let us just look at what the future holds for us. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. I. Fraser) has already drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact—and I think that the whole Committee was impressed by it—that one of the chief aspects of the military art today is insurance against improbables. That is precisely why we have got to keep the Territorial Army as a force which can undertake a variety of tasks and rôles. Looking ahead into the future, we see a smaller Regular Army, a reserve which inevitably is falling with the ending of conscription, and we see, therefore, that these people in the T.A. are bound to have a more important part to play.
Of course, these problems are always being considered by the War Office. Especially do we have to consider in the widest context the question of the reserves in this country in general. But I believe that at this stage to go beyond what we have been able to say about the T.A., to try to tie them down too much to some specific rôle, would be 590 committing the precise error which, at this stage, we want to avoid.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) raised various points including the fleet train, on which he was keen. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West if these ideas sprang from this rather natural Anglo connection from the extreme North. He asked about the N.A.T.O. mobile reserve, and I hope that I have gone some way to answer that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Alder-shot (Sir E. Errington) raised various points about voluntary retirement. Here, the Army must see, as it always has, that there is some penalty for retirement before the prescribed date. If the age is less than 43 there will be a 10 per cent. penalty on the pension; if between 43 and 50, 5 per cent.; and if more than 50 there will be no reduction. This is an improvement on what the arrangements were before.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington raised a variety of points. He is not with us and has written a very kind note to say why. The hon. Member for Dudley has also gone. I was going to refer to his very good speech on the question of the volunteer Army. He had interesting things to say about equipment which, I hope, will be inwardly digested, thought out and accepted by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. Gentleman is dealing with those hon. Members who are present. I would like a reply to my questions.
§ Mr. Fraser
I would like to come now to the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, West (Mr. Forbes Hendry). He put forward some very good points about the T.A. and the problem of achieving the proper link between the T.A. and the reserves. I congratulate him on a very fine speech.
The hon. Member for Fulham raised two points about the ordnance factories and the Ministry of Supply. I think that we are right in taking them over. There will be no shortage of materials unless one gets massive production as during the war. Regarding the points about the relations with the workers in the R.O.F.s, we have taken over most of the 591 R.O.F. organisation and works relations are as good, and no less efficient than they were.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clap-ham (Dr. Glyn) asked about married accommodation and hirings. I am glad to say that our programme for married accommodation and hirings is going fairly well. The overall position overseas is that we have 2,697 quarters and multiple hirings either under construction or being planned. In the United Kingdom no less than 5,260 officers' and other ranks' quarters are under construction or in the planning stage. This is quite a good advance and goes some way towards meeting our problem.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) raised a variety of interesting and controversial points. Some of them I find difficult to answer at this stage. One specific one is the question of how much money is spent on the microbiological institution at Porton. I can say immediately that this sum was neither given by the Ministry of Supply in detail nor will it be given by me.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud made an interesting speech and asked a variety of searching questions, to which, frankly, I do not know the answers. I am glad that he raised his wide questions about tanks and other things. The tank we are now building will be the best. We must arm ourselves with the weapons which our possible opponents have—there is no question at this stage of a lot of revolutionary design in Russian tank prat-time and building. My hon. Friend raised other points about local authorities and recruiting. The situation has been diffi- 592 cult but, I am happy to report, is now improving in several areas concerning entry to schools and in the relationship we have established with education authorities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North raised several points. We must bear in mind that one of our main objectives concerning officer formation is that we should not rely on one place alone but should try to draw our officers much more widely, not merely from the Royal Military Academy, but also from the universities and elsewhere. I would hate the Army to be constricted and confined to one military academy. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton made a speech of great interest to us all, to which I have already referred.
That brings me to the end of the speeches of hon. and right hon. Members. It remains for me to say how much the War Office takes heart from this debate, takes heart from the interest shown by hon. Members throughout the House of Commons in these problems of the Army and is confident that, with their support, what my right hon. Friend has been able to achieve will bear even greater fruit in the years to come.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 317,000, 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 1961.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.