§ Mr. Speaker
Before calling the Secretary of State for War, in the hope of avoiding having to interrupt hon. Members I think it might be for the convenience of the House if I once again draw attention to the operation of the rules of order in this matter. I see that last year, on 12th November, I referred to the Ruling of my predecessor when he said:Only matters contained in the Act which it is proposed to continue can be discussedand I went on to say, using his words,that if hon. Members'treated the Army Act, 1955, as though it were a Bill and made a speech appropriate to the debate on the Third Reading of the Bill … they would be in order."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 621.]I went on to point out that if hon. Members made suggestions for Amendments, that would be out of order, and I recalled that my predecessor, when further questioned on his Ruling, ruled out of order discussion on operational matters and drew attention also to the fact that the words "terms and conditions" in the Statute related to the period of time for which the term of enlistment operated.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Arising out of the Ruling which you have now given, Mr. Speaker, it will be within your recollection and the recollection of the House that Mr. Speaker Morrison ruled as you have indicated, but on an earlier occasion he had said also that matters which broadly fell within the scope of what the Army calls A and Q, not, of course, pushed too far, would be in order. I take it that the Ruling you have now given is a reaffirmation of that principle.
§ Mr. Speaker
I wish to follow my predecessor's Ruling. I think the magic in what the hon. Member has just said lies in the words "not pushed too far".
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Further to that point, Mr. Speaker, for the purposes of greater accuracy—to use language which you occasionally use—I have the OFFICIAL REPORT Of the debate in November, 1958, and I have also Volume 613, which contains the report of the debate last year. When I read the debate, I observed that the subject of 1453 Cyprus was discussed. Various references were made to that subject, not only on the subject of discipline, but on the subject of the deployment of our troops in Cyprus and, indeed, elsewhere.
It seems to me that, although we are precluded from debating more than is contained in the Act itself, there are various implications deriving from the Act, and I hope, Sir, that you will exercise the utmost leniency if hon. Members venture to deal with the implications of what is contained in the Act.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have to discharge what I conceive to be my duty to the House, which is to maintain the rules of order. As an illustration, I rather suspect that in part of the debate to which the right hon. Gentleman refers—I do not remember exactly—there was a maiden speech, and one at once finds oneself in some difficulty in exercising indulgence and not being quite so stern with a maiden speaker as one might be in the case of someone like the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 11.10 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)
I beg to move,That the Army Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, 1960, a draft of which was laid before this House on 1st November, be approved.Like, I am sure, all right hon. and hon. Members, I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for the reaffirmation of the Ruling which has been given hitherto about what is in and what is out of order in the debate. It is a little difficult sometimes for those of us who are profoundly interested in these matters to keep within the rules of order. I have no doubt that what you, Sir, have told us will be of great help in the conduct of the debate.
This is the last time that we shall be considering the extension of the present Army Act. As the House knows, we shall shortly be considering a new Army Bill which will come into force at the beginning of 1962. Hon. Members will, I think, recall that the Bill will in due course be referred to a Select Committee, and this will be the occasion to consider the whole structure of the Act in a way in which. I have no doubt, it will be impossible under the rules of order for us to do today.
It is also the first time that I have had the honour of speaking at this Box in a debate on the Army. The occasion 1454 comes, from my point of view, conveniently just after my first visit to the Army in Germany. I am glad to be able to report that the men are in fine heart and show no sign whatsoever of distress at having to live under the shadow of the Act which we are considering today.
I suppose that our chief task this morning is to consider how the Army Act impinges on the life of the soldier. I think that I cannot do better than follow the established custom by giving some details of how Army discipline has been working during the past twelve months. I am glad to say that the evidence before me suggests that it is working well. The number of courts-martial has run this year to about 3,400. This is a very low percentage. There were only seven applications to the Courts-Martial (Appeal) Court. Incidentally, in none was the finding reversed. These figures show without any doubt that the standards by which courts-martial are conducted are very high indeed.
Although the standards of discipline may be more pronounced in the Army than in civilian life, not many soldiers have had to face courts-martial during their careers and the crime figures—this is important—particularly for the lower age groups, compare very favourably with those for the male civilian population. The important thing for the law-abiding majority is the way in which the routine disciplne of the Army affects their daily lives.
Hon. Members will recall that my predecessor announced a year ago that the punishment of confinement to barracks was to disappear at the beginning of 1960. Restriction of privileges was chosen as a suitable substitute which lacked many of the minor irritations of the old system. I have heard no adverse criticism of this change. We have tried to ensure the maximum freedom of the soldier consistent with the need for a disciplined Army. Restrictions on the wearing of plain clothes off duty have been reduced to the minimum and permanent passes which enable the soldier to quit barracks for up to 48 hours while not on duty may now be awarded after sixteen weeks of recruit training. We have cut down the amount of time which recruits spend on cleaning tasks and, where possible, the cleaning of clothing and equipment, as well as the cleaning of barracks, undertaken during 1455 working hours. To put it in the vernacular, we can honestly say that "bull" is on the way out.
These may seem small things to mention here in Parliament, but it is the little things which loom large in our daily lives, and particularly in the lives of soldiers. Petty irritations can do much to discourage the enthusiastic soldier, and it is important that all should know of our efforts to remove them. Everyone in authority in the Army today is well aware that more remains to be done, and we are examining every aspect of Service life to that end. Hon. Members may say, "Have you not any problems?" Indeed we have, but there are bound to be problems in any organisation as large as the Army, and they arise both here at home and overseas. In the main, they can be solved by forthright administration and by sensible interpretation of the Army Act.
Hon. Members will recall that Part I of the Army Act deals with enlistment. My chief problem is to get recruits, and I must remove every obstacle to recruiting that I possibly can. With the end of National Service, the Army needs every good man it can get. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will allow me to follow the example of my predecessor so that I may say something about this problem and the factors which affect it.
My recent visit to Germany has led me to the conclusion that there are certain things which, if I may put it this way, are spoiling the atmosphere of recruiting. For instance, the soldier does not understand what appears to be the almost continuous highly-coloured comments, sometimes from this House but more frequently, I think, from the newspapers, about the life he leads and the things he does. There is a sort of constant sniping from the sidelines. Sometimes the soldiers are said not to be training enough and to be getting slack; or they are told that their exercises are too large, too dangerous or too expensive. Sometimes they are said to be in the lap of luxury, and at other times they are said to be the poor relations. Often the admittedly serious but happily rare incidents of crime or indiscipline—for instance, a certain amount of chaps getting "tight"—are made to reflect on the conduct and decency of the whole Army. But, from the point of view of recruiting, perhaps 1456 the most damaging thing of all is that there should be a controversy about the size of the Army in which the men are being asked to serve.
I therefore feel that I must try to put this problem of the 165,000–180,000 Army into its proper perspective. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence recently reaffirmed, the figure of 165,000 is what he calls the floor and that of 180,000 odd is the ceiling. We intend to recruit to as near the ceiling as we can, always within the framework of the Act. The making of plans for long-term recruiting, if they are to be practical, is bound to involve an element of speculation. The Government, indeed any Government, have to take into consideration a wide variety of aspects of national interest in doing their crystal gazing. They do not plan for extremes. That would be quite impracticable. They plan for what they think is most likely to happen and then they keep up their sleeves emergency action to be taken if need be.
In our private lives, when we plan ahead our family budget, we do not take into consideration in what we spend every week the fact that our house may be burgled or burned down. We insure against that sort of thing. Therefore in the complex and almost unbelievably expensive field of defence, we cannot plan on all the worst assumptions. To do that we should need to have three-quarters of the nation permanently under arms; and would not our potential enemies enjoy that, for we should be ruined in no time at all.
The end of National Service presents us with a recruiting challenge, but I am sure that in taking this action the Government have done what the great majority of the nation believes to be the right and sensible thing. If the operational situation worsens—and this is the important thing—or the strength of the Army falls significantly below 165,000; or if the period when we are at our lowest strength is considerably lengthened, then we would naturally have to put into operation some special measures. That is exactly the reason for paragraph 48 of the 1957 Defence White Paper. If, however, things go reasonably well, as we sincerely hope they will, we shall, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, be able to make do while the Army builds up.
1457 Let me have a rather closer look for a minute or two at our chances of succeeding in our recruiting aims. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture said in the summer that we should on current trends, reach our lower target in the early days of 1963. I am sure he is right. Even the latest recruiting figures which have been published, and which are regarded by some as being depressing, do, I assure the House, show clearly that this is still the case. I do not want to speculate in any precise terms, but I believe that we may well be able to do better than our minimum target by 1963 if we go flat out—and we mean to go flat out.
I have been talking lately to young men who have done their National Service—what might be called a sort of Gallop poll—and I find that there is a section of them who decided not to go in for Regular enlistment because they already had jobs lined up for them in civilian life. They never intended to do anything more in the Forces. They went into National Service and then went back into a job, and that is bound to eliminate a large number of people As to the remainder, I discovered that in the majority of cases those who had decided not to join up had been influenced either by their "Mum" or by their girl friend.
In the War Office, we are engaged in a large-scale exercise to see what can be done, within the bounds of efficiency and proper discipline, to eliminate the sort of things which are still making some families discourage their sons, and also their daughters' boy-friends, from going into the Army. In addition, we are planning a campaign to give the Army a great national appeal, to make the nation more conscious of what the Army has to offer, to try to ensure that every family realises that in the modern Army there is a career which is worthy of consideration by every young man, and, indeed, every young girl—I might say, to make the Army the housewives' choice.
This all means publicity. We have been carrying out an experiment in recruiting by using television. It was only an experiment, but the House may like to have details of the results so far. The experiments have been carried out in three television areas—the Midlands, 1458 South Wales and the West, and Ulster. The experimental campaigns have lasted for five or six weeks each and we have been showing specially prepared short cinema films in the advertising periods. They have appeared at peak periods during weekends.
To give hon. Members a picture of the results, I should like to give the House the figures for enlistments during the relevant periods in 1959, when we were not advertising by television, and the enlistments during the same periods this year, and I will indicate the number of enlistments which, on current trends, we should have expected to get during those periods. It is a little difficult to do this without a graph, but if hon. Members read this afterwards they can put it in tabulated form.
In the Midlands area, there were 102 enlistments in the 1959 period. This year, with television, there were 127 enlistments, as compared with an expected trend of only 85. In the South Wales and West area, the enlistments were 40 in 1959 and 69 this year against a current trend of only 33. In Ulster, the enlistments during the 1959 period were 35 and during the corresponding period this year they were 45, against a trend of only 23. These figures, in the view of myself and my colleagues, are sufficient to make us realise that what I might call "telerecruiting" is worth pursuing, and I am considering a large-scale national recruiting campaign through this medium.
I do not set myself up as a prophet—I should be very foolish to enter the lists—nor will I indulge in wild pessimism or, equally, wild optimism——
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
Can my right hon. Friend give an indication of the months over which that experiment took place?
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is very interesting, but I have the recruiting figures for the month of September before me. That, I think, is the period to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred.
§ Mr. Profumo indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Oh, it is not. It is relative to what the right hon. Gentleman was saying. I find that enlistments in September, 1959, including boys and apprentices, totalled 3,375, whereas in September, 1960, there were only 3,011.
§ Mr. Profumo
I am grateful to hon. Members for asking those questions because I want this to be understood. My hon. Friend asked about the period of the experiments. They did not coincide with the calendar months. Some were the end of September, but the majority were in October.
What the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said underlines what I am trying to point out to the House. General recruiting figures, all over the country, have not been as satisfactory as I should like, but in the areas where we have done this experiment the figures have, I do not say jumped up, but at least gone up so significantly that I am led to think that some "man-appeal" is being put over in television—I have no doubt about it. I do not want to over-emphasise this, but I am sure that it is one of the stops that we must pull out if we are to do what I hope to do, and that is to do better than the 165,000 figure by the early part of 1963.
As I have said, I do not want to prophesy. Neither would we be right in being pessimistic, which is a terribly bad thing for recruiting. There would be nothing worse than for the nation to say that this will not work. I do not suggest that hon. Members should not be critical. What I am saying is that it is sometimes rather difficult for a Minister to give all the facts and figures which he would like to give, because some of them are not publishable, for all sorts of reasons. But I do not want to let our enemies think that we shall not have the sort of Army which we need to have. Neither do I want the nation to become so optimistic that people imagine that there is not a recruiting problem. There is, and I hope that we shall be able to get on top of it. I am doing my best to ensure that no respectable means of obtaining recruits is neglected and I see no reason to assume that the extra efforts that we are making will not have their effect.
There are responsible experts who still forecast good results. I notice, incidentally, that one newspaper this morning seems to say that we will be 15,000 short by 1963. I think that this is another case of those "damned dots" having got into the wrong place. I assure the House, however, that there is absolutely nothing to suggest that those 1460 figures are anywhere near right. Meanwhile, until we reach the stage of having an all-Regular Army, there are thousands of National Service men who are still subject to the Act which we are considering today.
It would be wrong to let this occasion pass without paying a tribute on behalf of the Government to all the National Service men who have borne a large part of the burden of the defence of the country during this period which is now coming to a close. I include not only them, but also their families. I believe that most of these young men have gained something from their period of service with the Forces, but many of them, and their families too, have had to make sacrifices and to meet hardships. The nation owes them a considerable debt and I believe that every hon. Member, on all sides, will follow me in a simple but profound expression of our gratitude.
When we are considering matters of defence, we are sometimes apt to overlook the important part which the women's services play in our Armed Forces. I am in order, Mr. Speaker, because they, too, come under the Army Act. Our recruiting efforts must certainly not overlook them. The reason that I have not expatiated about the women's services today is only, in the interest of the House, that I do not want to speak for longer than is absolutely necessary. We all have a duty to do everything in our power to let people know what a fine career the Army is. It offers material rewards, and the satisfaction that comes from performing a task which is worth while, a contribution to the defence of the free world.
I ask the House to agree to the continuance of the Army Act for the year 1961.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I intervene in this debate for the first time, and I am very well aware, Mr. Speaker, of what you called last year the problems of the pitfalls that exist for the unwary; but, in the light of what you were good enough to say at the beginning of the debate, and, if I may say so, of the admirably efficient way in which the Secretary of State kept himself in order all the way through, I will do my best to 1461 profit by both and avoid being one of the unwary who fall into these pitfalls.
In the Secretary of State's speech there were three different things on which I should like to comment. At the beginning of his speech he gave us an interesting and, to me, an illuminating set of figures about the position of discipline and of charges in the Army particularly among the younger men. I think myself that he was quite right in suggesting that one of the things which does in fact militate against the Army being a popular career is the extent to which this position is misunderstood and is exaggerated.
I agree with what the Secretary of State said about some of the things that have a bad effect on recruiting. I will come to that in a moment, but I think it is important that we take every opportunity we can to put this picture of a set of young men who are not only very well behaved indeed by any standards applicable to themselves but who also bear, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, very good comparsion with their fellows who are not in uniform but in ordinary civilian life outside. I am sure that getting that clear helps very much indeed.
But the right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about something that seems to me very important here—the difference in the Army that we in fact have to deal with, the difference in the way in which men—individuals—must be handled. He talked about a reduction of cleaning tasks, and I think that this is really very important indeed. We finish with National Service now, and very shortly we shall have only a Regular Army, which will mean, especially if the recruiting campaign he talked about, on television and elsewhere, should be as successful as he seemed to think it would be—that we shall have in the Army a very different kind of chap with a different outlook—whose family will have a different outlook—on the Army from that which many have had in past years. This will mean a tremendous change in the way in which those members of the Forces are handled by the Army at all levels.
It is not just a matter of getting rid of cleaning tasks, although I think that is important. It is the whole question of man management, the approach to the fellows, and we have got to be very in- 1462 sistent, I think, to the Army that they will be very much judged now, and the results will very much depend on, the way in which they measure up at the beginning of this new Army to the change which it requires from them in the way in which they handle the fellows in it and deal with them. They will not do an effective job unless they do that.
Next the Secretary of State went on to deal with enlistment, and obviously the primary job and primary purpose for which we are continuing the Act is to see that we get the recruits who are required to get the kind of Army he was talking about and which we need. He offered one or two comments which I thought, were a bit dangerous about the spoiling effect, as he called it, on the atmosphere of highly-coloured comments on the soldier's life. Clearly, one must, of course, be restrained about this. There must be a sense of proportion, but, after all, our Army is serving a democracy. It is an Army in a democratic country, and the Army itself must, of course, understand that in a democracy one of the differences is that things like this do in fact get examined and get examined by the representatives of the people in this House. I will not say any more on that. I merely wanted to make it clear that it should not be supposed that I was going all the way along the road that the Secretary of State, I think, may be taking us.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the most damning thing for recruiting is the controversy on what is to be the size of the Army. With respect, I do not think that the controversy over the size of the Army is the really damaging thing. I think that the damaging thing is the uncertainty that there is about what is in Ministers' minds. Every Minister who speaks on this uses different words, or uses the same words in different contexts, and gives an entirely different approach to it. I think that this is the really damaging thing, and Ministers must blame themselves for the degree of double talk that has gone on about the Army and its position after 1963, and not blame us for trying to clear the situation up or for trying to get the facts placed on the record.
We had another example of that to-day. The Secretary of State gave what I should have thought was an overoptimistic acccunt—however, that is his 1463 judgment—of the position in 1963; but he went on to talk as though this reflected absolute unison between what he was saying today and what the Minister of Defence said in that speech at Devizes. In fact it cannot be pretended that these two things are the same. What the Secretary of State said today is not the same as what the Minister of Defence said at Devizes. I have the reference here.
The Secretary of State made a very careful reservation of the position for the period before we reached somewhere nearer the floor than the ceiling, if that period were unreasonably long. He carefully reserved to the Government the decision about taking what he called special measures. One of the special measures, one assumes, would refer either to a form of selective National Service or general National Service, or something of this kind. But the Minister of Defence at Devizes went right the way down the river and wiped out, as far as I could see, any possibility of doing that at all.
That was why some of us felt it necessary to ask the Government whether the reference to paragraph 48 of the White Paper really still stood or did not, and we then got from the Home Secretary an absolute, binding pledge about it which seemed to be quite different, and was quite different, from what the Minister of Defence had said at Devizes, and what the Secretary of State for War has today put out, in much more measured, considered terms than the Home Secretary did, and in much more considered terms than the Minister of Defence did at Devizes.
I am bound to say that, as long as Ministers go on in this way, so long will it have a bad effect, I think, on the chaps in the Forces, and on the prospect of recruiting itself. I do not myself want to encourage the idea that there will be a reintroduction of any form of National Service. I suspect myself that there is nothing that is so much in the way of recruiting a Regular Army from the sort of chaps we should have to have anyway now as any idea that this is floating about. Therefore, I can understand the desire of the Secretary of State for War to get it as far in the background as he can, because 1464 of the effect it has on his success in recruiting soldiers. I understand that. I will not make any more of it, but Ministers must come cleaner, and be more consistent in what they have to say, than they have been in the past.
I was interested in what the right hon. Gentleman said about the prospects in getting the figures and about the chance of getting them in the early part of 1963. I shall not go into the details of the figures, because on this subject I much prefer to be instructed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). My impression, looking at the September figures, was exactly the same as that put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) to the Minister in his intervention. They did not seem to me to bear the rosy and optimistic view that the Minister put on them, but it is his judgment and I repeat that I do not want to make matters worse.
I could not myself now go as far as my right hon. Friend, who did this job at the Dispatch Box a year ago, went when he felt able to say that he shared the then Minister's view about the likelihood of getting the numbers of men in 1963. Looking at it now, it appears to me that by the beginning of 1963 it is certainly out of the question for even the "floor." The likelihood of getting that floor in the early part of 1963 now begins to look doubtful. I am not disputing that it may be reached later on, and I am not disputing that the curve, as some people say, may be projected and taken above that later on. But the period during which we shall be below the floor seems to me dangerously likely to be a reasonably long one.
I mention this only because the Minister gave the opposite point of view and because the point of this is that unless we face this problem we shall not have the other decisions taken that enable such an Army to do its job at all. It would be out of order to talk about the purposes of the Army in that sense, and I do not intend to do so, but we must have at the back of our minds that if this is to be the position a great many other decisions should be taken and planned for now, and I do not mean the question of any possibility of some selective service.
In Part IV of the Act, for instance, there is a reference to the whole question 1465 of the Army's mobility of movement and the question of air transportability and of the design of weapons for that purpose. All these are decisions which cannot be taken in 1963 but have to be taken today in order to have the chance in 1963 of making them effective. What is worrying me about the double-talk among Ministers about the figures is that it is being used, perhaps for financial reasons, as an excuse for not taking decisions in this respect which I should have thought now plainly ought to be taken and will be needed to have been taken by 1963.
There is nothing that will militate more against enlisting people for the Service in accordance with the Act than that a feeling should grow up that when they get into the Army their services will not be used in an exciting, sensible and logical way, because they will lack the things that will enable that to be done. Therefore, if we are to do our duty here we must say this as plainly as we can and hope that in reply to the debate we shall be told about these things and especially about transportability and the design of new weapons to make that effective
There are other hon. Members who are better equipped to examine these matters in detail than I am, but before I conclude I should like to mention one or two problems with which the Minister did not deal in his speech. When we turn over to a complete Regular Army one of the things that we shall have and which has grown up in the last 20 years is a much closer contact between the soldier and his Member of Parliament and the House. I hope that there will be no suspicion that the Army, having National Service now behind it, will show any desire to disturb the freedom of approach to Members of Parliament that grew up during National Service.
Obviously we cannot treat the soldier completely as a civilian, but the more we give him maximum freedom the better for him and for recruitment, and the better for the nation if contact between the Army and other institutions is not lost.
I do not know what the Minister thinks about boy entrants and apprenticeships. We are all the time commenting on the lack of apprenticeship opportunities in civilian life these days. My constituency 1466 is in a very important industrial engineering part of the Midlands where there used to be a great tradition of apprenticeship. Other hon. Members from that area know that one of the great preoccupations of parents nowadays is the difficulty of obtaining apprenticeships for school leavers in the old sense and in the numbers that people want them. It seems to me that the Army offers opportunities here that are being limited in civilian life. I wonder whether more publicity could not be given to the possibility of apprenticeships in the Army, emphasising not so much the training of soldiers but of skilled men. It may well be that the Army can profit by the constriction of opportunities in civilian lire.
I do not know whether, in the same way, it is practicable to consider a rather shorter commitment for boy entrants than that which they generally take on, though it is true that it will have to be a fairly long engagement anyway because it is an expensive business to train these people. But if we were to put the emphasis on training them as skilled men as well as soldiers, the idea that they would get this valuable skilled training and a period of commitment with the colours of a length which would mean that they came out into civilian like skilled tradesmen at an age which would still make it possible and attractive to industry to take them, might be a way of encouraging the "mums" to think of this as a way for their boys to get themselves trained and start themselves for their life's job.
I shall listen carefully to what others have to say in the debate and I conclude with a point that I want to leave with the Secretary of State. If I were Minister with the responsibility at the moment I should look much more worried about it than the right hon. Gentleman does. It might well be that then it would be politic for me not to look worried and that may be the reason why he does not. I hope that the other decisions that will have to be taken to make sure that the Army we are hoping to enlist under the Act by 1963, on a sensible interpretation of the figures, are now in train to make that Army effective and that we shall have an army different not only because it is Regular and different not only because it is small but also different because it is a differently organised Army with a different approach to its mobility.
§ 11.50 a.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
We must all welcome the opportunity afforded today for having a debate on recruiting. I was very glad that my right hon. Friend paid very much attention to this important subject in his opening speech.
It would probably be out of order to say just why recruiting is so particularly important at the present moment and out of order to talk about commitments, and for that reason I do not propose to do so. But it is enough, I think, to say that there has never been a moment in our history when it was more important for us in peace-time to have sufficient numbers of trained men.
My right hon. Friend spoke of the targets—of the floor and the ceiling, as it has now become fashionable to call them—of 165,000 and 180,000 men. I have never accepted either of those targets as being adequate to meet our needs. In my view, the Government in 1957 approached the problem in the wrong way. In their completely understandable anxiety to get rid of conscription they worked out how many men they could, with luck, hope to get by voluntary recruiting and then decided what use to make of them, instead of deciding how many men was the minimum with which they could manage and then deciding how they were to get them. It was a case of putting the cart firmly before the horse.
However, those targets have been fixed. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend speak with as much optimism as, if not more optimism than, his predecessors in the debate last year and the year before, and say not only that he was confident that he would reach the figure of 165,000 by January, 1963, but that he hoped to do even better than that and also that he hoped ultimately to reach the higher and rather more convincing figure of 180,000.
I wonder whether the Under-Secretary of State will later tell us how the figures are likely to run between the end of 1960 and the beginning of 1963. I imagine that there is likely to be a bit of a trough then between the present figure of 230,000 and the ultimate figure of 165,000 or better. I wonder whether the Under-Secretary could tell us when the bottom of the trough is likely to be reached and how low it is likely to go.
1468 There is another very important point which I think we shall be in order in discussing, and that is the question of a balanced Army. Not long ago it was very much the fashion to extol the importance of the teeth weapons at the expense of the tail. I think that tendency went a little too far. Naturally, nobody would dispute the importance of the teeth, but the fact is that we have to remember that with the increasing complexity of modern weapons and equipment the importance of the tail in a present-day Army is steadily increasing.
There have been disquieting rumours about the way in which recruiting is going for the services—lin the case, for instance, of R.E.M.E., the Royal Army Medical Corps and the R.A.O.C.—for higher grade technicians and so on. I wonder whether the Under-Secretary will say a word about that. Could he also tell us about the recruiting of women? My right hon. Friend mentioned recruiting but did not say how that recruiting was going. Women can play a very important part in the Army today just as civilians can.
I imagine that it would be out of order to discuss officer recruiting today. I will content myself with saying that we cannot have an efficient Army without sufficient numbers of really good officers. I hope we shall have another opportunity of discussing this all-important question.
What we have to remember is that shortage in any one branch or section of the Army is very nearly as serious as an overall shortage of numbers. What is needed is not simply a mass of men but a properly balanced Army. I should like to hear a little more than we have so far heard about how that object is being attained.
Most of us have not the advantage of being such an expert as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who I am glad to see is well prepared with masses of statistics to take part in the debate. I hope he will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, a litle later on. I am sure that he will be very disappointed—I am sure we shall all be very disappointed—if he does not. However, although we may not be experts in the sense that he is an expert, I think it is possible for us to draw certain general conclusions.
Naturally, before 1957 successive Governments and successive Secretaries of 1469 State for War did all they could to ascertain how they could manage to dispense with conscription, and up to that date successive Governments found it impossible to do so for the simple reason that the estimated number of men to be obtained by voluntary recruiting fell far short of what was needed to fulfil our commitments. Since then things have changed. Anyhow, the Government's policy has changed. I do not for a moment question—how could I, after the admirable speech by my right hon. Friend?—the genuine anxiety of the present Government to get the recruits. To paraphrase a famous saying, "They have plenty to be anxious about." What I question is how much can be done by what might be called the television "Housewive's Choice" approach. I sincerely hope that it succeeds, but when one remembers all the efforts made by previous Ministers of Defence and Secretaries of State for War, I wonder whether even with the help of Sir Frederic Hooper and all his "Schweppervescence" my right hon. Friend will manage so very much better than his predecessors.
It is a strange thing, but experience over the last forty years has Shown that the number of men who enlist in the Regular Army is pretty well constant. For one thing, there is a limited field from which these men can be recruited; I think it is in the neighbourhood of 120,000 men. I believe that the actuaries would say that in order to get a Regular Army of even 165,000—which, I repeat, I do not think is enough—one would still have to get one in four or so of those men.
Secondly, it is a fact that there are a certain number of men in the country who like the idea of life in the Army and a certain number who do not, and it is very difficult indeed—although I hope my right hon. Friend will succeed in doing so—to get men in the second category to change their minds. There is a limit to what can be done by such things as pay increases—that has been proved over the last ten years or so—or advertising campaigns, and even a limit to the influence of such factors as unemployment or full employment. So, while wishing my right hon. Friend the very best of luck in what he is attempting to do, I do not feel absolutely certain 1470 that he will do so very much better than his predecessors.
My right hon. Friend said one thing which I cannot accept any more than could the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), and that is that the most damaging thing to recruiting would be a controversy about how recruiting is going and about the size of the Army. I think that the intelligent soldier—it is very important not to under-estimate the intelligence of the soldier, whether he be a conscript or a Regular—likes to feel that people in this House and elsewhere in the country are taking an interest in him. On the whole, I think that controversy of this kind stimulates interest and that as long as we do not take an over-pessimistic or an overoptimistic view about things controversy can do nothing but good.
What I think is a much more serious danger, both as far as morale and recruiting are concerned, is the fact that even at the present time with an Army of approximately 230,000 men a great many units all over the world are seriously under strength. Also a great many units—and this is very much a question for the "housewives" we have been hearing about—have to spend far more than their fair share of time abroad. If that is so with 230,000 men in the Army, which is a considerably higher number than the Hull Report recommended, how much worse is the situation going to be when the number runs down to 165,000 or less?
I was very glad indeed to observe that my right hon. Friend did not slam the door quite as finally as it has been slammed lately on the possibility of reintroducing what he called some sort of special measures to meet special circumstances. In the world in which we live special circumstances crop up with the most sickening regularity, and there are a considerable number of special circumstances in operation all over the world at the present time.
I do not like conscription; I think it wasteful and in many ways inefficient. I spent a good deal of my time as a junior Minister trying to get rid of it, but the fact remains that, if we cannot get the men in any other way, then we have to have it. For that reason I was very glad indeed to hear the assurance that we were given in the Defence White 1471 Paper of 1957 so clearly reaffirmed by the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I put this point to him? He is talking about a controversy which might militate against recruitment. Has it occurred to him that if in the potential recruit's mind there is any suspicion that we are going to revert to conscription, that would militate against Regular recruitment?
§ Sir F. Maclean
I would not accept that. I think it is much more likely that a would-be recruit would be more worried about joining an Army which he knew was apt to be under strength and which was apt to spend so much of its time abroad. I think that that is much more likely to worry the prospective recruit than the fact that he would be joining an Army to which would be coming a steady number of his neighbours and friends to serve as conscripts. I do not see why that prospect should necessarily put him off.
§ 12.4 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on attaining his high office and on the very agreeable speech that he made today. If I am critical, I hope that it will be kindly criticism and that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that it is directed to the well-being of the Army. I should be very cautious if I thought that anything that I said, either now or at any time in the past, had any adverse effect on recruiting. I do not think that that is so. As one gets older, one must be a little more careful about interpreting the minds of the young, but the first thing that hon. Members should seek to avoid is to exploit the odd happenings. The right hon. Gentleman referred to adverse publicity for the Army when a man getting "tight" does something silly.
I have often quoted in the House a very wise statement made by Miss Markham when she was asked to preside over a committee appointed by the late Ernest Bevin to inquire into the pay and conditions of the Women's Services. She said of the Armed Forces in general, and of the Army in particular, that virtue has no publicity value. The public completely forgets the everyday, commonplace happenings, the steadfastness 1472 and the courage of young men called upon to serve in very strange conditions. If, however, somebody goes berserk in a town in Germany and makes a fool of himself, that makes headlines. That is not the fault of hon. Members of the House or of the public, but the fault of the Press.
It is a fact that if one pays careful attention to the reports on the Armed Forces as presented by the popular Press one finds that there are very few newspapers which employ people who have the remotest claim to be competent defence commentators. One has only to look at the handling of the recruiting figures. In August I thought that the figures were better than usual. Almost without exception the Press said that they were bad. In September, which is the best recruiting month of the year, they were much worse than usual but they were presented in the Press as being good. One has only to look at the worst of all examples, the Guardian, to see what it said. I can only presume that the chap responsible is occupied in his spare time in keeping the postage book. He certainly does not understand how to interpret recruiting figures.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is right in thinking that comment on recruiting is the source of the trouble, because the young men in the Army know how many beans make five. One of the worst things of all in the Army is to serve in a unit which is under strength. It means no leave or less leave than one would expect. In my day padres often used to draw a capitation rate for church services and, therefore, there would be a complaint from the padre if the church parade state was low. So, in a unit under strength, it meant church every Sunday in order to pay the padre; and a low strength meant not only many church parades but also extra fatigues.
The sergeants' mess is one of the best clubs in the world. A good sergeants' mess is far better than the Smoking Room of the House of Commons. It has its cricket team and its snooker team and there is thus a feeling of comradeship which makes the Regular Army at its best so worth while. I am sure that hon. Members opposite who had the privilege of serving in the Brigade of Guards would agree with me that that is so.
1473 It is not all right for men to be in units which are under strength and it is no good the right hon. Gentleman saying that it is. The chaps read about this and listen to the radio. They know just as well as he does what the state of the Army is, and I am sure that it is a good thing for the Army to feel that the House of Commons is interested in its well being. I certainly hope that the Army will not measure the interest of the House of Commons by the attendance in the Chamber today or even the attendance when we debate the Estimates.
The point surely is that in peace-time the Army is an unpopular institution, and those hon. Members of the House who pay some attention to its affairs and do so in a responsible and kindly way are serving the best interests of the Army. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that that is so. He has come to this high office and has many difficult problems on his plate. He is seeking to solve them, but I would urge him to be careful about accepting such short-term experiences, such as special experiences in the Midlands or in the South-West, because my impression is similar to that of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean)—that when one looks at the recruiting figures for as long a period as the records exist it rather looks as if it does not make any difference whether the pay goes down or up or what is done or is not done. It looks to me as if, in these islands, there is a certain number of men who like a Service life and who will stick it out, and another group who do not like the Service life, and cannot be driven into it.
I want to issue one word of caution in relation to unemployment. I sit for a Midlands constituency, and live there. I have never believed that there is a direct correlation between recruiting and unemployment. The vulgar argument that unemployment was a kind of recruiting sergeant before the war is not wholly true. Nevertheless, there is, I believe, a relationship, and I should have thought that, at the moment, the best chance of the Government getting their figures is an industrial recession.
That is what did the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations down in 1958. He, poor man, produced figures and took on a job which the then Minister of Defence would not under- 1474 take. He thought that he could get 165,000 men, and he filled in that figure in the Estimates. He introduced a pay increase, and it is true that the recruiting figures rose. There were claims that this was the answer—the £10-a-week private. I would not believe that. It seemed to me to be against all the evidence. What did the right hon. Gentleman down was the fact that that action was accompanied by a recession. I asked Questions at the time, and the answers are to be found in HANSARD. In my view, it was the recession and not the pay increase which was responsible for the increase in recruiting.
I want to draw the Minister's attention to a point which is worth studying. When the pay increase came this year I am sure that there were great expectations, which were not realised. Why was it that we did not get from this pay increase what we had always got from every other pay increase in this century? This has caused me a great deal of thought as I have tried to get at the facts in order to understand why it was effective in 1958 and is not effective now. In my view the House and the Government have completely overlooked the fact that, because of the ending of National Service—and my right hon. Friend has not spotted this—there has been no registration of young men since January, 1959. Registration had the effect of forcing every young man nearing the age of 18 to make up his mind what he would do—whether he would become a Regular soldier; whether he would do his National Service, go down a mine, go to sea, become an agricultural worker, or even a conscientious objector. He had to consider whether he would go into the Army, Navy or Air Force if he wanted a Service life.
The point is that National Service brought to the attention of every family which included a young man the claims of the Armed Services. The fact that that registration has ceased is a fact which the Government have failed to take into account, or at least they have done nothing about it. I believe that the Germans, who have conscription, write to every young man who is nearing his 18th birthday. I do not suggest that we should do that, but it is a fact that the urgency of service in the Armed Forces has been removed by National Service, and I should like to hear from 1475 the Minister whether the Government are going to do anything about it.
I want to refer to a few things that happened last year and also this week, of which nobody seemed to take any notice. A year ago the then Minister of Labour told us, with very little detail, that the Government had decided not to call up 60,000 men—they were cutting the call-up by 60,000. This year they have done the same, although not the same number of men is involved. Last weekend, in a Written Answer which was missed out of the following Friday's HANSARD, the Minister of Labour announced that the Government had decided to cut back the call-up in November. Why? Was it because they have sufficient men? If they have, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will answer a question I shall put to him.
In Annex I of the Defence White Paper for 1960, the estimated strength of the Army on 1st April, 1960, is given as 230,000, comprising 166,000 Regulars, 57,000 National Service men, and 6,500 women. I would ask the Minister whether that forecast still stands. I am certain that it does not. The Government have again welshed on their manpower figures, and have cut them back. Again, it is highly suggestive that the roneoed returns available in the Vote Office, published on 23rd November, give the strength of the Army on 1st October, 1960, as 136,000, including 7,892 boys and apprentices and 4,178 men on long service who, in order to qualify for pension, will be allowed to serve a very short engagement. That meant to say that the number of male adults in the Regular Army is reduced by approximately 11,000, from 136,847. The strength of the Army is therefore 125,000. It is inconceivable that if that figure is true for 1st October, 1960, the Government will be able to achieve their forecast for 1st April, 1961.
I do not want to argue for a return to National Service. I can claim that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and I were the first persons in this House ever to make a considered case against National Service, in the Whitsun debate in 1952. My right hon. Friend and myself were then answered by the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch). There were not five Members present at the time. 1476 What we were arguing then, as we have argued during the last 10 years, was that in order to get rid of National Service we must have a long-service Army, and get rid of the three-year engagement. This the Government failed to do, and that has caused the trouble. They went on to a three-year engagement, although they changed it in 1957 to the normal six years. These are political matters, and I want the Government to face the consequences of having an Army of the size they have now and will have for the next few years.
As a hobby I complete my own order of battle, which I link up with the returns from the right horn Gentleman. From time to time I do my best to check it. I am sure that it is right. I am certain that never a year goes by in which a major commitment is not added to those which have already been undertaken. I shall not dwell on this point, but there is no doubt that the tasks which the Army has to undertake are constantly being added to. What hon. Members opposite will not face is the fact that although it is right to take risks in our colonial policy—and we all back that—we should not take risks with the insurance. I was astonished when the right hon. Gentleman used the analogy of insurance. He cannot have thought it out properly.
What he is doing, as a spokesman for the Government, is welshing on his insurance premium. He is the victim of Departmental propaganda. He is getting mixed up between 165,000, 182,000 and the like. What he must ask himself is not what arguments will be raised in the House of Commons but whether the Army for which he is responsible can fulfil the tasks which it is called upon to undertake. For example, the Government had no right to send a regimental group of 1,200 men into the Cameroon in the last few weeks unless they knew that there were reinforcements available to deal with the situation if it worsened.
The Government have no right to send 17 battalions to the Rhine and then not tell the House that most of those battalions are under strength.
Only this morning I looked at last night's Evening News which has a picture of the 1st Battalion the Scots Guards returning to this country. I am sure 1477 that the Kremlin will be very glad of this piece of intelligence. The Evening News speaks of these men being so happy to be back and the picture showed "some of the 500 officers and men" of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards who returned to this country yesterday. This is a battalion of the Guards only 500 strong.
In 1959, the then Secretary of State for War explained to the House that an infantry battalion could not manage with 635 men. He said that the absolute minimum was 700. He went a stage further and said that the Government had decided to go up to the figure of 180,000 men for the Army in order that battalions should be at the minimum establishment of 800. But the 1st Battalion the Duke of Wellingtons was flown to Kenya—it is about to be relieved by the Staffordshire Regiment—at 600 strong. That battalion was so weak that Field Marshal Lord Harding, who had experienced this lower establishment in Cyprus, wrote a long artcle in the Daily Mail protesting against it.
That is what happens in practice, but I am not arguing for the return of National Service. I do not want to embarrass the House or my own party by appearing in that rôle, but, in the short time left to me in politics, I will go on spelling out what this means so that the country understands that if we have an Army of only 160,000, we can have a foreign policy and a colonial policy adding up to only 160,000 men. We cannot talk big and then not have the guts to face the consequences of the big talk. That is what the House of Commons has been doing.
It is interesting to go over the history of where these figures came from. In 1957, the Government came along with a figure of 375,000. We were told by Lord Head, when he was in the House, that the figure of 165,000 for the Army had nothing whatever to do with any order of battle. It was the figure which it was thought could be recruited. We were not even told at that time that the figure was 165,000. We were told that the total strength of the Services was to be 375,000, and it was not until a year later that we got the breakdown of 165,000 for the Army, 135,000 for the Royal Air Force and 88,000 for the Navy—and that made a total of 388,000.
1478 Last year, we were told that we would go to 180,000, but that was never the figure given officially, although Ministers mentioned it from time to time. The real figure was 182,000, but if the Army has a strength of 182,000 and the other Services remain the same, the total becomes 403,000. The first person to tell us that we were not going to get 403,000 was the Minister of Defence himself.
That was overlooked because the figures had been given in that polished style which only the Oxford Greats School can produce when it wants to hide something. In this year's Defence White Paper we were told that the Government thought that it would be somewhere near 400,000, which means that we are going to be 5,000 short.
The Minister of Defence, who is a superbly honest man, made a speech at Devizes and was asked a question which was not covered by his brief. He then told the truth, and I have taken the trouble to check what the Minister said at Devizes with his hand-out. Hon. Members can get the hand-out from the Conservative Central Office and they will find there is no mention of this fact in it.
§ Mr. John Hall (High Wycombe)
I understood that this was something which was not covered in the original speech, but which was said in answer to a question.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is exactly what I am saying. The right hon. Gentleman departed from his brief and answered the question. He said that the Army must manage with the strength it can recruit. But the Home Secretary has said that paragraph 48 of the 1957 White Paper stands. One of those statements is wrong. If the Army has to manage with whatever it can get, paragraph 48 does not apply. That is a specific undertaking by the Government in order to lull hon. Members opposite into a false sense of security. It is an undertaking that if the Government do not get their figure of 165,000 on 1st January, 1963, they will introduce some form of compulsory service. They had to escape from that. The Home Secretary, with one foot on either side of the fence, has managed to make statements which are absolutely contradictory.
§ Mr. Profumo
I was slightly misled by the hon. Member yesterday to the small tune of 10s. on "Master of Arts", and I would not want him to leave any misapprehension about this matter. If he looks carefully at what I have said today and what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said at Devizes, in his perfectly normal frankness, and at the White Paper, he will see that the position is not exactly as he stated. We are not saying that if we do not reach 165,000 by 1st January, 1963, we shall resort to something. What we are saying is that we shall do so if recruiting does not produce the numbers required—and one can tell exactly what is required only when one knows what one's commitments actually are at the time. The hon. Member has been most helpful and I do not want him to leave the House with the feeling that there is any discrepancy in what Ministers are saying on this subject. If he reads my speech, as I am sure he will, he will see that I have put the matter into perspective, and he will then see in what circumstances we might have to use this insurance. That is all. We are not welshing.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman lost money on "Master of Arts". So did I, and I am as sorry as he is. However, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations bet me that he would get the recruiting figures by 1st January, 1963, so I will draw my money from him. I understand very well what the right hon. Gentleman is arguing. He is saying that of course we cannot add it up and that these figures for the future are speculative. He used the term "crystal gazing". There may be certain misfortunes about crystal gazing with horse racing, but an Army cannot be run by crystal gazing.
§ Mr. Profumo indicated assent.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is an enormous step forward, because the former Minister of Defence used to run the defence of this country on crystal gazing and produced answers which he thought would be politically acceptable.
The Adjutant-General and those who advise him and are doing the A-planning in the Army have to plan over a period of 20 years. They have to work out terms of engagement to 1480 cover that period. Those facts have to be borne in mind. One cannot have one engagement for one year and then have another in two or three years simply because it seems expedient.
It is absolutely clear that paragraph 48 of the Defence White Paper of 1957 set out to make it clear that if the Government did not get 375,000 for the Services, they would have to resort to other measures. The Minister of Defence has said that the Army must manage if it does not get 165,000. He said that the Government would like an Army of 180,000, but would have to manage on 165,000. But the Home Secretary still stands by the original statement.
I am saying something different from all that. I am saying that the original figure on which the Army began to plan in 1956 was none of those figures but was that of 220,000 which was in the Hull Committee Report. That has been borne out over and over again by the statements of Lord Head. If the figures are added up—and I will do the sum again for the right hon. Gentleman—it will be seen that we now have in Germany, or ought to have, or say we will have, 55,000 men. Of course, we have not got 55,000 men there, as the Minister of Defence revealed in an answer last week, but that is the sort of figure which we say we ought to have. On top of that, in 1959, the Minister of Defence said that we needed 70,000 for our strategic reserve and overseas commitments and another 25,000 in the pipeline. On top of that we need 70,000 for home commitments. All the figures have been given by Ministers.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. James Ramsden)
What is the last 70,000 for?
§ Mr. Wigg
That figure of 70,000 was given by Lord Head in an argument which he had with the Secretary of State for War, and it is 70,000 for Home Command. This is the only figure not given by a Minister or from official circles at one time or another. I have gone back to the strength of the regimental establishments the last time they were published, before the war. The strength of Home Command shortly before the outbreak of war was 113,465. That was in 1938–39. Consequently, this figure of 70,000 is not a very wild guess. 1481 It brings me back to the total of 220,000. In the controversies in the Conservative Party on the Hull Committee Report, the difficulty arose about how far women were involved, and I have therefore always settled on a figure of 200,000. The minimum strength to enable the Government to carry their order of battle and the commitments which they apparently have is 200,000, and they are to try to make do on 182,000.
We have some direct evidence about this. I have read an extract in the past from a letter written by the General Officer Commanding, Southern Command, in whom the Government obviously, and rightly, have great confidence, because they have appointed him to an important overseas command. In writing to his commanding officers, just over a year ago he said:You will have noticed the unsatisfactory trend in Regular recruiting during the past 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 men. If we fail, either the strength of units, which we believe to be the minimum, will be 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 pretty plain speaking, and it cannot be brushed on one side. Here we have the General Officer Commanding, Southern Command, under whose command is the major part of the strategic reserve, stating, "If we cannot get 182,000, a very serious situation will arise." Then we have the Home Secretary and the Minister of Defence stating that the Army must manage on 165,000. That does not make sense to me.
May I revert to the hon. Member's comments upon the effect on the Army of reference to recruiting? I advise him to subscribe to the Aldershot newspaper, because during the winter various dinners are held and serving officers make speeches. I have here a speech by the Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment. This frightens me, because I thought that the élite corps of this country had no difficulty at all and that they would be able to get all the recruits they wanted. He said:I would be failing in my duty if I did not tell you that we have a serious problem on our hands. The whole of the British Army 1482 in the past year has had a real decline in recruiting and this regiment has been no exception.At the same time there was a dinner of the Coldstreamer's Association. The Guards are always a law unto themselves. With the three-year engagement being retained and with the amenities and prestige of the Brigade of Guards, I thought that they would have no recruiting difficulties. But the same situation has arisen, and on this occasion the officer who was speaking made some suggestions. He said that in the past the inducement had been held out to recruits that every soldier would have a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. He thought that this should be changed and that every soldier in future should be offered a copy of "Lady Chatterley's Lover." I thought that a little hard on the Army, because it might change the Army's vocabulary. The serious aspect is the fact that when these officers go to regimental associations and say these things, the situation has gone much too far, because normally there is a tendency for the picture to be painted in rather rosy colours.
I have another extract, from a circular. I have here the Adjutant-General's quarterly liaison circular for June, the last copy which I have obtained. It states:The lower trend in recruiting noted in the last quarterly liaison letter has continued. If the rates of recruiting experienced from April 1959, to March 1960 continue, the original target of the 165,000 Army should be achieved during the first quarter of 1963 and the present target of 182,000 Army during 1965.The Adjutant-General is telling us that the real target is not 165,000; that is only the Sandys' alibi. The only target on which the Government can manage is 182,000.
§ Mr. Profumo
The Adjutant-General did not say that. The hon. Member was kind enough to call my attention to the fact that he had this internal circular. The Adjutant-General did not say that that was the only target. He was talking about minimum and maximum targets, and he did not say that 182,000 was the only target for the Army. I am sure that there is nothing inconsistent in what he said.
§ Mr. John Hall
We have all listened with great interest to the hon. Member quoting from what I gather is an internal circular. Will he tell us how he obtained the copy, because we should all like a copy.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Member should join the Regular Army and get some friends. That is how I got it. They are friends who, not unlike some hon. Members, put the needs of their country beyond their own personal feelings. I always give the Ministers notice of such things, and if the Minister had told me that he objected to its being used, I should not have quoted it. It is awkward politically, but there is no secret about it. I am making no party point as such.
Let us look at the situation as it concerns the hon. Member's own corps, and bring it down from the realm of "ceilings and targets". I have told the House this in part before. Let us look at what the Government's policy means in terms of mobilisation of the Services. The real manpower crisis in the Army will not come in the Parachute Regiment or the Guards; possibly they can manage. The real shortage will be in the R.A.S.C., the Ordnance Corps, R.E.M.E. and the like. I feel that the ending of National Service will create a crisis here.
Let us consider what it means, and again I quote from official sources. The Government's minimum ceiling for the Ordnance Corps after the ending of National Service will be 10,000; that is what they want. What they hoped to get by December, 1962, was 8,000 and what they hope to get by December, 1960, is 6,000. In other words, in this vital part of the Army, on which the whole of mobilisation depends, they budgeted for a short-fall of 2,000 and in fact they have a short-fall of over 4,000.
What does this mean in practice? It is all very well to see it in headlines, but let us look at the details. The plan of mobilisation which went so wrong at Suez was based upon the existence of central ammunition depots and command ammunition depots. What have the Govern- 1484 ment done? They have abandoned the command ammunition depôts and left only the central ones. If in fact mobilisation occurred on any appreciable scale in Southern Command, it would mean that it would all have to go to one place. My information comes again from good sources, which I can show the hon. Gentleman. Because of the Government's manpower policy, the regimental transport of no less than 134 units would be milling round one central point.
I am not saying that this is good or bad. It may be a risk. What the Government must do is to face, and get the country to face, the practical situation which arises from this fact. One sees forecasts in the Press of what the future holds for us. We know that when the Minister's Bill goes to a Select Committee it will contain some new Clauses about the Army emergency reserve, and so on. On the face of it, this would seem to be sensible. What we cannot have is teeth arms, even of the calibre of the 1st Battalion the Scots Guards, at half their establishment, fill them up with reservists or the like, and imagine that they can fight. It cannot be done. It is impossible. Everyone in the House who has had any Regular service knows that what I am saying is the truth.
I wish the right hon. Gentleman well in his efforts to get his recruits. If he succeeds, I shall be delighted from a personal point of view. I have done my best. Any services which I can give him with his recruiting campaign will be gladly given. If it means speaking in my constituency against the popular trend, I will gladly do so, because I want the recruiting campaign to succeed.
Given the present trend of the Government's policy, I think that it would be far better to spell all this out and accept its political corollary rather than live in the cloud-cuckoo-land to which we now condemn ourselves. I beg hon. Gentlemen to realise that it is not a question of getting 165,000 on 1st January, 1963, or in March, 1963. It is a question of having the Army at sufficient strength and with sufficient resilience to carry out the tasks which the Government and the House put upon it. That is the test. The test is not a particular figure on a particular date, but whether the Army is large enough and resilient enough and capable of expansion to do the job that we have told it that it must do. This is what worries me.
1485 I am very glad of this opportunity of coming along and once again boring the House, I am afraid, because there is not much new to say about this. They are the same old figures. If I have bored the House, it is in a good cause.
§ 12.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Before referring to the speech made by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I wish to join with the opening speakers in thanking you, Mr. Speaker, for having drawn our attention to the narrowness of the rules governing the debate. My gratitude is to some extent tempered by the effect that your statement might have had an what I intended to say, but I have noticed the kindness you have extended to all those who have spoken so far, not excluding the hon. Member for Dudley.
Last year's debate lasted fifty-eight minutes. When I saw that the hon. Member for Dudley was here, I was sure that we should not achieve that record this year. We have not done so, but it is true that those of us on both sides who are interested in this subject would not wish the hon. Member to speak for any less time. We know only too well that he has the well-being of the Services, particularly the Army, very much at heart. Most of us on these benches, at any rate, who take an interest in Army matters agree with 95 per cent., if not 100 per cent., of what the hon. Gentleman said this morning.
I want to comment on only one point made by the hon. Member, because it interests me personally. He referred to the crisis in recruiting for service arms. He mentioned various service corps, such as the R.A.S.C., the R.A.O.C. and the R.E.M.E. This is a very difficult problem to solve, and I have every sympathy with the Minister, whose job it is to find recruits for these Corps. They have not the glamour of the teeth arms. It is difficult enough to find enough recruits for the crack regiments. We have heard that even the Paratroopers, which is one of the really tough and crack regiments in the British Army, are apparently experiencing a little difficulty in getting recruits.
If that is so, how much more difficult it must be to attract recruits to service corps. In the old days before the pay structure was changed, people were 1486 attracted to these corps by being given corps pay. There is no doubt that in those days of rather inadequate pay, especially amongst officers, many recruits were attracted to those corps by the additional pay they received. If we are to attract the right people to service corps in future, we may have to offer some form of additional financial inducement. We may have to offer additional facilities for training for civilian careers and provide the opportunity for men in the Army to enter those civilian careers at a fairly early age.
When discussing the Army Act it is obvious that one cannot be out of order if one mentions what the Act is nearly always associated with in the minds of soldiers, namely, discipline. I want to make two points on discipline. Last year the Secretary of State announced some minor reforms in the Disciplinary Code. The first was that the record of a first offence was to be obliterated from a soldier's records if he had committed no other offence within three months of the date of the first offence. The second was the change to which the Minister referred today, namely, the replacement of C.B.—confined to barracks—by the restriction of privileges. My right hon. Friend said that there had been no adverse criticism of this change. Can he say anything more positive about it? Has it had a beneficial effect as opposed to the rather negative effect of not having attracted adverse criticism?
I turn now to the subject which has absorbed the interest of hon. Members who have spoken so far, namely, recruiting. Despite the rulings we heard earlier, I find it a little difficult to discuss recruiting without considering the effect on recruiting of operational efficiency, equipment and mobility. There is also the effect upon recruiting of the knowledge of our present and future commitments in the world.
I need hardly apologise for saying this, but how does one discuss the rise and fall in the Army's strength in terms of man-years, which was discussed by the Secretary of State in last year's debate, without drawing attention, as has been done already by the hon. Member for Dudley, to the possible effect on recruiting and morale, and therefore on discipline, of the knowledge that many units are under strength?
1487 I go all the way with the hon. Member for Dudley in deploring the bad habit, which is a hang-over from pre-war years, of keeping units at lower establishment and not having them at war establishment. It is 100 times worse when they are not up even to their lower establishment. The hon. Member for Dudley mentioned the 1st Battalion the Scots Guards. I want to draw attention to another one. What was the long-term effect on the discipline of the 1st Battalion the Irish Guards, which went to Cyprus at the time of the Jordan troubles, when in order to go there with something approaching fighting efficiency it had to take with it a company of the Welsh Guards? Even then, it was not up to full fighting efficiency. Hon. Members who have served in the Guards will appreciate what it means to take a company of the Welsh Guards with a battalion of the Irish Guards.
I am deliberately trying to confine myself to the Army Act, which we are supposed to be discussing. Let us consider Section 5, which authorises the enlistment of men on 22-year engagement for initial periods of three, six, or nine years, respectively. What is the effect on men who have been persuaded to sign on for these periods—men who may now be serving in Germany—of the knowledge that the equipment in their units is inferior to that in possession of neighbouring units in other allied forces?
I think it will be found that, throughout the British Army on the Rhine, our equipment is older, more out of date and, to same extent, less efficient——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting rather far away from the Act that he is purporting to continue.
§ Mr. Hall
Of course, Mr. Speaker, I bow to your Ruling on this, but, as I mentioned earlier, in addressing you on this particular point it is a little difficult to see how one can discuss questions of discipline and morale—which affects discipline under the Act—without, at the same time, pointing out the effect on discipline and morale of serving in units that are either under-equipped or ill-equipped——
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand the hon. Member's difficulty. It is because it is so difficult to talk about anything that 1488 anyone wants to talk about in relation to this Order that the Chair has to be stern. Morale, which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, was expressly ruled out of order last year.
§ Mr. Speaker
No, I am afraid that that is an illusion. The very limited amount of "Q" which is covered by the Statute that the hon. Gentleman is inviting us to continue or not to continue, is limited to billeting and requisitioning of vehicles. That is the limit of "Q".
§ Mr. Hall
Then I can turn to another aspect of the problem in Germany which affects the decision whether or not men will join for a further period or, indeed, whether fresh recruits will come in.
It is probably within the knowledge of the House that one problem that will face the British Army on the Rhine if ever it is called on to deploy operationally is that, first, it will have to carry out a movement across its own lines of communication. That poses a severe transport problem. Secondly, it will have to move up a tremendous quantity of stores that are not at present in the place in which they are likely to be wanted. Both movements will require a great deal of transport which, as far as I can ascertain, is not available now, and may not be available when it is required to be used. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will address his mind to that problem when he winds up this debate.
I turn now to the figures. A number of figures have so far been quoted, and we nearly all come back to the figure of 165,000. I must confess that I get a little confused from time to time as to what the figure is. Is it 220,000 or the 200,000 mentioned in the Hull Committee's Report or is it the 180,000 or the 182,000, both of which figures are being used from time to time as the target at which to aim?
§ Sir F. Maclean
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to draw his attention to what was said last year by the 1489 then Secretary of State, now the Minister of Agriculture, who talked of filling the gap between our old target of 165,000 and our new one of 180,000. That ought to make it fairly clear, I think.
§ Mr. Hall
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. As a matter of fact, I was about to mention precisely the same thing myself later on. I was about to make the point, so as to make sure beyond a peradventure that I was in order, that the Army Act must be affected by the size of the Army, and also by the task that the Army is to be called upon to undertake——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not think that either proposition is true. That is one of the difficulties about that is debate.
§ Mr. Hall
I accept your Ruling without debating it at all, Mr. Speaker, and turn to the next point.
The Army Act includes the question of terms of service, including overseas service. Are we likely to get any overseas service for the Army in the future? With the Army's present size, are we likely to have any overseas service at all? Will we be able to stay on in Cyprus, Aden, Hong Kong, Malaya and other places, or shall we have to concentrate in our own country or within Europe?
In last year's debate, the Secretary of State said:Ever since the Defence White Paper of 1957 was published, the question which has dwarfed all others is what the strength of the Army will be when at the end of 1962 the last National Service man has left the Army.I can still give a confident answer to that question.I should like to emphasise the words: "I can still give a confident answer to that question":I believe that the beginning of 1963—I base my thought on the evidence that we have had now over two years of the new terms of service—will find us with an Army with a strength of at least 165,000 all ranks, which was the target set in 1957, and I also believe that we shall in the majority of arms have exceeded the target and be on the way to reaching the higher ceiling of about 180,000 to which the Army was authorised to recruit early this year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November. 1959; Vol. 613, c. 624.]He then went on, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) said, to refer to the 1490 speed at which we could fill the gap between the old target of 165,000 and the new one of 180,000.
I was very gratified to hear my night hon. Friend draw attention to some of the recruiting measures he was about to undertake to ensure that we do, in fact, reach one or other figure by the beginning of 1963. I was very interested to learn that he was adapting the modern techniques of television—using the methods of selling detergents and sort drinks in order to get recruits for the Army—but I rather wonder whether the technique of selling soft drinks will sell a hard job. It will possibly have a temporary effect.
Those of us who have anything to do with advertising in general know that television is a very valuable method for producing a short-term immediate impact, but we also know that that impact, unfortunately, dies very rapidly unless it is continued with considerable pressure. The cost of a successful T.V. campaign to sell something that is difficult to sell would be quite considerable. I would say that the cost of a successful T.V. campaign, measured against the background of our present recruiting, could not be less than £½ million a year, and we might well need £1 million a year for it to be effective at all.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the very strong efforts he is making to use every possible modern technique to encourage people into the Forces—possibly in ways not used before. Nevertheless, I come back to the point that has been made time and time again in this debate. Even supposing that we reach this target—the minimum platform figure of 165,000—does the Secretary of State really believe that with that Army we can maintain our present commitments whilst, at the same time, ensuring that we have 55,000 men in Germany?
I find it very difficult to believe that it is possible. When I reflect on the problem, and think back on some of the defence debates through which I have sat over the last two or three years, I am very struck by the way in which that well-known writer, Lewis Carroll, has influenced the political thinking of many of our statesmen and, in particular, the thinking of our Defence Ministers.
1491 The Army Act, as we know, governs the terms and conditions of the Army—and an Army—presumably, of 165,000. To think that that will be sufficient for our needs makes sense only in terms of the philosophy that was expressed by the Queen in "Alice Through the Looking Glass" which, I am sure, will be known to all hon. Members. The quotation I have in mind runs something like this:Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying', she said, 'One can't believe impossible things.'To that the Queen replied:I daresay you haven't had much practice. When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes we believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.I can only assume that the Minister of Defence and the Service Ministers have been practising this very hard. They have been believing in impossible things.
Lewis Carroll's influence does not stop there. What will be the effect on discipline under the Act when soldiers read the statement, made quite recently, that our Forces have a high degree of mobility? When they read that statement viewed against the background and knowledge of recent mobility exercises and, with the knowledge that many people have, that the Britannic freighter, a very essential aircraft, is unlikely to be in our hands for many years, if at all, will they not say, "This really is the philosophy of Humpty Dumpty?"
§ Mr. Hall
Humpty Dumpty used a very short word. He used the word "glory" and, when asked to define it, said that it meant a good knock down. It led to an argument about the meaning of words, which ended by Humpty Dumpty saying:When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more not less.Presumably when the Minister says that we have a high degree of mobility, that phrase means what he chooses it to mean, neither more nor less.
My own attitude towards this contention that 165,000 men in the Army will be enough to meet our commitments, now or in the foreseeable future, can be summed up by an exposition of logic by Tweedledee. I am sure that this is a quotation known to us all. He said this: 1492'Contrariwise,' contended Tweedledee, 'if it was so it might be, and if it were, so it would be, but as it isn't, it ain't.'A hundred and sixty-five thousand troops just "ain't" enough.
§ 1.2 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Several hon. Members on both sides of the House are anxious to take part in this debate. My only reason for intervening at this point is that I wish to emphasise some points which, if I do not do so now, will probably escape my attention.
I am extremely worried as a result of this debate. I was worried before the debate began, but when we are considering a matter of vital concern for the whole nation—not only for the Forces but for the whole nation—I would have expected that the interest would have been more enlarged. After all, as has transpired in the course of the debate, we have to consider alternatives. Either we get the recruits and build up the strength of the Army—build up the strength of our conventional forces—or we are presented with two possible alternatives—a return to conscription or placing ourselves wholly in the hands of those who are thinking in terms of the use of nuclear weapons. That is how I regard it.
Anything that I have to say to the Secretary of State will not be critical so much as a desire to be helpful. I believe in conventional forces—I have said this over and over again—because we have interests to consider in various parts of the world. I hope that we shall never have to deploy those forces, but it is no use seeking to escape from the possibilities that are inherent in the future.
I should first like to congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment to this very high office, and on the speech which he made today. He will accept my advice as one who occupied his office before him. He will find the utmost co-operation at the War Office, both from the military and the civil staff, but occasionally he will find it necessary to stand up to the military. Co-operate with them by all means but do not let them always have their own way. Indeed, they will appreciate a Secretary of State who is not a "yes man," who has an independent point of view—even if it may not be altogether as it should 1493 be—but nevertheless a point of view which is consistent with his honest convictions, and for which he is ready to stand up to the general staff. That is very important.
The Secretary of State has a very difficult job. We are discussing the size of the Army. We are discussing, obviously, the implications of the present size of the Army and its future size in the next few years. I shall tell hon. Members why I feel worried. Never mind about discrepancies between statements made by several Ministers—that is quite common. We have had that before. One does not expect consistency in statements by Ministers of the Crown all the time. There is bound to be some inconsistency disclosed at some time or another.
I base my case on the transfer of allegiance from what they regard as the facts to the potentialities and then to speculation. That simply will not do. We must be realistic about this.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we should not be too pessimistic about future recruitment and the size of the Army. We do not require to be pessimistic. We must be realistic otherwise we face the alternatives, to which I have referred. He spoke of special measures. He did not define what special measures he had in mind, but to adopt special measures means either selective ballot for the Army—National Service in that form—or conscription as we have known it. We either do that or we have to rely on what we have and make do with it. Everybody knows that that is impossible if we have insufficient conventional forces.
It is different if we proceed to the other alternative which was presented by the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, when he was Minister of Defence in 1958, in that famous paragraph of the Defence White Paper of that year, in which he envisaged that we might have to use—indeed that we should have to use—nuclear weapons in the event of any difficulty emerging as a result of conventional attack that we could not resist. These are the alternatives.
As is the desire of all hon. Members, I want to help the Minister all I can. I have no right to speak for my hon. Friends, but I use the plural in saying that we want to help get recruits as 1494 rapidly as possible so that we can build up the strength of the Forces. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was right, as indeed were other Members who have referred to this aspect of the problem, in saying that one of the factors that militates against morale in the Army—although I know that we cannot discuss morale—and the prospect of increased recruitment, is that the units are not up to strength. We know that. It happened in my time. We had some difficulties confronting us at the time, though in Korea we made a very effective contribution. Indeed, the military effort led to a diplomatic achievement. Hon. Members are familiar with that and there is no need to discuss it. We have got to consider how best we can build up the strength of those units, and at the same time build a coherent force of high mobility and with effective striking power—not that we want to use it, but in case we are called upon to do so, so that we are able to afford some protection to the men concerned. That is of very great importance indeed.
Whatever else we are entitled to discuss in this debate, we are certainly entitled to discuss what the Minister said. I took a note of some of his words. He referred to some of the factors which militate against recruitment. He said that we were spoiling recruitment by the atmosphere of controversy that existed. He referred also to the criticism which obtains from time to time. I am not quite sure to whom or to what he referred. He certainly cannot say that of hon. Members. I know there are some hon. Members who are against the Army, Navy and Air Force and who hold very strong and genuine convictions, but the generality of Members, so far as I know, have not criticised the Forces. We hold the Forces in very high regard, particularly the National Service men who have rendered great service during the last few years.
The right hon. Gentleman said that a most damaging effect on the size of the Army was caused by the controversy about the Army and recruitment. I cannot believe it. I make this alternative suggestion, that one of the factors militating against recruitment and the building up of strength and of the right morale among the men in the Army is the controversy about whether we are going 1495 to use conventional forces in the future or rely on nuclear strategy. I can imagine many men—those who are in the Army and those who have been called upon to enlist—becoming very cynical when they reflect on the possibilities which are mentioned over and over again in the Defence White Paper and which have been mentioned in the House.
After all, if a would-be recruit to the Army wonders whether in the future he is going to have a real career in the Service or whether one day he will be wiped out by some nuclear weapon, he is bound to become cynical about it. It is that controversy which stands in the way of the build up of our Forces.
I also think—I referred to this when I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean)—that if there is any question of reverting to conscription, it is bound to have a detrimental effect on the minds of men who otherwise might be inclined to join the Forces. I do not want to see any reversion to conscription. If what my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley and I proposed in 1952—first to reduce the period of National Service, and then to abolish it—had been put into effect at that time, the Government would have had an opportunity of campaigning for recruitment of Regulars in the Forces. There is not the least doubt about that among those who have been at the War Office or who have had any association with the Forces.
We cannot run conscription at the same time as we try to build up a strong and extensive Regular force. One of the reasons is this. I estimate that for the purpose of training National Service men over the last period of years during which conscription has been in operation would require from 20,000 to 30,000 men. How can we hope to build up a Regular force when such a large number of men are engaged in a task of that kind?
Another point is that many men likely to be called up under the conscription legislation would certainly not join up as Regulars unless there were some inducement held out to them to do so. Only in the last few years has that inducement been put into effect by the 1496 Government in the form of better pay and conditions, and the like.
I am going to offer one or two suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman. I repeat that I do not want conscription again. Politically it is dangerous and militarily it is ineffective. I do not want us to rely completely on the nuclear weapon. I have said in the House in the course of defence debates that we should not put all our eggs into the nuclear basket. That would be a mistake.
Let me say in passing—I do not use this as an argument—that I think we will find that in the course of time a great deal of the controversy about the nuclear weapon is irrelevant to the situation which is likely to emerge in the course of the next few years. However, we shall, no doubt, come to that in the course of our defence debates.
Let me come to the suggestions that I want to make. By all means, let the right hon. Gentleman use his television technique, though I do not think it will be very effective. I cannot imagine many families sitting up at night watching a television programme showing what happens in the Army. I think most people would be likely to switch over to the alternative programme—probably a Western or something of that sort. He might get a few recruits as a result of such an appeal, but he wants far more than that.
I suggest that one of the things he might try—although I do not pretend that this would be wholly effective—would be to make the present Regular soldier look rather smarter than he does when he appears in the highways and byways. It is about time we provided him with a decent uniform. Even if Service men have to wear khaki uniform, they should wear it with some distinction. I am bound to say that some of them are not as attractive as they might be. They are fluffy-looking and they slouch about. That sort of thing ought to be corrected. I do not want to see too much discipline imposed, but there is nothing like a soldier looking smart, as if he enjoyed being in the Service and was rather proud of it.
Perhaps the best thing is to get rid of the khaki uniform as quickly as possible, using the battledress only when men are engaged on certain tasks. 1497 Apart from such occasions, let them be put into decent uniforms. If some of the money that is wasted in other directions were used to provide a smart uniform, it would help in this matter of recruiting.
Then we must bring home to the potential recruit—by means of television or some such form of advertising—that there is a career in the Service. Many of them do not understand that. I am bound to say that as long as the short-service engagement is continued it will not be attractive. I would prefer to rely on the long-service engagement of nine years, which I think is reasonable, and if men can be re-engaged up to 22 years, all the better. But it has got to be made plain that there is a career, and quite an honourable career, just as honourable as being a Member of this House—perhaps not so highly paid as we are, although there are some of us who think that we are not paid as we should be. That, however, is by the way and I should be out of order in discussing it. I should love to do so on some occasion. I see that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, are shaking your head, and I quite understand.
It is, as I say, an honourable profession. But let us not mix it up with conscription in any form. We cannot ride two horses at the same time. One can do it in war, but not in peace-time, and make both effective.
§ Sir F. Maclean
The right hon. Gentleman keeps saying how much he dislikes conscription and how one cannot mix the two ideas. I agree, and I share his dislike of conscription, but will he answer this question? I had hoped he would say something about it at the beginning of his speech. If we cannot recruit the number of men we need to fulfil our commitments by voluntary recruiting, how do we do it?
§ Mr. Shinwell
It will probably not be thought a satisfactory answer to the hon. Gentleman's question, but, if I may say so, it is not for me to provide a constructive solution to a problem which has emerged owing to mistakes in the past. It is for the Government to find a solution. I shall venture to make a guess about what might be done.
1498 Obviously, first of all, if we cannot meet our commitments, we must reduce them. That is a commonplace thing to say, but that is what we must do. I will give an example. I mention it only in passing because the question has been put to me. If we cannot afford 55,000 men in Germany, we must reduce the number. I do not say that we should. I believe that we require the men there, and I do not think it would be a good thing for the morale of the Forces or that it would make a contribution to peace if we reduced the number from 55,000 to 35,000 or even to 45,000; but what I say is that, if we cannot afford our commitments, naturally, we must reduce them. I do not want them to be reduced if we can afford to carry on.
§ Mr. Wigg
I think that my right hon. Friend is being led astray from his usual rectitude. Surely, he must realise that this country has pledged its solemn word that it would maintain four divisions in Germany. It will be judged not by the number of atom bombs it has but by whether it fulfils its word. Again, my right hon. Friend must face this fact. This country has pledged its military support in the Malayan Peninsular. Once the word goes round that we are going back on our undertaking—and it is going round, and that is why what my right hon. Friend says is so important—and that we are prepared to "welsh", then we shall be on a very slippery slope indeed.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I often have to tell my hon. Friend that he knows a great deal about the military aspects of the problem but he does not know very much about the political aspects. On the political aspects, I am more of an authority than he is, although, naturally, I bow to his knowledge on the military aspects.
§ Mr. Profumo
I do not want us to leave this point with any misunderstanding, particularly as the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) have discussed it between them. It was my intention, although I did not wish to go out of order in my speech, to try to show that the planning that Her Majesty's Government are engaged in on the number, size and level of our Forces is done so that the Government will not 1499 leave themselves in a position where they cannot meet their basic commitments. What I was trying to show was that, if something untoward arose, there were ways and means whereby we could arrange matters and still meet our commitments. I am not arguing it. I want merely to try to make this plain because it is rather important from the standpoint of the arguments that hon. Members are advancing.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is not so difficult to change over from a commitment that one has entered into to something which is more consistent with a new situation. I know as much about the commitment of four divisions as anybody because I was in at the beginning. To begin with, the Labour Government agreed to two divisions, agreeing subsequently to four divisions. Of course, we have never provided four divisions up to strength.
I will tell the House of an incident which occurred some years ago when I attended a conference at Fontainebleu together with other defence Ministers, with a large number of generals, air marshals and admirals present from all the N.A.T.O. countries. They were discussing the size of divisions, and nearly all of them said that we must have divisions of 18,000 men with support troops. I ventured to disagree with that. I said that the Russians seemed to manage with divisions of 12,000 men. At that time, some of us advocated the construction of combat groups of 5,000, 6,000 or 7,000 men, and so on. What is the position now? They have abandoned the idea of the 18,000-man division; that has gone. There has been a change. Just as the Government have changed there, so they can discover ways and means so that, instead of seeking to deploy 55,000 men in the N.A.T.O. sphere, they can reduce the number. Again, I do not say that they should do so, but it can be done.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley asked me about our Malayan commitments, and so on. Of course, we have entered into commitments everywhere. The question is whether we can afford them.
I do not know enough about it. I had to enter into the discussions in the past in the Labour Government, but I do not know enough about it now, as the Government do, to be able to say; but 1500 what I do say is that if we are told that we must make do with 165,000 men, we must first of all ensure that we shall have them. Secondly, the Government must tell us how it is to be done.
I come back to the point about how we are to get the men. The other day, I obtained from the Vote Office the figures for August and September. I do not pretend to know a great deal about arithmetic, but I can put a few figures together. Looking at the figures, I am bound to say that I cannot see how the Government are going to get 165,000 men, much less 185,000—a figure which has been mentioned in past debates on the subject not only on that side of the House but on this, from the Front Benches. I cannot imagine how we are to get them.
What are the facts? Let us be not pessimistic about it but realistic. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley always tells me to face facts, and that is what I am about to do. In September of last year, the strength of the Army, long engagements and short engagements, was 144,282. In September, 1960, the latest available figure, the total was 136,847. The number has been reduced. On the best calculation, no matter how recruitment is speeded up, I cannot see how we shall get them. Let us remember that we have to take into account the wastage which there is bound to be in the Army year after year. I cannot see how we shall get them, and the position will be a very serious one.
I sometimes wish that, apart from debates of this kind, we were a little more rational, logical and sensible. The Government ought to consult with hon. Members who think that they have some knowledge of the subject and believe that they have ideas about how to get the men. Let us consult together. This is not a party matter; it is of national concern. Let us see if we can arrive at some solution. As things are, I am bound to say that I am very worried indeed because, if we do not get the men in time, we shall have to reduce our commitments drastically, or we shall revert to conscription, which I believe would be deplorable, or we shall place ourselves completely in the hands of those who prefer the use of the nuclear weapon.
§ 1.29 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
What has emerged very clearly from the debate so far has been the importance of not becoming hypnotised by a total figure of men without regard to the formations and units those men comprise and without regard to whether or not each is up to strength.
To me one of the most important assurances was given last week by the Minister of Defence when he said that he thought that he could give an assurance that no formation which was expected to carry out a rôle would be expected to do so unless it was up to strength. That is a very important pledge, and, if the Government are resolved to carry it through, I think that we can hardly ask for more. At the same time, we are quite right to consider very seriously means by which we can make sure that we get the men who will be necessary.
I agree that the job of hon. Members opposite is to oppose. It is not their job to recommend what should be done. Certainly they have carried out their task of opposing today and have criticised quite justifiably. I do not complain of that. My only regret is that more of them have not put forward concrete suggestions about how they think that we can get this figure, although the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) did go some way to meet this point. I am not in the least interested in discussing at this stage what will happen in the event of our not reaching it and being defeated in this exercise. What I am interested in is succeeding in this exercise and trying to find the best ways of making sure that we do.
A certain amount of evidence has been given about television as a means whereby we can stimulate recruiting. I think that it is relevant to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) perhaps slightly misrepresented the situation which led to the decision to end conscription at the end of this year. To put it in terms of television vernacular, I think that if the Army had been asked to choose which were shining, shining white as between voluntary service and conscription, there is no doubt that it would have dubbed conscription as "Brand X." It does not consider that 1502 conscription is in the interests of the Regular Army. It believes that the burden which the Regular Army was having to bear in training men whose services would be available for all too short a time when they were trained was a burden which was wasting the effort of the Army. I am convinced that the vast majority of Regular soldiers or those who were serving at the time and had the best interests of the Army at heart were against the continuation of conscription.
There are still some high-ranking officers, both serving and retired, who regret its passing. They have a very good reason for that, and I think that it is one which we ought seriously to consider. The reason why they are doubtful whether it was wise to end conscription is not nearly so much from the point of view of meeting the commitment but because if a measure of conscription is continued we do not have to send such an enormous "Welfare State" with the Army when we post it overseas, for the simple reason that single men do not need the Welfare State which is needed by married families.
I am not saying that we opposed it at the time, but hon. Members opposite have some responsibility for one of the difficulties with which we are faced concerning the modern Army. It was they who lowered the date at which a man could draw the marriage allowance. It might be argued that we should never have got as many Regular men had that not been done. I am not disputing that, but it creates an additional problem when men are sent overseas. The whole question of expense becomes greater. However, I do not think we can put the clock back, and I certainly do not wish anything I say to imply that. It would be totally wrong to try to put the clock back when it comes to conditions of service in the Army.
What I feel, however, is that we must concentrate on finding ways of encouraging recruitment.
§ Sir F. Maclean
My hon. Friend suggested that I misrepresented the circumstances in which this decision was taken. I do not think that that is so He said that there was a great body of feeling among Regular soldiers against conscription. As I said earlier, that is 1503 perfectly true. There was a great desire to get rid of conscription on the part of the soldiers in the War Office, but an even greater desire, for obvious reasons, on the part of politicians.
I should like to put to my hon. Friend the same question which I put rather unsuccessfully to the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell): if we cannot get enough soldiers to fulfil our commitments by voluntary recruiting, how can we get them? What other means are there besides conscription, selective conscription, or a measure of conscription of one kind or another?
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I was merely trying to point out to my hon. Friend that I did not think that he had sufficiently emphasised the dislike of conscription in the Regular Army. That was my complaint about what he said. He went on to say, if my memory serves me right, that the decision to have 165,000 men was taken on the basis of the number of men we were likely to get without regard to what our real commitments were likely to be.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I think that he would be a very bold and rash man who assumed at the time that decision had to be taken that our commitments would be exactly the same at the time when all the people who had been conscripted went out of the Army. How do we know what the commitments will be in two years?
§ Sir F. Maclean
We know what the commitments are now. My statement was based on the fact—this has been said before, so that I am not giving away any official secrets—that the actuary's estimate of how many men we could get by voluntary recruiting was 160,000 or 165,000. The Hull Report, which was drawn up by the Regular soldiers to whom my hon. Friend has been referring, put the figure which we needed to fulfil our commitments then—and our commitments have not decreased since—in the neighbourhood of 200,000. There has been some argument whether it was 220,000 or 200,000, but I choose the figure of 200,000 for all adult males.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I suggest that that simply serves to emphasise the point that I have been trying to make 1504 —that this total figure is utterly irrelevant unless we consider the number of formations within that figure and what is necessary to man each of those formations to make them effective. How many of us know that the establishment which is considered necessary for an infantry battalion today will apply two years hence? How many of us know what the fire power will be? I know that we cannot talk about equipment in detail today, so I will say no more about that. What I am saying is that there are so many imponderables and so many things which can change in the next two years that I should have thought that, instead of saying, "We are going to lose this battle and therefore we should be thinking of what we will do when we have lost it", it would be far more helpful to the country and would be far more impressive from an external point of view to set about thinking how we will succeed in this task.
May I finish my speech by being, I hope, entirely constructive in what I propose to say. Some firms which advertise either employ the name of or use material provided by various units of the Armed Forces. A certain brand of cigarette is advertised—no one from the Senior Service is here at the moment—and some of the publicity films of that company advertising the Royal Navy—I have no personal interest in this at all—constitute some of the finest advertising media on the cinema screens today, and I congratulate whoever is responsible for them. Similarly, behind another variety of cigarette one sees pictures of the Brigade of Guards. I hope, incidentally, that both of those companies are giving something to the Service charities concerned for the privilege of using that material. That, however, is the sort of advertising that would do a lot of good for the Armed Forces. If that is the sort of material that we use on television, I do not believe that it can do any harm.
I put this suggestion to my right hon. Friend for consideration. In conjunction with the advertising agencies and their clients, could he not see whether more actual media used by the advertising agents who are putting the subject over in the cinemas and on television should not include real life examples of what happens in the Armed Forces, and particularly in the Army? In other 1505 words, my right hon. Friend should not rely only on the War Office to do its own publicity. If we can get these companies to co-operate and we can point to them the need for it and how important it is that the whole country should go about trying to make a success of this campaign to get the recruits, we might be doing something very useful.
Towards the conclusion of his speech, my right hon. Friend referred to the Women's Services, about whom I want to say a word or two. From Vote A of the Army Estimates this year, we find that the number of female troops raised in the United Kingdom totals 5,500, or an increase of only 200 on the previous year. I am convinced that when one goes through the order of battle or even through pages 10 to 14 of Vote A in the Army Estimates this year, going through the various corps and units one can find plenty of scope for an increased element of women's service.
Page 10 includes the Corps of Royal Engineers. Is it necessary to have quite so many men, for instance, at the survey unit? Could not the women do some of that work? What about movement control units? Must all R.T.O.s be men? And what about postal units? Could not the women do a lot there? On the next page, one comes to the Royal Army Service Corps, which, we are told, comprises four main branches. The first is Supplies, for the provision and distribution of food. Could not a great deal of this be done by women? Then, there is transport, for the operation of general load-carrying vehicles. Obviously, some of these would be too heavy for women to move, but not all of them. Next, barrack services, for the provision, storage and distribution of accommodation stores, fuel, etc. There is plenty of scope for women's services here.
Then, we go to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. How many women, for instance, are employed to deal with clothing and some of the general stores? I believe that they could do some of the work which is at present done by men. As for the Royal Army Pay Corps, I believe that virtually the whole of it could be handed over to women. Granted that there would always be somebody who was "excused-boots" amongst them and who would be of no use to any of the fighting formations that we want in the teeth 1506 part of the Army, but I should have thought that there was quite a reserve of manpower there.
Again, it serves to illustrate what I have been trying to say earlier—that 165,000 or 180,000 means nothing. We could have 100,000 men in the Pay Corps but nobody to pay. The important thing is to get the men where we want them, in the right place, and to get the women in the places where we want them.
§ Mr. Profumo
I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind that although we are trying to increase the things that the W.R.A.C. can do, there is a high wastage among the women. Marriage is one reason. The moment they go abroad the wastage gets higher. We have to think of continuity.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I appreciate that; I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for pointing it out. I have, however, discussed this matter with some fairly high-ranking officers from time to time who have had these problems in commanding garrisons overseas, for example. Some of them are convinced that the scope for the employment of women in the Army is far greater than is effective today.
I will not mention the other units in detail beyond saying that the Royal Army Educational Corps and the Army Catering Corps were, I should have thought, two Corps which might well have been examined. We cannot go into detail, but I am certain that we will have to review all aspects of women's service and the attractions which are offered to women to bring them into the Army in sufficient numbers. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do something about this.
In his speech, my right hon. Friend said that he wanted to make the Army the housewife's choice. I am not sure that it is not quite as important to make the Army the choice of the daughter of the housewife, too. The one thing above all others that has come out of this debate—it is a good thing to drive it home as often as possible—is that if the country as a whole votes in favour of ending National Service, as it has done, it must not fail to face the consequences of that. It must be prepared to use every possible means to make its Regular Forces as efficient and as well manned 1507 as possible. There is no section of the community which does not have an obligation in this respect.
My belief is that while the Army itself must look to its own sales methods concerning recruiting, whilst we may have to train specially, in a way as never before, those responsible for bringing the men in, at the same time we can also express the hope that industry, the professions and every family in the country will do their best to ensure that we have a Regular force as quickly as possible well above the target that we have been set.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire will not feel that I have been unfair to him. We all know in our heart of hearts that this is an exercise in which we must succeed, otherwise we shall be faced with the sort of position that my hon. Friend has tried to pose. It is, however, very bad publicity indeed for a recruiting campaign to say that we are now planning what will happen when this exercise has failed. That must be bad psychologically. The important thing for us to do is to give every support we can to my right hon. Friend to make this campaign a success.
§ 1.48 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I certainly want the recruiting campaign to succeed, first, because the last thing I should like to see is that the British Forces were dependent more and more upon nuclear weapons, and secondly, because I do not want to have to go back to conscription.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) made an important point when he said that certainly the Army does not want to go back to conscription. By now, the figures are fairly well known. We have an Army of 230,000, including a Regular Army of 136,000. We have been told by the Hull Committee that we need over 200,000 and we are aiming at a target of between 165,000 and 180,000. I wholly agree with those who have said that it is not the figures, but the commitments, which matter.
My first point is that the House of Commons seldom has an opportunity of discussing the commitments and the figures of the Services together. It is not easy to do it in a foreign affairs debate and it is out of order to go too 1508 far into it in this type of debate. It is certainly on our commitments, however, that our needs depend.
I share the feelings of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) that there is at least a suspicion that the figures have been reached by thing what recruits we might possibly get and not by considering what recruits we must have to meet our existing commitments. Furthermore, I cannot wholly follow the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely in saying that all this is too vague to be discussable. We have got to discuss it. Although a great deal of it may be conjecture, we must make some appreciation of what the country wants to do and what it can do.
I believe that, in spite of the excellent results which we have been told by the Secretary of State today his television campaign has had, the recruiting figures, as known to ordinary people like myself are most disturbing. Although these particular campaigns may have been successful, the numbers for technical arms like R.E.M.E. are really insufficient, and the total figures for the year do not come anywhere near to the sort of promise made in the debate last year. We are always told in every debate that the results will be better next year, and we were told that there would be a better result in 1960, but the records show that 1960 is turning out worse than 1959.
I would say certainly that discussion of this problem does not do harm. We have got to discuss it. That is what the House of Commons is for. To sweep it under the carpet would be wholly improper. I do not believe that serious discussion of the strength of the Army, the need for recruits, or the throwing of our minds forward to what situation we shall be in if we cannot get sufficient recruits is really going to have a serious effect upon recruitment. Everyone in a unit knows how many there are in the unit; everyone knows its strength; everyone knows whether it has got the weapons which it is supposed to have. Far more depressing than any discussion in Parliament is not to give a unit the weapons with which it is going to fight. That has a very great effect on morale, and, therefore, on recruitment.
As to the tail, there are surely two sorts of tail. There is the technical tail, which will grow, and which in modern 1509 warfare is important; and there is the administrative tail, which, in the British Army, always seems to grow of its own accord and needs no encouragement. I would say that there is always room for having a look at the administrative tail and, indeed, for carrying out the investigation which the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely has asked for, to see whether we can replace a certain number of higher-grade men with lower-grade men and women in suitable places. Mobility has an immense effect on the effectiveness of any given number of men or any given number of units, and there, too, I do not think anyone can be content with the degree of mobility which we now have.
As to methods by which we might improve recruitment, I would ask the Government whether there is anything in the nature of a manpower budget. It seems to me that we constantly discuss recruitment in the Army as a thing by itself, and there is considerable doubt as to what affects it. It must, of course, be affected by all sorts of changes in the possibilities open to young men. I would imagine that the increase in police pay would have a bleak effect on recruitment to the Army. There is now a shortage of recruits for all the public services, and I believe that this is something that the Government have got to look into on a rather broader front than simply taking one Service at a time. As the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely said, it is not simply a question of getting a sufficient block of recruits. It is a question of getting a sufficient number of recruits for certain arms and certain Services. That is more serious, possibly, than any overall failure.
I am wondering, too, if the Under-Secretary of State has any statistics on why people join. I am sure it is right to say that there are certain families who have got accustomed to joining the Army, that there are a certain number of people every year who at least consider joining the Army, but that the vast bulk of the population never consider it at all, and that with the great bulk of the population joining the Army is an unpopular idea. Recruitment from year to year is concentrated on a fairly narrow section of the community.
1510 I think myself that the publicity carried out by the Army is not at all bad. I have no criticism of it. There is something to be said for using television, but we have to keep it up. It is no good having one campaign. We have to keep it up. I think that there is something to be said for using "Housewife's Choice", and that there is something to be said for appealing to people by showing that this is a pleasant, good life.
But I also believe that we cannot lose sight of the older, deeper urge for joining the Army. It is, quite candidly, not solely an appeal to comfort or to pay or to seeing the world or pleasing one's girl friend. We cannot get away from the fact that, although it is an unpopular subject today, the real urge on people to join the Services is based on a certain degree of unselfishness, on a feeling of patriotism, on such considerations as that, which make them believe that it is something worth doing. I am not saying that good pay or pensions do not attract people, but I believe it has got to be stressed that ultimately the sort of person who considers the Army does not really consider it against how much he might make in engineering, for instance. He may indeed take that into account, but he nevertheless has the feeling that service in the Army is well worth doing.
It is very difficult to express this precisely. The old sort of Kipling approach and appeal is out, but there is the defence of the Western World and I am not sure that that is stressed enough. There is the point that if we do not get men for the Army we shall have to have nuclear weapons. There is the possibility of the Army assisting the United Nations and assisting the birth of a new Africa, and so on. Although I cannot go into this too far now, I believe that this sort of appeal, an up-to-date version of the old appeal of patriotism and the Empire, is something we have got to explore further and use.
I also believe that it is also very important, as the hon. and gallant Member said, to bring back old soldiers and use them to get people into the Army—to use them for recruitment. The Army does a lot of good work today. It is not only waiting to fight but is doing a lot of good work in various parts of the 1511 world, and this has a certain appeal. I am quite certain that we have got to have a new patriotism—if I may so call it—of a broader sort in our appeal.
I do not believe that the Government have anything to lose by being frank. I regret that they have dithered a bit between 165,000 and 180,000. I am perfectly certain that everybody knows in his heart of hearts that 180,000 is the figure the Government want and which we need. I do not believe that they will lose recruits by telling people so. I do not believe they will lose any recruits by saying to the country what the situation is, what the prospects are, and what Britain needs if she is to play her part in the world, and that if they do not face up to this we shall have conscription back. I do not believe that what the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire said does any harm.
As I say, I deeply regret this dithering, for I am quite sure that the Regular Army does not want conscription, that the country does not want it, and that no politician wants it; but if we do not get the numbers we need to fulfil our commitments this House has one day got to say it has got to have it.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has said many sensible things with which I very much agree, but I do not think that one of his first statements added up when he talked about nuclear power and conventional weapons. It is obvious that if we are to cease to rely at all on our nuclear weapons and are going to increase the size of our conventional Army it is no good the hon. Member saying that he does not want conscription, because in that case conscription is inevitable. We shall have all our work cut out to raise the number of men we want on the present basis of about 10 per cent. nuclear assignment and the remainder conventional, but if we do away with the nuclear element then obviously the conventional element will have to be increased.
I agree with the hon. Member about the importance of having a manpower budget, but the difficulty of that is that the young men of today are not exactly similar to the young men of former days. I do not think that one can say that 1512 exactly the same motives influence them as influenced young men in the past. We are dealing with quite a different generation and it is difficult to make a manpower budget with them. I absolutely agree with the hon. Member that it is no good just appealing to comfort and saying that the Army will be an easy life and the pay will be good. I believe that exactly the reverse is the case. If we offer them hardship and adventure and interest we are much more likely to get them.
We are apt today to be rather bemused by numbers. For a long time we have had an Army a great deal stronger than we ever envisaged in peace-time in the past and we have become used to doing everything with far greater numbers than before. Before the war we had little garrisons in all sorts of out of the way places and I believe that we would shudder today at the thought of putting them there in such small numbers. My Chitral Force, the little force that sat on the roof of the world just before the war, though it took about a division to get it there, was highly trained and very mobile in its own way. It managed to keep the peace there and did the job very well. By present standards we would have said that the task was utterly impossible for it.
We have had debates similar to this several times since 1957 and many hon. Members today have been saying exactly the same things as they have said on those previous occasions. The appropriate Minister in 1957 quoted the number of men he wanted and he was confident that he would get them. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), with a terrific number of facts—and we all admire the way he digs them out—tried to persuade us that things were getting worse and worse and that the Minister was entirely wrong. My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), who has been absolutely consistent ever since 1957, has said since the very first day that the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations announced that we would do away with conscription, that it would not work. He said that we would not get the numbers in the Army that the Minister said we would, and that if we did get them they would not be sufficient.
1513 It was a terrific job to turn away from conscription not only after a world war but after years of conscription in peace time. Many people forget that we were trying to get back to a Regular Army to meet all our commitments without the Indian Army. The Indian Army was a tremendous factor in supplying some four complete divisions for service overseas and many other units to garrison various places. What we have tried to do was a very difficult task indeed. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) wanted to do it in 1952, but of course no one did it until it was introduced by the then Minister of Defence in 1957.
§ Mr. Wigg
In the absence from the Chamber of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), perhaps I may be permitted to say that we were not advocating abolition of National Service in 1952. What we said was that in view of the action of our allies in N.A.T.O. and other Commonwealth countries we ought then to start to take the steps which would make abolition possible.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I quite understand that. Nevertheless, it was a great act of courage and imagination on the part of the Minister of Defence in 1957 to say that we were going to do it. It was not a thing of which one could say definitely that a target would be reached or passed in so and such a year. One had to see how it was going to work out. But I am certain that whatever we may say about our being a democracy, about our discussing the matter and what a great deal of good that does—with which I agree—there is no doubt that for the young men who want to decide on the career they wish to adopt it is all a matter of confidence as to whether this conception of a Regular Army will come off or not.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said quite rightly that conscription is very unpopular in the Regular Army. No young man of the type that we want will join a show which is problematical, into which he is required to put his whole life, unless he really feels that it will be a success. I must say, with all due respect to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire and people like 1514 himself who have been in high positions, that young men pay attention not so much to what is said as to who says it, and when a former Minister at the War Office says that the plan for the Army will not work out many people will say that they will not join. We cannot get away from that fact. It may be said that it is democratic to say these things, that it is a free country and anyone can say what he likes, but in my experience—and many parents and young men write to me—it is all a matter of confidence. They want to know whether we believe that the Regular Army will work out, because if we do not they will not join. It is as simple as that.
§ Sir F. Maclean
Would not my hon. and gallant Friend agree that it would be pointless to have a debate on recruiting if we did not say what we thought? Would he not also agree with another proposition? Suppose that we all kept quiet and at the end of that this still did not work out, as he puts it. The shock to morale and to a great many other things would be more disastrous than if a few ex-junior Ministers like myself voiced occasional disquiet at the way things were going. I do not pretend to prophesy about recruiting figures, I am guided in that more by experts like the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), but I see that they are not going very well. The point that I raised was that I do not consider the target itself, especially the "floor" target, to be adequate.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I have great respect for my hon. Friend and I am quite in agreement that there should be discussion and that he should voice his opinion, but I do not retract a word of what I said—that if an impression is given by people whom the country at large thinks ought to know that this will not work out, the young men will not join. We cannot get away from that.
I feel that we must have a go at it now. We know that if it does not work out the alternative is grim. We know that the alternative will be unpopular, but it was mentioned in the 1957 Defence White Paper and we might have to adopt it. But, for goodness sake, let us have a real crack at it, every one of us here doing his best to make it work, because I am sure that this is the most efficient sort of Army that we can produce to 1515 solve the problems that are facing us at present.
§ 2.9 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs)
I want to confine myself to a few remarks to do with Section 22 of the Act and to follow the Minister and subsequent speakers on the enlistment of recruits. First, I should like to endorse what the Minister said about the effect of the family and of mothers and girl friends on recruiting and how our publicity must to some extent take account of this.
I had a good example of this sort of thing in a case recently in my constituency. I interviewed a mother who was very distressed about her son whom she said was unhappy and miserable and wanted to be back in Fife. According to her, he was very discontented; he hated the Army and he hated the sergeant-major. I set inquiries in motion. These revealed that the young man wes perfectly happy. He did not want to return to Fife—surprising though that may seem—he was perfectly happy, he looked forward to an Army career, and he wanted to go abroad. It shows that the influence of a family—the influence of mothers, sisters and girl friends—is, probably for the best of reasons, on the whole against a young man going into the Army. Our publicity must take account of that.
I speak as a firm supporter of television as a medium in this respect. I do not like a lot of what appears on television, but I think it has come to stay and I think it is effective. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) said that its effects are short-term, and he referred to detergents and so on. I suggest that the effects of television are often short-term because the products advertised are not very good and after a time the housewife realises that it does not really matter whether she buys soap powder A in preference to soap powder B.
However, I believe that if we put across on television that a career in the Army is something really worth while and not like detergent or toothpaste—a matter of indifference as to which one has—and something which gives a man a chance to express his personality, develop his talents and lead a life con- 1516 genial to him, television will be a good medium. To put it across effectively, of course, it must be true. We must make Army conditions and opportunity measure up to these ideals.
Also, we should not concentrate on pure advertising. I should like to see to some extent a return of the splendid documentary films that were made during the war. I think particularly of "The Way Ahead". I saw one or two of these documentaries on television the other night, and the years have not dimmed their tremendous message, their humanity and the way they depict army life, its comradeship and its objectives. They were splendid films. Documentaries of that kind, reinforcing the purely advertising features, might be useful.
We should, of course, have to change the message. In those days the message for the men was to fight a savage, cruel and implacable enemy and to save their country from disaster. The message now would relate to the wider aims of security and defence, and also the United Nations and our obligation to co-operate with other nations in keeping world peace. If we could return to the tremendous technique of the documentaries that we had during the war, the Minister's case would be reinforced.
I also believe that we have to put across to young men the opportunities for education and training. This has been said a thousand times, and there is nothing much new to be said about it. However, I can speak with some experience as one who just after the end of the war left the rough and tumble of the infantry for the sunny uplands of the Army Educational Corps. We were not "Royal" in those days. I would ask the Minister to look closely at these schemes—here I speak as one who helped in a humble capacity to draw up these schemes—and make sure that the practice is always the same as what is on paper. Education and training schemes look very grandiose on paper. The Minister should get around the country looking into practice, paying surprise visits and finding out exactly what is going on.
This is a useful point, and the Minister should do it particularly in relation to apprenticeship training centres. If it is in order to make a comparison with another Department, 1517 the Army has a lot to learn from the Navy in the training of apprentices. At Rosyth in my constituency there is an excellent naval apprentice training centre. It is doing an absolutely splendid job. While I do not belittle what the Army is doing, I feel that the Army can learn something about the setting up of apprentice training centres with good staffs, workshops and amenities, and if it can get this sort of thing across in its publicity, recruitment will be helped.
I should like to make a comment on the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) about the need in the transition from the citizen Army to the Regular Army of the future to preserve the new relations—new in terms of what existed before the war—between soldiers and their Members of Parliament and to keep alive the idea that the soldier is still a citizen with a good many of the rights of a citizen, though it is obvious that military discipline involves some changes.
Speaking as a fairly new Member of the House and one who expected that the Service Departments would not be as helpful as the civil Departments in respect of the cases which I raised, I should like to say that I have had a great deal of help and co-operation from the War Office, and I hope that this tradition will continue when we turn from National Service to a Regular Army, regarding it as proper that hon. Members should ask Questions in the House and fight for the rights of their constituents.
It has been said that there is some doubt whether recruitment figures are correlated with unemployment. This is a matter of controversy. It is difficult to determine what the influence of unemployment is on the level of recruitment. I think there is some evidence that the figures are related. For instance, I believe that the apprentice intake in the naval centres in my constituency mirrors the unemployment of juveniles in my area, and presumably this applies elsewhere.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I take it that my hon. Friend realises that the recruiting figures in Scotland should go up because the unemployment figures are rising quickly.
§ Dr. Thompson
If my hon. Friend had been present earlier he would have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) discussing whether this is true.
§ Mr. Wigg
I did not deny that there was a correlation. What I asserted was that there was no direct correlation. For instance, if one took a period before the war when there was grave unemployment and tried to break down the incidence in relation to recruiting areas, there was not a direct correlation. It might be explained by the fact that if a man in my hon. Friend's constituency became unemployed he would move somewhere else seeking a job, and then he might have to move on again, and in the end he might join the Army in Bournemouth.
§ Dr. Thompson
I accept that things are not always what they seem in these statistical investigations. We cannot jump too readily to conclusions, but there seems to be some evidence for what I have suggested.
I hope that the Minister, in assessing the effects of his advertising in the television regions, will also look at the unemployment figures in those regions to ascertain whether there is another factor influencing recruitment. I should like to see the success of the Minister's campaign completely uncorrelated to unemployment. If he finds that recruitment goes up in areas of high employment, it will be a tribute to his campaign and to the way in which he is putting his case across to the younger people.
I hope I have said enough to show that some of us believe that the army has still a part to play and a career to give, though it has to come within the context of the ideals of a new generation. In this era of new international action within the framework of the United Nations—an era of great new opportunities for world peace, as well as dangers—we want to make the most helpful suggestions possible to enable the Minister to achieve his target.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I was glad that the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) did not go back to the old statistical background that has been fought over so much this afternoon and in previous 1519 debates. There is a danger that we shall become obsessed with manpower statistics to the exclusion of all else. These statistics are easy to obtain, but they are not an end in themselves.
I do not want to boast, but I am absolutely convinced that I could so organise an army of 182,000 men that it would be entirely useless for the defence of the country or any part of it. I should also like to think that, given an unlimited amount of money, one could so equip and organise a force of 150,000 men that it would have much greater effectiveness in the field than the present much larger force that we have.
§ Mr. Goodhart
The trouble is that there are no easily obtainable statistics for measuring firepower, mobility and the effectiveness of communications, all of which have to be taken into account in overall manpower statistics.
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is an expert in this form of statistical projection, but I must say that I was somewhat startled to hear his reference to our growing commitments overseas. It seems to me that there has been some miscomprehension of what is happening to our commitments overseas since the Hull Committee began its deliberations many years ago. Certainly the world is still a dangerous place, and probably a more dangerous place than it was in those days, but outside Europe, thanks to the more relaxed foreign policy which we now appear to have adopted and certainly because of the infinitely more relaxed colonial policy that we have certainly adopted, it seems to me that they are decreasing substantially.
The hon. Member for Dudley referred to our intervention in the Cameroons, but, in fact, since the Hull Committee began its deliberations a large part of our West African commitments has disappeared. In East Africa we are still building immensely expensive barracks. The fact is that we are putting down the white man's burden just as quickly as can possible be done.
§ Mr. Wigg
I must say that the hon. Gentleman makes me almost speechless. Surely he realises that the political policy being followed in East Africa necessitates 1520 a very extensive build-up, which is exactly what is happening. The 24th Independent Brigade which was established in Bernard Castle as a fire brigade is now in Kenya.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I think that the House is in danger of departing from the Army Act and embarking upon a defence debate, and that would not be in order.
§ Mr. Goodhart
It is my impression that in this and in other directions, such as Cyprus, the commitments have been substantially reduced since the Hull Committee began its deliberations several years ago.
We know that the Secretary of State for War puts great store by publicity. We are very glad to hear of the success of the television campaign that he has inherited. But I hope that my right hon. Friend will not forget the power of the local Press as well, particularly concerning stories sent out by his Press officers about local men.
In my constituency we have a vigorous local Press. I was talking to the editor of one of our local newspapers this morning. He said that the quality of the stories that come to him from the War Office about local residents serving in the Army are good, but that the supply is erratic and not so continuously good as that provided by the Royal Air Force. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to look again at this matter.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) was certainly right when he suggested that the substantial pay increases proposed for the police force will make the work of this publicity campaign substantially harder than it would otherwise have been. Policemen come from the same sort of pool from which we draw most of our recruits to the Army. If we increase the number of policemen substantially and quickly there is, I think, a danger of a further decrease in the attractiveness of the Army as a career.
My right hon. Friend has one special and particular problem which may evaporate quite quickly. I believe that many young men wish to join the Armed Forces for adventure and excitement. The fact is that for the first time in the century the Irish Army has been more heavily engaged in the last few months than the British Army. This is a state 1521 of affairs that may end all too soon. But the fact is that a small colonial disturbance would, I think, have a stimulating effect, oddly enough, on recruiting.
A number of us in the House have in the past stressed the importance of trying to recruit men from the Commonwealth and to bring them into the Armed Forces. I was recently in Fiji where they have a vigorous and gallant military tradition. A battalion of the Fijian Regiment did noble service during the last war in the Solomon Islands, and also in Malaya during the Emergency. Not so long ago a barrack extension programme was started in Fiji, and a large officers' mess was built. Needless to say, the moment that the mess was completed it was decided to do away with the Fijian Regiment, and only a handful of men remained.
Here is a source from which could be obtained 2,000 or 3,000 men of great military competence and who could be accepted as brothers-in-arms in our Forces in almost all parts of the world. It seems to me that a time when we are all concerned about the shortage of recruits it is a policy of lunacy to turn our backs on this valuable potential source of manpower.
§ 2.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I suspect that the fact that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) has been spending so much time recently on the problem of professional football is the reason why he fell below his usual standard in the contribution which he has just made to this debate. It was of such a character as almost to produce the alarming result of rendering my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) speechless. That would indeed have been a disastrous state of affairs.
There are one or two comments I wish to make in the short time at my disposal. I did not very much like the attitude of the Secretary of State for War, who seemed to be a little peeved that this debate was taking place at all. He said that on previous occasions hon. Members had been guilty of what he called "sniping from the sidelines." The House has a duty to the country, and there is a solemn obligation upon all hon. Members to express their opinions freely when opportunities of this kind present themselves. The Government 1522 must accept the fact that when hon. Members speak on this subject they do so with a reasonable degree of sincerity and responsibility. If the situation is unsatisfactory it is our duty to voice our disquiet.
I do not wish to become involved in a lot of argument about targets and ceilings, but the right hon. Gentleman said that if forecasts did not materialise the Government would have to put into operation special measures. That is just the vague kind of statement which has a deterrent effect upon recruiting.
Reference has been made to the desirability of advertising on television. I am not very sure about that. The other evening I saw a television programme which gave some publicity to a very gallant experiment made by the commanding officer of the Green Jackets, in Winchester. He invited some local young men to spend a weekend in the barracks. It was a good idea, because all the literature, pictures and posters cannot convey the kind of atmosphere which prevails in the Services. When I saw this announcement I thought that is was a promising effort. But what happened? On some television programme or other these young men who had spent the weekend at the headquarters of the Green Jackets were invited by an interviewer to say what they thought about it, and not one of them said that what he had seen, or his experiences during the weekend, had persuaded him to join the Army.
They admitted that the grub was excellent. They had very good meals and a very good time, but when it came to finding out what it all boiled down to not one showed any desire to extend his weekend visit into something more practical, from the point of view of the Army. I do not think that the money spent on television advertising will be worth while. I recently saw some figures which indicated that the total cost of the Services' publicity came to about £21 per recruit. That is a lot of money to spend in recruiting one man. It shows the difficulty of obtaining recruits.
One fundamental deterrent is the fact that our young people are not fools. They know that the Government have based their defence policy on the nuclear deterrent, and their immediate reaction is to say, "If we are having an H-bomb 1523 policy we do not want large numbers of men". I wonder if it has occurred to the Departmental Ministers for the Services that a reliance upon an H-bomb policy, or a policy of a nuclear deterrent, is not calculated, of itself, to produce the required number of men if we are to rely merely upon conventional weapons and methods. It is therefore possible to argue that this shift in Government policy from conventional——
§ Mr. Lipton
I was merely suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that it has an effect on the popular mind to the extent of dissuading men from joining the Services when they might otherwise have done so.
As for recruiting, there was an alarming article in the Daily Express this morning which indicated that the Army would be ending up with 15,000 men short of the 165,000 estimated in two years' time.
§ Mr. Profumo
I do not think that the hon. Member did me the honour of listening to what I said on this subject. In opening the debate I made it clear that that is rubbish—if that is the correct Parliamentary word for it. There is no truth in these figures. I made that clear in my speech. I hope that the hon. Member will take that for granted.
§ Mr. Lipton
I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman because I was not here at the beginning of his remarks. If he has effectively disposed of that Press statement it will be all to the good, and perhaps it will encourage these so-called military experts who write in the newspapers to be more careful in future. It may be that this journalist misinterpreted some figures that he had obtained from the War Office. In any event, if the right hon. Gentleman says that it is absolutely untrue, I and other hon. Members will accept that without hesitation.
The other indication that the Government are not too optimistic about the future can be gauged from the recent White Paper on the Territorial Army. There, for the first time, a novel doctrine is produced. We all know that the Regular Army overseas is very much under strength, especially the British 1524 Army of the Rhine. One of the main rôles of the new Territorial Army units will be to provide individual reinforcements for the Regular Army overseas. That is certainly a new idea. Hitherto, it had always been understood that the function of the Territorial Army was to help the civil power, to support the Regular Army in Britain, and to provide the framework upon which general preparations for war could be built up when war was imminent.
§ Mr. Profumo
It is just the sort of thing that the hon. Member is now saying which, if allowed to go unchallenged, causes deep concern to the public. What the hon. Member is saying is not correct. The White Paper in no way changes the law, which does not permit the Territorial Army to be called up, except in a state of emergency. It would be a thousand pities if it went out from this debate that there was to be any change, and that the Territorial Army was to be used in peace-time or in a cold war to bolster up what is being done by the Regular Army. I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish concern to be caused. I do not want to interrupt him, but I shall have to do so if he is not more accurate.
§ Mr. Lipton
We know that in the present situation the Territorial Army cannot be used for overseas service until all or part of the Regular Army Reserve has been called out by proclamation. That is elementary, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should see fit to intervene on that point. We all know that such a proclamation would be justified or considered only in a situation of imminent national danger or great emergency. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Regular Forces overseas are very much under strength, and in future it will be the job of the Territorial Army to reinforce them—subject to the proviso that I have just made. Nobody will send the Territorial Army overseas, except in a period of grave national emergency and after the Regular Army Reserve has been embodied.
The fact remains that the position is most unsatisfactory. It is all the more deplorable because of the very fine opportunities which the Army provides for those who wish to take advantage of them. At Welbeck College young men 1525 can receive the equivalent of a grammar school education and go on to receive the equivalent of a university education, entirely free of charge, if they want to join the Army. They can be technically trained and become technicians or scientists and so on through the wonderful and unprecedented facilities which are now available and which did not exist a few years ago and which are not being used to the extent which we should like.
It has always struck me as odd that although a young man has an opportunity of a free education up to degree standard, which would fit him for all kinds of useful jobs after he leaves the Army, an insufficient number of young men are interested in the very well-paid prospects which are now offered.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's forecasts will be fulfilled and that we shall not have occasion next year, as so many of us have had in previous years, to make the same kind of speech which is made year after year. The only advantage of making the same kind of speech year after year in this kind of debate is that the Service Department concerned is able to brief the Minister in advance and to produce the same kind of soporifics which we have had on previous occasions.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I am glad to have the opportunity to intervene, because the tenor of the debate has shown the anxiety felt on both sides of the House about how we are to undertake the job which we have set ourselves with the Forces which may be available, especially in view of the doubts about getting those Forces.
It was encouraging to hear that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not depressed about the recruiting figures. At the same time, I wish that I were able to draw as much comfort as he does from the figures which have been published and as we can project them arithmetically over the next two or three years. It looks as though they will give my right hon. Friend many headaches to which something like television advertising may not be the complete answer.
There should be a check on the wastage from different units. It might then 1526 be possible to get a clue about what it is that irritates soldiers and makes some of them want to leave the Army. I suspect that a number of recruits and others have purchased their discharges over the last year or two, and if one could find out in which units those men had served, we could get a very good indication of the type of Army and the type of units which would hold men.
The most important recruiter is the soldier himself when he goes home and describes the sort of life he is leading. He is the sort of chap who will get his friends and neighbours to join. When he is smart, as the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said, and if his uniform is smart and he is happy, or at least enthusiastic, about his unit, he will help to attract other recruits. His fatigues, his barrack-rooms, his feeding and what happens in his spare time and the amount of time he is messed around and the time which is wasted all contribute to his feelings about the Army.
Another important source of recruits must be the Territorial Army, and I hope that tremendous emphasis will be placed on getting the right type of warrant officers and N.C.O.s as permanent staff instructors in Territorial units, because if they are the right sort of men, they will attract many Regular Army recruits.
Emphasis has been laid on the importance of getting the right people in the right place and on whether there is to be a shortage in certain vital units and whether we shall find at some stage that we cannot man certain units because of the shortage of skilled personnel. I hope that my right hon. Friend will study those matters and possibly give the House some indication of what the figures will be for specialists arms.
I found the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) alarming, for a number of reasons. He developed the theory that our foreign policy and colonial policy were more relaxed than they were a year or two ago. The fallacy of the 1957 White Paper was that we would be able to be under a shield of nuclear defence without an adequate number of troops on the ground. More and more the success of our local foreign policy in particular areas and our present colonial policy depends on having an adequate Army to 1527 deal with any emergencies which might arise.
I ask my right hon. Friend carefully to consider the arithmetic of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), whose speech was outstanding—especially the figures which he set against each other. It would be of tremendous help to the House if, without upsetting security too much—and there is a balance of security which must be maintained—my right hon. Friend could produce a White Paper, for instance, to clear up once and for all what numbers of recruits are required to fill the rôles to be maintained by the Army. If that is not done, the Adjutant-General will have many headaches if he is to perform some of the tasks which he is expected to undertake.
I am in complete accord with my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham about Sections 206 and 207 of the Army Act, which refer to the administration of law to colonial and Commonwealth Forces. I hope that every effort will be made to utilise colonial forces, and forces of friendly Powers, which are covered by the subsequent sections, such as the Gurkha Forces. I hope that we shall lose no opportunity in seeking potential troops in other parts of the Commonwealth and in using them in the British Army. It is, however, important to remember that we can use such troops for certain jobs but not for each and every job in the way in which we can use British troops, because there are often political complications.
I am sorry to sound slightly despondent about the outcome of my right hon. Friend's efforts to raise an Army of 182,000, which we understand is the minimum if we are to carry out our commitments.
§ Mr. Harrison
I stand corrected by my right hon. Friend, but I think that the hon. Member for Dudley made it clear that the true figure was 182,000 to carry out our commitments with units up to strength. The next few years will be vital. I hope that the Government will very seriously consider whether they will be able to get these men and to carry out the job which they have been given effectively, without sacrificing troops by putting them into units which are short of men.
§ 2.51 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
I am sure that my right hon. Friend has been pleased by the number of constructive suggestions in speeches made during the debate. Outstanding among them, as I think both sides of the House agree—and if I may say so without impertinence—was that of the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson), who made some very interesting remarks.
The question before the House is whether we shall continue the Army for another year, because I understand that if we reject the Motion the Army will be declared an unlawful assembly and the officers and men will have to disperse in an orderly manner. From some of the speeches which I have heard, notably those of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), I wonder whether those hon. Members do not intend to oppose the Motion, because they seemed so depressed about the Army that I wondered whether we were justified in spending the money in continuing it. The few remarks which I wish to make, however, are made on the assumption that the Motion will be approved and that we shall have an Army during the coming twelve months.
The debate has revolved, and has somehow kept within the rules of order, on the question whether the Government were right to decide 3½ years ago to give up conscription. To those who hanker after a return to what I notice is now called selective call-up, I would say two things: first, it is unfortunate that under the rules of order they are not able to define what they mean by selective call-up, because it is politically very dishonest indeed to use that expression without explaining what the method would be. There is one comment which I should like to make which I think is within the rules of order, even the narrow rules of this debate: any form of selective call-up would be regarded as tremendously unjust to those who were selected and would render the maintenance of discipline in the Army an extremely difficult task. Furthermore, the method of selection also governs, or is governed by—depending on which way you approach it—the way in which those men 1529 are employed after they have joined. It is very easy for hon. Members to hint that we should revert to those methods—as a number of hon. Members did—when they cannot describe the conditions in which they would be operating.
Secondly, why does anybody suppose that even if enlistment in the Army is assisted by the Minister of Labour, as in the past, that will automatically overcome the manpower shortages? I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire gave the case away when he said that shortage in one branch is nearly as serious as shortage in the total. That is why in recent years, and within the memory of hon. Members, when we had conscription running at full bore, there have nevertheless been acute difficulties through manpower shortage in the Army. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) must have been angry and humiliated—I do not know whether be was; I should have been if I had been Secretary of State for War—when it was necessary to call up the Reservists in order to send one division to Korea. What guarantee is there that that would not happen again? The truth of the matter is that the Army—and I do not say this only of the Army, for it is true of all the Services, although we are not discussing the other Services—has been extremely wasteful of manpower in the years since the war. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said, we have been in the habit of thinking in terms of an enormous number of men, and we must get out of that habit now.
Quite apart from the provision of television and all that, I believe that there is plenty of scope for improving recruiting. I ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, either in his reply or at some other time, to consider very seriously whether we have not raised the medical standards unduly high and whether the standards which we are demanding are not higher than they need be. Is he quite satisfied, when we are trying to recruit intelligent men who look ahead, that we are right to make no provision for some sort of independent tribunal to decide their cause should they wish to break their engagement through some unforeseen reason? That is not provided for in the Act and has always 1530 been frowned on, and therefore I suppose that it is out of order, although I am not sure whether it is out of order.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am quite sure that it is out of order, but I was not quick enough to stop the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, after further thought, I do not think that it would require any change in the legislation. I do not think that my right hon. Friend would have to amend the Army Act in order to submit to an independent tribunal the cases of men who apply to retire. After all, that is done with National Service men now, and I believe that it would be a wise move for the Army to adopt it.
My right hon. Friend also spoke of men with "mums and wives".
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
Girl friends who become wives. That is a difficulty. I agree that it is not practical to suggest that we should try to recruit an Army of soldiers without "mums". We should be up against the difficult facts of nature. But I seriously ask whether the Army is not making a mistake in offering such active inducements to men who enlist to marry extremely young. I believe that this makes for great difficulty. My own experience, which I know also applies to the Army, is that the difficulty arises not so much with girl friends and wives as with wives when they have had their first babies. That is when the difficulties begin with men in the Services.
My final point has often been raised before. It is directly relevant to the discipline of the Army. Are we sure that the relations between officers and men have moved sufficiently with the times? If they have not, there is no greater disincentive either for men to re-engage or for men who know fellows in the Army to enlist.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that those matters should be considered. I agree with those who say that we should not contemplate going back to conscription. We must make the Act work with the forthcoming Army of long-service volunteers.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. James Ramsden)
It falls to me after an even shorter time at the War Office than my right hon. Friend to try to answer some of the points raised by hon. Members.
What I have to say falls naturally into two parts. First, there are some answers to individual points arising out of the Army Act proper. Here I hope to run no risk of being ruled out of order, so perhaps I may be allowed to deal with these in the earlier part of what I have to say. Secondly, I must comment on the question which is uppermost in all our minds, which has been the leading train of thought in every speech which has been made today, and which, because of the rules of order, we have had to approach by means of recruitment. That is the strength of the Army and, in particular, the strength of the Army at some future point of time and in relation to what we are likely to need.
This debate is by no means the first occasion on which this question has been raised. I have looked up the Parliamentary history of this, as far as I have been able to, and it seems that this is only one more stage in a debate which commenced in July, 1958, with a speech by my noble Friend Lord Head. It has been carried on, as it has been today, principally by a number of hon. Members on both sides who know a great deal about the Army and who care very much not only that the commitments we accept for the Army should match our responsibilities in the world, but also that the Army in discharging them should not be unfairly strained.
I hope that that sums up in a few words what I feel has been the tone of this debate. Almost without exception, my right hon. Friend and I have found the speeches on both sides exceptionally helpful. Seldom is a Minister able to say that in reply to a debate which has not been without its elements of controversy.
Whatever I say today, this grand debate will go on. I will try to make some comments which I hope will reassure the House on a question which, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, is not a static one and which will never admit of a solution which is satisfactory to all of us until we have lived beyond 1532 the point of time which is in question. However, I will return to that.
I will now attempt to answer some of the more detailed points which have been raised by hon. Members. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), in a most helpful speech for which my right hon. Friend and I were very grateful, spoke about the new approach to discipline which he felt would be appropriate to the new Regular Army, where we shall be dealing with a different kind of man. My right hon. Friend and I accept the validity of what he said. We also accept what he said about the need to preserve the reasonable standards of treatment for soldiers which have become firmly established as a result of experience with National Service men and, in particular, the relationship between soldiers and Members of Parliament and Members of Parliament and my Department. The hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) also referred to this point.
Perhaps the most apposite comment which I can make on it is to say that a file apeared on my desk this morning with reference to a current case. It referred to a letter written to an hon. Member in 1927, in which it was pointed out that it was not proper for a soldier to approach his Member of Parliament about a grievance. This was drawn to my attention because it was thought that it would interest me to see how times have changed. In reply to the right hon. Member for Belper and others I can only say that my right hon. Friend and I intend to see that times will stay changed.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
Purely for historical purposes, is the hon. Gentleman interested to know that when I was an Under-Secretary in a Service Department in 1946 we received 10,000 letters a month from Members of Parliament concerning the Air Force alone?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I cannot say that the number has risen. I am glad to say that is not the case, but we take great trouble with these letters, and it is right that we should do so. I hope that we convey that impression to those who receive them, because that is our intention.
The right hon. Gentleman raised what I thought was an extremely important 1533 point about the rôle that the Army apprentice schools can play in recruiting. It went home very much to me, because I have one in my constituency to which I have been a frequent visitor in former years. I know their value, not only to the Army but to the boys who go there. It might interest the right hon. Gentleman to know that in January, 1961, there will be 547 vacancies in these schools, for which we have already accepted 270 boys. We are now considering a further 300, and expect to fill all these vacancies except a few in the higher grades. By 1962 we expect to fill the whole of some 4,000 places in these schools.
§ Mr. G. Brown
What I had in mind was this. Could not the Army, with a little more publicity, be a little more flooded out with applications? The hon. Gentleman says that 270 have been accepted and that it is hoped to accept 300 more, but that barely matches the total number of vacancies. I cannot help but feel that if he publicised more of what he had to offer he would get, as is experienced elsewhere, more applicants than there are vacancies.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. I think that our wishes on this are at one, and I will certainly see that what we are trying to do measures up to the point he has made. We want to make sure that the Army gets the best out of these boys, and that we give the best we have to offer to the boys who go there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean)—and this is one of his more detailed points; I shall deal with his wider ones later—questioned our approach to television. I think that all my right hon. Friend really said about television was that it was a new form of approach and that, as far as could be seen from the figures that he gave to the House, it was having its effect. I do not think that he wished to give an impression of exaggerated optimism. He simply wished to point out that this is something we are trying.
§ Sir F. Maclean
Neither did I wish to give an impression of exaggerated pessimism. I hope that it succeeds.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I am obliged to my hon. Friend.
1534 What might be called the possible Impact value of television links up with something to which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) referred. He reminded us that, now that there is no longer any registration of young men, there comes no point of time when a young man in his home is brought face to face with the Army as a possible career. That is true, but it is equally true that we are trying, as one application of the use of television, to provide for that absence of the other impact to which he referred. I hope that it will continue to have the good effects, which, on an early examination, seem to be coming along.
The hon. Member for Dudley—and, again, I shall try to deal with his wider points later—painted, I thought, rather too gloomy a picture of infantry battalions being under strength. I am advised that 47 of our battalions are up to or over strength. A further 16 are below strength but, generally, not much below, and, even among this number, there are some that are not meant to be at the higher establishment——
§ Mr. Wigg rose——
§ Mr. Ramsden
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish.
The point is that some of our Regular battalions, including the Parachute Regiment that he mentioned, and some Guards battalions, are relying mainly—and I suspect that he knows this better than I do—on Regular recruits. Recruiting in these battalions is going well, and it is not really fair to infer that if they are under strength now, relying entirely on Regular recruits, they will be in 1962–63.
§ Mr. Wigg
The evidence which I gave about the Guards units and the Parachute Regiment was not something which I dug up, but statements made by the colonels commandant themselves. The hon. Gentleman said that 16 battalions were under strength. What does he mean by under strength? Are these 16 under 635 men, or under 700 men, or under 800 men?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I thought that if I took on the hon. Gentleman over this, I should probably get into deep water. I wanted to make the point that it would be unfair to paint too gloomy a picture of strength at the present time.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I shall have to write to the hon. Member, but he shall have the information for which he asks, so far as we are able to give it to him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) raised two points about discipline. One of them concerned admonitions. The new system introduced last year, whereby a record of the award of an admonition by a commanding officer is attached to a man's conduct sheet for three months before its discharge, has proved a useful guide in dealing with minor offences. One effect is that the soldier knows that an admonition will be taken into account by his commanding officer when considering a later offence if one occurs within three months, but that at the end of that time he will again have a clean sheet.
My hon. Friend also asked about the replacement of the punishment of confinement to barracks by restriction of privileges, a new system which has been in use for 11 months. We are satisfied that it has been a change for the better and that it is working well.
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said that the strength of the Regular Army at September, 1959, was 144,000, and that at September, 1960, it was 136,000. He asked: why the reduction? I am advised that the reason is the fall in the three-year engagements, the merits of which have been the subject of a certain amount of debate today.
We have noted as being most helpful the suggestions that he made for future action. He spoke to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as a candid friend at the beginning of his remarks, and he is well entitled to do so because he was a great friend of the Army, and the Army would like to think as well that it was a friend of his, when he was in his previous capacity.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) talked about the possible use of commercial interests and their advertisements in helping to publicise 1536 our recruiting. I am grateful for what he said and we will consider his ideas. I am the more grateful, because the Army has been under fire from the opposite direction for linking itself in its recruiting displays too directly with commercial interests. There clearly is a narrow path to follow here, and we must be careful not to leave it. On the whole I am in sympathy with his approach.
My hon. and gallant Friend also spoke about a possibly extended rôle for the W.R.A.C. I am glad that he did so, because I am afraid that throughout this debate we have perhaps not given as much mention to the rôle of women in the Army as we should have liked. We are continually looking for possible additional jobs that can be done by women. At the present time, however, we have not enough women to do the jobs already open to them, and we are still having to recruit. We do not want to give the impression that women are being used only for jobs which men are unwilling to do, which would clearly be unfortunate. We shall study what my hon. Friend has to say.
There were other points, all of them of value, raised by hon. Members during the debate to which I should like to reply. If I do not now do so in detail, I hope that the House will not feel that we are unappreciative of the suggestions that have been made and even insensitive to some of the criticisms, but I wish now to pass on and to say something about the wider theme which has run through today's debate.
I come to the question of recruiting in the context of its relevance to the size of the Army after National Service, and I will try to make some helpful comments. Here I feel very much restricted by the rules of order——
§ Mr. Ramsden
—despite a good deal of latitude for which we have been grateful during the debate. I cannot talk about the Territorial Army or the Reserve Army, for example, both of which in their new rôles are an indispensable part of the full picture; nor, in reply to the right hon. Member for Belper, can I say very much about mobility, except that 1537 I agree with him. I think the operational implications are clearly out of order, but I wish to say to him that I agree and accept the truth and logic of what he says about the need for full mobility.
We at the War Office have read our military history. We know that Napoleon was famous for his hundred-league boots and for acting on the knowledge that men who can move about quickly are worth three times as much as those who are tied down to one place. We well appreciate the validity of all that he had to say.
§ Mr. G. Brown
Has the hon. Gentleman no other answer to give? The questions were in order. The answers, therefore, must be equally in order. If the Minister does not give any answer, are we to draw the conclusion, which I feared at the beginning of the debate, that a decision on mobility of men and of materials has not yet been taken?
§ Mr. Ramsden
The right hon. Gentleman should not draw that conclusion. I thought I was clear about how far I was able to go in reply to the right hon. Gentleman's questions which I had to some extent anticipated, and I was pretty clear that I could not go into much more detail at this stage.
We have heard a good deal today about figures—165,000 or 180,000, and so on. There was a difference of opinion across the Floor of the House as to whether this debate on figures was a good thing or not. I must say, coming fresh as I do to this argument, that I feel that a great deal of it is rather sterile, and I was glad to have the support of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) in this view.
The Government have decided that we are to have all-Regular Forces. It has been clearly stated both in the 1959 White Paper on Defence and more recently by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that the Army should certainly aim to recruit up to about 180,000 Regulars. Surely the important question now—and it will remain the most important question for the next two or three years—is not whether we should have 165,000 or 180,000 but how we get on with the job of getting the men and women whom we need.
1538 The basic fact is that during the next few years we want every suitable recruit that we can take. As my right hon. Friend has said, we are going to put more steam behind our recruiting drive, and the greatest service that hon. Members can render to the Army is to leave the country in no doubt about the importance of the rôle which the Army fulfils and the worthwhileness from every point of view of a career in the Army. We have been grateful for suggestions which have been made today, and we shall always be glad to receive others.
If there were any question, which there is not, of our Regular recruiting being stopped when we have achieved a strength of 165,000, I should take this battle of the figures much more seriously. I thought that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House set these two figures in exactly the right relationship when he answered a Question from the hon. Member for Dudley on 14th November. He said thatrecruitment above this figure"—that is to say, the 165,000—to 180,000 will be welcomed, since it provides against fluctuations in recruitment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th November, 1960: Vol. 630, c. 32.]Surely, that is exactly the point. The figure of 165,000 might be relevant if the pattern of recruitment exactly matched the Army's needs arm by arm, but, of course, it does not. Some arms do better than others and, short of some kind of direction of labour in recruiting, which would be unthinkable, it will never do so, although, naturally, we do all we can administratively to try to persuade men to enlist where they are needed.
The hon. Member for Dudley asked us to spell out the full case. I think those were his words. I have tried in my own approach to these problems and to this responsibility—this is the best answer I can give the hon. Member—not to be too tied down to figures but to try to clear my head on how we are to get the men, where the trouble spots are likely to be, and haw we shall cope with trouble if it comes. It is not easy to project current recruiting trends forward and to say what will be the end of the sum. It is even harder to project situations forward into the future. Furthermore, unfortunately, 1539 as one of my hon. Friends reminded us, we cannot tell the House all the facts not only because of the rules of order but because, in the public interest, there are some things which it is not possible to make plain.
As I think must be accepted, there comes a point when what this really bails down to—I say this in all seriousness—is a matter of the confidence of the House of Commons in the wisdom of the Government's general view on defence questions. We cannot carry the argument beyond that point. We cannot carry it beyond the point where the Government say that the commitments we envisage are the right ones to measure up to our world-wide responsibilities and where my right hon. Friend and I say to the House that the Army is and will be in a position to meet those commitments. That is the whole basis of our responsibility to the House, as it seems to me. I repeat what my right hon. Friend said. The Government have no intention of leaving themselves in a position where they cannot measure up to these commitments.
§ Mr. Wigg
On the general point. I would agree, but surely there is something, the hon. Gentleman can say, particularly in view of the fact that I gave him notice. He can tell the House, for example, whether the Government's forecast of the Regular strength from 1st April next is right or not. This is published in the White Paper. It may be sterile, but it is a figure that the Government themselves gave. Will he say whether it is right or not, so that we may begin to know whether they have changed their mind since the White Paper was drawn up?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I may be to blame for not having quite appreciated the point the hon. Gentleman makes. If he did give me notice of it, I regret that I failed to give him the answer he required.
§ Mr. Wigg
I gave the hon. Gentleman notice, but I make no point about that. In the course of the debate, I drew attention to the returns available in the Vote Office which gave the strength on 1st October as 136,000, including 7,000 boys and 4,000 men on the verge of pension and allowed to take on for short engagements. That reduces the figure to 125,000 Regulars at this moment. The Government's forecast of the Regular strength of the Army at 1st April is 166,000. It is inconceivable that this gap could be closed. I agree, of course, that the 166,000 includes officers, but it is plain that the Government must have changed their mind somewhere.
§ Mr. Ramsden
The assurances given by my right hon. Friend to the House were based on recruiting trends, as perforce they have to be, and I have no reason to suppose that the figures published fail to reflect those trends as we are in a position to measure them.
§ Mr. Ramsden indicated assent.
§ Question put and agreed to.